It was 2005, I was lying in bed in my walk up studio apartment that had no windows. It actually did have windows but it faced a concrete wall, so I only got a sliver of natural light. I looked up at the fluorescent lights and could literally hear my neighbour from across the hall slapping his thigh…hopefully. In an instant the inner shelf of my wardrobe collapsed. I wasn’t really surprised because my wardrobe was cheap, so cheap it was the zip up kind! Looking back now, I could have been wiser and not sign in such haste. I simply just wanted to be closer to my then girlfriend and now wife. I didn’t view the place as anything but a place to sleep. The apartment was uninspiring and uncomfortable. Yet I still stayed there for 2 years, paying rent to a landlord. I took the place for granted and those two years were quite difficult to pass as many things just didn’t work. I learnt this lesson the hard way as an American expat living in Hong Kong. Here are 5 Things you shouldn’t overlook when moving into a Hong Kong Apartment.
Don’t overlook time when searching for a Hong Kong apartment.
If you are an expat living in Hong Kong and you have to find a place to stay, it might be a good idea to stay in an Air BnB or a serviced apartment first before signing a two year contract for a rental. It’s very important to research, find and walk around the district that matches your lifestyle before settling into an apartment. So before you move here, give yourself at least 2 weeks to really look at apartments that you like. You can budget, but don’t settle for something only based on budget. Remember Hong Kong mainly is comprised of apartments. When it comes to size Living in Hong Kong vs USA, Australia or Canada, there is absolutely no comparison. You will have to adapt living small and also living with less things.
Don’t treat your apartment as just a contract. Treat it like your home.
I wish someone would’ve told me that when I first moved here. If you have a ‘whatever’ attitude and treat it like, ‘it’s a place sleep” you are not going to enjoy living in Hong Kong. The working culture here is competitive. Long hours are the norm and they rhythm of this city is fast. So if you are having a bad day and you come home to a place, like my then studio apartment, you won’t feel any better. Try to create an environment from the very beginning that gives you a sense of comfort and calm.
Don’t overlook comfort when furnishing your apartment, even on a tight budget.
I can’t stress this enough. The cheapest solution might not last for your entire contract. Remember my wardrobe story. I also had a cheap and rather uncomfortable single sofa bed. When I opened it up, it didn’t have a headboard. The problem with that is that during winter, I could feel the cold concrete wall during the winter and the hot concrete wall(even with the A/C on) against my head. Find a nice bed and a good set of linen. Get a plant and put it on your windowsill. I wish I did that for my apartment that view of green space at all!
Don’t overlook your living and eating habits when choosing a Hong Kong apartment.
Depending on your neighborhood, you might not find western food or any restaurants that suit you. Even if you do find one, a plate of pasta in HK can be overpriced and well – not delicious. Also some supermarkets in certain districts won’t carry your go to brie cheese and salad dressing back home. Kitchens in apartments here don’t have an oven so you can forget popping a packet of frozen lasagna in the oven. How about laundry? Apartments may not come with a washing machine. So make sure you find the closest laundromat and search for an apartment with your lifestyle in mind.
Don’t ship furniture from overseas. The scale of things are way different here.
For example if you want to ship that ultra comfortable mattress you have back home to Hong Kong, be warned, you might not be able to fit it in the elevator or get the mattress through the tight hallways. Also, furniture in your home will look ridiculously different when in Hong Kong apartments. Your showstopper dining table might fit, but may look completely out of scale if your apartment’s ceiling height is low or if your apartment gets very little natural light. So I highly recommend you to find furniture here in Hong Kong, where they are scaled to the proportion of Hong Kong apartments.
My story is not unique as an expat in Hong Kong. I’m sure there are many other expats who have stories to share about a horror story regarding an apartment they have once stayed in. Hopefully, this post and my latest guide book can make the transition to living here smoother for you all.
We all live small here. There is no way around it. So it’s important to have the right mindset and preparation before moving here. That we you can live small, comfortably for the entirety of your stay.
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