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Hong Kong(33 Posts)
Dh is about to start discussions for a position in Hong Kong for sometime next year. We've been in Singapore for over 5 years now and have 2 dc (4 and nearly 18 months). Dh is now on a local package and I'm guessing that would be the same for Hong Kong so we need to have an idea of costs for rent, schooling etc so we could ensure the sums made sense.
His job would be Central. We are used to condo living but have an older large apartment in a small complex at the moment do would prefer something similar. We have 3 bedrooms at the moment. I also work part-time and would hope to get a transfer.
Would appreciate any info on rent and I know I really need to get on top of the school situation after that but if the figures don't add up we will stay put for a while longer.
gohome.com.hk is a good site to get an idea of likely rents in the areas you would be interested in. There is a little tab to the right where you can switch everything to English. If you find prices on the island too expensive or you don't like some of the areas, rents are fairly reasonable in the New Territories. My DH also works in Central but we live in Tsing Yi which is a 20 minute commute away. Our apartment is about twice the size we could get for the same price (1,300 GBP a month) on the island although it is still small by our standards. There are plenty of units here so I would not worry about a shortage.
Based on our experience and that of many, many others, I would worry most about schooling . As soon as it looks like a move is definitely going ahead (or possibly earlier), apply for schools immediately. My husband started working here in August 2011 and we were not able to get a position for our daughter (she was on both private school and the ESF school waiting lists) until late August this year. Our son still does not have a place but has an interview next week for one. I stayed back home with the children for over a year. The fees for the ESF schools (English medium comprehensives) are approximately 5,500 GBP to 8,000 GBP a year depending on the age of your children. Fees for the fully private schools can run from about the same to about 17,000 a year. The Harrow School opened a new day school here this year after their Shanghai one has done very well. The fees look fairly reasonable. As it's new, you might have a good chance of getting your children admitted there (since there are no sibling preferences etc as yet).
Thanks Mimi if we looked at New Territories what is the school position there?
DS would have started Reception in the UK this year (he's an August baby) but is due to start at his school here in January 2013 as the school he is going to is running a calendar year. From what I have read on here the early years are the most difficult to get places in?
Agree that schools would need to be your priority. If you are looking to move some time next year, there may be options at the new Kellett (British International School) campus in Kowloon Bay, which is due to open in Sept 2013. Hong Kong Academy is also moving from Kennedy Town to Sai Kung in Aug 2013. Some current families will not want to move from the island with HKA, so there may be more spaces than otherwise would have been next year. However, both schools have waiting lists, so you will need to get your applications in quickly.
The opening of Kellett and HKA in Sai Kung may also free up quite a lot of places at the (otherwise oversubscibed) ESF Clearwater Bay school.
If you joined any of the above schools, you could live in Sai Kung/ Clearwater Bay area of the New Territories. Rents aren't as cheap as they once were (HK$50k up for a 4 bed village house) but you will get much more space for your money than on the island. We live out there now, having moved from an apartment in Mid-levels, and wouldn't move back.
Harrow currently has spaces at its campus in the Gold Coast, but we looked into it, and it is VERY expensive. The fees themselves are comparable with other international schools, but you would have to pay an additional HK$50,000 per child per year capital levy on top. Also rents in the Gold Coast have gone up a lot with the arrival of Harrow, and it's no longer a cheap place to live.
Your son will start school here in August 2013. The problem for schools is that you've missed the central application period for ESF for 2013 which means it's unlikely your son will get a reception place for next year unless you have some sort of priority (ESF alumni status- which is a disgrace IMO but that's another thread). Definitely worth calling kellett as they will double in size next year, but parents have started "softening up" towards the new campus on Kowloon side, so may well be that they will fill all places from the waiting list. One option is to leave your son in Kindy for one more year- several Kindys (Woodlands, Sunshine House) have a P1 class because there are not enough P1 places so they act as an overflow.
Re rents, they are crazy but stablising/ maybe even softening a little. There are several colonial buildings in mid-levels with limited facilities (pool, small playground etc) and then a few larger complexes with clubhouse facilities (Bamboo Grove, Dynasty Court, Clovelly Court, Tregunter, Hillsborough Court, Starcrest). Bel Air is another mega-complex- slightly further out in Pok Fu Lam and the apartments are small IMO for what you pay (albeit clubhouse and communal green spaces are top notch). Three beds vary enormously in size so check the square footage. Also, because of the way they measure space, the apartments are small compared to advertised square footage. On Kowloon side there are a number of new apartment complexes round ICC/Olympic MTR which are popular with westerners but I dont know how big they are.
One thing I would say though is that the westerners are definitely starting to infiltrate new areas. Not sure if that's because the old expat packages are dying a death so we're getting priced out, or if we're just getting more adventurous
Just agreeing re above. School places are the biggest issue for any parent in HK and you have missed the cut off for applications for many of the international schools. If I were you I'd call around schools like Woodlands, Sunshine House, Letterland, PIPS and see what you can do about a place for when you arrive, but be prepared to pay fees for them to just look at your application and to tell you that there is a waiting list. It's deeply frustrating to be honest!
Housing - prices are v v high, but remember that HK is small, so moving off the island and into the NT doesn't necessarily mean a bad commute for DH and you may have more school options, plus you get the space both indoors and out.
Look at schools first, then let areas to live be dictated by that. I will PM you some more info.
Thanks all that's really helpful. So school it is as priority.
There's also a really good new website called thehkhub.com/ which has a whole section for people considering moving to Hong Kong. It's got a lot of advice on schools/ neighbourhoods etc
arghhhh! my connection dropped just as i was posting a long reply!!!!
Do hedge your bets and apply to woodlands or sunshine house. They are also oversubscribed for a good reason, they feed into the bigger schools.
We are all a bit shell shocked by this but you'll get there in the end.
Another better value area is Happy valley/Tai Hang. Big french community as the main french school and lycée are there.
Few blocks with full facilities but some very good renovations in older blocks and decent sized bedrooms. Great views on the racing course and harbor below. good village feel with delis, florists, grocers etc .
Halfway between central and the beached on south side.
Have a look at park view too. the size of the development is intimidating but its a good place to live.
I'd highly recommend Happy Valley. We love it, but be warned, so do a lot of other people hence huge rents hikes recently - I've had friends being told by LL that rents are going up by 20-25% on renewal which is utterly nuts! Great buildings though and a fab village feel so definitely worth a look.
at this thread bringing out all the HKers
Absolutely start with school - also check out geoexpat.com there is an education forum where people discuss various schools so a dig into past threads there will help. My personal soapbox is that each school runs a different system - waiting list on a first come first served basis, waiting list for assessment or even a 'pool' from which they pick which kids makes the right mix for their class. So make sure you ask for very clear idea on how the selection is made.
On housing - personally I say you need to come look at loads of different options. The range is staggering even within the same
extortionate price range. What will you compromise on - old avocado colour bathroom suite but bigger living space? Further out but means your kid is on a school bus from day1?
Lots of choices but keeping coming back here, sure we can all help as you narrow down your choices.
Thanks for all your help so far. It is looking increasingly likely at the moment that we will be going but still lots of discussions to be had.
Can any of you enlighten me about debentures in particular for ESF? Particularly as richman mentioned we have missed the cut-off for application for August 2013. Would it make any difference if we can get the Company to pay?
A debenture is basically a "bond" or loan. When the schools were built, the building was financed by issuing debentures (so say the school cost £100k to build, they issued 100 debentures for £1000 each to get the money to actually build it- the running costs are then covered by the fees). The debenture gave the right to attend the school and could be sold by the holder so it wasn't a cost to the holder, just a loan for as long as their children were at the school. It kind of makes sense.
However, at the moment, ESF doesn't have debentures. That may be set to change as there are big arguments going on about the subsidy ESF schools receive from the government (which makes ESF schools significantly cheaper than most, if not all, international schools). Many of the schools need refurbishing and there's no money to do it so a debenture/capital contribution scheme is one solution. That doesnt really help you though.
However, what I did hear yesterday on FB was that kids new to HK (ie. applying from outside HK) get priority over other children on the ESF wait lists (which is massively controversial in itself) , so might be worth investigating that.
Are you on FB? If so, find and join a group called "Hong Kong Schools" It's run by a woman called Ruth Benny who is basically a schools consultant here, but she'll answer brief questions on the FB page for free, and you can get info from other parents too.
Thanks yes I am on FB so will take a look.
I was reading about the Nomination Right Scheme which appears to be new for 2013/14 and the applications opened on 3 October so not sure whether that would still be an option.
Esf does have debentures now called "corporate surety"
True for expats relocating over the summer they operate a garanteed placement. But you cant pick which school.
After one year, you should be garanteed a place in your catchment.
We did that but ended up not taking it as they called us on the 25th august for a start on the 29th!
Tbh as year one is a common entrance with strict deadlines, am not sure you'll get a chance without a debenture.
Yes thats it, nommination rights.
The corporate surety is for summer relications
Esf does have debentures now called "corporate surety"
See? I live in HK and I don't know what's going on with these blardy schools. Already missed the boat on Victoria Kindergarten application for DS next year- everyone seems to be going there now. Sigh. Better hope for a Hillside miracle
I do know of a miracle that happened at hillside so dont despair.
Its scary. You know what ESF do?
The SCOUT the kids who have applied.
That means they go and "informally observe" them ahead of the interview. We are talking 4 year olds.
That's why you want them in woodlands or sunshine house if you cant get hillside.
We are going through the process so i kid you not!
Another choice is for your dc to attend a kindergarten that have classes for children up to 6/7 yrs old. They offer these as some of the international schools (JIS) don't take children til they are older.
I would highly recommend the YMCA International Kindergarten which is in TST - next to the Peninsula.
I am looking to apply for a HK job at an ESF school next year... looking through the application process is terrifying!
That's why you want them in woodlands or sunshine house if you cant get hillside.
Yeah, I'm going to look at Harbourside in the next few weeks. It's all such a ball ache though. He's only 2 and I feel I have to have some watertight strategy for his entire education.
Fortunately we're pretty high up for Kellett as I got name down at birth and then they recut the year groups (started going 1 Sep-31 Aug instead of 1 Jan-31 Dec) and as he's September born, we benefited from that. I loved HKA when I visited but not prepared to drive up to Sai Kung every day, even if he got a place.
Anyway- sorry to hijack with my moaning OP.
Harbourside's principal is ace. She's really on a mission to get all "her" kids interviewed and placed.
They deliver a sound key stage one curiculum. Better than some uber selective international school which i realise now are all about show!!
Yippee. I don't live in HK anymore but I do get to come here and gripe about the schools
My top tips are:-
Prepare for a stressful time.
Talk to your company about possibility of debenture. If they want you to move quickly well, it's the nature of the beast in HK.
Don't discount the kindy route. It's one alot of people take and it's fine
Check out the schools that fly under the radar in HK. Ie a very well regarded kindy in DB has now set up a prep school in the North Plaza ( DMK)
Check out the Island Christian Academy in central. Friends love it there ( and they are not practicing faith wise)
Schools in HK are not all about esf and outrageously expensive international schools.
We came to a compromise over debentures with our company. We gave up our car allowance each month and contributed towards it. Think about what it's worth to you. If its not worth it then put the kids in a kindy with school classes and wait it out.
Get together with other mums in the same situation, drink wine and bemoan the HK international education system!
But don't ever let it out you off HK. It's a magic place to live and I miss it lots.
Back again as things seem to be moving forward. We are now booked for a 'look see' at the end of January. So that means I need to get some school visits sorted. So where to start? I have to assume for the moment no debenture. As for move date we have been told that this is flexible up to the end of 2013.