Hong Kong is a popular destination among British expats. Of course, moving to region can take a lot of planning. For example, individuals may have to invest in expatriate medical insurance and then there are visa issues, accommodation and much more to sort out.
However, once they have settled in, many enjoy their experiences. One man who is pleased he made the transition is Matthew Bonnett. Speaking to the Guardian, he suggested that Hong Kong is a good place for academics to base themselves.
He moved there in 2008 and has worked in the region as an assistant professor in financial accounting at the Chinese University of Hong Kong ever since. He also met his American girlfriend through Cantonese lessons and plays football every weekend.
Mr Bonnet remarked: “I’ve integrated with some of the locals, mainly through the local football league. It’s nice to go to different sports grounds, watch the games and make friends.” He added: “If you’ve never been to Asia before you can still have home comforts but slowly dip your toe into Asian life.”
The Guardian pointed out that he has an incentive to stay on for at least another three years since anyone who has lived in Hong Kong for seven consecutive years can apply for permanent residency. If they succeed, they are granted most of the rights of Hong Kong citizens, including the right to vote.
Funding his lifestyle and covering any expenses, potentially including expat medical insurance, should be relatively easy for academics in Mr Bonnett’s position. He noted that salaries are generous and investment in higher education is high. About this, he commented: “You can make good money here in academia compared with the UK.” This may be particularly true at present, with many British universities cutting back their spending.
He also drew attention to the fact that Hong Kong universities rank among the finest in Asia, while three of Hong Kong’s universities are among the top 50 worldwide. This was according to the Quacquarelli Symonds rankings.
Another advantage associated with working in Hong Kong concerns the low cost of living. Salaries are taxed at around 15 per cent, while restaurants are good value and short taxi rides cost the equivalent of less than £2.
Meanwhile, teaching in the region can be highly rewarding. Fellow expat Dr Wouter Stam, who moved from Amsterdam to teach management at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 2009, suggested that students are motivated.
Undergraduates there face still competition for places at the leading institutions and students often walk about campuses wearing suits.
Dr Wouter Stam stated: “It’s common to see lights on in people’s offices late in the evenings or at weekends.” He added: “During summer [Amsterdam universities] would be like ghost towns. Here, faculties continue to work.”
He also pointed out that there are certain cultural differences between academics in Hong Kong and those in Holland. He suggested that his current colleagues are more reserved and family oriented than their counterparts back home.