“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.

Bertrand Meylan

Bertrand Meylan is the CEO of the Asian distributor for two highly respected, independent Swiss watchmakers. He initially came to Hong Kong working for a large luxury watch brand back in 2008, and since 2010, has focused on developing his own business. "When I first arrived here almost 10 years ago, the China market was really starting to open up," Bertrand says. "Being in Hong Kong is the perfect base for exploring the opportunities in this market and Mainland China, and right across Asia."

He says though there are certain cultural and language barriers to doing business with Mainland companies, Hong Kong acts as a 'bridge' to China, helping overcome these issues. According to Bertrand, Hong Kong is truly the ideal base for businesspeople operating in Asia. "Everything in Hong Kong is made for people like me to be able to do business, and to have a good life in parallel with that. There aren't many places that are as oriented to making it so convenient. All the laws, structures, infrastructure, and the mentality of the people—everything goes fast, because people are used to there being no barriers to building up a business in Hong Kong."

Here, Bertrand explains what drew him to Hong Kong, and why he loves living and working in this city.

"Hong Kong is an incredibly easy city to do business in. It takes a couple of weeks to set up a business—Hong Kong is amazing for that. Everything is designed to make it easy, I don't think there's another city in the world where it's as simple. Two weeks and you're doing business! I'm trying to open a subsidiary in the Middle East now, and believe me, it's not nearly as straightforward as it could've been in Hong Kong."

"I travel almost every week, and for that Hong Kong is incredible. I live in Happy Valley, and I can leave my home 90 minutes before takeoff, and I know I won't have a problem. I'll be on time, I've never missed a plane, I don't have to go hours in advance, it's very fast at customs. Travelling around the region is simple, going to Singapore or other nearby countries is extremely convenient. You get used to that. Travelling through other countries, you need to adapt to waiting, arriving in advance, whereas in Hong Kong, travel is so simple."

"I love doing business in Hong Kong because things move so quickly. I always tell my staff, if you don't have an answer or a decision or a sale within a day, it will never happen. Here, everything goes fast. If the business doesn't happen fast, it will never happen. The majority of other cultures, it will take time, people will go back and forth, consider—in Hong Kong, there's something new every day. It's exciting."

"Many people think of Hong Kong as just a big city full of skyscrapers, but that's not true. It's very green. I spend a lot of time walking in the woods, in the mountains, going to the beach with my kids—we like Big Wave Bay at Shek O or Stanley area. One of the best things about Hong Kong is that within 10 minutes from home, I can be in the mountains or at the beach, which is quite amazing for a big city."

"I've played a lot of football (soccer) in Hong Kong, and that was great, it was very social, meeting people from very different backgrounds through the team. The beauty of a city like Hong Kong is that you will meet people from everywhere—of course I have made many great friends from Hong Kong, but also from Australia, England, the USA, Italy, France. You'll make friends from everywhere."

Still more to Bertrand, Hong Kong is home to many quality restaurants offering epicurean pan-European, continental Asian and Chinese cuisine. He finds it is amazing to be able to enjoy dining out with his wife and friends regularly in Hong Kong.

Vikash Thanki

Attracted by Hong Kong's growing status as a fintech hub, Vikash Thanki moved to Asia three years ago to establish and head up regional offices for a UK foreign exchange trading company. "It was initially a two-year project, but I enjoyed my experience so much that now they can't get rid of me," he laughs.

"It's a nice part of the world to be in, and the experience has been quite enlightening, not just from a work perspective but also socially," Vikash says, noting that in Hong Kong, there's a strong interplay between the two. "On the business side, I feel like people are very open to real conversation, a lot more so than in the UK, where business is predominantly done over email or telephone. Here, business involves much more social, face-to-face interaction, which allows you to build stronger relationships."

It also helps, he says, that English is "the primary business and social language, which allows us to very easily communicate with people. The prevalence of English is a massive advantage."

He says the Hong Kong government's numerous fintech-focused initiatives have been invaluable in helping create and grow a community within that sector. "You've got all these networking events which draw people together, and because it's a small community you build up networks quite quickly," he says.

Settling in and making friends as an expat has been equally straightforward. "Insofar as socializing goes, Hong Kong is great — I tell people, it's almost like a university, a giant campus, except people aren't studying they're working," Vikash says. "Because of the concentration of people in this small area, it's easy to meet people, easy to make friends," he remarks.

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

"In Hong Kong, people can get to you very quickly and that's what makes it so easy to set social things up. A lot of expats live around Central, where there's a high concentration of bars and restaurants, so it's very convenient to get something arranged. In London, it's a major planning event to do something as simple as a dinner because everyone's so spread out, it's an hour commute."

"We used to just go out around Central, but now we're venturing a bit further. Kennedy Town is a nice spot, it's a lot more gentrified than it was three years ago — there was nothing there! Now there's a wide variety of cool, up-and-coming restaurants, micro breweries, other spaces, a lot of great stuff to do."

"I play football regularly, and I play badminton once a week, which is a nice way to unwind. Hong Kong is a very sporty place, you'll find if people are not on a junk boat drinking or out partying in Lan Kwai Fong, most people are working out at the gym or doing yoga. Yoga's something I do a lot now in the mornings, to help stay a bit more agile as I age and try to keep fit."

"The single best thing about Hong Kong is the ease of travel. The airport is so efficient, it's unbelievable. When I land, returning from a trip, I'm home within 60 to 90 minutes of the plane touching down. Typically within the hour, I'm home."

"Since coming here three years ago I've been to pretty much every country in Asia except for the Philippines. And the majority of those travels are just weekend trips — it's possible to just go to Taiwan, Japan or Mainland China for the weekend. That's what makes Hong Kong so attractive."

Discover more Hong Kong expat tales here.

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This page was paid for by Brand Hong Kong. The editorial staff of CNBC had no role in the creation of this page.