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advice about living in hong kong?

(8 Posts)
queenofallshesurveys Wed 17-Sep-08 12:21:32

I was hoping for some advice.My husband is looking into applying for a post at the Chinese University of Hong Kong which is based in Shatin. It would be for a 3 year tenure, starting in jan 2009. The pay is decent, and they would provide medical and dental cover, and his hours are reasonable. What I was hoping to find out is what Shatin is like. They have suggested that we live on campus which is apparently up in the mountains, and the flats are large (1700 sq feet and up) and subsidised in rent, which is good. However, we have twin boys who will only be 4, and a baby who will only be 2 1/2 and I worry we won't have enough to do with them. At the moment, I go to loads of play groups and walk for hours each day with them all in the buggy, but I have no idea if I would have anywhere to go with them in HK as obviously, there is so little free space. I can't take them swimming on my own as there are so many of them, so that is out, and although they will be going to some sort of nursery for a couple of mornings a week, I fear we will be climbing the walls with boredom and getting cabin fever indoors. They last about an hour at home before they get scratchy and want to get out, and I just fear I'll be going mad walking the same route over and over again just to get out of the house. This is all very early days at the moment, and the likelyhood is that nothing will come of it, but I just wanted to know what your thoughts were on shatin and how suitable it would be for a large, but very young family (sadly, I don't include myself in the 'young' bracket - having 3 kids under 2 ages you loads!) Any advice would be hugely appreciated! thanks

ninedragons Thu 18-Sep-08 00:25:43

Shatin is pleasant, but not very expatty. Lots of big shopping malls and giant developments of flats. It is almost 100% local, so unless you speak Cantonese it would almost certainly be very isolating.

With young children, I would suggest you look at Sai Kung. Loads of Westerners, great environment for kids (lots of little playgrounds, beaches, expat play groups etc), and there is a direct bus between Sai Kung and Shatin. It takes about 20 minutes, IIRC.

queenofallshesurveys Thu 18-Sep-08 12:05:35

oh, that's good to know, thank you. having looked at some websites, it all looks very mountainous (obviously) so it is really challenging to get around with a buggy? (think large, 3 seater, double decker buggy with 3 kids in). I worry I won't be able to entertain the kids all day every day. The twins will not even be 3 1/2 and the baby will only be 1 1/2 so I can't really do without the buggy, they are all too wee to walk far. here, we go for loads of long walks, go to the swings and so on. Do you think it would be possible to do that in hk? I'm not sure if the heat would keep us inside in the summer, and even if we weren't melting in the heat, would I be able to push the buggy up and down the hills without being totally knackered after 10 mins? Public transport might be a nightmare with so many little people, but we would proably look into getting a car. Will have a look at Sai Kung. thanks for the advice.

ninedragons Thu 18-Sep-08 12:59:37

The big difference is that you would have a maid/domestic helper. Everybody does. So she would be able to help you if you split the kids between two buggies.

I know the New Territories/Kowloon areas look mountainous, and they are, but the built-up areas tend to be in the valleys. It's quite flat to walk around - you won't be bashing up some 1 in 3 gradient mountain. There is absolutely loads to do with kids. I have dozens and dozens of friends there with young children and to be honest really regret leaving, now I've had a baby.

The heat isn't so bad if you're by the sea, which is another reason I'd recommend Sai Kung. Shatin is further inland.

Good second-hand cars are very cheap. You would be looking at a late-90s Mercedes, Saab or Lexus for a couple of thousand pounds.

CAT me if you'd like to know anything else, in case this thread drops off my active list.

queenofallshesurveys Thu 18-Sep-08 14:43:55

thank you so, so much. It is such a big step, one I am really excited about making. All of this info is really useful to know. I'll have a chat with DH and see what he thinks. Thanks for the help. I may well be back to you with a few more questions later if that's ok! Thanks a million.

ninedragons Fri 19-Sep-08 00:44:36

My pleasure - I lived in Hong Kong for seven years and am always telling people what a great place it is to live. Income tax is capped at 15% and random crime is almost unheard of.

I realised that on the first day I moved there, and a woman who had had her bag snatched at a railway station was on page three of the main broadsheet. I thought bloody hell, if the Guardian reported every bag snatch in Britain it would be the size of a phone book every day.

LadyPenelope Fri 19-Sep-08 06:13:52

Hi Queenofallshesurveys

I'm living in HK now - have lived in various locations on the island and also in Discovery Bay in the total of 7 years I've lived here. Haven't lived up in Shatin and ninedragons is right that it will have fewer expats. That said, the university will perhaps have some other overseas staff so you may find that the on-campus solution is OK - worth understanding more about it.
Interestly, some areas that 10 years ago were considered entirely local are attracting more expats - because rentals have got so high now and people are looking for more space and value for money. Are they offering you a university flat or would they also give you a subsidy for a private rental? We rent from HKU, and there are a lot more university staff moving in at the moment because rents have gone up so much recently.

In your situation, think a car will be a great investment and not expensive - will allow you to get from Shatin to do stuff all over Kowloon side and HK island easily. You can also get taxis, public transport easily and cheaply, but with 3 kids under 2 a car will be a better option I think!

Things like playgroups, pre-schools etc all easy to find in all sorts of forms - informal baby group stuff, montesorri (sp?), bi-lingual etc. And when time comes there are ESF primary schools (english cirruculum with international teachers and kids.) all over HK including close to Shatin, plus other international schools if that's what you choose. Waiting lists can be long for schools but are usually fine for getting in at Y1 if you apply the year before. And there is lots of choice at pre-school level.

You can also try these local forums to post some other questions/or search for more information - "www.geoexpat.com/forum/" and "hongkong.asiaxpat.com/"

LadyPenelope Fri 19-Sep-08 06:27:01

Just realised that your twin boys are already 4, so not too young to think about schools afterall.

Children starting in Y1 in Aug 2009 have birthdays in 2004 (jan - dec), not like UK where it is sept - Aug. School year still runs Aug - June though! So assuming your DSs are born in 2004 , they would need to get a Y1 place for next Sept. Applications close at end of Sept for people who are already in HK, so you'd need to check with schools and with CUHK to see what would happen for you if you don't arrive until 2009.

Here's the link to ESF. www.esf.edu.hk

BTW, there are heaps of other schools - only mention ESF as they are all over HK at primary level, follow British Curriculum and they are also the cheapest because they are subsidised by the government. They are there to provide education for children who cannot access local education because of language - my dd is at ESF on HK island and there is a mix of local kids who speak only English at home, English, Irish, American, Australian, etc.

Also if you speak to the school in Shatin, they would be able to give you a feel for the mix of nationalities at the school.

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