Have a driving licence and money and do homework

July 02, 2024 22:14

David Leung, a Hong Kong man who moved to England this year, has four pieces of advice for those thinking to follow his footsteps.

“Have a driving licence, sufficient means, experience of living abroad and do your homework.”
Leung used to manage a small hotel in Hong Kong and, with his wife, earned HK$70,000-HK$80,000 a month. But, so that their son would not have to receive a “patriotic education”, they moved to the West Midlands earlier this year.

He works as a middle manager in a hotel and also makes deliveries for Amazon. His wife is not working. So their income has fallen drastically, and British tax rates are higher than those in Hong Kong.

The Leungs are among nearly 200,000 Hong Kongers with BNO passports who have emigrated to the United Kingdom since 2021.

A survey by the University of Liverpool found that, by late 2022, only 30 percent of the Hong Kong migrants had secured full-time employment despite their high level of education. About 59 percent have undergraduate degrees, and 23 percent have postgraduate qualifications. As of November 2023, 20 percent of them were in temporary jobs, more than three times the UK national average of six percent. Nearly half of those in employment felt their jobs did not match their skills and experience.

Leung said that those moving had to prepare themselves for lower wages, higher taxes, less job satisfaction and a lower efficiency and quality of service than they enjoyed in Hong Kong.

“After my wife and I obtain our British passports, we will decide whether to return to Hong Kong. If so, we will go back and put our son in a boarding school in Britain. The economic prospects in Hong Kong are definitely better than here. The government here spends all its money on the poor. The system does not work well,” he said.

He said that many Hong Kong people had arrived without proper preparation and found it hard to adjust to the British way of life. Some had never lived abroad before nor driven a car.

“My advice is to come in advance and visit friends who have moved here,” he said. “See where they live, their homes, schools and places of work and form an idea of what it would be like.”

During the British general election that ends on July 4, immigration was one of the most potent issues, with each party promising to control it. But absent from the debate was any criticism of the Hong Kong migrants.

George Davison, a business consultant, said that HK people had an excellent public image. “They rarely appear in the media, which is a good sign. The British see them as hard working, well educated, discreet and not causing trouble. They bring capital and entrepreneurial skills. They do not take drugs nor impose their religion on others. They have formed ‘little Hong Kongs’ in towns like Reading, Sutton and St Albans.”

Davison said that Chinese in general had a good reputation as immigrants. “But, as relations between China and the West worsen, so it is becoming harder for mainland Chinese to get professional jobs. People ask whom they are really working for. Hong Kongers do not suffer from this.”

A sign of this success was several HK immigrants winning seats for the Liberal Democratic Party in local elections in May. One was Andy Ng Siu-hong, who won a seat in Wokingham Borough Council in Berkshire, 60 kilometres west of London.

“I hope to encourage more people to take part,” he said. “I believe that, after moving to the UK, Hong Kongers should not just integrate into the country by going to work and schools, or paying taxes. We should also get engaged in politics.”

Leung said that each Hong Kong person had his or her own ability to adapt. “I had studied before in Australia and so had experience of living abroad. Others had never lived abroad and had no experience. For them, it is more difficult.”

He said that, in Britain, he could not use his Hong Kong way of management. “People here have their own way of thinking, you must persuade them. If you need them to do overtime, you must ask them nicely. Everyone expects to leave at the end of their shift. But there is no resentment at having an Asian boss.

“The company chose me because I came from Hong Kong, It saw me as hard working, efficient and willing to work long hours. We have a good reputation,” he said.

A Hong Kong-based writer, teacher and speaker.