While Hong Kong boasts a variety of ‘gwai lo’s’, it is a surprise to learn that despite being a former British colony the race that reigns supreme here is in fact, French. Dubbed the fastest growing immigrant group by the HK government, Hong Kong has now become home to the world’s largest French community outside of France.
Speaking to Financial Careers, Alex Medana, CEO of Hong Kong consultancy FinFabrik said – “In the last 18 months I’ve been speaking more French here in Hong Kong than at any time since I left Paris 14 years ago.” It seems it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the rest of the population, with netizens posting “Why are there so many French people in HK all of a sudden?” discussions on Reddit.
Often referred to as ‘little Paris’, Soho, Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun seem to be the top choice for French expatriates, with over 46% living in the north side of Hong Kong island, the southside and Lamma coming in at a close second. A walk around those areas is a dead give away as gentrification has dried seafood shops on the run and western restaurants, bars and gourmet supermarkets on the rise.
With the increasing cost of living, one has to wonder why one of the most expensive cities in the world is choice for the Gallic community. As with many things, the catch is in the cash. According to the French Chamber Hong Kong – “This influx of French people to Hong Kong has a lot to do with the growth and dynamism of the Hong Kong economy, attracting more and more French firms which send French people to Hong Kong. Many of them looking for growth outside of Europe have taken advantage of Asia’s more favourable economic picture and set up shop in the city, providing a multitude of employment opportunities for French job seekers.” With around 800 French companies operating in Hong Kong, either partially-owned or led by French people, there certainly isn’t a shortage of work.
With around 18,000 to 20,000 French nationals in town, and immigration potentially on the rise, we can now say that Hong Kong’s brand of gwai lo is decidedly French!