Inside Expats’ Luxury Hong Kong High-Rises

Victoria Peak residents have access to the best international schools, hiking trails, and top hospitals. Repulse Bay, a resort-like mecca that’s also popular with expats, features ultramodern high-rises with glittery beach views. The area’s highest-end properties are considered to be the world’s most expensive per square foot.

As Wang toured the real-life homes of expats, she was struck by the overwhelming wealth gap in Hong Kong. The city is known for its micro flats, created in response to the lack of affordable housing. The tiniest of those spaces—dubbed nanoflats—are built at 128 square feet, roughly the size of a parking space.

Ji-young Yoo (Mercy) and Jack Huston (David) in Mercy’s apartment, a stark contrast to the homes of the wealthier characters.

Photo: Jupiter Wong / Courtesy of Prime Video

“It’s incredible, the difference in scale,” she says. “A lot of locals are living in spaces that are like shoe boxes.” It was a stark reminder of her own show’s story, which looks at the race and class divide in the city. Wang noticed that Victoria Peak’s luxury high-rises, set glamorously in the sky, quite literally are home to an “upstairs, downstairs” dynamic.

She made a mental note of the layout of the apartments she saw, which featured small rooms for live-in helpers, purposefully located as far away as possible from their employer’s bedrooms. “This disparity is built into the architecture,” Wang explains, adding, “the kitchen is not seen as a communal space, it’s seen as a worker’s space, so oftentimes people would renovate the entire house [but] they wouldn’t spend money to renovate the kitchen.”

Margaret’s housekeeper Essie (Ruby Ruiz) gets that very same treatment in Expats, with Lee building her a tiny room, slightly larger than the ones they saw in real-life in order to accommodate cameras. “Margaret keeps saying, ‘Oh, Essie’s our family,’” the production designer notes. “But in real-life Essie lives in a tiny jail-cell-size room by herself. Nobody comes there.”

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