“Why I love Hong Kong”: Expat stories

For foreigners seeking new horizons, Hong Kong boasts numerous attractions. With low taxation, an English-speaking population, and efficient transportation and infrastructure, the city welcomes new residents and makes settling in simple. Offering excellent career and business opportunities, as well as a wealth of social and leisure options - brilliant restaurants and nightlife, culture aplenty, and myriad outdoor activities - Hong Kong is a great place to live and work. Asia's world city is also the ideal jumping-off point for travel in the region. In this series, we speak with expats from across the globe who have made Hong Kong their home, and discover the unique attributes that make this city so appealing to newcomers.

Jakki Phillips

In 2008, Jakki Phillips left her home in the British seaside city of Brighton for a holiday in Asia. "Hong Kong was supposed to be the starting point for a month-long trip around the region, but I decided to stay and explore the city instead," she says. "After four weeks I called my boss in the UK and told him I had fallen in love and wasn't coming back. The object of my affection was Hong Kong."

Jakki explains, "I was swept off my feet by the city's beguiling contrasts: incense-filled temples in the shadows of soaring neon skyscrapers, charming old-fashioned trams trundling alongside flashy supercars, fancy fine-dining restaurants overlooking backstreet noodle shops and dim sum canteens, and traditional Chinese medicine stores rubbing shoulders with gleaming luxury shopping malls."

Hong Kong, she says, is "a city of multi-sensory extremes. It can be bright, brash and busy, but hop on a ferry to one of the islands—Hong Kong is made up of 262 of them—and within 40 minutes you can be swimming at a beautiful secluded beach, hiking in the lush green hills or trail-running through bamboo forest. Hong Kong has an energy that fuels my spirit, my imagination and my soul. It's paradise to me. It is home."

Today, Jakki serves as editor-in-chief of a magazine that chronicles Hong Kong high society and luxury living. The position calls for her to explore and critique the best Hong Kong has to offer—particularly, insofar as the city's cultural and culinary highlights go.

Here are some of the things she loves in Hong Kong.

"Hong Kong's dining scene is eclectic and ever-changing so there is never a shortage of cool places to try — from local dumpling joints and cha chaan tengs (tea cafes) to Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurants."

"I like to head off to the islands for fresh seafood—in particular Lantau and Lamma. Hong Kong has great street food so if I'm craving curried fish balls or egg waffles then I'll venture to Mong Kok for a food safari."

"For a night out with friends I'll usually explore Sai Ying Pun or Kennedy Town where there are lots of hidden gems."

"The art scene in Hong Kong has really blossomed in the eight years I've been here, thanks to the arrival of art fairs such as Art Basel and Art Central and major international art galleries like White Cube, Gagosian and Lehmann Maupin."

"I love to spend my weekends checking out new exhibitions and also meeting artists and curators and hearing the stories behind their work."

"The Hong Kong community has started appreciating art and culture in a whole new way and more and more local art spaces are springing up showcasing local creatives. While most of the big-name galleries are in Central, it's definitely worth venturing off the beaten track to explore home-grown spaces in up-and-coming art districts such as Chai Wan, Wong Chuk Hang and Sham Shui Po."

Alberto Bertoz

The managing director for Greater China at a Swiss high-end household appliance company, Italian-born Alberto Bertoz moved to Hong Kong with his family five years ago. "I was in Shanghai for four years before being posted to Hong Kong," he says. "I used to travel here so I already knew the city from a business and lifestyle perspective, and I've always been attracted by Hong Kong — it's so modern, with a very high-paced style of living, but also with a lot of nature."

From a business perspective, Alberto says, "Hong Kong is a lighthouse for the region," perfectly located to work with Southeast Asia and Mainland China, where he travels often and oversees branch offices. "It's very convenient, Hong Kong's airport works very well, taxation is very easy – it's not only low but very easy to comply, the bureaucratic stuff is very simple. Much easier than Italy!"

Aside from Hong Kong's qualities as an Asian business base and its wealth of leisure options, Alberto says he also values the enduring relationships he's formed with expatriates who, like him, view Hong Kong as a long-term 'home from home', rather than a temporary posting.

Here are some of the things he loves in Hong Kong.

"I try to dedicate the weekend to family time, and family-wise, Hong Kong is a very nice place — it's completely different on the weekend than during the week. You can decide to go to the beach or go hiking, and it's less than five minutes' distance from one to the other."

"I've discovered hiking since moving here. There are a lot of trails that are really well managed, where you can be amongst nature and discover beautiful landscapes, but quite quickly you can go from being in the mountains to being back in the city."

"We love to host friends for meals, and in that respect Hong Kong is fascinating, because you meet people from all over the world, from many different industries."

"I've taken up tennis in Hong Kong. I always watched tennis, but in the past only had access to basketball courts, so that's what I played. Here, there are a lot of tennis courts and it's easy to organise to play, and very social."

Discover more Hong Kong expat tales here.

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