Many expatriate families hire a live-in or part-time domestic helper.
The helper may be a Chinese “amah” or more often a person from the Philippines or Indonesia. Duties of a live-in helper usually include cleaning, laundry, cooking and/or help with the children and pets. A six-day work week is standard, with Sundays off.
If you hire a live-in helper, it is a good idea to ensure they have a medical check-up for common contagious ailments in Asia, including tuberculosis and hepatitis B.
Foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong are hired on a two-year contract. As their employer, you are expected to pay for their round-trip airfare from their home country, visa and document fees, food, housing and medical expenses. Hong Kong law requires that you also pay for a health insurance policy and provide live-in accommodation, as foreign domestic helpers are not allowed to live anywhere other than their place of employment. Many luxury flats in Hong Kong have small quarters for live-in domestic helpers. Foreign domestic helpers are also not allowed to work for anyone other than their official employer, so the practice of paying another family’s helper to do part-time cleaning or childcare is illegal, though not uncommon.
Hong Kong law requires that you pay for a health insurance policy and provide live-in accommodation, as foreign domestic helpers are not allowed to live anywhere other than their place of employment.
Domestic Hiring Agencies
There are many agencies that can help you hire a domestic helper from abroad; this includes dealing with their travel arrangements and applications in compliance with Hong Kong’s labor laws. These agencies can procure candidate profiles and videos for you to inspect thoroughly before making a decision.
Find out as much as you can about a prospective employee before signing anything. Get the previous employer’s telephone contact for a character reference. If you are new to Hong Kong and want to hire a domestic helper, it is advisable to enlist the help of a reputable agency instead of trying to find one on your own. Look for one that is committed to fair hiring practices, like the Fair Employment Agency.
- The Interactive Employment Service of the Labour Department offers a job board where you can advertise for part-time help or a local domestic helper.
- The “Practical Guidebook for the Employment of Foreign Domestic Helpers,” downloadable from the Labour Department website, includes a checklist of forms and documents required for the application of helpers from abroad.
- HelperChoice is a useful social platform that connects domestic helpers with prospective employers.
- The ERB Smart Living scheme run by the Employees Retraining Board connects employers with local domestic helpers who have undergone ERB courses in cooking, cleaning, elder care, and even massage.
- ERB Smart Baby Care helps employers to find local workers who are trained in postnatal care, infant care and child care.
Joining a Network
The cosmopolitan characteristics of Hong Kong make it an easy place to meet people if you are relatively sociable.
There are countless networks and social groups in the city, each united by a shared interest of some form or another. At any given time during the year you are bound to meet at least a handful of other new arrivals at these gatherings, all in the same boat as you and eager to meet new people. Whether you’re looking for professional opportunities or just a few new pals to grab a beer with, these social events may be where you find them!
Chambers of Commerce
National Chambers of Commerce in Hong Kong regularly host professional events, conferences and social gatherings for the local business community. Becoming a member of one (or more) is a good way to meet new people and grow your professional network. Here is a list of some active and well-known chambers in Hong Kong.
Meetup is a website designed to facilitate easy socializing and networking through events posted by different interest groups, ranging from food and wine, to career networking, to outdoor activities such as hiking and rock climbing. The website is a fun and popular way to get to know other expatriates, visitors and locals through participation in different activities. Many of the groups also have active Facebook pages.
The American Women’s Association of Hong Kong (AWA) is open to all women in Hong Kong, regardless of nationality. The Association organizes educational, philanthropic and social activities for its members to get involved in and holds an annual fundraising charity bazaar in early November. Their weekly CHAT coffee in Central is open to members and non-members alike.
Those looking for LGBTQI+ communities and groups to join can explore the following:
Hong Kong LGBT+ Attorneys (HKGALA)
With more than 800 members, HKGALA aims to promote LGBT+ inclusion in the legal profession and increase awareness of LGBT+ legal issues in Hong Kong and abroad.
The Harmonics Choir
Music lovers can check out The Harmonics, a choir that welcomes LGBT and LGBT-friendly singers.
This nonprofit aims to facilitate unity and cooperation in Hong Kong’s LGBT+ community and to engage allies and the public through community engagement and education. Their professional events include a monthly networking event and a mentorship program with the Queer Straight Alliance, Hong Kong’s largest network of LGBTQI+ university students, staff and allies.
Out in Hong Kong
Fitness lovers can join Out in Hong Kong’s many sports, health and outdoor-themed activities.
Tongzhi Literary Group
Writers and non-writers can mingle and share their work at Tongzhi Literary Group events. Both Cantonese and English writers are welcome.
Major LGBTQI+ events in Hong Kong include:
The Hong Kong Pride Parade has grown year on year since 2008 and is now a firmly entrenched annual event celebrating diversity and LGBT rights in a positive, happy way.
Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival
Now in its 31st year, the HKLGFF is Asia’s longest running lesbian and gay film festival.
A weeklong series organized by the Pink Alliance and billed as “Asia’s Premier LGBT+ Festival.”
A family-friendly outdoor festival featuring food, music, and a “community zone” spotlighting organizations serving the LGBTQ+ community in Hong Kong.
Places of Worship
If you are religious, finding a place to worship will be a top priority.
Joining a spiritual community is also a good way to make new friends and meet like-minded people. Religious freedom is guaranteed in Hong Kong’s constitution, so you will find a place for every faith here.
There are many Roman Catholic and Protestant churches throughout Hong Kong. For a list of Roman Catholic Churches, visit the website of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has a temple in Kowloon Tong.
Temples and Monasteries
As you might expect, Buddhist and Taoist temples and monasteries are numerous and can be found in every part of Hong Kong. There are two Hindu temples, one located in Happy Valley and one in Tsim Sha Tsui, and a Sikh temple in Wan Chai.
There are three main mosques, one in Kowloon and two on Hong Kong Island. The Kowloon Mosque and Islamic Center, Hong Kong’s largest mosque building, can accommodate up to 3,000 people at a time. It is located on Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. The Islamic Union website has more information.
More information on religion in Hong Kong and places of worship is provided in Good to Know > About Hong Kong > People, Religion and Customs.
Cantonese, the most widely spoken dialect in Hong Kong, is integral to Hongkongers’ cultural identity.
Not to be confused with four-toned Mandarin Chinese, aka Putonghua (which literally translates to “common language”), the heavily slang-based Cantonese with its six tones is notoriously difficult for foreigners to learn; a word pronounced in the incorrect tone takes on an entirely different meaning.
While it is unlikely that you will ever master the dialect completely, a few key phrases are all you need to get around with ease in Hong Kong. Locals will be pleased at your efforts and will be very helpful.
For more information on Chinese language schools and courses in Hong Kong, see Live > Continuing Education > Language Classes.