WWYD? Back to the UK from HK after over a decade? Or is there another way?

(57 Posts)
QueenOfTheKong Sat 09-May-20 03:21:52

Hi - need some clarity and so throwing this out to the universe!

I've been living in various locations across Asia for over a decade with my DH and two DDs (both born Hong Kong). We are very much localised, no expat packages, and have considered HK to be our home for years now. DDs (4.5 and 9) in particular are very attached to their home and would be sad to leave.

We found out last week that DH is being made redundant this summer, and due to the current situation, are struggling to see any other option but to move back to the UK, which is something I'm uneasy about, despite having wanted to return in the past.

We've looked at him getting another job in HK (I own a small biz but this has tanked since Corona), but there's very little in his field plus we fear the 12+ months of unrest here is going to seriously flare again as soon as all restrictions are lifted (this is already beginning).

We also looked at a move to Singapore, to maintain some degree of consistency in our lives by staying in Asia but it's looking increasingly unlikely that we'd get visas for the foreseeable and cost of living is also very high.

We have a small amount of savings that would tide us over for a few months if we were to stay in HK, but the hideous expense of rent here would eat through these at around twice the speed of the UK. I'm also conscious that both the UK and HK are heading into major recessions, so job hunting for both of us will be very challenging in either location.

DH has previously stated he would never return to the UK due to Brexit, however has now changed his mind as he can't see any other alternative, and is being quite positive about the lifestyle change. Conversely, I have previously suggested moving back for the benefit of larger home, stability, proximity to aging parents, etc, but am now the one wavering!

So please, WWYD? Return to Corona/Brexit-stricken Britain at what is probably the worst possible time, where we could afford a nice house with a garden but know no one apart from family and would have to adjust, or try to stay on in our adopted city and see if we can ride it out for a few months on savings until there are more jobs available?

Would really love some perspectives as I feel totally lost and going around in circles. Thank you and apologies for the length!

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Mexicoco Sat 09-May-20 04:04:53

it's a really difficult decision to think about uprooting your family, especially if your kids are so settled. But if this crisis has taught me anything its that family is number one. I don't know when I'll see mine again. Its already been a year. We're ready to go home.

Grapefruity Sat 09-May-20 04:07:28

Tbh Brexit is a worry for us too. Our plan to get home is more longterm. I would probably stay put with the longterm view being on somewhere you feel you can all be settled whether that's the UK or not.

QueenOfTheKong Sat 09-May-20 04:14:39

@Mexicoco I'm so sorry it's been such a long time for you, and yes, this is a definite tick in the UK box for us too. We'd be closer to my in-laws (my parents are also expats, but also nearer to the UK). The lack of flights currently has really brought it home to us how far from home we are - we're so complacent about travelling back usually.

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QueenOfTheKong Sat 09-May-20 04:16:00

@Grapefruity this is my thought too, but it's worrying how high our living expenses are here. I'd hate to burn through our savings and have nothing to show for it.

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Mexicoco Sat 09-May-20 04:27:55

We're happyish where we are. Great lifestyle. Great friends. Disposable income
But always we've known that longterm we want to get back to the UK. The behaviour of people here during this pandemic has only reinforced that. We will stay here for 2 more years because of various reasons (education, selling our home etc) but ideally we want to be nearer to family.

TW2013 Sat 09-May-20 04:41:55

At 4.5 it will not be a problem moving. A 9yr old might find it harder but it is not too long until secondary transfer (the Sept after they turn 11)when everything is mixed up again. As children they can't see the wider picture so you need to see it for them. Iimagine that poverty in HK would not be easy and although the virus has been a distraction, I think that the unrest is likely to be the ongoing backdrop to their childhood. Would there be anything stopping your dh applying to jobs internationally and see where he ends up?

Not going to lie, the UK politically is not where I would want it to be, however there are safety nets here and day to day life (virus aside) continues more or less as usual. Do look into what you would be entitled to though as if you have savings you will need to use most of them first and not having contributed for many years any benefits will be limited. The benefit of moving now is you can pick where to rent for access to a good secondary school and hopefully depending on admission criteria your younger child can get in as a sibling even if you move a short distance out locally.


mrbob Sat 09-May-20 05:00:27

Can you go somewhere else? Australia? Or elsewhere in Asia?

QueenOfTheKong Sat 09-May-20 05:06:24

@TW2013 I'd suggested this, but DH really isn't keen to take a step into the unknown and try a brand new country that we have no experience of, and I do understand that. We've previously lived in other countries in the region and have had mixed experiences, so I can appreciate why he feels he'd like a degree of familiarity.

I don't think (touch wood) that we'd be so financially precarious in the UK that we'd need to look at benefits, though I'm aware there's a qualifying period once you return from overseas. There seem to be jobs advertised in his field, although obviously everything's on hold for now, but I think (hope!) he could get something relatively easily.

Schools are oversubscribed in the area we'd be moving to and I have no experience of getting places in the UK system, which is a worry. I'd previously reached out to a few schools for a feel of how to proceed and all said they're full (plus of course we've missed application dates). Having said that, we've been in a homeschool situation here since Feb, so I guess we could always extend that if need be.

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QueenOfTheKong Sat 09-May-20 05:06:36

Really appreciate everyone taking the time to respond - helping me to order my thoughts a little!

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QueenOfTheKong Sat 09-May-20 05:08:00

@mrbob Oz feels that bit too far and DH not keen to move to an unknown country (we've don't this before with mixed success) which I can understand.

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LeGrandBleu Sat 09-May-20 05:17:34

Maybe reconsider Australia, it isn’t exactly a step into the unknown. It is very much British with a touch of Asia and I say this as a French.

This said , a move back to the UK makes. If our life here came to an abrupt end, I would look at going back to France or another of the previous countries we lived before.
Yes UK has changed a bit since Brexit but I have the feeling it is a generalised mood across many countries, and UK is still home. And home is home.

Mumdiva99 Sat 09-May-20 05:23:44

Do you have time to think this through before he's made redundant? I would ge wary of making a decision while still in lockdown.

Do you own or rent in HK? If you rent then it is easier for you to move (even temporarily) to the UK.

We have family in HK....some have already come back and some are looking to make the move back due to the unrest. (They are from HK not expats...but have lived in UK before). Be warned that most companies in uk currently have recruitment freeze because of CV. So getting a job in the next few months will be a struggle.

With regards schools - you apply for a place and if the school is full you go on the wait list. You will be ranked on the list according to criteria. When (if) a space is available it is offered to the person at the top of the list. You could be number 1 on the wait list but some one might move a tiny bit closer to the school than you and go straight into the wait list at position one....it's a very frustrating system.

Despite sounding negative the UK is a lovely place, and coming home to family is great.

Namenic Sat 09-May-20 05:39:12

I’d be tempted to come back to UK to be closer to the grandparents. It’s a good point pp mentioned about benefits eg pensions/NI contributions - I don’t know how that works but it might be worth looking into.

QueenOfTheKong Sat 09-May-20 05:41:59

@LeGrandBleu to be honest I don't think Australia is for us. It's a great place to visit, but neither of us have ever really warmed to the idea of living there, especially as parents get older. You're right about a certain pull to home, though we'd be moving to an entirely new area rather than a "home town" per se.

@mumdiva99 sadly not. His last day in the office is mid-July so need to figure things out quite quickly - ideally before Sept for school places.

Fortunately we rent in HK so easier logistically, and can afford to live on savings for quite a while longer in the UK as opposed to HK. I think one of the barriers is that we all have a strong emotional pull to HK, DDs both Cantonese-speaking and in local schools, etc. I worry that a UK move would be a huge upheaval for them, but then maybe I'm underestimating how adaptable kids are?

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QueenOfTheKong Sat 09-May-20 05:43:20

@Namenic yes it's definitely something we need to arrange quickly. We contacted HMRC a couple of years back and just need to top up our NI contributions for a little while (or as a lump sum), which we can do.

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JudyCoolibar Sat 09-May-20 05:43:51

I suspect you may find the school situation changes. If schools reopen but some people are reluctant to send their children back, they may have to take them off the school roll.

QueenOfTheKong Sat 09-May-20 05:46:00

@judycoolibar a good point and one I hadn't considered, thank you!

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QueenOfTheKong Sat 09-May-20 05:46:57

Incidentally I am very aware that this is all First World Problems and that we're in a fortunate position compared to many others. Don't want to suggest I'm feeling sorry for myself here!

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expatlife Sat 09-May-20 05:47:50

There are quite a few good expat groups on Facebook that are discussing these issues now. Have a look at Two Fat Expats, really friendly and helpful online community.

We are similar, that I wanted to always stay longer in our current location (and DH wanting to move 'home'), but since this has all happened, I'm more keen then ever to return to be near family and DH is the one reluctant.

We will stay here another year and make the move home next summer as a compromise - keeping in mind employment opportunities of course! But I'm not too worried about the DC, as they are so resilient and going to school will give them immediate connections/friendships.

Mumdiva99 Sat 09-May-20 05:53:11

Kids adapt. It's easier for them to come to the uk as the schooling is less formal and shorter days...no Saturday school. Less tutoring in the evenings etc. You can enrol your kids in Chinese school in the UK to keep up the language (Although a lot are mandarin rather than Cantonese.)

As your children are classed as 'in year applications' getting to the uk in time for the September term start doesn't really matter. If they get a school place they get it....in fact most school admission offices will close down over the summer holidays....so you either need to be here in June or start the process in September.

(Tbh, you sound like you would rather stay in HK. Why not put a deadline on it...if you don't have a new job by X then we fly back to UK.)

Mummyoflittledragon Sat 09-May-20 06:10:52

My thoughts you should leave HK before you run out of money. HK from what I can gather appears to be slowly being subsumed into China. Is this correct? If I am, Coronavirus could speed that up, no?

If you need to come back to the U.K., I don’t think it makes much difference if you come now or in a couple of months, governmental policy is a shit show. If you are able to work or run your business from another country in Europe, maybe that could be an option. What are your language skills like? Mandarin opens doors, I imagine even if you don’t speak the local language. Germany is great and has a vastly superior healthcare.

Dh and I lived abroad for a decade and returned just over a decade ago. When we returned it took me a long time to adjust. The Cool Britannia, Union Jack spice girl wearing country I left behind seemed gone to be replaced by something more insular and myopic. I felt acutely how different I was from most of the locals in my village, many of whom have lived here all their lives. I’ve adjusted now and because I am too ill to get out much, it just is what it is. I’d rather be in a village.

You know all this as you’d be coming back post Brexit. We have a child and for her to move abroad would be very difficult so I fully appreciate your dilemma. My friend lives 10 mins down the road on the outskirts of a university city. The demographic is completely different with a lot of former students (now middle aged) have settled in that particular part of the city and they are sooo much more relaxed than my friends and neighbours. Her area is labour and was pro remain. Mine is conservative and pro Brexit.

Perhaps you can think hard about where you’d like to live and who you’d like to have as neighbours...

MrsRudderless Sat 09-May-20 06:27:50

Because of Brexit, I would avoid the UK.

The way the government has handled C-19 and how it looks like the UK is heading (wanting) a no deal Brexit, I think it's going to be really really grim.

I know you say you don't want to live in another foreign country but personally, I would look to live in an EU country, personally and enrol the dcs into international schools. Establish yourselves there before Dec 31st.

Germany (Berlin?) or Luxembourg are very expat friendly. Both have handled C-19 well too.

The UK will alway be there. It's just that it's facing a whole load of trouble right now.

QueenOfTheKong Sat 09-May-20 07:03:36

@expatlife thanks for the tip - I'll check out that forum! Good to connect with someone in a similar situation!

@Mumdiva99 this is very true. Perhaps it's me that may be less adaptable than the kids! Thanks for the applications info. Seems we don't have to rush back for September then, which is something.

@Mummyoflittledragon you're correct. China is aiming to swallow HK whole and now C-19 restrictions are easing, everything will kick off again, likely worse than before. It's heartbreaking to see what's happening to the city I love, but I am very aware that I'm fortunate to have other options, unlike so many others here. Also v good point about the type of location. It's a major factor in where we're targeting (liberal, multi-cultural city) opposed to where we grew up (very rural and Conservative).

@MrsRudderless sadly our language skills aren't sufficient to consider Europe. DH is very worried about getting a job in Europe then being unable to find another if need be as we're not multilingual. But Brexit scares the Bejeezus out of both of us.

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OnlyJudyCanJudgeMe Sat 09-May-20 07:20:53

Why does Brexit scare you?
I don’t understand why you think it’s such a major thing?
I’m really not trying to be awkward, just trying to understand why you fear it so much?
(I was a remain voter btw)

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