Teaching English in Hong Kong – Interview with Jonny Blair

First things first – What is Hong Kong?

Good question – it has its own currency, its own visa regulations, its own border and its own flag. In essence this is a country (and I personally class it as such), however it is also proudly Chinese, and both Cantonese and Mandarin are spoken here. Hong Kong consists of 4 main parts. There is Hong Kong Island (the skyscraping commercial hub), Kowloon (a flambouyant mix of commercial and residential skyscraping buildings), the New Territories (the part that borders China and contains a lot of remote villages), the Outlying Islands (small island parts of Hong Kogn all easily connected by ferry). This mini-country houses a vast 7 million people. Hong Kong tourism’s promotion motto is “Hong Kong – Asia’s World City”, and it certainly competes well with Seoul, Singapore, KL and Shanghai for that label. Hong Kong’s residents come from all over the world.

Jonny Blair in Hong Kong

What about Hong Kong’s British history?

Another interesting phenomenon is that until 1997, Hong Kong was a British Overseas territory. OK so that means the standard of English must be good, right?

Wrong – Hong Kong is lagging behind Singapore in terms of fluency of English speakers, and there is a constant need for English teachers here. I outlined here a few of the reasons why Hong Kong needs English teachers.

ESL students in Hong Kong

So there are lots of jobs for Native English Teachers in Hong Kong?

Yes there are and in many different fields of teaching. One of the main reasons that there are always teaching jobs going is the turnover of staff here. Teachers come and go – some people come for a year or two to earn their money and then move on. It’s perfect for pursuing a lifestyle of travel in fact, as through teaching in Hong Kong you can get decent wages and good holidays so you can travel around Europe. One of my favourite aspects to living in Hong Kong is that it sits on the China border. I love heading to random remote parts of China to explore on my days and weekends off!

Students in Hong Kong

What about Visa issues?

To cut out any complications here, Hong Kong is totally separate from China for Visa applications and this makes your chances of moving here for work a lot higher. Basically to visit China you need a Visa. To visit Hong Kong, most countries don’t (I’m talking about countries such as Australia, Ireland, Germany, France, UK etc.). If you arrive in Hong Kong as a tourist from the UK for example you get 180 days on your passport! Plenty of time to find a job and lengthen your visa!! Please note you can also get a Hong Kong Working Holiday Visa. Once you settle here a valid Working Visa is also easily negotiated (I got one after 14 months – having spent time on a tourist visa and a working holiday visa).

Is it easy to find a job in Hong Kong?

From my experience YES! But I have a highly motivated work ethic to the point where I haven’t been out of work except through my own choice for 15 years, so I found it easy to get a job as an English teacher here. Basically show enthusiasm for the job, hunt around and be flexible. Some jobs might be on the other part of the city, but public transport here is fantastic so that’s not an issue. In short, if you get here and want a job as an English teacher, you will probably get one, assuming you are proactively looking for one!

What types of English Teaching Jobs are available?

Again, LOTS. Since moving here I have worked as an English teacher in Primary Schools, Kindergartens, Private Tutoring and at Special Summer Schools and Events. There are also a lot of Learning Centres here – these are up and coming in Hong Kong and are always on the hunt for Native English Teachers. Normal Primary School, Kindergarten and Secondary School jobs require you to sign a one year contract and they will also normally sort out your work visa (as they did for me). You will be surprised at the amount of children living in Hong Kong and believe me they ALL want to learn English. Hong Kong aims to be a successful world city and to become that business hub, English and Chinese are taught at almost every school from the age of 3!

teacher and student

What’s the level of pay like?

Hong Kong pays well for English teachers. To give you a rough estimate, Kindergartens start at around 18,000 HKD a month ($2,300 US Dollars a month), Primary School starts at around 21,000 HKD a month ($2,700 US Dollars a month) and Secondary Schools considerably higher. You can also pick up a lot of extra work part-time if you’re up for it – I have worked in Summer Schools for 900 HKD a day ($115 US Dollars). You may even receive offers to do Private Tutoring where you can relax and set your own rate. All in all the rate of pay is good here and if you don’t live in an expensive pad and eat out all the time, you can save a lot of money, as I have done – you can eat out for about $3 US every night if you stay local!

Any Job Stress?

I would say that the Job Stress for Native English Teachers here is low. This is in opposite to local teachers and workers however – for some reason they work long hours and often become slaves to their companies and wages. Please note – this is only for those who are easily led and fall into that trap. When the clock strikes 5pm, I leave work every night and go back to my own lifestyle of travel and writing, which I love! One thing to note is that traffic can be a problem and if you’re not used to a busy bustling city, then maybe Hong Kong is not for you. I love it however, it’s all part of a feel good vibe.

Away from work what is Hong Kong like?

If you haven’t yet been, get it on your list. Hong Kong in my opinion is the best example of where old school China meets the new school modern world. Somewhere in between communism, capitalism and commercialism. There are old quarters so traditionally Chinese such as Yuen Long, Tai O and Sheung Shui and then the contrast with modern hubs of developing Mong Kok, stereotypical Tsim Sha Tsui and manic Central. It’s a vibrant multi-cultured city and there is no end to activities you can do away from work.

Traveling around Hong Kong

Want a beach? Hong Kong has a ton of beaches, the best of which is probably Shek O.
Want a hike? Try the Dragon’s Back! Lots of mountains to hike up and down!
Want a view? Head to the Peak for an amazing view over the city!
Want to see another country? Boats to Macao run every 20 minutes, buses and trains to China are 24 hour, and don’t forget that Hong Kong International Airport is ranked in the world’s top 5 regularly.
Want to relax? Get out to Sai Kung or Tai O and watch the world go by with a beer and a bit of seafood!
Want to eat? Where do I start, the entire food world is here in Hong Kong, and on every corner. Honestly.
Want to party? Take your pick from Lan Kwai Fong, Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui. Bars on every corner and a good mix of locals and foreigners make it a great place to party.

Anything else I need to know?

I’d say overall, Hong Kong is an easy place to settle into – you won’t take long to become part of the everyday life of this thriving hub. If you ask me if I’d recommend teaching here, then I’d have to say yes – go for it!!

Jonny Blair – Don’t Stop Living – a lifestyle of travel

Jonny Blair has been to every continent and loves keeping his travel website Don’t Stop Living up to date. Drop by for regular stories and travel tips from. Jonny is also readily available on e-mail to answer any questions you may have on Hong Kong and its opportunities.

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