Hong Kong Update

An ISR Member Asks:  Can ISR subscribers offer some first-hand information on the current situation for expat teachers living in Hong Kong? 

I’ve been following the protests and looking at all the Hong Kong-based teaching positions flooding job sites. It’s looking like teachers are leaving Hong Kong in droves…

Would it be foolish to accept a position there for the next school year, or has the media made the situation look far worse than it really is?

Any first-hand information would be well appreciated by me and, I’m sure, other educators contemplating Hong Kong for a career move.

Many Thanks in advance.

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16 thoughts on “Hong Kong Update

  1. As other reviewers stated, the safety factor depends on where you live. For a good part of the first two months I wasn’t impacted by the protest, however that is no longer the case. In the recent weeks our train system (MTR) have been vandalise so severely that the stations have closed completely, with some stations closed for several days in a row. The station closest to me has had severe destruction. In addition, grocery stores and other businesses (the malls, ikea, etc) are now closing very early and at times not opening at all. There have been many days where I feel like a prisoner of my own home (public holidays and weekends) because I know that it may be in safe to take my kids out to the areas around where I live. For example, one month ago we took our four year old daughter to a movie. We returned to our home train station by 6 pm on a Saturday and within five minutes of waiting for our mini bus to go home, a large group of protesters showed up and so did the riot police. Everything happened so quickly and before we knew it, the police were spraying everything with tear gas. It was unexpected and a bit traumatising for her daughter. I want to reiterate that this is my experience and it is based on where I live (NT area). There are isolated areas of Hong Kong that could be completely unaware of all the violent acts that are going on, but unfortunately the impact of the protest are spreading to extending areas. At this point most of my co-workers are still renewing their contracts and are planing to continue working in Hong Kong, however it’s important to note that no one really knows how all of this is going to end and in what ways China might get involved.


  2. Hong Kong is a very safe city, and I love it here even with the protests. The people are kind and helpful, protesters included. You do need to be aware of where you are going, I would recommend doing research before you move here about what neighborhoods are primarily impacted by the protests. If you live Causeway Bay, Wan Chai, Mong Kok, etc., every weekend there is some police action in the area. If you live in other places, you might be totally unaware anything is going on. If my friends asked me, I would still highly recommend HK as a place to live and teach.


  3. I worked for ESF in Hong Kong until last year. My friends and former colleagues are still there. For once the situation on the news seems matched by their reports and video clips.
    Be aware that schools are posting vacancies which may not actually exist yet, rather in anticipation of staff leaving if the situation does not improve.
    Some staff have resigned, I know, but that is a combination of factors of which the political situation may be just one of them.

    I think it is up to the individual to decide. I’ve lived in Kuwait during the 1993 invasion and Malawi post president’s death and Beijing for 4 years so am no stranger to challenging contexts.

    Hong Kong is fabulous as are the salaries, however it is expensive and becoming more so, there is little work life balance and it would be naive to ignore the changing political climate and its effects on a normal life. How long it will last at current levels who knows?


  4. I don’t see the flood of openings I was hoping for. In fact, I think the job postings are even fewer for HK (Admin, Elementary, Art, ESL, Spanish) than I’ve seen in past Octobers.


  5. This is my third year in Hong Kong. The situation has changed and remains unpredictable,. Previous comments regarding long term economic future are valid although there has been no move to unlink the HKD from the USD. If you are concerned about the future of the HKD, just convert your salary/saving to another currency. The cost of living in HK is high but so too are the salaries. The problems with the ATMs running out of money and the rush on supermarkets was for one weekend only – a long weekend. Everything has been back to normal since then.
    There are definite trouble areas where there is a higher population of less advantaged locals. As long as you don’t live or work in these areas, life continues without too much disruption. The public transport here is so ubiquitous and efficient that even with the MTR closures, it is still possible to get around with buses, trams, taxis etc. That said, I have friends living in two of the more troubled areas and they have found the noise and disruption over the past weeks is taking its toll. I work near but not right in an area that has had a smaller amount of disruption. It has not impacted much other than after school/CAS activities being cancelled on some days. If you choose to come here, the most important thing would be your choice of place to live. The outlying islands are beautiful, quiet and untouched by trouble as is Sai Kung and heavy expat areas like Midlevels. It is generally easy to avoid trouble spots, even those that spring up quickly, if you join one of the many English language information groups.
    So I would still consider moving here, even with the unpredictability of the situation. Despite the protests, HK is still a first world city with all the advantages that brings. The job the city cleaners do of staying on top of the mess created is truly remarkable and they are heroes. You can still get many lovely places without hassle using alternatives like buses if necessary. What you see in the media is happening but it is not happening everywhere, all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve been teaching in HK for the past two years, and the situation is certainly deteriorating. Some families with foreign passports as starting to leave for more peaceful parts of the world.

    The most frustrating part is that weekends have been ruined in many ways. Public transit has been shut down or reduced on many weekends now, meaning that most people who aren’t protesting just stay at home. Some key areas of the city also aren’t really accessible on weekends due to the protests.

    A big concern for many who have money saved in Hong Kong banks is the possible crash of the HK dollar. Experts predict that if the Chinese military makes an appearance in HK, many international companies will flee, leading to a devaluation of the HK dollar. That would destroy the savings of many teachers who have built up their accounts in HK.

    I would not advocate for a teacher to look at coming to HK at the present time. The potential risks here outnumber the rewards.


  7. We moved here in August and we are finding the situation quite unsettling. We have not been able to do much as we are worried and, although quite a few protests are announced, they have been more which are not. It just happened they we came near one twice, and had to leave in a hurry which is not a pleasant feeling. We have been unable to get cash from the ATMs as many were rushing to get their money out and enough people have been panic buying to leave the supermarket shelves empty. There has been a lot of destruction too and, overall, this is not a place we would recommend at the moment for a family.


  8. I am an permanent resident of Hong Kong so I will stay no matter how things progress. I think some new teachers this year have been disconcerted to find they are restricted in where they can go at the weekends or in the evenings. Concerts/shows have cancelled, sporting events have been relocated/cancelled. If you do not already have a tie to Hong Kong, you might find the situation less tolerable than it is to those of us who do. Our students have been dismissed early all this week because of MTR shut-downs though teachers have had to stay until 4:00. I have been on buses that have had to stop due to road closures and have had to walk rather long distances to my destination. If you are flexible and open-minded, then you will likely find this a good place to work and live.


  9. I am new to Guangzhou and loving my time here so far. Guangzhou is about an hour train ride to Hong Kong. The protests have not impacted day to day living here at all. We are just avoiding going to Hong Kong for the time being.


  10. It’s the beginning of the recruitment season here in HK. That’s why you are seeing jobs come up. It will have been the same last year. As previous comments mention, yes there are disruptions to transport and the TV coverage is pretty accurate but generally easy to avoid. Depends on where your school is and where you decide to live. I live and work south side of HK island and there has been no disruption besides the MTR closing. I guess you might want to consider how long you would be here for. Lots of teachers stay here for many years and become permanent residents but I’m not sure that is an attractive option any more.


  11. I arrived in Hong Kong to start with my new school just as protests started. Since that time nearly every weekend there has been attacks on metro lines especially from the island itself. Which means that metro lines have been closed down early or at times not opened due to the vandalism. So we would have to find alternatives to get to work.
    As I have bought my family I do feel unsafe at times and travel with my kids on the metro to school daily as I fear attacks or protests could happen anytime or anywhere.
    I am lucky to live further out and not have to deal with protests over a weekend. Most protests happen over weekends or in the evenings.
    But in all fairness I love living here and just avoid going to areas that are known to have protest activities. People are great and the school has been awesome with supporting us in giving up to date information on the situation.


  12. It depends a lot on where your school is located and where you live. I work at a school on the south side of HK island. This part of Hong Kong has not seen any protests at all, so for people who live and work there, it’s life as usual. For people who live in the central part of the city, like myself, we have to be more aware of where protests are happening so we can avoid them. The things you see in the media are a fairly accurate portrayal, but it’s not difficult to stay away protests and I don’t feel unsafe at all in Hong Kong- I love living and working here. The fight for democracy is an important one so minor inconveniences like subway stations being shut down early in the evening or moving happy hour plans to a bar away from the protests just doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. That said, some people are more affected than others and who am I to judge? The school I work in has quite a few openings for next year, none of which are due to the protests, but I can’t speak for why people are leaving other schools. I don’t know if there’s an end in sight for the protests, but either way, Hong Kong is a lovely city to live and work in so I would not rule it out even with everything going on here currently.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m in Beijing. I don’t hear anything about HK until I check international sources. In other countries, at other international schools, we discussed “the CNN effect”. Those were news stories whose ends weren’t published (like ebola in Africa or FARC), or news that impacted the US or upset Americans (the bombing of the US embassy in Libya or separating illegal
    Migrant parents from their children).

    I know that the discord in HK is real, I’m
    Just saying that from my little bubble of mainland China, I think you’ll be safe there.


  14. I taught in the PRC from 2008-2012 in several major cities. We liked the assignments and enjoyed good relations with students, colleagues, and parents. We also crossed the border to Hong Kong for visa extensions. The operative word then was prudence, as in not discussing certain topics, i.e., Taiwan; the Dalai Lama / Tibet; Hong Kong’s special status; and China’s Muslim regions. With the change of administration in China, that prudence is more critical than ever before. PS Hong Kong is many times more expensive than across the border to the mainland, so saving money is harder.


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