Hong Kong is truly a global city. This Special Administrative Region of China has thrived for the last two centuries as a vitally important port of world commerce. And today, with one of the most impressive skylines in the world, it continues this prestigious tradition of global centrality. From the mighty skyscrapers of billion dollar multinational corporations downtown to the funky night marketplaces of the backstreets of Kowloon, those who teach abroad in Hong Kong will find themselves in one of most truly fun and unique cities in the world.
Most educated citizens of Hong Kong speak English – however there still remains a need throughout the city for native speakers to help students acquire the language at a variety of levels. If you are TESOL or TEFL certified (which is highly recommended) then you will be eligible to apply for a two year contract teaching English at a public school in Hong Kong through the Native English Teacher Scheme (NET). Every year the Hong Kong Education Bureau recruits qualified candidates to fill needed positions in public elementary, middle, and high schools, creating a great opportunity for teachers to gain experience teaching English abroad.
There are also many international schools across Hong Kong because of the very diverse and globalized population of the city which offer teaching jobs. These schools typically require a college degree in the field of your specialization as well as prior teaching experience, but also pay well and often offer full time employment to foreign teachers. If you are planning to live and teach abroad in Hong Kong permanently, then applying for full employment at an international school may be your best option.
There are also a variety of small language institutions and private tutoring options available throughout Hong Kong. Due to the city’s roots as a British colony, Hong Kong’s schools tend to work off British curriculum, which makes an easy adaptation for Western teachers. Be careful though – they also teach British English, so you may want to brush up on her Majesty’s dialect if you are not familiar.
Life in Hong Kong
There are many cities which claim to be where “East meets West,” but none fulfill the title better than Hong Kong. It is a city of juxtapositions – one can do their shopping in gargantuan air conditioned mega malls or in bustling local market places, work in a giant skyscraper downtown or in a cramped classroom in the suburbs, spend their free time running with the upbeat nightlife or perusing the world class museums of art, culture, and history.
Simply put, Hong Kong is a place where you can live any sort of life, and when it comes to teaching abroad there is hardly a more exciting city to find yourself in. The city is very well connected by busses, a metro system, and ferries which can taxi you back and forth between Hong Kong island and the mainland. Hong Kong’s public transportation system is the most widely used in the world, with some 90 percent of the city’s population depending on it regularly to get around.
Which leads into the next point – Hong Kong is crowded. Very crowded. With over seven million residents it is one of the most densely populated cities on earth, and the expatriate teacher is sure to feel cramped for space at times. The good news is that there are many places where you escape the crowd – public parks, open spaces, or simply just walks along the ocean pier are a nice way to find some calm in the storm.
Salaries & Costs
Hong Kong boasts the freest economy in the world, oddly complementing its identity as a Chinese territory. Even though it is only one city, the Hong Kong dollar is the eighth most traded currency in the world, running at about $7.75 HKD to $1.00. Since it is such a globally influential city, life in Hong Kong can be quite expensive, especially when compared to mainland China. While teaching abroad in Hong Kong your salary will vary depending on the type of school you work at (private and international schools tend to pay better than public schools) and also your prior qualifications and experience.
Accommodation & Visas
Since the city is so densely populated, housing can sometimes be hard to come by for those who teach in Hong Kong. It may be easiest to start by renting out a single room in an apartment or flat, then find your own place if you plan on teaching in Hong Kong for an extended period of time. While you can expect to be comfortable, living spaces can also feel cramped at times depending on the type of accommodation you find. You will discover that many aspects of Hong Kong are economized for maximal use of space – part of the reason the city has built upwards to feature the most skyscrapers in the world!
You will also likely need a visa to live and teach abroad in Hong Kong. The type of visa you will need depends on your teaching job and length of stay – contact your host school early on to learn more about which visa you will want and how best to go about obtaining it. Also note that Hong Kong’s visa policy differs significantly from mainland China, meaning that travel back in forth between the two regions can prove quite burdensome.
Benefits & Challenges
Teaching abroad in Hong Kong is a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something truly special. This city is unlike anywhere else on earth – an outpost of Western civilization in the heart of the Orient, it has grown to become a unique blend of cultures from all over the world. In Hong Kong there is never a dull moment, and though it may prove overwhelming at times as you adapt, soon you will come to fall in love with your new home as one of the most significant places of our modern global age.