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What’s it like to live in Hong Kong?

27 May 2016


Read our Q&A with Nisha Shivdasani, Consultant, IT & Business Transformation to find out…

What are your top 3 things about living in Hong Kong?

I’d say convenience, travel and the people. Hong Kong is without a doubt the most convenient city I’ve ever lived in. Navigating your way around is very easy with the amount of excellent transport links. It’s also a fantastic city of discovery in terms of having lots of different areas to explore. The unique blend of concrete jungle and beaches means you can escape the hustle and bustle and feel like you’re on holiday within 30 minutes. The proximity to other countries in Asia, such as Thailand and Japan means you can plan a weekend getaway just a few days before and experience the diverse cultures that the continent has to offer. Hong Kong is a great to place to network too, so meeting like-minded friends and professionals is a given.

How would you describe the culture?

For people who have never been to the Far East before, Hong Kong is a great introduction. Due to the British influence here, it’s easy to adapt quickly. There’s a great sense of community, with a thriving expat population so you’ll always have someone to go for a drink or a hike with. These days lots of locals live or study abroad and then return to HK and the city is becoming more like a melting pot every day.

What’s the transport system like; is it easy/cost effective to get around the city?

It’s amazing! The MTR (Hong Kong’s rail network) is extremely efficient. It’s also air conditioned and has Wi-Fi! It really is the best transport system I’ve ever encountered and they’re actually extending it at the moment to the south side of the island. I live centrally so tend to use taxis more as they’re cheap and convenient.

How has living and working in Hong Kong impacted your career?

I used to work in London in the recruitment industry. It’s a much more saturated market and moving out to Hong Kong has given me much more opportunity to progress in my career and experience a different way of working; it’s a niche sector with less competition and there’s more scope to develop my network. I’ve had significantly more interactions with C-suite individuals since I’ve been out here as clients tend to refer specific individual recruiters rather than the company they represent.

Have you worked in any other locations? If so, how does Hong Kong compare?

Yes, I worked in the London market. I chose to move from London in 2009 when the economy was in decline. At the time I was working for a huge plc so joining a more specialist company has been fantastic in terms of exposure to the market. I find that in Hong Kong it’s much easier to commercialise contacts because the networking opportunities are far greater. People also seem to be much more generous with their time in Hong Kong compared to London. However, we definitely work longer hours but I’d say the rewards are much greater. I’ve had friends who have worked in the Far East and then moved back to the UK and their CVs have generated a lot of interest because of the exposure gained in another global financial market and culture. It’s a place where you can truly leverage your business profile, career progression and international mobility. (Or, go back to the UK in high demand!)

What are the main challenges you face living in Hong Kong?

With the vast array of amazing restaurants you can find yourself eating out rather a lot, so it’s key to manage your finances. With Hong Kong being such a tiny island, housing 7 million people you’ll find that accommodation can be pricey, especially for the space you get. I live in a studio flat but the bonus is that it’s a mere 7 minutes’ walk to the office and all the bars and restaurants. That’s not always a good thing though!

What’s the best thing about working for Oliver James Associates Hong Kong?

The people. It’s such a family orientated culture where we all look out for each other on both a professional and personal level. I was the 8th person to join the APAC business and as we’ve grown, we have maintained our values and culture. We all have a very strong work ethic but know how to have a laugh too. Despite sitting next to each other for 12 hours a day, we surprisingly still enjoy going for a drink together after work! The senior management team offer great support, both inside and outside of work and that’s something that is particularly important to me.

What’s the social life in Hong Kong like?

Hong Kong is literally the city that never sleeps. If you’re not a social person, Hong Kong is not for you! There are bars and restaurants everywhere so it’s always tempting to eat out or have a quick drink after work. The great thing about the city is that you don’t have to plan your night or worry about being on a guest list because most places are very welcoming and it’s hard to step outside your front door without bumping into someone you know. There are hardly any fights or pub brawls (unlike some UK cities!) because most people are too busy enjoying the lifestyle and everything the city has to offer. As cliché as it sounds, there really is something for everyone, whatever cuisine, music or hobbies you’re into. The live music scene is rapidly expanding and Hong Kong hosts one of the biggest sporting and social events on the calendar; the Hong Kong Rugby 7s is held at the end of March each year. It’s a three-day party with costumes, sport and Pimms for breakfast – you can’t not have a good time!

What’s the cost of living like?

You’ll end up paying a similar amount to London prices for rent in Hong Kong but for a smaller space. The bonus is that you can live within walking distance of Central which would be much more expensive in London The tax here is also ridiculously low at 10% to 12% so disposable income is much higher than the UK and you’re able to really enjoy your weekends, making frequent trips around South East Asia and experiencing all that the city has to offer. Transport is also cheap; a ten-minute taxi ride won’t be any more than £4. Food is reasonable too with fresh market produce being inexpensive but excellent quality. Watch out for the expat supermarkets though as that’s where things can get pricey. I once saw a packet of imported fish fingers for £10! It all comes down to how you personally manage your finances to be honest.

Is it easy to find living accommodation in Hong Kong?

Yes. There are plenty of property companies here and a great mobile app called .Individual agents are also easily accessible so you’ll never struggle to find somewhere. Two of our new starters found their flats in just two days.

Do you have any advice for someone who is considering mobilizing their career?

Do it! If you don’t have any major commitments in the UK then now is the best time to move abroad. The amazing professional and social opportunities in Hong Kong will broaden your horizons and enable you to meet new people. I moved out here 6.5 years’ ago indefinitely and I’ve got no intention of leaving any time soon.

Are you interested in a rewarding recruitment career with Oliver James Associates Hong Kong?

If so, please contact Jessica Schwier, Head of Internal Recruitment at Oliver James Associates, on +44 (0)161 8307836 /

Visit for further information on Oliver James and to view current opportunities.



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