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As seen in Transitions Abroad Magazine January/February 2005
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Living and Teaching English in Hong Kong

Relax and Enjoy the City's Many Offerings

By Anna Maria Davis

Mention Hong Kong and most people picture a noisy congested city; but that image is only half-true. I live in Hong Kong aboard a tradition Chinese junk and I kayak to work. And, I'm only 45 minutes from the city center.

Ask expats what they most love about living and working in Hong Kong, and many will say that it's the ability to work in a city where it's so easy to enjoy Hong Kong's calmer pleasures: kicking back on a boat, hiking along the extensive network of country parks, and drinking beer with friends at a dai pi dong (a cheap and cheerful restaurant) on a remote stretch of beach.

Now, the caveat. Don't confuse Hong Kong with other Asian destinations where lax employers allow anyone with a passport from an English-speaking country to get a job without the proper visa. Hong Kong employers won't circumvent the rules. While New Zealanders and Australians can apply to work in Hong Kong on the "Working Holiday Scheme," Yanks, Brits, and Canadians need to apply for an employment visa. Regardless of your nationality, you need to apply well in advance. Be sure to check out the Hong Kong government's website.

For fresh TEFL graduates, Hong Kong offers an abundance of part-time teaching opportunities that pay higher hourly wages ($20-$30) than you would get teaching English in most other countries. Small, privately-owned schools have sprung up as a result of Hong Kong government schools switching to Cantonese as the medium of instruction. Some private schools looking for full-time English teachers will get the visa for you.

For those with professional teaching qualifications, potential employers include the international schools. Pay and perks have declined over the last five years but a virgin teacher can still make about $2,300 per month, plus a housing allowance. Mature teachers can earn about $6,000 per month.

Rent can be the killer in Hong Kong, but with a little ingenuity and searching, it doesn't have to be. I share a 50 x 20 ft boat with my partner and we pay $1,000 per month. Shared apartments closer to downtown cost about $500-$700. This online resource is a gem for finding everything from apartments to pubs to helpful advice: hongkong.asiaxpat.com.