With over 300,000 expats calling Hong Kong home, I certainly wasn’t the first, and nor will I be the last young mum to arrive in this strange and exciting new land, with a suitcase and a crying, vomit-covered baby.
Fast forward nearly eight months, and there are so many things I wish I knew before I started off on my adventure. I assume if you are still reading this post, you’re eager to know too—so here are my top tips:
Good Things Come in Small Packages
I’m talking about your new home. Expect it to be tiny, especially compared to homes in Australia and the U.S. Your cooking space will resemble a caravan kitchen and it probably houses the washing machine too! On the up side, its much easier to keep clean and very quick to baby proof! When you are searching for your new home, consider how close it is to public transport and if it’s easy to access with a pram and an armful of shopping. You will also need to consider buying air purifiers and dehumidifiers for your rooms, to tackle Hong Kong’s infamous air pollution and mould. Costly, but so worth it for peace of mind.
It Takes a Village!
The old adage about raising kids is true, so try and pick a community that is family friendly. Luckily for you, there are plenty in Hong Kong to choose from. As many young families do, we settled on Discovery Bay, located on Lantau Island. It’s a 30-minute ferry ride to Central, however it’s green with plenty of parks and a little beach. No matter where you choose, before the big move, make sure you research what’s important for your family—do you need playgroups, specific schools or sport facilities? If you feel a part of the community, you will feel at home so much quicker!
I won’t lie—nearly every teary breakdown I’ve had in Hong Kong has been caused by pram predicaments. I’ve lost count of how many times a random set of stairs has appeared mid-way through my journey along seemingly flat footpaths, or times when the pram won’t fit into the bus, tram, grocery isle or shop doorway. This is especially true if you make the move to Hong Kong Island. The only solution is to keep things light—use a baby carrier and choose a lightweight stroller or buggy that can be folded or unfolded with one hand.
Shop From Home!
For the very reasons listed above, online shopping is a major sanity saver! Hong Kong has a huge range of online providers for fruit, veggies, meat, pantry staples and health foods (check out the HK Hub’s list of gourmet food goodies here). We now order a weekly organic produce box that’s delivered to our door, preventing hectic dashes to the supermarket with baby in tow. While you’re at it, shop online for your clothing essentials and baby goods too, as there isn’t really an equivalent to Target, Kmart or Walmart here. Try Next, Target US, Babyonline, Marks and Spencer, ASOS and Bonds, to have your goodies shipped to your door. Before you leave, stock up on your preferred over-the-counter children’s medications including paracetemol, as particular brands aren’t sold here. The same goes for baby formula and nappies if you have particular preferences, as they can be quite expensive in Hong Kong. When friends and family come to visit, ask them to stash some of your favourite baby essentials from home in their suitcases too!
Sort Out Your Schools
The Hong Kong school system is renowned for long waiting lists and its competitive nature. Depending on the school you have your heart set on, most people advise putting your child’s name down on the waiting list at birth. Ensure looking at possible schools is high on your priority list when you first arrive, and if you have kids already at school age, you will need to start researching well before the move. The exciting thing is there are so many educational opportunities for your little one in Hong Kong. From mothers groups and Mandarin playgroups, to Montessori schools and international colleges, there is absolutely something for everyone.
Find a Mum Squad
My very best tip? Find other mums in the same situation as you and befriend them, stat! Within my first week, I joined a local playgroup and these mothers became my closest friends—and support—when my husband is away working. And the best bit? They’ve got living in Hong Kong with a baby down to a fine art, and are more than happy to share their tricks and secrets! The best place to start searching for your new BFFs is Facebook—check out this fantastic list of Hong Kong Facebook groups for mamas! And while you are on your phone, download these apps, to make Hong Kong living a piece of cake!
The tip I really wish I knew before I came here, is how much incredible baby stuff you can pick up secondhand in perfect condition. Once again, Facebook is your friend with oodles of swap and sell pages dedicated to toys, furniture, baby goods, clothing and more. Don’t be tempted to go on a shopping spree when you first arrive to deck out your apartment. Instead, jump online! You will be amazed at what you can pick up.
Say Hello to Helpers
Moving half way across the world and leaving family and friends behind can be especially daunting when you have a baby. After I arrived, I quickly realised that Hong Kong couldn’t function without the thousands of wonderful domestic helpers who care for families across the city, cooking, cleaning and caring for little ones. Coming from Australia, I’ll admit, the concept of domestic help was a little strange for me, however I have quickly come to realise that it’s the next best thing to having your mum nearby to call upon! Before you dive in to hiring help, check out this handy guide to finding a great helper, ethically.
So now, as you step onto that plane with a baby (or two!) on your hip, don’t question your sanity! Rather, get ready for an amazing adventure in a city that will never cease to amaze, excite, and inspire you—oh, and frustrate you a little too! Good luck!