Expat Guide: Greeting Etiquette in Hong Kong

etiquette for expats hong kong

Hong Kong is home to many expats from the US and Europe. Social events within the community is a way for everyone to feel a little less homesick and is also a way to grow one’s network while staying in a foreign country.

It is a given that greeting gestures for westerners is different. So when the moment demands for it, How will you greet your next potential set of friends?  You’re no doubt keen to make a good first impression, and you’re wondering how to go about saying hello. Will the impeccably groomed lady to your left plant a kiss on your cheek as she introduces herself, as she seems to have done to everyone else in the room? And will it just be one, or might she unexpectedly go for the double just as you pull back?

In this case, it’s best to adopt the Hong Kong default of a kiss on both cheeks when meeting and greeting. After a few months of living here, you will come to observe the different greetings practised by various nationalities. Context is crucial, however, according to whether people are amongst their own community or socialising in a mixed group of expats from any number of cultural backgrounds.

The French will say hello and give a kiss on each cheek while Australians are accustomed to just one. Touching is unlikely for Indians so a casual “hi” will suffice. On the other hand, Americans and Swedes who would usually hug their friends might rein in their natural tendencies to embrace those from different cultures. The Dutch, who at home kiss three times when saying hello to friends, would likewise scale back the effusion, whereas the British might just overcome their natural reserve and start kissing with gusto. This is where a homogenised greeting really helps to level the playing field.

Read through our blogs to find out more about life in Hong Kong as well as information on insurance for expats.



Hong Kong Should Prepare for Inevitable Zika Virus Arrival

The virus that so far has only been affecting some countries in South America is now expected to infect Asia soon, experts say. Hong Kong in particular is already warned to make the necessary preparations in anticipation of the Zika virus.

According to South China Morning Post, both the mosquito species that transmit Zika virus can be found in Asia. Hong Kong’s increasing warmth and intensifying rainfalls per year also make the city a hotspot for mosquitos to breed.

This was how the virus spread on a global scale.
zika virus
Previous findings about the virus explained that it posed no big threat to the health of an infected person (symptoms, if any, include a rash and fever), except that if a person is pregnant during infection then her baby may develop microcephaly, a condition in which the baby’s brain is smaller than normal. Now, reports have surfaced linking the virus to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease that causes progressive paralysis and eventually death.

But what worries health officials the most is the fact that a majority of those infected with Zika show no symptoms at all, making it almost impossible to detect early on. Current tests for diagnosis are slow and expensive but scientists in Brazil are presently working to create an affordable and effective new test.

In the meantime, Hong Kong’s public health sector urges its citizens to follow certain protocols to avoid the spread of infection. For example, if one has recently travelled to Zika-positive countries, he or she is not allowed to donate blood nor have sexual intercourse without a condom for 28 days. One must also continue to wear mosquito repellent for 14 days after visiting affected areas. It is now also required by law to report any cases of the disease within the city to the Department of Health.

Hong Kong’s public health system is also currently having difficulty dealing with a surge in flu patients. However, health officials say that should there be a Zika virus outbreak in the city, they are confident that only a small portion of those infected would require hospitalisation. That is why it is more important than ever to take heed of the precautionary measures one needs to take in order to avoid being infected, especially since the consequences can be quite serious.

In anticipation of a crisis, it’s always best to be prepared. Make sure that you and your family’s health insurance situations are taken care of and that in the event of severe complications from the Zika virus, your and your family’s medical care will be covered.

We help find the best International Health Insurance for expats in Hong Kong. These insurance plan cover emergency repatriation, hospitalization and more. Get in touch with us for inquiries.



Expat Guide: Living in Central SoHo & Central Mid-levels

SoHo and the Mid-levels are two of the most popular neighborhoods among Hong Kong expats.

Central SoHo is a trendy, swanky area where lines of bars and shops stay open until the early hours of the morning. It’s located south of Hollywood Road and you can get there via MTR Central Station, Exit D2. Central Mid-levels in contrast is a hilly, tree-lined neighborhood with scenic winding roads. Some call the area the Lower Peaks.
Why Expats Flock these Neighborhoods?

Expats choose to live in these parts if the city because they offer a balanced combination of cosmopolitan life and quiet greenery. Divided between the residential Mid-Levels area, whose apartment blocks give beautiful views over Victoria Harbour, and SoHo’s party district. SoHo has its diverse establishment line-up of galleries, antique shops, boutiques and drinking holes where tourists and locals converge to take a break from work. If you’re young and single, SoHo is the ideal place for you. Families and newlyweds on the other hand choose the Mid-levels because it’s more suitable  for kids.

Hong Kong’s highly efficient public transport connects you to the whole territory, another feature which attracts many expats.

What to do in SoHo?what to do in central mid levels what to do in soho

Shop at PMQ (35 Aberdeen Street)
Complex of 100 retail spaces and artistic studios

Get Coffee at Common Ground (19 Shing Wong Street)
A cozy hangout that also displays quirky accessories by homegrown designers.

Taste test at Tate (59 Elgin Street)
Fusion of French and Japanese cuisine

Look at Art at Liang Yi Museum (181–199 Hollywood Road)

What to do in Central Mid-levels?

what to do in central mid levels
Take the Escalator
Cuts through the Mid-Levels, from Central to Conduit Road. It allows people to travel quickly between these two places, compared with traveling by the winding roads up the mountain.

Relax at the Hong Kong Park
Natural landscapes for strolling, hiking, jogging and relaxing with friends and family.

Walk through Wan Chai Nature Trail
Wan Chai Nature Trail is a short footpath and it only takes about 2 hours to complete.

Get cultured at the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre
Main aim of supporting local art creation

Real estate is very expensive in Hong Kong and these two neighborhoods are not exempted. Average Monthly Rent for a 2 bed, 1 bath apartment (870 sq. ft) in these areas is between HK$ 38,000 to HK$50,000.

Landlords will have Property Insurance for rented flats but we also recommend you get Renter’s Insurance to protect your personal belongings (furniture, computer, etc.) in case of loss, fire or flooding. We help expats with Home Contents Insurance and more.




Hospitalization Costs: Insurance Cover for Hong Kong Expats

Hong Kong has 56 hospitals all with Ambulatory and Emergency units as well as general practice. Of these, 12 are private hospitals. Here is a list of private hospitals in Hong Kong.

Public healthcare in the country is one of the best in the world but as an expat, we always recommend that you secure proper health insurance for extreme cases where immediate hospitalization or repatriation is covered. The biggest disadvantages of subscribing to public hospital care are the long wait for check-ups and setting appointments, communication problems because of language, and the inconsistent medical attention because you’re unlikely to see the same doctor for follow-ups.

This is the cost of private healthcare in Hong Kong based from information from www.ha.org.hk:Untitled

A Hospitalisation Insurance is one way to ensure that you and your family’s emergency medical needs are covered. This is especially recommended for Hong Kong expats with chronic illness or critical health conditions which need immediate medical interventions.

A+ International Healthcare in partnership with Village Insurance Direct are offering a special promo for expats in Hong Kong. Applicants of any age who choose the Hospitalization Only policy (semi-private room) will get a 25% discount. We recommend getting this insurance while you’re young (18 to 30 years) to take full advantage of the lowest premium rate of USD$141/month.

The insurance features include:

  • Underwritten by one of the world’s largest insurers, AXA.
  • US$1.35m per annum of overall cover
  • Guaranteed renewability
  • Chronic conditions covered
  • Cancer covered
  • Congenital conditions covered
  • Complications of pregnancy – no waiting period (if plan started prior to being pregnant)
  • Medical Evacuation and Repatriation
  • Optional Dental and Optical
  • Wide range of agreements worldwide with healthcare providers

Get a quote for this limited time offer today. Visit A+ International Healthcare in Hong Kong. You can LiveChat with our agents on our website for your immediate questions about this promo.


Expat Guide: Being a Contractor in Hong Kong

By definition, a contractor is an independent entity that is with a company or employer to provide a set of services or deliver goods within a specified time frame.

More and more businesses in Hong Kong are opening opportunities for contractual jobs because of the shift in need for more independent workers. Another reason for a greater demand for contractors is that the country has been regarded as a fertile ground for startups which usually work with a skeletal team that are not as capable of affording full time employees and the benefits that are required for such positions. Expats in particular have taken great advantage of these opportunities specifically with tech and B2B startup ventures.

There are two factors that contribute to the appeal of contractual jobs to expats. One is higher earning within a short period and the second is flexibility which allows them to pursue other personal projects while traveling.

Benefits for regular employees and contractors differ. Here is a general guideline:blog_-_table (1)

*Note that a contractor has to enroll in a Mandatory Provident Fund scheme and make contributions on his own.

Info on Mandatory Provident Fund Scheme Ordinance and Employers’ Contribution

What about Insurance?

Regular employees are entitled to Employee Compensation Insurance, which is mandatory for all employers by law. Since contractors are not technically under an employer, you will need to make arrangements for your own financial protection. The recommended policy is a generalLiability Insurance, which can be broken down into several more specific policies that cover different risks.

Contractors need protection from the following risks:

Professional Indemnity: Contractors who provide consulting and advice, such as accountants, financial planners, interior designers and landscape architects, need to be concerned about liability risks due to losses a client may experience as a result of the contractor’s recommendations. Also called “Errors and Omission Insurance.”

Product liabilities: For liability protection with goods or products you produce that may injure a third party.

Total and Permanent Disability: To protect your income in case you are seriously injured or become ill that leaves you incapable to go back to work.

For more information on business and personal insurance needs, contact us at info@villageinsirancedirect.com or fill up the forms in our website for free quotes on insurance.


Expat Guide to Hiring a Domestic Helper

Expats who come to Hong Kong usually find it foreign to hire a live in help.  We are so used to doing things on our own from cleaning the house to getting the kids ready for school everyday.  Living with a stranger in your home with your family can be a challenge. This also means having someone you don’t know stay in your house, trust with your children and your belongings for 2 or more years.

However, the work that comes with moving into a new place, getting settled, finding your bearings, managing new routines and taking care of the family is also a different challenge in itself which is why mothers who had initially vowed to never hire a domestic helper eventually see the advantage of getting an extra hand.

For expats who are new to Hong Kong and those that have yet to arrive, we hope you find this guide useful when you finally decide to hire a live in domestic helper.


There are requirements before you can hire domestic help in Hong Kong. According to the government, one needs to be a Hong Kong resident with a monthly household income of no less than HKD15,000  or have assets that are equal to said amount.  The contractual period of a domestic helper is 2 years but they can stay with you for a longer time if you both agree to extend the contract.

There are two ways of finding a helper.  One way is you can go to a recruitment agency and source from them there or look at personal ads and hire directly. You can start by going through this expat forum site to find agencies and get recommendations from fellow expats.expat guide domestic helper insurance hong kong


You must enter into a standard employment contract as specified by the Director of Immigration and apply to the Immigration Department for an employment visa for the helper. In terms of Minimum Allowable Wage, the cost is currently set at HKD4,110 per month.

Here is a link for the Standard Employment Contract and information for therequired visa.

You’re also obligated by law to get them Domestic Helper Insurance. There are many affordable ones we can recommend for you.


There are certainly pros to having extra help in your household.  Based on stories from expats, the most notable benefit is having the freedom to go or do whatever you like at a drop of a hat.  You can explore the city or go out at night without worrying about chores or the kids.  This also means having more time for yourself to engage in new things in a new country.

Another advantage to having a live in helper is that your family will be served with healthier meals because they will take the time to cook fresh vegetables and produce as opposed to eating out or serving something from a can.

The house will always be cleaned, the laundry folded and ironed and the kids supervised.


An employer will get to conduct one or two interviews with a candidate before making their final choice. Here are questions you can ask in order to make the best choice.

1.  References make it a lot easier to choose which helper to hire. You can get this from their previous employer or from their agency.  Speaking to there former employer is highly recommended.

2.  If they are transferring from another family or abruptly ended a contract with a former employer, investigate the reason why.

3.  Ask if she’s married or have children. This will give you an idea of her skill set and her motives for entering this type of job.

4.  Check how well she speaks English by asking her a simple question like how she prepares food for her own family.  Language barriers can be frustrating.

5.  Ask about her future plans and why she’s doing this job. Is she doing it to send money back home or to earn enough money to start her own business?  Try to talk about how you two can work to help each other.  Building this initial relationship will give you a feel of how it will be like when she’s working for you.

6.  Find out if she likes kids and know about the things she’s good in doing.  This will help you adjust your expectations as well as tell them your own.

7.  Hire someone who’s been certified for first aid training.  This is especially important if you have children.  In connection with this you can also ask how she disciplines a child. You won’t have the same child rearing philosphies so keep her in line with your own rules.

8.  Finally, it helps to trust in your instinct.  If you feel an instant connection or ease with a candidate, go with it.  Walk away if you feel that you will have issues with this person in the long run.


In order to make the best out of having an outsider live with your family you also have to be aware of how you should conduct yourself for a drama free working relationship.  A few tips we’ve gathered from other expats are the following:

1.  Show appropriate empathy for them.  Remember that they are away from their families and you should be sensitive to this kind of situation.  Find a balance between being their boss and an empathetic person.

2.  Learn to be patient if they don’t immediately understand how you want things done.  There is a cultural difference that needs to be crossed but once you are both comfortable, this should make for a harmonious way of managing the household.  They are not perfect but they are always willing to learn.  You have to be specific but not too uptight to lessen the stress for the both of you.

3.  Be cautious with your valuables.  There is a big gap between the things that you have  and what they are used to seeing back home.  Learn to be sensitive.

Do not expect a trouble free experience on your first try in finding a helper.  But it is possible to lessen the stress with these info from people who have been through it.

Good luck!


Expat’s Guide to Hong Kong Living

Hong Kong attracts thousands of expats from Europe and the US every year. It is one of Asia’s banking centers and is a gateway to mainland China for businesses looking to penetrate the market. In addition, the country has a big expat community, which makes the transition a little easier for new arrivals.

This is a guide to living for new and soon-to-be expats in Hong Kong.

The Expat Community

Expat communities in Hong Kong range from the outgoing, to the insular and close knit. British and Americans compose mainly form the bulk of the community and they often work in the financial sector. Foreigners from neighboring East Asia countries are also prominent in the country mostly from Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, India and Thailand.

What Language to Learn

Foreigners with good language skills in both Cantonese and Mandarin are going to have a significant advantage. 89.5% of the whole population speaks Cantonese. We recommend you try to at least learn some basic conversational Cantonese.

Where Expats Meet and Hang Outexpats lan kwai fongCentral is where you’ll find Lan Kwai Fong, the most popular expat hangout. The area is relatively small but it is host to a large variety of restaurants, trendy bars and nightclubs, all huddled into this popular expat haunt. Drinks are fairly pricey with even your basic beer costing HK$60 and up. The area has quite an upmarket feel to it but it’s laid back and the perfect place to cap off a workday. expats wan chai

Wan Chai is also popular among expats because it’s a bustling business district by day and a hub spot of discos and bars at night where the parties last until daybreak. There is also a red light district in the area where it becomes a melting pot of all nationalities. Again, expect a hefty bill when hanging out in this area.

Housing and Other Accommodations

Hong Kong is known for having one of the most expensive property prices in Asia and even the world. Expect compact condos and apartments with high rent although there are still areas with more affordable housing.

We gathered the average rent for 2 bedroom apartments popular to expat communities in one of or blogs: Finding a Place to Live in Hong Kong

Hospitals and Healthcare

Public and private medical facilities in Hong Kong are highly developed and of very high standards. As an expatriate, you’ll likely favour private facilities because of an English speaking staff and more personal attention. However, Hong Kong’s public hospitals are still very good and you can turn up without an appointment.

Hospital fees are very high. Adequate insurance is particularly important. There are a wide variety of expatriate insurance finders such as Village Insirance Direct. We specialise in finding policies for expats from personal, family to business insurance.

Popular expat hospitals include:

  • Adventist, 40 Stubbs Road, Mid Levels
  • Canossa, 1 Old Peak Road, Mid Levels
  • Matilda, 41 Mt. Kellett Road, The Peak

We can provide free quotes on Health Insurance and other types of insurance for for expats.