Since its colonization by the British back in 1843, Hong Kong has been a major player on the global scene and is home to over half a million expats. This internationalisation of Hong Kong has meant that the cost of living here is quite a lot higher than in Mainland China. Nevertheless, it is still possible to live comfortably on a teacher’s wage.
As land in Hong Kong is scarce, accommodation is going to be your biggest outlay. In the trendy Hong Kong Island, you will pay around £700/$1000 for a studio apartment, whereas in Kowloon or the New Territories you will pay around 20% less.
Not everything in Hong Kong is expensive though and eating out is surprisingly cheap. A typical Cantonese meal of dim sum or egg tart will cost you only £3/$5.
Another thing that you’ll be able to do cheaply in Hong Kong is to go out for a few drinks (particularly if you’re female). It’s common for Chinese bars to host ladies nights where women drink for free all evening in an attempt to entice the male locals!
An eclectic mix of Cantonese and South East Asian, Hong Kong Chinese food is a delight for the taste buds. You can expect to eat such delights as shrimp dim sum, egg waffles and crispy roast duck during your time teaching in Hong Kong. Plus, there is no shortage of quality restaurants in Hong Kong, with the Mong Kok area of town boasting the world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant with a meal for two (including drinks) costing only $12.
In a country built on tea, Hong Kong residents are unsurprisingly big tea drinkers. Make like a local and head to one of the authentic Chinese ‘Chaguan’ tea houses. If alcohol is more your thing then Hong Kong has a wide range of choices for you too. Kick back with a couple of beers after a long day teaching in one of the city’s many karaoke bars.
As the country is located in the equatorial part of the Northern hemisphere, the weather is subtropical and warm all year round. In winter you can expect low temperatures of around 18°C and in summer high temperatures of around 35°C. As a small area, the weather doesn’t differ dramatically across the region and wherever you’re teaching in Hong Kong, you can expect it to be humid!
There are two main options for accommodation when it comes to Hong Kong; you can live on Hong Kong Island or off. If you choose to live on Hong Kong Island, accommodation will be expensive and small, with the tiniest studios only measuring 5 metres squared! If you’d prefer a little more space (who wouldn’t?!) then Kowloon is probably a better choice. You’ll only be a 5 minute ferry ride away from the main island but you’ll get double the space for your money.
In Hong Kong there are 3 different types of schools; schools that are run by the government, schools that are subsidised by the government and schools that are completely private and independent. The likelihood is that as a TEFL teacher you will be teaching English in one of the private language schools, although if you do have some practical classroom experience prior to your TEFL course it could be possible to find a position within the CNET public school system. Speak to an expert i-to-i TEFL advisor to find out which is the right course for you!
Like any other modern Asian metropolis, Hong Kong has a comprehensive public transport system and if you find yourself teaching here you’ll have no problem getting around. An off-peak return ticket from on the HK metro costs only £1/$1.70 each way.
If you’re planning to live (or teach) in the central area of Hong Kong another great way to get around is via the Kowloon Sky ferry. A round-trip economy class ticket from Wanchai to Kowloon costs only £3/$5. Regardless of the cost, sailing by the Hong Kong skyline is priceless!
Although not particularly useful at getting you anywhere (unless you live on top of a mountain that is) Hong Kong is also famous for its peak tram. This tram is the steepest in the world, ascending over 458 metres in the air to the top of Victoria peak. Tickets cost around £10/$15 return and it’s definitely worth a ride if you’re teaching English in Hong Kong.
One of the great things about teaching English in Hong Kong is that you’ll have an abundance of paid public holidays – 17 in fact. Plus, the standard teaching contract will also offer anything from 4-8 weeks of paid vacation time. If you do stay in Hong Kong during your holidays from teaching then you’ll find navigating the area extremely easy as almost everything is double signposted in English and Cantonese.
Hong Kong is very well connected to the rest of Asia and you can find cheap flights to Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Tokyo for under £100/$150 return.
In Hong Kong, most teaching job applications will ask you to include a salary expectation. To give you an idea of what to ask for, the average salary for a newly-qualified TEFL teacher is £1,500/$2,600 a month; and they will use this to base your salary should you get the job.
Unlike in most other Asian countries, teaching jobs in Universities aren’t actually the best paid, but the lack of extra money is more than made up for in perks: expect use of the University’s facilities, onsite doctor and dentist, gym membership and even use of a pool!
Hong Kong has an amazing cosmopolitan culture, and there are tonnes of western restaurants, bars, clubs and even shopping malls. To stop you spending your year abroad living in a mini expat bubble, i-to-i teachers advise making a Hong Kong bucket list of everything you want to do in your first 3 months, which will allow you to make your TEFL adventure a real cultural experience!