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Living and Teaching English in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Needs Teachers

Native English Speakers Are in Demand

Now is an excellent time to teach in Hong Kong. The SARS outbreak, now contained, caused a flight of teachers out of the territory and created a huge demand for both experienced and inexperienced teachers.

When I first moved to Hong Kong I heard that it would be nearly impossible to find work because I had no formal experience as a teacher. But I found that if you are a native English speaker there is a job for you—and not only as an English teacher. I knew an Olympic swimmer who landed a high-paid job as a swimming coach, several musicians who gave lucrative music lessons, actors who taught drama, and painters who landed art teaching jobs that paid three times the amount of a similar job would in the U.S.

Hong Kong has some of the highest wages for English teachers in Asia. Part-time teaching can bring $30-$50 per hour. Full-time jobs in a center can run around $2,000 per month. Kindergarten teachers can net over $1,800 per month. English teachers brought in as part of the government’s English program start at $4,000 plus room and board. International school teaching, which may or may not require teaching credentials but does require a Bach-elors degree, starts at $2,300 at the low end and averages around $4,000 per month. Many international schools also supply housing or a housing stipend.

The Asian financial crisis, from which Hong Kong has never fully recovered, combined with the severe economic damage caused by SARS, means prices have gone down considerably, making it more affordable to live, but rent is still expensive.

English is an official language in the territory and is dominant in the business sphere of this busy financial capital. Many adults seek to improve their English for business purposes; many more want their children to grow up bilingual so they have opportunities to attend school overseas or excel in business. The prevalence of English in Hong Kong makes the transition to living there easy. In fact, though this is not suggested, many expatriates in Hong Kong never learn to speak Cantonese because English is so widely spoken and understood.

Most of all, Hong Kong is an exciting and fascinating place, with many of the comforts of home. Its dynamic East-meets-West atmosphere means you can go to exotic markets for dinner ingredients or find comfort food at an American-style eatery. It’s extremely easy to navigate, with a superior public transportation system. It is busy, vibrant; around every corner there’s a new spectacle to behold. And the students are a dream—education and teachers are highly respected, and students tend to be extremely well behaved.

For More Info

  • The South China Morning Post, www.scmp.com, an English daily newspaper with searchable job engine.
  • Hong Kong International School, www.hkis.edu.hk, probably has the highest wages for teaching.
  • The English Schools Foundation, www.esf.edu.hk, runs 18 primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong.
  • Canadian International School of Hong Kong, www.cdnis.edu.hk.
  • Monster.com’s Hong Kong site, Monster.com.hk.
  • Jobs DB page, www.jobsdb.com.
  • www.shambles.net/hongkong. A fairly complete listing of international schools in Hong Kong, with an orientation map.
  • HK Magazine (the English Alternative Weekly paper) often runs teaching ads. Unfortunately, they don’t have online listings, so you have to pick it up in person.
  • www.asiaXpat.com, rentals, people selling furniture, and local medical information.