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Hong Kong or Singapore? Advice please??

(93 Posts)
giddybiddy Sat 23-Oct-10 15:46:36

DH has announced a move to Asia might be imminent though exactly where not sure. He may be able to influence location but not sure where we should express a preference for.... Have three DDs all primary school age so schools are of paramount import. I have completely succumbed to being an expat wife so my work centers around making family life work where ever we are. Any advice on life style, schools, location would be really welcomed. Many thanks!

FleurDelacour Sat 23-Oct-10 15:54:11

Overall I'd vote Singapore rather than HK personally.

I live in Singapore and have only ever visited HK though so don't know it as well as I know Singapore.

How well do you know them both? What are your questions before I go into lots of detail?

slim22 Sat 23-Oct-10 17:08:18

Been in sg 4 years and moving to hk in 2 months. Hands down sg if you are a committed stay at home mum. Am now excited about moving back to a Buzzing place but it's definitely more complicated. Logistic in sg are so easy.it's very provincial. Hk is more like any big city and a total nightmare to get 3 kids enrolled in a good school.wait lists are increasing dramatically in sg these days so one word of advice: don't wait,just send in applications and put their names down on waiting lists.

slim22 Sat 23-Oct-10 17:10:44

Housing in hk twice the price of Singapore. Do your homework........that said, feels like not long before sg catches up.

Ania2011 Sat 23-Oct-10 20:36:11

Singapore for sure.

awayfromhome Sun 24-Oct-10 06:54:52

Having done both with children I would say Singapore. Hong Kong is an exciting place to be but Singapore is just much nicer to live in. Less pollution, good schools are far easier to find and the general lifestyle is more relaxed.

AnotherMotherNomad Sun 24-Oct-10 09:27:19

Well since everyone is voting for Singapore, I thought I'd stand up for Hong Kong!

Obviously it really depends on the person - are you a city person or more of a country one? Singapore is sleepy and 'provincial' (perfect description slim22). HK is a world city, with a great vibe to it. Sure it's more hectic, but that is part of city experience and appeal.

Singapore is much less sophisticated. I guess because it's come into its wealth a lot more recently, but also could have something to do with the paternalistic approach of government (remember it's a country that canes people if they step out of line). There is a level of antagonism against expats in SG that I don't recall in HK - again could be linked to newer wealth so residual inferiority complex (and I don't mean this to be bitchy at all, just trying to paint the picture).

I admit that Singapore is an easier place to live, but I honestly thought expats in HK were happier. I guess easy doesn't automatically make for happy. Both places have inexpensive home help, so in that sense they are both easier than in the UK. Maybe the difference is that in HK there is still enough energy to keep you going, but SG is soooo easy it crosses over into the field of boring, which can lead to other problems.

Being a 'dependent' in SG is worse as you have less autonomy than you would in HK. You will need your spouse to do everything official for you - even get you a mobile. As a fairly feisty woman, it has made me feel belittled.

Last few points in favour of HK: housing is definitely smaller and more expensive, but other things are much cheaper. Going out for decent meal and bottle of wine for example. The cost of alcohol in SG will make you weep. (Possibly why expats in HK seemed happier? They can afford to drink!)

And finally, the whole 'working girls' scene is very big in Singapore. It can make going out uncomfortable at times, and I promise I've never even been to the actual red light districts or buildings. In HK, beyond Wan Chai, you can easily avoid it.

So - there you have it: A pro Hong Kong vote.

giddybiddy Sun 24-Oct-10 10:10:15

Thank you all so much! Sounds like Singapore is more family friendly, I have lived in London but moved to the country to have children so happy being more provincial. Seems like I should start looking into good schools now and getting my name down. Kids are currently in IB programme and am happy with that in theory if there is a good school?

Fleur, I will have loads of other questions if we are posted there, but will wait til we're further down the line as don't want to waste your time....

So I guess at this point any school advice from anyone would be very useful, kids will be going into G6, 4 and PK IB level or Secondary 1, y5 and reception UK level.....

Thanks so much again, much appreciated.

slim22 Sun 24-Oct-10 13:49:03

very accurate analysis of singapore anothermothernomad!

As a self employed working expat with local staff, I have experienced all the aspects you mention.
On the plus side, it has been so easy getting back to work thanks to the wonderful help you get, and have been able to go back to work (gradually part-time to full time, to setting up my own business) whilst breastfeeding a child for 18 months!
You can litteraly snip back home within 15 mn for a quick cuddle and get back to work in no time. Impossible in HK!

As a stay at home mum (one year while pregnant), its absolutely lovely, but I did get bored senseless of the white linen/maid in tow/afternoon at the club scene.
You have to make a huge effort to go beyond the school mum scene to find what's out there.
Different strokes for different folks I suppose.

In HK, you CAN strike an interesting conversation with random strangers anywhere. In sg, its all very tame and codified in expat circles. Local scene is extremely difficult to break unless you work. Then again the cultural difference is huge, because of that whole paternalistic/big brother is watching feel.
They are just not confortable with foreigners unless you move in more arty circles.

True, everything appart from housing is better value in HK.

DH has actually been in HK since the summer and I have just about come to terms with moving. Am hugely excited about moving now but will miss this little bubble. Despite going to back to work full time, I have trully felt like I was on extended holiday here.

Singapore has tremendously changed in the last 12 months. It is more open and trendy but equally increasingly becoming a ghetto for the rich. So do your maths.

any specific questions do shout. Have been a relocation agent for 2 years in sg and done the HK research for the last 6 months!

slim22 Sun 24-Oct-10 14:03:39

Most interantional schools offer the IB programme.

UWCSEA
The "it" school. ubber long waiting lists (3-4 years). Long established IB reputation. best for networking with the upper crust establishment.

TANGLIN TRUST
same as above but full british curriculum + new IB accreditation with excellent results.
Essentially a british crowd, but very internationally minded.

OFS
traditionally considered a "lesser school", used as stop gap until getting into the above. Increasingly long waitlists. Truly International, lots of europeans, very good facilities and very central location.
Have only heard very good things from parents in the last couple of years.
No fee to be on waiting list.

Canadian International
Excellent reputation for primary years. The campus is a bit tired but very sound academic results.

Chatsworth International
full IB programme, very inernational. Lots of long term expats N.1 choice as fees as cheaper than above.

ST Joseph's
Excellent choice to blend in. Lots of long term expats and locals. IB programme but a more paternalistic local ethos based on christian values.

slim22 Sun 24-Oct-10 14:09:09

At the risk of repeating myself, do call the schools and start filling forms ASAP.

Do ask your DH's employer if they will pay for preferential treatment. SG schools do not run debenture schemes as in HK but have an unofficial fast tracking system.

giddybiddy Sun 24-Oct-10 16:00:47

Thanks again, that is really useful.

slim22 fabulous school info, really useful. I had a quick look at the websites and thought the Tanglin Trust looked amazing, but I need to see if and where DH's employer have an 'in'. It is something they do in other expat areas so they might have an established relationship somewhere.
I will definitely be back with more questions when I know more.......

Thank you!

hk78 Sun 24-Oct-10 16:16:52

I'm with Anothermothernomad

As my name hints, I have hk connections: I'm English but grew up as an expat child in HK.

It was a fabulous place to grow up! Yes it's a big city but there are plenty of places to find peace and quiet and if you live there, you soon find them! e.g.

www.hkoutdoors.com/hong-kong/hong-kong-beaches.htm l countryside, beaches, nature etc etc - and nothing is more than an hour away.

English Schools Foundation in HK is the place for finding school places:

www.esf.edu.hk/

HK is a lot cleaner than it used to be: Singapore has always been lovely and clean but that's because they actually cane people who don't comply hmm

Go to HK, go on go on go on....so I can live it vicariously through you grin

AnotherMotherNomad Sun 24-Oct-10 16:17:22

Slim22 - it's too bad you are leaving and I've only recently arrived. I get the sense you and I would have a lot to talk about.

Best of luck with it all giddybiddy.

slim22 Sun 24-Oct-10 16:19:43

will be in hk this week begging all registrars to bump us up in the waiting lists. let me know if you need info.

giddybiddy Sun 24-Oct-10 16:43:06

Thanks, sounds great, just need DH to sort out where we are going so I can get moving!! I think wherever will be an adventure, and for us it is second time round so at least I have a vague idea of what I am getting into this time.....
Hope your powers of persuasion work on the registrars slim22!

giddybiddy Tue 26-Oct-10 15:42:49

OK apparently it is now looking more like HK, can anyone give a fab breakdown on schools like Slim22 did for Singapore?? Thanks so much...

I looked at the website above, the school you go to there seems to be determined by where you live so any location advice would be great too...

Thank you!

slim22 Wed 27-Oct-10 00:04:57

Good morning,

Little time now but will be back. yes for ESF you need a permanent address, however, if you move in the summer they have special fast track for families relocating from abroad. for all other schools, hope your company holds debentures, otherwise prepare yourself for a difficult ride. shock

BaggedandTagged Wed 27-Oct-10 06:33:19

Hi Giddybiddy

There are 2 main types of school- ESF and the International Schools

Access to ESF schools is based on catchment areas, so does depend on where you live. ESF follow an IB curriculum and prioritise children who cannot access the local system (i.e. non Cantonese speakers). However, quite a lot of HK Chinese children do still attend so they're not Gweilo ghettos.

Then there are the International schools- eg Kellett (British), the German-Swiss, Canadian, Australian, American, Australian, HK Academy, French Lycee etc. You can go to any of these wherever you live in HK so long as you have rights to residency. They generally prioritise children of that nationality, siblings and corporate debenture holders, but also have a good mix of nationalities including Hk Chinese. They are more expensive than the ESF schools but have smaller class sizes. The issue is the waiting lists which are long. I have heard they also tend to be pickier re academic ability than the ESF schools and some can be a bit "hot house". However, it's a fluid population so you may get lucky and someone might just leave in the right year groups.

HTH. I live in HK so feel free to ask any other questions.

slim22 Thu 28-Oct-10 00:35:19

there you go, baggedandtagged summed it all up.

For ESF, the catchment things means effectively very difficult to apply without a permanent address.

Just to let you know, we are waitlisted on 4 of the private schools above since may this year and absolutely no prospect of a place for mid-year entry (year2) this year. Some year groups are very full. And you have to bear in mind that even after applying you have to pass the entrance assesment tests before even being confirmed on the waitlist. So you will need to book a trip here with the kids for that.
DS sat them and they ARE selective. He is doing very well in a very good school by any standards, but his results were just "good" I was told "nothing exceptional" one of the registrars said with a shrug! Not that I took offense but just trying to give you some perspective. We are just talking of year 1 going into year2!
Good news is, as soon as one is accepted, they give others sibling priority.

Our company did not hold any debentures (which would give you a priority place on the waiting list) in our selection of schools but we did have them sign a form that they will do so once a place is confirmed.

slim22 Thu 28-Oct-10 00:38:56

baggedandtagged, have you heard of the harbour school?
I know many people who have used is for a term or two before entry in a bigger school.
Have heard very good things.
It started as an outfit for special needs and has grown into a little school with very small class sizes. The teacher/student ratio is great which allows them to work with each child to the maximum of their ability in each subject (that is also to accommodate some quite bright kids).

giddybiddy Thu 28-Oct-10 12:34:37

That is great, many thanks. I am finding out from the company whether they tend to use the ESF schools or have debentures on the others. We are looking for entry August 2011 and hope that we'd be in a position to start to apply in January.
DH is going out there too asap as neither of us have been to HK before!

slim22 Thu 28-Oct-10 12:41:15

hi! back from another full day of school trips and viewings.Hey ho, am moving in 2 months and neither is sorted yet!

Have come accross the best real estate agent in town though so do CAT me if you w3ant her details.

giddybiddy Thu 28-Oct-10 12:56:18

Sorry, hopeless, what does CAT mean??

slim22 Thu 28-Oct-10 14:47:05

next to my name click on private messaging

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