Travel & Teach - Hong Kong
If you are interested in teaching English in a country where the cultures of east and west meet, then you could not come to a better place than Hong Kong. This former British Territory became the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China on 1st July 1997. China has agreed to operate a "one country, two systems" formula, meaning that China's socialist economic system will not be practiced in Hong Kong and that Hong Kong will enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defence affairs for the next 50 years.
Therefore, you’ll find a bustling free market economy, which is dependent on international trade as its own natural resources are limited, and food and raw materials must be imported. It suffered along with the rest of the South East Asian countries with the widespread Asian economic difficulties in 1998, but the economy is undergoing a rapid recovery, with double digit growth reported more recently.
There is an enormous demand to learn English in Hong Kong. This is the case even though Cantonese is now the medium of instruction in state schools instead of English. Demand exists throughout the private and state sectors and there are also flourishing freelance opportunities. We do see a few positions advertised outside the region and the authorities have made teaching without a work permit (which has to be arranged from outside the country) strictly illegal. Securing your first job is therefore more difficult than it once was. However, once the bureaucratic process has been satisfied, there are ample teaching opportunities in this vibrant, colourful location. Although it is more difficult to secure a position here than previously, generally if you are looking for teaching work you will not have a problem. Expect more perks for if you have higher qualifications, such as the Global English Level 2 TESOL with business.
British Council http://www.britishcouncil.org/
British Council in Hong Kong: http://www.britishcouncil.org/hongkong.htm
Chinese Embassy UK: http://china.embassyhomepage.com/
Chinese Embassy USA: http://www.china-embassy.org/
Hong Kong National Tourist Office: www.hkta.org
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Global English students are working all over the world with their accredited TESOL certificates. Find out
how TESOL training from Global English has made a difference to their lives:
I love living and teaching in Hong Kong. The students are eager to learn and want to know all about the western culture and where you come from. One thing I did have trouble dealing with is the weather as in summer it is very hot and humid, so be prepared to sweat! People work long hours in Hong Kong (6 days a week) and you must be prepared to be flexible and available as much as possible. The more flexible you are the more you can earn.
I would advise that where possible it would be to your advantage to learn some basic Cantonese (although this is not a requirement for getting a teaching job). Indeed, most of the Chinese people you will meet will be able to speak some English; however, you can gain more respect if you can reciprocate in Cantonese (obviously not with your students!).
Looking for and finding work was not difficult as I arrived at the beginning of June when Learning centres are desperate for Native speakers. I posted my CV to a number of centres (I obtained the addresses before I arrived in Hong Kong and some from people I met in the first few weeks.) Within two weeks I had started my first teaching position! As with any place you travel to and work, make sure you check your contract before you sign it and agree to your rate of pay before you start.
Pay can be very good here, although the standard of living is quite high and therefore so is the cost! Property is very expensive; renting a very small studio apartment can cost £500 a month. Rental is high and space is minimal! Initially it is better if you can flat share to keep costs down until you find your feet. Eating out is also expensive if you are unwilling to move away from Western food and try local dishes.
Hong Kong is a very cosmopolitan place with a large expat community; however, Chinese people are very proud and have different ideas and culture, which you need to respect. I have found everyone I meet to be friendly and have helped me to settle into life in Hong Kong. Living and working abroad is a great experience and I definitely recommend Hong Kong as a destination.
You see numerous adverts for jobs on notice boards in shops, libraries and even on the streets. Chatteris was the organisation I worked for last year; it is especially well suited to people like myself (school leavers or students) because it supplies the school, very basic training, accommodation, some degree of support and spending money (not enough!)
The cost of living can be high. Accommodation is at a premium and going out is costly (£4-5 for a pint of lager). Girls fair better however, as some bars do ‘ladies night’ with free drinks for women only! Eating out can be cheap and good if you know where to go. The good news is that public transport is clean, efficient and extremely cheap. There is a choice of buses, trams, MTR and various ferries to the outlying islands – there is no shortage of taxis either and they are not expensive.
Travel and Teach
In addition to government and private schools, there are literally hundreds of small learning centres, which provide English tuition by native speakers. These are your best bet if you have little or no experience and want a job. These numerous ‘English clubs’ also have large, more informal conversation type classes. Many operate on a shoestring budget and the pay and conditions for teachers can reflect this. Alternative sources of employment can be found via the Yellow Pages and once established, freelance opportunities abound within the business sector. Word of mouth (often via the network of teachers resident in the travellers’ hostels) and self-promotion in the form of advertising will help to secure your first contacts. For those with UK state sector experience, possibilities exist within the state sector in Hong Kong as part of a government initiative to recruit native English speakers. The pay is good for such positions although you may not have much choice in destination.
Recruitment for teachers in Hong Kong takes place year round with the exception of Chinese New Year (January/February).
Global English's ACTDEC accredited online courses are recognised and approved by the Hong Kong Bureau of Education.
A Global English Level 2 TESOL will significantly enhance your job prospects, as will a degree, which is essential for the more established schools and organisations and will certainly help in your application for a work permit. It is important to dress smartly and conservatively but schools often look for teachers who appear lively and fun. To obtain a work permit in advance, you will need sponsorship from an employer who can guarantee full time work. An application will then need to be made to the Hong Kong immigration department for the permit itself. Good employers will help with this stage.
The more professional centres will require you to have a valid work permit; however we have heard that there are some centres which will overlook this. But it is illegal to work in Hong Kong without a permit and so if you do work for a centre without one, beware! You are breaking the law. Note that it can be quite difficult to travel to Hong Kong on a tourist visa and try to get the status changed. Obviously, previous experience in teaching will mean a better salary and possibly a better school. Nowadays the schools are looking for teachers with a more fun/activity-based approach to teaching, rather than traditional methods; they want the learning process to be more interactive. Many of our Hong Kong based teachers have completed a 180 hour Level 2 with Young Learners course, followed by a teaching practice programme to earn NET status.
If you are already in Hong Kong, try the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com) for potential jobs, or websites like www.englishexpert.com has a dedicated section on teaching opportunities. You might find the guide to writing your CV on our site quite helpful here.
Pay at the lowest end of the scale will be around $75 HK p/h. In contrast, for freelance teaching you can expect to earn up to HK$300 p/h. There are a whole range of schools in the private sector, from the elite, which will generally expect extensive qualifications and experience to the ‘Cowboy’ operators and pay and conditions vary enormously as a result.
Bear in mind that unless you are staying in one of the travellers’ hostels (some of which have dubious cleanliness and safety records) or you are commuting from one of the out-lying islands, such as Lamma or Cheung Chau, accommodation is extremely expensive and likely to be your biggest cost. The tax situation is complicated but is around 12-15% for many workers. Only very good employers will provide the luxury of medical cover and so obtaining your own private medical insurance before travel is strongly advised.
Typical communicative EFL activities such as debates and discussions should be approached with some thought in order to avoid potentially sensitive political topics. The good news is that enjoying the fruits of Hong Kong, namely shopping, eating out, and sightseeing are all relatively inexpensive. Although the cost of living is rising and teaching salaries are generally not reckoned to be keeping pace, the opportunities for relaxing and having fun are numerous and available 24 hours a day.
The best time to look for work or to apply for work from UK is May/June time as the summer is a very busy time for learning centres as there is no school – hence you’ll find a large increase in the demand for native speakers. Also see the comments from Global English students later below.