Moving to Hong Kong is far from cost-effective. Add in an entire family unit with young children in tow and the move becomes all the more complicated in terms of logistics. Be it education, living space and the process of acculturation, this guide aims to provide a few pointers which will inform your move.
Prior to departure with guaranteed employment prospects in Hong Kong, appeal to your employer’s sense of largesse. Leverage your skillset and experience for employment benefits relating to your children. Yes, Hong Kong is renowned for its low income tax rates, public safety and business friendly practices. However this veritable hub of human activity breeds competition and in relation to your children, this means scarce school places and corresponding sky-high fees. Despite the high concentration of international schools in Hong Kong catering to American, English, Australian, Japanese, German and even Canadian curriculums, waiting lists, high entry requirements and assessments abound for prospective students. Were your company able to contribute to school fees or better yet, guarantee a place for your child through existing debentures already in place, your move will invoke considerably less hassle.
Local schools are also a viable alternative in the Hong Kong education system. That being said communication may prove an insurmountable barrier. Depending on the age of your children, placing them within a reputable local school from an early age can impart guaranteed Chinese language abilities. On the other hand, if you are not acquainted with the language yourself, you will have to allot a considerable amount of money to tutoring expenses since the local education curriculum is onerous, time intensive and demanding. For older expat children schooled in English, this is not an actionable alternative.
The timing of your move will also affect your children’s educational curriculum. Generally speaking under international schools, exams which count towards university entry requirements take place in year 11 and year 13. Therefore to minimize the sense of disruption on your child (or rather teenager) in their formative years, it is important to ensure that they are admitted to their school of choice before these crucial periods of examination. For public high schools this also applies where students must enter the local school system by year 10 prior to the public examination period. This of course is less stringent for primary school and kindergarten placements.
As a bastion for public safety and an international cultural hub, it is relatively easy to acculturate to Hong Kong seeing as English is also an official language. For parents with young children, Hong Kong has the added benefit of providing reasonable prices for au pairs and tutors. Unfortunately, baby sitting or part-time help is not commonplace. Therefore those looking to hire part time care for their children may struggle and instead have to rely on full time helpers.
In terms of city living, parents may balk at the lack of living space. Those who can afford to may still look to more tranquil surroundings both on and off Hong Kong Island. Repulse Bay and Stanley offer seaside panoramas and watersports activities which appeal to young families, Discovery Bay on Lantau Island offers a genuine sense of suburban living for those looking to raise their children within an island community. Clearwater Bay, Sai Kung and the Gold Coast on Kowloon side, offer further options with relatively “cheaper” housing costs, catering to those with large families. Look to our piece on Family Friendly Neighborhoods in Hong Kong as well as our breakdown of house prices in different districts of Hong Kong for more information.