Teaching English in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is an exciting place to live and work. An efficient transport network and first-class infrastructure make it one of the most popular destinations in the region for those seeking an orderly and secure place in which to live. Teachers’ salaries in Hong Kong are often very attractive indeed. Unfortunately this is necessary because of the unbelievably high rental prices across the territory. Given that English is supposed to be a national language the level of spoken English in Hong Kong is actually fairly low. There are plenty of opportunities for experienced teachers but many employers prefer to employ those who already have Hong Kong residency as the process is much easier. Sadly a workaholic mentality pervades and stress levels can be high sometimes.  If you are looking for a laid-back place to live, then you should definitely give Hong Kong a pass.

Salaries typically start at around $1,500 USD a month and go upwards to $5,000 USD a month at some of the better international schools.  There are jobs throughout Hong Kong, with no particular area offering better jobs than another area.  Typically Hong Kong schools require a degree, preferably in English or TESOL and a TEFL certification.  Hong Kong has a very definite workaholic culture so don’t be surprised if long hours and 6 or 7 days a week of working are required by your school.  Even if your contract does not call for these hours, you will be pressured to work additional hours well beyond your contractual hours.  Experienced teachers are advised to research the Primary or Secondary NET (Native English Teacher) scheme and apply well in advance at the appropriate time. Inexperienced teachers are advised to get some experience elsewhere first!

When searching for accommodation, make sure you negotiate with your agent or landlord. If they know you are a teacher with limited funds they may be willing to lessen their financial demands. Many agents seek two months rent as deposit and half a month as a fee. Given that accommodation is so expensive, this can be a huge sum in total.

If you have not been offered a job before you arrive in Hong Kong then not only will you face a rather tough search for a well-paid position but you will also have to wait many weeks for your work visa to be issued after you have signed a contract. Given that accommodation costs are so high, you will need some savings to help you through this lengthy period.  You are advised to secure a position before traveling to Hong Kong.  When your visa does arrive, you will normally take a ferry to Macau and back again the same day to re-enter with you work visa.

The cost of accommodations in Hong Kong is incredibly high. Unless you are sharing you will find it very difficult to live on Hong Kong island. The cheapest places to live are Lantau, Lamma and the furthest reaches of the New Territories. Thankfully, electricity, water and gas are all priced rather low. Transport is also very cheap – including taxis.  Eating in is cheap but eating and drinking out can be very expensive unless you know of special deals.

Income tax is paid on an annual basis and it is the employee’s responsibility. This means you need to budget and make sure you save enough over the year so you can pay off the hefty bill when it arrives. It also means you need to fill in a tax return form.  Don’t even consider not paying your income taxes or not filing a tax form.  Failure to do so can mean at least deportation and at worst a hefty fine and lengthy jail time.  


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