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Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur?

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by willcott, Dec 29, 2016.

  1. willcott

    willcott New commenter

    Currently teaching (secondary, MFL) in a U.K. independent school and looking to move abroad next year, with a specific interest in the above two cities. I will be moving with a (non-teaching) spouse and two young children (2 and 4). Would welcome specific comments and experiences on each, in this context.

    My partner and I lived in HK some time ago, for 2 years. It was a non-teaching job (lawyer) so we have experience of the region and living abroad but not with children or as a teacher.

    Main aims of move are to experience a different culture with children and, let's be honest, save some money.

    Pleased to provide further details if necessary. Thanks in advance for input.
  2. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    Key factors for your employability and ability to save will include how much experience you have, what sort of experience, and what your husband will do.
    Your husband matters for two main reasons. First, trailing spouses without realistic plans often become very unhappy, and when that happens, the working spouse becomes unhappy, and before you know it, the family leaves. Schools prefer to avoid that. Second, if he intends to work, it could impact the package the school has to give you, making you a cheaper hire.
    Unless the above is true, you'll be a very expensive hire, with only one employee but benefits for four people. Schools prefer only to offer that if the teacher is bringing great stuff to the table, like a high demand subject, amazing relevant experience and adding in extra value with coaching, leading a department, or some such.
    willcott likes this.
  3. dumbbells66

    dumbbells66 Lead commenter

    You are teaching MFL then you could have an issue. International schools tend to employ native teachers from that country. Im not saying its impossible, but in nearly 10 years overseas i have only ever known of 2 non native speaker MFL teachers
  4. willcott

    willcott New commenter

    Thanks both for your prompt responses.

    Noted on the trailing spouse (who is, in fact and for what it is worth, my wife, not husband :)).
  5. ljf1aber

    ljf1aber New commenter

    Firstly, I would disagree with dumbbells66 re. Non-native speakers. If you're good at what you do, you will be fine. Language combination is more important - French and Spanish being the easiest for a perfect fit.

    I currently live in HK. It is an awesome city, with lots of potential for travelling. You can either live in an expat bubble or embrace everything that living in Asia has to offer....The choice is yours. Salaries here are very good. However, people with families often struggle with the size of accommodation, especially if you are relying only on your teacher salary. I have many friends and colleagues with families who don't save a bean. Fruggle singletons like me on the other hand, have very full piggy banks.

    Gulfgolf has given you some excellent advice re. Trailing spouses. You will be an expensive hire, but nothing is impossible. Sorry that I can't give you more information on KL.
    willcott likes this.
  6. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    There are plenty of nonnative speakers teaching MFL. Even in Spain or France, schools sometimes find that those who acquired the language in school have a teaching advantage over those who were born into it. Sometimes, not always. Depends on language, location, training methods used locally, and preference of the leadership.
    adrixargentina likes this.
  7. willow78

    willow78 Occasional commenter

    I quite fancied Hong Kong, but spoke to a friend who lives there and like me has two kids and a non teaching partner (Although my wife is a teacher, we plan for her not to work in the short term to look after the youngest) and she says something's that put me off.

    A lot of HK schools either only offer one school place or a reduction in fees rather than free places.

    Size of apartments


    Cost of living on one salary.

    For me KL would be a better option as it would solve all of these, although not sure about KL pollution.
    willcott likes this.
  8. willcott

    willcott New commenter

    Thanks for your continuing contributions. My experience is pretty much as gulfgolf says in terms of native / non-native MFL teachers: i.e. schools tend to have a preference. I teach French and Spanish.

    Thanks willow78 - I think that you sum up the negatives pretty well. My understanding is that, with a family in HK, it is only with a second salary that you are able to save anything significant.
  9. wrldtrvlr123

    wrldtrvlr123 Occasional commenter

    My only experience is from visiting HK and having good friends teaching there so take it for what it's worth. Most things involving costs are obviously going to favor KL over HK. HK is amazing but can be expensive. Depending on where your school would be there would be ways to offset that to some extent (e.g. where you live, where you shop/eat etc).

    Based on research that we did in considering both locations it seems that although the costs of living are lower in KL, salaries are also going to drop off a fair amount once you get past the top few schools (not sure if this still holds true or not) so the financial comparison may not be quite as stark unless you are in one of the top 2 or 3 schools there.

    Pollution actually favors HK a bit from what I recall. They are generally about equal in terms of air quality but HK was apparently better in terms of water quality, trash disposal, etc.
    willcott likes this.
  10. clovispoint

    clovispoint Occasional commenter

    HK is great, I love it here. Accommodation is a challenge in HK. You can find a reasonably priced place to live if you are willing to compromise on quality, location or size. You will find it hard to find anything very near your place of work. The schools very much tend to be located in nice residential areas so nearby rents are too high.

    Flats tend to be small but they often have very nice facilities for you to use- gym, pool, bowling, play parks. You can get a village house flat, or even whole house for between HK$8,000 per month (700 sq ft) to HK$25,000 (2100 sq ft) and up to ludicrous amounts (HK$120,000 p.m. plus). You may even have a yard or garden. Village houses are mostly a 700 sq foot per floor and up to three floors. You can rent a single floor or two floors, either the lower or upper two or a whole house,. The top floor usually has a roof garden.

    There are very few schools here that provide accommodation but most will offer a cash allowance that takes the edge off rent. You will be out of pocket for housing, especially with a family. However, saving 10% of your salary here is better than 10% nearly anywhere else as salaries are high. You can save much more if you try, and a second salary makes a big difference.

    Don't know anything about KL conditions- living or employment. I would like to find out though.
    willcott likes this.
  11. february31st

    february31st Established commenter

    My vote is for KL. Its the same standard now as HK and a lot lot lot cheaper in all respects. Great country to travel around and enjoy.

    It is now what HK was 30years ago and I am OLD enough to know. I may just retire there!
  12. clovispoint

    clovispoint Occasional commenter

  13. wrldtrvlr123

    wrldtrvlr123 Occasional commenter

    Curious as to what aspects of the areas you consider to be of the same standard (and which are not for good or bad). I'm not criticizing since I have never been to KL but am genuinely interested in your insight/opinion.
  14. MyOrchid

    MyOrchid Occasional commenter

    I've lived in both cities and they both have pros and cons. Would agree with previous posts re. Hong Kong cost of living/accommodation etc. However, salary in HK was better than KL, though living costs are higher in HK. As for the spouse, mine loved KL as we had an apartment with pool and not in HK. Pollution can be a problem in both places, though HK has seasons. KL always hot and humid. One thing to bear in mind is the fact that many HK schools charge a proportion of school fees for children, whereas in KL you may not have to pay anything. Hope this helps.

    willcott likes this.
  15. rosiecg

    rosiecg Occasional commenter

    I've just moved to KL this week, so haven't been here long. From what I have experienced and what my colleagues have told me, KL is great as a jump off for travelling around SE Asia, is relatively cheap, and most people speak some English.

    I am at a mid tier school , and my pay is RM15000 per month. a friend was at a lower tier school and got paid RM9000, but is now at a top tier school paying RM19500.

    My rent is RM3300 per month in Bangsar South, which is a popular expat area. I have a 2 bed apartment with shared pool, gym and bar.

    Food is cheap, alcohol is expensive, accommodation depends where in the city you are, but there are loads of activities on offer for a range of prices.
    willcott likes this.
  16. willcott

    willcott New commenter

    Thank you very much for all your comments- lots of helpful thoughts and plenty to ponder.

    Anything further anyone feels able to contribute will also be hugely appreciated.

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