Dubai, or Hong Kong?

(25 Posts)
happyjustobeme Thu 07-Feb-13 21:01:16

Having never in either of our careers having contemplated living overseas, DH came home from work last night and said that he had been asked if he wold consider a secondment to HK for 2-3 years. Turns out that they would also consider sending him to Dubai instead for the same length of time.

We have 2 DSs, 5 yo and 9 mo. We would all go together (if we go at all).

I am in shock and trying to work through what the move would entail. I would have to give up my job (we are both lawyers) and i would want not want to go out to work for the time we are away.

But i am trying to get a feel for what its like to live in Dubai or HK, what areas people live in, what types of accommodation, standard of accommodation, what schools are like for DS1 and how would he get in etc.

All advice and experiences from those living in HK or Dubai would be enormously appreciated.

I dont know how i would break it to my parents that we were considering such a move, and i don't know whether i will get off the ground as an idea, but i am open minded at the moment and will try and weigh it all up

AViewfromtheFridge Thu 07-Feb-13 22:22:11

I'd go for Hong Kong. I live in Dubai for a year and really didn't like the culture/ lack of human rights/ how they treat people. Have never been to Hong Kong but a friend of mine lived there a couple of years ago and loved it. Definitely consider it - what an opportunity!

saffronwblue Thu 07-Feb-13 23:06:16

I know and have visited people living in both and I would choose Hong Kong in a heartbeat over Dubai.

Hi am in HK and love living here.
You would certainly be able to find work, even part time if you ever got bored or ended up staying longer.

Expats tend to live in incestuous circles here too but its a far cry from Dubai.
There is a great energy and diversity but equally a great quality of life if you live away from central districts. We are 25mn away from the business district and have a beach 5mn away and hiking trails all around us.
Technically we have 4 seasons although autumn and winter are short and mild (our winter this year is more like a summer in Scotland!).
its a great life for kids and quite pampered for SHMs. Fantastic travel opportunities within a 3-4 hour flight range.

I was always biased against Dubai. It is a bubble. It is built on the sweat and blood of immigrant laborers…..etc…..
But so is HK, and a very sanitized place like Singapore is just the same, however we don't point it out so much.
Sri Lankans, philippinos etc are exploited everywhere across the region and they have sub status visas and prospects alongside the expat community in all those places. its really not specific to Dubai.

I"m also biased by some emotional baggage as a western educated-muslim born woman. Again, I have changed my mind considerably over the last 5 years. I have girlfriends who are in the financial services industry, doctors, teachers, in art galleries, NGO's etc…who live very fulfilling lives there.

Dubai is closer to family too. But its mind numbingly hot!

Given a choice I would still pick HK. A more culturally enriching experience for our family. Its a great experience to expose young children to something else if you are so inclined. We speak to ours in arabic and they are learning to write Mandarin. Am humbled and grateful for this opportunity everyday!
You need to pick what's right for your family.

Did anybody mention schools? waitlists and all.
For HK, Kellet would be your best fit if you were to return to the UK. full uk curriculum. Most of the other schools are IB.
Getting onto a waitlist really is a big issue in your age group. Check wether the package offers a debenture.
And rent allowance. that's the other biggie.

MechanicalTheatre Fri 08-Feb-13 03:18:15

I'd go for Hong Kong. I haven't lived in Dubai, but have lived in Saudi. The human rights abuses were grim and shocking (anyone who is not Saudi/white is basically treated like shit, cleaners/drivers lived in corrugated iron shacks etc). I was doing women's rights work, so I thought I'd be able to cope with it morally - but I felt pretty sickened.

I also would not be able to deal with the fact that it was built on the slave trade, a trade that is still going on today.

The ME is also not great for travel (especially not at the moment with all the shit that's going on) whereas in HK you could easily go to other parts of Asia for holidays.

RichMan didn't you live in Dubai for a while?

Labootin Fri 08-Feb-13 06:41:57

Laptop .. Very interesting post re labourers and Dubai/Hong Kong I've never thought of that before.

mechanical .. With the greatest of respect I'm not sure I understand your difficulty with travel point WRT Dubai .. The ME troubles do not trouble the Dubai Bubble. Abby Clancy and the cast of TOWIE are still happily frolicking and I am still merrily off on weekend jaunts to India/Maldives/Sri Lanka/Nepal as usual.

happyjustobeme Fri 08-Feb-13 10:19:16

Thanks for such honest views. I was preferring Dubai as it was closer to home, but i agree that HK would be a more balanced choice.

School for DS1 is my uppermost consideration. What is a debenture, and where are the preferred places to live? I have visited HK twice and only seen it as a tourist staying on HK island.

If the school thing doesnt work, then we wont go. We will definitely be returning to the UK after three years, that is a given, and DS1 will have three years left at primary in the UK at that stage.

MechanicalTheatre Fri 08-Feb-13 16:05:07

Labootin I was talking more about the range of places you can visit. For me, a big draw of Saudi was being able to visit the rest of the ME. Not sure I fancy Syria at this time of year. Obv there is still places you can go and Dubai is safe as houses.

Mimishimi Sat 09-Feb-13 00:08:03

We found it incredibly difficult to get our children into school in Hong Kong. Getting DD in took about a year, a year and a half for DS. By the time he was accepted, we'd had a gutful and had made the decision to return anyway.

IDontKnowWhereMyMedalsAre Sat 09-Feb-13 05:49:18

Not sure what you mean about travel Mechanical? DXB is the third busiest airport in the world. We regularly travel like Labootin does all over the Middle East, Asia, Europe. Weekends away, brilliant and we have cheap airlines like FlyDubai.
Never been to HK but have lots of friends from there both native and expats. Pretty sure that much of their construction is virtually slave labour. Dubai is nothing like Saudi. We have women in high ranking positions across government and business, yes there are problems with how some people treat their maids/helpers, not sure its much different to HK where accomodation is so small some maids sleep outside on the balcony or on the floor in the hall. Also my native and other frineds tell me that if your size is anything but tiny they can be very disparaging and its virtually impossible to buy clothes or shoes.
Schools difficult in both places, younger the child the harder it is to get a place in a decent school.

Mummysaysno Sat 09-Feb-13 07:12:18

We're in HK and happy, however I think you'll find people equally happy in Dubai.
If I was deciding between two locations like Dubai and HK, I would decide on where we could get school places, which would have better career prospects for DH and if either package offered would be more beneficial financially.
Tough choice for you, but exciting!

FergusSingsTheBlues Sat 09-Feb-13 07:17:51

Dubai. Charmless building site.
Hk. Gate to asia.

We had the same dilemma and went with HK.

MechanicalTheatre Sat 09-Feb-13 12:39:27

OK, forget the travel thing. I'm obviously not explaining it well and it was a minor point of my post compared to slave labour!

I understand what you mean. Only 2 years ago, you could drive from Amman to Jerusalem or to to Damascus for the day and even on to Lebanon.
It is a shame as living so close would have been a great opportunity to see the Levant and get a real feel for the "real arab world" while posted there. Is that what you meant? Fair point.

Sorry feels a bit like we ganged up on you but the UAE are really not that grim compared to many places.

MechanicalTheatre Sat 09-Feb-13 13:54:08

Yes that's what I meant.

happyjustobeme Sat 09-Feb-13 18:44:09

Thanks for the replies. It all comes down to the schools for DS1. He is 5, and we would relocate over the summer holiday so that he would start in September 2013. Our plan is to come back after three years.

I dont think a school place debenture is offered. DS1 is in a small private school in the UK that we are very happy with. We would pay whatever the school fees were.

Mimi, which schools were you looking at, and what did you do in HK whilst you were waiting for places at your preferred schools?

Can i also ask where you all lived in HK? I have been browsing websites which suggest that discovery bay would be good for families. How much, dare i Ask, are we looking at paying for a four bed house ideally, though i accept that an apartment is way mo realistic?

Mummysaysno Sun 10-Feb-13 00:11:19

Take a look at www.squarefoot.com.hk which will give you a very good idea of rental prices in different parts of HK, including on the various islands. Also look at previous HK threads...it is sobering the hike in price as it is a completely different scale to London prices.

My advice would be now is the time to make your demands of DH employer in terms of package...once you're here you're committed to a rental contract so even if you realize the package stinks there's nothing you can do.

I've been to DB for a day...it's nice. On HK island Southside (Stanley/Repulse Bay) is full of expats and beaches. Pokfulam has slightly more reasonably priced university accommodation that can be rented...houses for example. You would be unlikely to find a house for less than £10,000 a month. I have no idea about DB prices. Squarefoot website will be a good help for that.

We had school place through DH work so I was lucky not to have to battle too long with it all. Do ask about debentures from DH work. You also pay school fees as well, but depending on the type of debenture bought they can give instant access to a school place.

Hope this helps. HK life is a total surprise...we go to the beach a lot. Hiking is a big activity during the week when kids are at school. It is safe. Lots of independent schools in London consider the value of a child having lived overseas when considering applications when it comes to returning. But be warned, lots of people come for 2 years and never go back!!

happyjustobeme Sun 10-Feb-13 10:50:30

Thanks for the advice.

I am recovering from the shock and starting to embrace the idea and see he positives. And there are loads, as i am very keen to expose the DSs to a different culture and i think it would be a brilliant experience.

But i see loads of cons too, and this is partly because the idea is still in its infancy, and we havent been given a formal offer or proposed package. To some extent, DH will be able to say that he will not make the move without the package including x, y and z.

I dont expect to be able to have the same size house, same journey time to work etc. i understand that, particularly with property size, there is an enormous adjustment to be made. We have a large 6 bed house within the m25. We would need at least four beds, and i would want to be within easy access to a beach, a good school, and an ex pat community. We have no idea what this would cost us and we would need to be able to know this so that we can decide if it is a financially worthwhile move.

What should we do, do you think? Ask for x times more than DH's salary? Ask for x amount in rent allowance, and if so, how much? I just dont mow where to start.

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Sun 10-Feb-13 11:56:01

I have lived in both- Dubai from 2008-9 and HK since then. I personally prefer HK, possibly because it's more like London, where I'm originally from. It has a lot of history and has grown organically and I think is a more interesting place. I like the fact that there are little boutique shops and independent restaurants, proper markets, and different areas which have evolved independently and have very different characters as a result of their history, not because they were planned that way. The summer weather is not great (hot and humid), but you can live with it. In Dubai, the summer heat is just horrible (although to be fair, for the other 9 months, the weather is fantastic).

Main issue for you is likely to be houses, although if he's, say, a senior lawyer from a magic circle firm on a secondment package, you'll probably find something you can live with. Everywhere's near the beach (HK not that big) and the hiking is great. Expats are everywhere. Schools are all good but it depends where you can get in- try Harrow- they're not full apparently. Full time live-in childcare/ housekeeper very affordable.

On package, I would say, yes, it needs to be financially worthwhile, but the really top end packages are fewer and fewer. Increasingly, it's an international world, and employers increasingly look for people with international experience, so make sure you factor in the value of that

Tax is 15% flat btw, so worse than Dubai (no tax) but not too gruelling.

Main downsides of HK are the lack of school places and the terrible air quality.

Mummysaysno Sun 10-Feb-13 14:17:26

Have sent you a PM!

HKMimi2 Wed 13-Feb-13 06:07:01

Hello - we moved to HK from London 5 months ago. It took a while to settle in but it was definitely a great move for all of us. We looked around all the usual expat areas ( stanley, repulse bay, clearwater bay & pokfulam) but in the end we settled on DB, mainly because we could get a school place for our 4 year old. I would highly recommend DB to families with young kids as there is lots of open space to scoot around and play. It's also great for hiking and tennis. Our family has never done so much sport!

In terms of rent I would say you are looking at anywhere from $50,000 upwards. As an example, there are nice duplex flats ( not the best building tho) in DB that cost about $40K and there are 4 bed townhouses at about $60-80K. There are also some massive fab houses which cost about $100k. A lot of properties here have great sea views and are close to the beach which has a nice playground.The ferry in and out is really good - very frequent and punctual.

There are several good schools in DB - you should call them up asap and ask about places. Also call ESF - we applied through the central application process this year and got an interview for Bradbury. I think the school thing does always work itself out when you get here.

I don't want to ramble on too much so if you have any questions, feel free to PM me. Also have a look on GeoExpat and GeoBaby.

Good luck!

MamaMary Wed 13-Feb-13 13:18:17

Hi OP,

I lived in HK for a short time and I can tell you it's a fantastic place to live as an ex-pat. I lived in Sai Kung, lovely little seaside town and within very easy reach of downtown HK island and Kowloon. My DH would go back in a heart beat - as a fitness fanatic he loved it (think mountain hikes, jogging trails, windsurfing, kayaking).

It is a very safe place - I felt so safe travelling on my own and getting taxis/ public transport. Driving is also safe

I loved clothes shopping in HK - if you're the kind of person who loves browsing in sales shops and market stalls for bargains you'll be in heaven. I'm not 'tiny' by any means and found it easy to get clothes and shoes - you just need to know where to go.

HK people are very friendly too.

RashedMohamed Thu 27-Jun-13 08:33:30

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

ThePurpleCarrot Fri 28-Jun-13 17:37:12

I've lived in both and HK wins in a heartbeat.

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