What is it like to teach in Hong Kong right now?

Are you asking yourself what it is like to teach in Hong Kong right now? The recent political protests in the headlines may have raised some concerns for those interested in teaching in Hong Kong. Louise Cosgrove is here to reasure us through an account of her experience working with English Schools Foundation (ESF) and the process that took her to her new life in Hong Kong.

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Yellow boat in Hong Kong

TH: What was your interview process like?

Louise: So I applied for the job with ESF and had to, first of all, submit an application form. Once I was long-listed I had to make a 2-minute video about myself (the questions came up on the screen and you had to sit and record yourself- was a bit weird at first!) and then interview when shortlisted.
I applied for the job as ESF have a really good reputation on the international school scene- they have 22 schools and are very well established so I assumed would be very thorough settling into the programme. ESF also organised and paid for the visa.

TH: How has it been for you settling in?

Louise: Most of the settling in stuff was with ESF to start with. I had a few days at the ESF centre where we met all of the new ESF teaching staff. This included some presentations from various people including their CEO. They ran sessions about tax, where to live, help with medical insurance etc. With most contracts, they offer free medical (and dental) care, a housing allowance and a bonus on completion of your contract. They don’t provide accommodation for you (which I think is possibly a good thing and a bad thing depending on how you look at it) as finding an apartment in HK can be quite stressful! On the housing front, it’s very different to anywhere else and it’s very much a landlords market so be prepared to pay a lot in rent. However, your salary with ESF does compensate for this! ESF helped a lot and I had a buddy from my school (arranged by the school) who also sent me recommendations for an estate agent.
We met people from school and had a specific school-led induction on a few days- getting new laptops etc and a tour of the school. It was all very thorough and I felt as ready as I could to start! The settling in programme both at my school (KGV) and through ESF is honestly great- there is support at every step and a real feeling that everyone was once the new person so people are so willing to help- honestly couldn’t have been better!
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TH: How comfortable do you feel given the political climate?

Louise:  It is a bit of a turbulent time in Hong Kong at the moment but I don’t ever feel particularly unsafe and find it is quite easy to avoid the protests if you need to. I don’t know if I might feel differently if I had children, but I have found it to be fine- there is a curfew on the MTR (the metro) which now closes at 10 pm so sometimes just a little more difficult to get around.

Read a previous post about teaching and living in Hong Kong, here. 

TH: Did you experience any challenges?

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Island Life in Hong Kong

Louise: Just the same as moving to any place and starting a new job. Hong Kong is such a bustling place and everyone is always super busy so it’s just about finding time to ensure I actually have some time to myself! Hong Kong as a place though is incredible to live. It has everything from a very busy city vibe (loads of great bars and restaurants) to a very outdoorsy, countryside feel with loads of open green space, incredible hikes and some amazing beaches only a stone’s throw away from the city. This is the second time I have lived here and really wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else abroad, I like it that much! Hong Kong is super convenient as well for travelling in Southeast Asia. A bonus is that ESF schools offer October half term, which local schools do not. It is a super place to live a very high quality of life, travel and save money.

 I’m actually not even being overly positive- could not recommend ESF more highly for a first international teaching job and this seems to be a similar feeling from the people starting at the same time as me.

Do you have any comments about life in Hong Kong? Do you want to know more? Please get in touch editor@teacherhorizons.com

Written by Alexandra Plummer