Top 5 Reasons to Teach English in Hong Kong
Ruth Parker first visited Hong Kong 11 years ago when she volunteered at an orphanage close to the Chinese border at the tender age of 16. From that summer onwards her life was changed. She has frequently been back to visit friends and always said that one day she would make this amazing place her home. Read more about Ruths' experience and check out her top top reasons why you should become a TEFL teacher in Hong Kong.
Typically, my life in the U.K. got in the way of these plans and I fell into a retail management and training coordinator role where I stayed for 6 years after finishing my Masters. In my work I was lucky enough to win an all-expenses paid trip to Nashville Tennessee and the moment I landed home I booked a flight to come back to Hong Kong – I had caught the travel bug again!
One of the easiest ways for someone who speaks Native English to find a job in Hong Kong is to teach English – they are crying out for teachers for adults, teenagers and in particular very young children. My degree, my CELTA course and my job experience allowed me to be offered a job role working in a Kindergarten as a NET teacher fairly quickly. I have met some amazing friends and seen some amazing sites while living in Hong Kong, but there are plenty of reasons why this has been a great move for me and why it’s one you should consider.
As far as teaching English goes, Hong Kong is one of the highest paid counties to teach in Asia. It is possible to earn between $18,000- $26,000 HKD (£1,900-£2,700) per month dependant on experience and qualifications. If you have a formal teaching qualification it can be much higher and some jobs roles offer certain benefits such as flights and baggage home and gratuity bonuses for completing your contract, which can be as much as 20% of your entire earnings! Another plus point is that the tax in Hong Kong is fairly low and most ESL teachers on the average wage do not pay more than around $4000-$10000 in tax per year – much less than I ever paid in the U.K.!
2. Travel Opportunities
One of the first things I did when moving to Hong Kong was check out the nearest holiday destinations and make sure I had something booked after a long term of teaching. My first trip was to Vietnam (only a 1 hour 20 minute flight away and less than £400 for my flights and all expenses paid hotel over the Christmas Holidays!) quickly followed by a weekend away in Macau (a quick 1 hour ferry ride for around £40 return) to sample some of the most lavish casinos in the area. It is very easy to jump on a train up to Shenzhen and have an amazing shopping experience in Mainland China and Japan is only a couple of hours flight away and offers a different perspective on Asian culture. Next on my list is Bali for the school holidays – sun, sand and cocktails is going to be a perfect way to end my first year abroad as a foreign language teacher!
Hong Kong apartments are very small and the rent can be pretty pricey. One of the things I miss most about my life in the U.K. was being able to bake cakes whenever I wanted. Sadly the lack of an oven in most HK apartments makes it difficult to cook a huge variety of foods but on the plus side there is no shortage of places to eat right on your doorstep. If you are happy eating Asian food, in particular Chinese then eating out barely costs more than eating in.
Shop around, eat around and you will quickly find your favourite haunts. You can also easily find Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese and other Asian cuisines. If you fancy Western food there are plenty of places which will help you with that (I have a personal favourite Western Pub style restaurant in Wan Chai which serves Cottage Pie and Apple Crumble) but the prices tend to be very high, so for me these trips are treats. Sampling the local cuisine will help to make you feel more at home quickly, but watch out you don’t end up with chicken feet on your plate…
4. Transport System
The U.K. is going through major issues with their transport system and it was recently branded as having the highest priced train services in Europe. For me, the cost of the transport system in Hong Kong is eye opening and by far one of the best things about living over here. There is an underground train system called the MTR with trains running from each of the stations every couple of minutes. The trains begin at around 5.30am and end at around 1.00am depending on where your station is on which line. The colour coded stations and lines make it very easy to make sure you never get lost or miss your stop.
The MTR is so convenient that when I have been lost in a district I just look for an MTR sign to easily find my way back home! A train trip from one end of Hong Kong to the other would cost you little more than $80 return (just over £8). My commute takes me about 30 minutes on the train and costs me less than $30 a day (£3.10). When you compare this with a train trip from Bournemouth to Southampton (my old commute in the U.K.) which takes a similar amount of time, the cost is over £15 more. What’s more, the trains are well taken care of, very clean, well air conditioned AND you very rarely lose your phone signal even though you are underground! I have only ever had one delay on the train, lasting a whole 5 minutes and they could not apologise enough.
Not only is the train system amazing but there are buses that will take you to any place you want, barely costing you much more than $10 (under £1). On Hong Kong Island there is a tram system that is very regular and reliable which can take you from one end of the Island right through to the other. In the sweltering heat of summer I prefer to be on the air conditioned MTR, however, the cost of the tram is set currently at $2.30 (around 20p), making it even cheaper than the already inexpensive train system.
It was difficult to get this lost down to just 5 reasons, but one of the most important for me is the safety of the place. Despite it being very busy (think Oxford Street at Christmas and then add everyone from Oxford Street Black Friday into the mix), Hong Kong is one of the safest cities I have ever lived in. There is very little crime, in fact it has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. I have been on the train with my bag undone and someone has pointed it out to me; I have left my Octopus Card in the machine and someone ran up to me to hand it back; I’ve walked through the streets on my own at 4am and not felt scared in the slightest. Of course there are always risks wherever you go and I have been lucky to be helped by many people in my travels around the city, however Hong Kong is known for its safety and I can see why.
For me these are the best reasons for moving to this amazing city. There are so many more reasons, including the amazing views (the skyline picture is taken from my bedroom window!) and some fantastic cultural sights, such as the Big Buddha and various temples. You can enjoy the hustle and bustle of the big city life or you can relax and go for hikes in the New Territories where the clean air will refresh and reawaken you!
The working hours can be tough and the school system is very different in Hong Kong than I was used to in the U.K. but I have enjoyed every minute here and I am hoping to continue my career development further. There is something for everyone in the amazing city, so coen and give it a try and sample the West meets the East in Asia!
By Ruth Parker