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Moving to Hong Kong with two under two!(12 Posts)
Hi! My DH has just accepted a job in Hong Kong and we are going to be moving in the next two months or so. I have visited Hong kong a couple of times on holiday but not in the last 10 years and never with children!! I have no idea where to start! Now we have a two month old baby and a 21 month old toddler and I am slightly overwhelmed by how I am going to settle them in and myself!
Are there any MN-ers out there that can help me with some questions (such as "where should we live?", "where can I do the weekly shop?", "how do I start networking?!")? Sorry to be so direct but I am a little OCD and want to get as much information as possible to make a smooth-ish transition!
I have sent a request to join Hong Kong Moms on FB but haven't had any joy in being accepted. Does anyone know how I can contact the group and ask to join? T
Thank you in advance.
Hi there, a few of us here in HK.
Did you manage to join the FB group? It's very active, thoroughly recommend.
Where is dh based and how long for
Do you want more westernised expat culture or not
Who is funding accommodation- you/ company?
What support services are dh work providing
It's common to have a maid typically phillipino who will do the domestic chores and support with light childcare duties
Thank you for replying. Sorry for being slow to respond. Two under two is more challenging than I would have realised!
Right, where do I start.... I will tr and answer the questions posed to me, first (thanks, NewBallsPlease00!)
We are on a permenant contract, I.e. Local hire, based in Kowloon, however, I may have a role lined up, working in Central, so we had thought we would try to live in the island. I think, as this is our first experience of living overseas, we would like to be close to other expats, however, as we are funding the accommodation ourselves, we are not expecting a palace! (We believe we can afford 40-50k pm for an apartment.)
We have a service apartment for 30 days on arrival and a relocation agent for the same period, but I was hoping to get some insight from those of you living there about the family side of things, as I fear I could be quite isolated when we first move. I hope we will be able to find help, but this won't be until we are settled in our apartment.
Questions from me....
Baby formula and weaning is one of my concerns, as I would like to use brands I "trust" so will be looking for UK imports where possible. Pis this unrealistic? I realise it will probably be costly!
Mother and baby groups - is there a website which lists them? I am not on the FB page, so if either of you can help, please pm me, and I will pass on my details, so the administrators don't see me as spam! Thank you Laptopwieldingharpy.
General guidance on living in hK would be useful. We are looking at what type of pram to bring, as we have a multitude of options in the UK as we have heard varying things on what to buy, due to the ease of getting the pram in and out of taxis etc.
I am sure I will have many more questions, but right now, I am yet trying to get used to the idea of being away from family and my support network in the UK!
Just a couple of points. Kowloon isn't as nice as the Island. I stayed there for 6 weeks one summer, some years ago now, and it was all about getting to the island every day.
Also 2 under 2. I had them (now 9 and 8) and I can tell you, it doesn't matter where you are, that challenge is a big one. You will probably need to take supplies you know and trust, or mail yourself a large box of them.
We took barrels of Sudocrem to the US. Couldn't have lived without it as there was literally nothing comparable that didn't bring the kids out in a rash.
Can you take two prams? I recommend the P&T for long walks but a Mclaren side by side is light and easy to fold for taxis travel.
For accomodation look at squarefoot.com.hk to see the space you will get for your budget.
You will get a bit more space in a building without facilities but with 2 little ones i would certainly recommend compromising on space and choosing a condo with facilities such as playground/ indoor playroom etc....some will have pools, gym, tennis etc too and are a lifesaver with 2 very young children. Lots of opportunities to socialise and save your sanity.
Traipsing around town with a pram is not always easy here (small pavements if any and quite hilly in some parts of HK).
There are a lot of options on HK island but it depends on the kind of commute your DH is prepared to do. Access to kowloon is 10mn on the underground from admiralty/central.
Héd have get to the tube station.
Thank you both for the advice. Very much appreciated. from what you are saying, I think we will look to live on the island and my husband will commute.
Another question, if that is okay.... Can either of you advise how to get accepted on the HK Moms FB page? I have been trying for about a month, with no luck and any help would be gratefully received. If it is easier to PM me, please do so.
Thanks fir all your help.
Hi OP. I live in HK and also had 2 under 2 for all of 6 weeks (they're now 3 and nearly 5). A couple of things - Kowloon is totally different to 10 years ago, I mean, transformed, especially the bit closest to the island (TST and West Kowloon). There are now some areas (particularly above Kowloon Station/ICC and around Olympic) which are now very popular with expats with young kids. At the same time, the rents are more affordable than the island. I wouldn't rule out Kowloon, put it that way. However.......with children that age, getting around in the more central areas (Kowloon, mid levels etc) will be a bit of a PITA because double pushchairs and HK pavements are not a happy marriage, nor are 2 toddlers +taxi. I would definitely advise going for a building with some sort of facilities (playroom, outdoor podium space, pool) if you can. On that basis, If you don't mind being a bit further out you could consider either Tung Chung (caribbean coast) or Discovery Bay. People sniff at them cos they're a bit suburban but most people who live there love it. Closer to central, In Pok Fu Lam there's a building called Victoria Gardens which is also v popular (older building but good community feel, apartments are reasonably sized and they have a decent amount of traffic free play space)
Baby milk- you can get UK imported formula and baby foods (Ella's/ Organic etc) in Bumps to Babes and Tiny Footprints. Ditto creams , nappies etc. There's nothing you can't get really. Definitely don't bring huge stocks of stuff because your flat will be small. Supermarkets sell western food and brands but they are expensive. There are a number of suppliers of frozen meat/fish imported from NZ and Aus which are a bit cheaper.
One thing you don't mention but do need to think about is childcare. There is basically no "daycare" in HK. Kids from 2.6 to 4/5 usually go to preschool for 3 hrs per day (extended day sometimes possible at a few nurseries). Children under 2.6 usually have to be accompanied. If you're working you'll have little choice but to hire a helper (don't say "maid"). These are usually either Filipina or Indonesian. Legally, you must be their FT employer (and sponsor) and they must live with you. Just to slightly correct what newballs says, their remit goes way beyond light childcare. It's totally usual for helpers to have sole charge since most families in HK (apart from expats where it's 50/50) have 2 FT working parents. It is not most expat's first choice of arrangement, but unless you can afford to pay the salary of a western nanny (plus their accommodation) that's the deal. Even if you decide to be a SAHM, you'll find that most expats have a helper who will do all the housework and help with childcare to a greater or lesser extent.
Sorry can't help with HK moms as I'm not on it myself.
Good advice above about choosing an estate with good facilities for kids.
I know the Leighton Hill in Happy Valley has a playroom, swimming pools etc. It seems to fit your criteria. Also an easy walk to Causeway Bay MTR for DH. I just had a look on hongkonghomes.com and the flats listed there are pricey. I'm sure they used to be somewhere in the 50 range not long ago. I always take the prices listed online with a pinch of salt as some landlords price VERY speculatively. It's worth asking your agent.
You will find more expats in Kowloon nowadays as well. The estates that spring to mind are the big developments around Olympic and the flats above Elements Mall which I think is above Kowloon Station. I met someone who lived above Elements who said the estate was a great place for her 3 year old to meet little playmates. I'm guessing you will get more for your money Kowloon side.
I live in Sai Kung. More out of the way, greener, beaches and a bit of a different feel. There are also loads of expats here and lots of children's and baby groups. You could live in a whole village house on your budget (2100 sq feet over 3 floors). Not sure if it would stretch to a house in a development.
I do know of one international style daycare as a friend sent her son there from about 1.5 to 2.5 years old. Mass International Pre School. I think the locations are Tai Tam and Causeway Bay. Where is your serviced apartment? If the location fits, it might be worth seeing if they could take your elder child for a month or two whilst you find somewhere to live and decide which childcare route to go down / employ a helper! My friend was very happy with it.
Thank you for the extra guidance on accommodation - so much more to think about! I will definitely look into these areas, as we had originally been quite narrow in our search!
Good tip on the landlords - someone else mentioned this to my husband as well!
One final question (sorry).... Do I use an agency to find a helper? I am a bit worried about navigating through this...
You can use an agency or just look for recommendations/ use word of mouth to try to find someone whose employer is leaving HK. There's another FB page called (I think) HK Helpers which can be useful. I've used an agency called Helper In before (but only for processing the paperwork- I found the helper myself). The key thing is to check references. Be really really wary of helpers without references. Sometimes the story about how their employer wont provide one is true, but sometimes it's not. Also, sometimes the written references are clearly faked- like ones that are allegedly written by a british person but the English is really bad. When you get here, PM me and I can help you find one.
Thank you KeyserSophie! I will definitely be in touch when we get there.