“Trailing spouse” in Hong Kong: making new friends


This is a guest post by Aussie expat Jess Mizzi, who has written an awesome collection of travel itineraries over at her blog, Expat Getaways. Jess worked training tour guides in Cairns before her husband got a job in Hong Kong and the couple upped-sticks. Find her on Facebook and Instagram for more great tales.

My husband and I had talked about looking for work overseas, but it was something to think about a year or so down the line. All that was turned on its head when the company my husband was working for went under and we found ourselves immediately looking for new opportunities. Thankfully within a month he had an interview and a few weeks later we were packing up all our worldly belongings and moving to Hong Kong!

What a rollercoaster it has been! My first feelings were elation and excitement. These quickly turned to anxiety when I looked at the task ahead of us.


In Cairns we had just bought an apartment. It was beautiful. Big and open, views out to the Coral Sea and just a minute walk to the beach. I had a great job training tour guides in the world heritage listed rainforests.


Hong Kong is a city of sky-scrappers, hustle and bustle and a 24/7 lifestyle. It is everything Cairns is not. All of a sudden we were paying literally twice as much for a third of the space. I didn’t have work and was looking at a career change. I was facing days and weeks with my husband away and no meaningful friendships.

Thankfully these things have a way of working out. The things I love about Hong Kong would never work in Cairns and vice versa. I think if we’d moved from another big city it would have been more difficult.


I put myself out there and made friends. It might seem overwhelming, but in a big city where everyone is from somewhere else you band together. My advice to anyone planning a big move is to dedicate time and effort into creating a social circle. For me it was like internet dating for friends! Some matched, others didn’t and that’s ok.

I scoured the pages of Meet Up and joined hiking groups, had a go at stand up paddle boarding and yoga groups. I jumped on the forums of Geo Expat and Asia Expat looking for other newbies for casual drinks. I became a yes person and said yes to every coffee/dinner/ drinks invitation out there.

It’s not easy. With my husband working I had to show up to events solo and hope for the best. Often a random coffee date is the last thing you want after a long day navigating banks, government offices and even the local supermarket.

Two and a half years later I have an amazing group of friends who I couldn’t be without.

I had planned to go back to teaching. I’m trained as a high school history and geography teacher and added an English teaching qualification onto that. I was dreading teaching though. I really didn’t want to go back. I came home in tears from an interview at an international school for a position that was perfect for me. It didn’t go badly, I just couldn’t stand the thought of being offered the job!


Again these things have a way of working out. I booked a food tour to get better acquainted with the city. My now boss and owner of the company was the tour guide that day and we spent the day chatting about tourism in Australia and Hong Kong. The next day I got an e-mail asking if I was interested in a job.

It has been 2.5 years now and we love Hong Kong. It took about six months to really find our feet and another six months before I felt at home. Now I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

I choose my tour guiding work to fit around my husband’s work schedule and we travel every chance we get. Since we moved we have gone to Taiwan, China, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, Dubai, South Africa, Spain, Portugal, London and that’s not counting the trips back to Australia to see family and friends. Many of our favourite spots are only a two hour flight away.

We’ve made sacrifices to live here. Our apartment is tiny and cost of living sky-high. We see our family maybe once or twice a year. I have friends who haven’t been as lucky as I have in their expat experience.

I will say though, expat life is what you make of it. Go in with an open mind, say yes to every invitation and accept that for the first few months or even a year everything will be hard, maybe even the hardest of your life. It will put your relationship to the test. But it might also turn into the best thing you have ever done!

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Editor’s Note: I’ve titled this post “trailing spouse” because that’s the common term for a husband or wife who’s partner has landed a job in a new country, so they move together. It doesn’t sit particularly well with me, in terms of connotations, since ‘trailing spouses’ often get the rough end of the stick – having to rebuild their careers and lives can be much more difficult.

30 thoughts on ““Trailing spouse” in Hong Kong: making new friends

    1. Exactly! Settling in and finding a new job in a place that you’re not completely comfortable in must be unimaginably difficult.
      Especially with no real support network.

    2. This story is so very real and true. I’m a trailing spouse too and while hard at first I love where we’re at at the moment.

  1. Making friends is always the hardest part of moving for me. The beginning can be so isolating – but I’m inspired by her enthusiasm in getting out there and meeting people! It’s lovely that Hong Kong truly feels like her home now 🙂

  2. I’m so jealous 🙂 I was born there but now I feel like all the expats & foreigners know my hometown better than I do! I’m sure you’ll enjoy the food and the intensity of the city!

  3. I know it’s hard to adjust to the changes but you’ve definitely made it work! Kudos on doing so much travel around Asia. Your story makes me want to try it for myself! Thank you for sharing, Jess and Katherine!

    1. I am on the introvert side of things when it comes to real life (not as much online) so the fact that Jess just kept saying “yes” and getting out there is so great to me.

  4. I think that’s so great, getting out there and saying yes and being open to so many different groups in order to meet people. So inspiring!

  5. It definitely takes time to adjust after any move and you do really need to put in effort to build your friend circle. Some people get impatient though, but those that stick it out are rewarded.

    1. I guess we’re so used to making new friends as kids or teens and carrying them through – not really being forced to make new friends so we get a bit rusty on those skills.

  6. Nice post! Being a third culture kid, I know how hard it can be to make new friends. Especially when your family travels a lot. You made some really good points.

    1. Moving around a lot must have been tough from that aspect. But I bet you’re great at being social and making new friends now!

  7. Our situation was slightly different because we left London and came to Sydney together and both got jobs almost straight away. It was hard leaving behind so many wonderful and lifelong friends and in some ways, harder to build a new social circle. But like you, we said yes to everything and now have friends a small but perfectly formed circle of friends. Many of those are expats too, and because we’re all far from “home” we’re friends but we’re like family too!

    1. The ‘leaving behind’ part is tough as well. Have you drifted apart from some of them? I’ve found that I don’t hear from some friends who were my “besties” unless I continually make the effort to reach out. And even then, sometimes not at all.

    1. Not at all. Although, there do seem to be expat communities popping up in lots of places, which help a lot.

  8. Coming from someone who has never moved before in my lifetime I can only imagine how tough it must be to uproot friendships and family! I definitely have a lot of respect for you, wish you luck lady! 🙂

    1. It’s tough but also rewarding at the same time. You open yourself up to lots of new experiences. Having said that, I recognise that it’s not for everyone.

  9. Thats a big move to make so congrats to you! It can take a while to settle into a new location, but seems like you’ve done great and you have some great tips for others in the same position 🙂

  10. Quite right, what a place ! We lived in HK for 12 years before but left in 2004 to return to UK. Didn’t really suit us anymore so in 2015 boarded a ship with worldly goods and returned to HK where we now happily reside – again ! Of course, never say never, no more moves…

    1. Wow, HK must have really suited you then! How was the trip by sea? I’ve never taken a boat for that distance!
      Fingers crossed that you don’t have to pack up your lives again!

  11. Saying yes to new opportunities is such great advice for sure! I’ll be moving very soon to a place where I don’t know anyone so I’ll make sure to say yes as often as possible 😉 Thanks for sharing your story and advice!

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