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Would you move to Hong Kong, Shanghai or Beijing?


Where would you move to (to live 2-4 years) if you could?  

1 member has voted

  1. 1. Where would you move to (to live 2-4 years) if you could?

    • Beijing
    • Shanghai
    • Hong Kong

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It seems I'll have the chance to move back to China! I can somewhat influence whether I'll be working in Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong. I think any of those three would make me (us) very very happy, but the salary I'm being offered in each is substantially different, and something tells me that, even though the difference in salary is supposed to reflect differences in cost of life, they may not give you the same level of comfort. :conf

Where (Shanghai, Beijing or Honk Kong) would you get the best quality of life for your salary? What do you think would be the pros/cons?

Thanks for the help!

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With that salary you would be able to live very/fairly (depending on how luxurious your lifestyle is) comfortably in HK. But this is assuming that the money is for one person. If that is for two, then make the necessary adjustments of expectations. And you will have to take account of the tax factor. The income tax rates in HK are about the lowest in the world (the current standard rate is only 16%). But I am not sure what other taxes you would have to pay.

Hong Kong is a very convenient place - compact, modern, expensive, and safe. Cantonese is the dominant dialect, but if you speak in Mandarin people do understand you. Some people might find its pollution unacceptable, but IMHO it might not be worse that the other two places. And the weather is much milder than BJ and SH too.

I am a HK local so am maybe a bit biased.

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I have lived in Beijing and Hong Kong for 4 years in each place.

The key to comfort is housing. It is possible to find cheaper housing in Beijing, so your salary will go much further there. Hong Kong's rents will take big bites out of your salary if you want to live in true comfort.

I would lean toward Hong Kong if a spouse entered the equation. Of course it's possible to isolate yourselves in one of Beijing's exclusive gated communities and take a taxi to embassy functions but eventually the small annoyances that remind you that you're in China will leap over the fence like North Korean refugees.

If your spouse likes Chinese culture, has a good sense of humor, and is the adventurous type then Beijing is a no brainer. Otherwise Hong Kong is the more civilized option.

Another factor to consider might be the 2008 Beijing Olympics if you are looking at a possible stay of 4 years. This will be a special time to be in Beijing. I lived in Hong Kong from 1994-1997 and witnessed the handover, another historic milestone in China's modern history.

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Well, yes, there's TWO of us. And every expense must come from my salary: rent, transportation, food, everything. And even though I know Beijing would seem like for the more adventurous, moving to any of those three cities would sound like a whole adventure in itself! so right now we're just curious where salaries would go furthest.

BUT, if my partner is interested in culture, and in particular in performing arts, would Hong Kong be a good option? is there much Chinese opera there? how about "western" opera and theatre? art exhibitions?

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if my partner is interested in culture, and in particular in performing arts, would Hong Kong be a good option? is there much Chinese opera there? how about "western" opera and theatre? art exhibitions?

Take a look ->

Leisure and Cultural Services Department - http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/en/cs.php

HK Arts Festival - http://www.hk.artsfestival.org/eng/homepage

Chinese opera - http://www.cityline.com/eng/events/list.jsp?eventCatKey=19

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Hm....I've never been in Shanghai and HK, but as I've heard, Shanghai becomes more and more NY of the East (those who say Paris, don't have a clue) and HK is polluted and dirty dump (sorry, Skylee, didn't mean to insult you or other HK-people). Besides, both are extremely westernised. Of course, Beijing becomes "modern" too, but rate of "modernisation" isn't so high as in other two cities. But.......hm.......maybe Olympics will "take care" about that. And they will demolish next few square miles of hutongs. :(

Do you have fourth city to choose? :wink:

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I believe the Beijing salary will go further because you will pay a smaller proportion for rent. When I lived in Hong Kong nearly a fourth of my monthly salary went to my landlord's Louis Vuitton purse.

In Beijing perhaps one sixth or less of the salary will go into the landlord's fake Lois Vitton wallet. It's still possible to find good deals all over Beijing if you look hard enough, but in Hong Kong everybody wants to live in Mid-Levels, Happy Valley, or near Causeway Bay so you have to go far to find reasonable rents with comfortable spaces. Do you really want to live in Sha Tin or Aberdeen?

The transportation in Hong Kong is cheaper than Beijing because you don't need to take so many taxis. Beijing's subway is not as convenient as Hong Kong's and you don't want your spouse to endure the capital's public bus system on a daily basis.

Beijing is the cultural capital of China. There are plenty of both Chinese and Western performances and exhibitions. Don't forget the embassy parties. Living in Hong Kong I don't recall a lot of functions going on at consulates but in Beijing there are plenty of good parties.

Another thing to consider is vacations. In Hong Kong there are cheap international flights to Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore.

When you live in the capital those places somehow seem very far away. Beijing's closest international destination is Korea. Yeah, right; like I'm sure you've always wanted to spend a holiday in Seoul or Pyongyang.

Looks like only one other person so far has voted for Beijing. Notice the sole Shanghai voter declined to tout that place's virtues. I've heard that Shanghai is more expensive than Beijing, but I've never lived there.

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but in Hong Kong everybody wants to live in Mid-Levels, Happy Valley, or near Causeway Bay so you have to go far to find reasonable rents with comfortable spaces. Do you really want to live in Sha Tin or Aberdeen?

Who is everybody? I know some people who live very close to the mainland and enjoy it (they like it close to Shenzhen :wink: ). Some people live in the south of the island and never want to move. I live in the east of HK Island and it is good (quiet, extremely convenient with a subway stop and a shopping centre). But I understand that people have different tastes. 8)

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Personally, I would suggest you consider between Beijing and HK. Shanghai is as similar to NY as Hainan is to Hawaii, which is to say, it's no where close. In terms of modernity (which I assume is its biggest attraction), it's way behind HK and Tokyo. Given that, I don't see how anyone can claim it's the NY of the East. It's not the Paris, NY, Milan of anything. It's the Shanghai of Shanghai of China (a city that has made great progress since the 90s, period).

For $1000-2000 USD you can find a nice cozy apartmnet in Beijing that doesn't look gay and tacky. It'll also include 24h hot water, drinkable (or at least filtered) tap water, and at least an excercise room. You can find something fine in HK as well for the price, but definitely not as nice as the one in Beijing.

HK is much more western than Beijing, unless you only deal with the people at work, or hang around the financial district in Beijing. So if you want to live in a city just like back home, except with Chinese people, or if you have a sweet tooth for pig knuckles, dog/cat/bird/fish liver/stomach/testicles, then HK rocks!. If you want a more traditional Chinese city, then chose Beijing. Your money definitely goes further in Beijing. After taxes, the avg. HK income is probably not that much lower than the US avg.

My biggest problem with HK is that people speak cantonese, and it's so damn hot and humid. My biggest problem with Beijing is that it's China, so the avg. Zhou has a bit more third-world edge (which can be cool, but also frustrating). Just don't go cheap in Beijing, make use of their service industry, and you'll love it. For the cost of a very modestly priced suit in the US, you can get a tailor made suit in Beijing with material and fit better than any ready-made Zegna. Massages from professionals (not hookers) are way reasonable as well. And yes, there's lots of hookers too, if you're into that stuff.

p.s. performances may be cheaper in Beijing. I went to an opera in Beijing that is 1/3 the price of their HK and Taiwan show. Same tour. My VIP (order: VIP, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th) ticket cost the same as the 2nd class seat in Taiwan.

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The majority of expatriates in Hong Kong seek the most desirable location which is Mid-Levels. If you make less money then you can settle for Happy Valley, Causeway Bay, North Point, Quarry Bay, and other inexpensive locations between Wanchai and Chai Wan.

New arrivals flock to Kennedy Town and Lam Tin while married couples with children seek the comfort and quality neighborhood environment of Discovery Bay.

Outcasts and social misfits are banished to the Lamma Island leper colony.

It is the rare gwailo who even sets foot in New Territories let alone decides to live in that remote region. I don't know many foreigners who are truly happy to be living in Fan Ling. I have an American friend who moved to South Horizons from Tai Koo and she really likes it out there but complains all the time about taking the bus to work when she used to just hop on the MTR.

When I first moved to Hong Kong I lived in a rabbit hole in North Point about the same size as Saddam Hussein's post-war underground suite and then after I landed a comfy expat job with a Swiss multinational company I moved uptown to the nice building directly above the Tin Hau subway station overlooking Victoria Park. My best friend followed a similar path, starting in Tin Hau and then moving to Mid-Levels.

It never ends. Once you get to Mid-Levels you can still go higher and closer to the Escalator while dreaming of owning a place on the Peak some day.

Beijing's real estate situation is vastly different because you can find cheap apartments literally across the street from expensive gated communities, therefore almost no particular area is exclusive to any tax bracket or salary range.

I see Beijing has caught up to Hong Kong in the poll. Vote Peking!

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I voted for Beijing because your salary will go futher there, especially rent-wise (like confucius said) compared to HK (I suppose, I have never been there) but proabably also to Shanghai. I think Shanghai is a bit more expensive than Beijing and your salary will be more there anyway. Beijing also has more muesums, art galaries, historical things...etc. Mandarin is widespread there, compared to the other cities.

Shanghai, to its credit, is a very Westernized, modern city with great nightlife and shopping and the like. Shanghai's pollution is pretty bad, but I think it's still better than Beijing's.

I am sure you'll like wherever you end up going! :D

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I'm definitely sure I'll like it wherever it is.

Thanks for all the recommendations on where to live in Hong Kong. What about Beijing? Is the Sanlitun area nice area to live in? I visited quite often as a student (JiuBaJie!) but than doesn't mean I know how it is like to LIVE there. The best thing would be to have some supermarket nearby (something big, like Carrefour), nightlife, a health-club/gym, transportation (a subway station?) and maybe even some nice cultural/historical place nearby. Is that asking too much?

Another thing, for those whose mother tongue is NOT a Chinese language/dialect, but who speak Mandarin and lived in a Cantonese speaking area: how difficult is it to pick up Cantonese if you already speak "decent" Mandarin?

Thanks again!

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Another thing, for those whose mother tongue is NOT a Chinese language/dialect, but who speak Mandarin and lived in a Cantonese speaking area: how difficult is it to pick up Cantonese if you already speak "decent" Mandarin?

In my opinion, in order for your Putonghua to be of significant help in acquiring Cantonese outside of a classroom, you would need to be highly proficient if not near native in Putonghua. Basic proficiency in Putonghua will certainly help you pick up some Cantonese outside of a classroom, and it would certainly help a bit if you studied Cantonese formally. However, the two are different enough that most people who's first language is quite distant from Chinese and who speak proficient Putonghua still need some formal study to become proficient in Cantonese. I have known exceptions, though. I know one lady who learned Cantonese without any formal instruction. Her husband is a local. She came here as an adult and is now near native in Cantonese. She worked in the British Foreign Office before coming here and she speaks seven languages. Most of use just don't have that kind of talent. :cry:

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I've spun the dial on my Beijing fengshui device and determined that Dongzhimen is your ideal area of residence in Beijing. You will be close to a nice big Carrefour, the Sanlitun embassy district, and best of all: just a single subway stop from my temple! (The Confucius Temple, bien sur!)

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There should be a lot of things that you should consider before you make the decision. Like:

(1) Are the salaries that you mentioned pre-tax or post-tax? If they are pre-tax, then the income you receive will be much higher in HK than in Mainland since the former's income tax rate is much lower (16% vs 30%). (I found out in editing that you mentioned it is AFTER TAX but anyway it is an importan point.)

(2) Does you wife mind doing the house chores? In HK, you can hire English-speaking nanny while in Beijing and Shanghai you may only be able to hire a dialect speaking nanny who comes from the rural area.

(3) Do you two have any chronic illmess? Even though there are hospitals in both Shanghai and Beijing that are catered to foreigners, generally the medical standard is lower than HK. Moreover, their hospital charges are steeper than HK's. But of course I assume that company-paid medical insurance is included in your package.

(4) What kind of personality your wife has? And does she want to work when she is residing in one of these cities? If she is really into the Chinese cultural stuff, then Beijing is her choice. But like many spouses of expatriates, your wife may get bored and lonely after 6 months. Then HK is a better choice since there is a larger expatriate community and it is easier for her to find friends from the same country to get acquainted with. Moreover, even though she may not be eligible to work, there are many NGOs in HK which she can do volunteer work.

(5) Since HK is the financial capital, you may easily get add-on value on the money that you earn thru various investment venues via a touch of phone button. In Shanghai and Beijing, it is still not uncommon to line up in the bank for half an hour.

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Ian Lee, thanks for the tips!

1. Yes, the salaries are after tax.

2. We would have to hire an ayi/maid. And my partner is already learning some Mandarin! he's still in the "这是你妈妈的车吗?" stage (in Chinese Reader or something like that); his tones are pretty good for someone that's been taking Chinese for just a couple of weeks, though.

3. No chronic illness, but I do agree that simple things like going to the dentist are somewhat more annoying in Beijing...

4. My partner is mostly interested in experiencing new cultures, especially theatre/opera and everything that has to do with a stage.

5. Qeueing for half an hour???!!! yikes! what's the state of e-banking in Beijing/Shanghai? THAT would be annoying. What about high-speed internet?

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If your partner is into taiji then Beijing is the place to be over shanghai and hong kong. There are still many good traditional teachers of Taiji as well as other internal arts such as bagua and xingyi in all the parks in Beijing and with a little searching you can get in contact with some of the old guard in the different Taiji systems.

I also think your money goes a long way in Beijing compared to your other named cities.

good luck anyway I hope you have a great time.

all the best.

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Oh my god – what crap advice from Confucius. A highly inappropriate username me thinks.

“……it's possible to isolate yourselves in one of Beijing's exclusive gated communities and take a taxi to embassy functions…”

What, you think we all went to head to the ambassador’s parties to pick up our free Ferrero Rocher?

When I first arrived in Beijing I met a few people from the British embassy and hung out with them for a while, but then I realized what sad horrible people they were, always moaning about how crap life was in Beijing, none of them had any Chinese friends and most of them made no attempt to learn the language. Oh, and their parties were crap as well – a bunch of clichey losers in my opinion. Can’t say I had a good thing to say about the other people I met who had connections with the embassies either.

People who go to live in a new town and want to isolate themselves in a community of their own folk really should stay at home. :wall

All three alternatives are great, so don’t get too het up on whether or not you make the right choice. If you do want to hang out with a bunch of whingeing ex-pats then all three cities offer ample opportunities.

Personally I would opt for Beijing, although the less developed of the 3, it’s the one you will leave feeling all the richer for (in terms of experience, and probably cash as well).

Ambassador, with theeeeez ferrero rocher you ar reeeelly spoiling uz.

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So which embassy is giving away free Ferrero Rocher candy?

I've never been to the British embassy but I did meet one chap who worked there. He was quite knowledgeable about Chinese culture and really enjoyed life in Beijing.

You can live in a Beijing hutong and practice Chinese calligraphy with a stick in the mud and still attend embassy functions in between bao jiaozi gatherings and mahjong marathons.

I only mentioned embassy parties as a possible activity, not a sole suggestion. Danski and I have obviously have been going to different parties, as I have had enjoyable experiences at fun functions in the embassies of Canada, Brazil, Philippines, Indonesia, Iran, Austria, and Sweden. (Free pistachios at the Iran embassy!)

I have plenty of Chinese friends in Beijing; perhaps more than my fair share. Yet having lived in both Washington DC and Beijing, I can say that my life has been enriched by meeting people from around the world at embassy functions in these two cities. It is this attraction that makes life in a capital much more interesting.

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