Make this process slightly less painful.
I can’t really put my finger on it but #HomeKong just draws you in completely with its views, infrastructure, food, holidays, local markets, Airport Express and limitless opportunities. Having lived in this bubble for nine long years I had never dreamed of leaving Hong Kong. But at the back of my mind (way back!), I always knew the day would come when we would have to move for various reasons — we may be permanent residents but, sadly, the 852 is not our forever home.
I am heartbroken to leave but I am also excited about the new adventures. I hear change is good (or so I tell myself!). Moving in the best of times seems like a prodigious task, but for me, it has come with a unique set of obstacles (quarantine, lockdown, social distancing). Luckily for me, I am one of those who has a list for everything. Here’s my “Leaving Hong Kong checklist” and I hope it helps you in your relocation (if that day should come).
1. Get Your Medical Records
The first thing you should do is sort out your medical records especially if you have been a part of the public health care system. When I wanted to register my four-month baby with a hospital in my new home, they required his discharge summary and medical records (it was important in his case as he was a premature baby). I hadn’t realised that I only had his vaccination card and was missing his medical information (and mine).
Like most things in Hong Kong, the process is fairly simple. You download an online form and post it with a cheque. You can even request for the documents to be sent to your new address offshore. The only catch is it takes anywhere between 60 to 90 days.
2. Choose A Shipping Company And Fix A Date
I have spent a lot of time collecting little knick-knacks and investing in some beautiful furniture. Therefore, I wanted the best company to ship my goods. There are numerous options available. My husband did the research on several companies (Asian Tigers, Crown Relocation to name a few) and got them to assess and provide quotes. When picking a relocation company, choose one that fits your budget and has a decent reputation.
Fixing a shipment date is a close second to the medical records. From my own experience, I have understood that some companies try to combine shipments especially if the container is only half full. This can cause a delay to the arrival of your belongings which typically takes a month to a month and a half. And don’t forget to insure your shipment.
3. Make An Exhaustive Inventory List
List down everything you are going to send via the shipping company, items that you plan to send through a courier and others that you would prefer carrying with you such as baby stuff, jewellery, your wedding dress, etc. This really helps you get organised and also can be used as a reference for insurance for when your shipment arrives.
4. Inform Your Landlord
We were lucky as we were on the second year of the renewed contract and so for us, all that was required was just a months’ notice. Please read your contract and speak to your agent at the earliest. In some cases, there is a lock-in period for a fixed number of months. Landlords in the city are generally reasonable but some experts advise including an expat break clause in your tenancy agreements.
5. Inform Your Child’s School
Let your child’s school know when his or her last day will be. If you’re already close to the end of the school year, some schools may agree to give an extended leave. See what best works for you.
Even more important is applying for the return of your debenture or deposit amount (if applicable). This is often a large sum of money and can be worrisome for parents. Because rules vary from school to school, so it’s best to study your child’s school’s policy in detail.
6. MPF — Keep Or Close?
If you know for sure you are never going to return to this lovely city, you can request for a withdrawal. The process can be time-consuming. If it’s not critical to collect the money immediately, you could also do it once you are fully settled in your new location.
7. Pare Down
This, by far, was the most difficult aspect for me. I had nine years’ worth of my best memories in my Hong Kong home and it was hard to give up anything. But this move left me with no choice. I literally had to “Marie Kondo” my way through everything I owned. Before you leave the city, get rid of everything unnecessary and donate useful items to one of Hong Kong’s great charitable organisations.
8. Get Your Financials And Documents In Order
Inform your bank that you are leaving Hong Kong and provide them with contact details in your new country of residence. Even if you no longer reside in Hong Kong, it is advisable to keep the bank account, at least for the short term. Speak to your bank about the minimum deposit required in the account.
Speak to the different utilities’ companies to close your connections and collect any deposit due. Keep scanned copies of your house rent agreement, employment contract, payslips, utility bills, etc. Sometimes these are credited into your bank account directly which is another reason to keep your bank account active for a while.
Equally importantly, pay any tax due. This is true whether you are staying on or leaving the city.
9. Cancel Subscriptions
Say bye to your cell phone number, your amazing WiFi network and any TV, magazine or newspaper subscriptions you may have. Again, check your contracts here. Cancel all direct debits and automated payments from your bank or credit card that you can’t or don’t want to carry over to your new location.
10. Helper’s Visa
Yes, we all wish we could relocate with our wonderful helpers who have become a part of our family. But that’s not always possible in your new country of residence.
Here are the ways you can help your domestic worker(s) when you decide to relocate:
- Inform immigration with a letter stating your relocation date. This way your helper has the time to stay longer and find other opportunities. Since it is noted down as a termination due to relocation, it won’t be seen as a break-contract case.
- Also, a personal recommendation on social media platforms goes a long way.
11. Revisit Personal Favourite Spots
This city is full of adventures, which is why it’s so tough to think of leaving Hong Kong. Disneyland was on the top of our list just because it’s what you have to do in the city, especially with an annual pass and an enthusiastic toddler. Just as importantly, go for that last challenging hike, that last lingering drink in your favourite pub, that last taste of steaming dumplings and that last gorgeous sunset on the beach.
12. Last-Minute Shopping
It never hurts to shop and Hong Kong is filled with treasures. I bought lots of local art and Chinese lampshades only because my shipping container had tons of space. Also, I loved visiting the Night Market because it was so convenient (I lived just a street away), so I made a pitstop there as well.
13. Clean Your Home
When we walked into our beautiful home at The Coronation, it was in pristine condition because we were the first tenants. We always took care of our apartment as if it were our own and while leaving, we tidied it up so the next family could enjoy the place as much as we did.
14. Saying Bye
When you’re an expat in the city and away from your home, you tend to build strong relationships with people you meet. I have noticed that in Hong Kong, you become a part of many different social circles — friends from work, your apartment complex, fellow-mummies, expats from your own country, Hong Kong locals who you lean on and so on. Being a baker, I had another set of people who I had to say goodbye and thank you to — my loyal clients. Goodbyes are important so make sure to take your time saying bye to friends and well-wishers.
15. Miscellaneous To-Dos Before Leaving Hong Kong
- Return library books
- Pick up any laundry or dry cleaning
- Keep your warranty cards in a safe place
- Exchange numbers and Skype IDs with your child’s friends’ mummies
Even after leaving Hong Kong, it will always be a part of you. Stay in touch with friends and keep your connection to this vibrant city. Good luck and enjoy the journey.