With English as one of its official languages, Hong Kong is a natural choice for people who want to take a gap year abroad. No need to be worried about gaining employment, or even volunteering alongside locals as you can speak the language easily. With a diverse range of attractions and numerous organizations to meet people from all over the world, it’s no wonder so many people make Hong Kong a must-stop on their itinerary.
Adventure and Cultural Travel
You might be surprised to learn that Hong Kong has less than 25% of developed land. There are numerous national parks, so you can explore to your heart’s content. Numerous outfitters can help you arrange tours or itineraries, such as backpacking, camping on the beach, kayaking and rock climbing.
Hong Kong also has a lot of historical significance. There are numerous walking tours of Hong Kong (some of them free) and places of interest. And if you want to explore other parts of China in addition to Hong Kong, there are programs such as the that provide you with the opportunity to get to really get to know Hong Kong and beyond.
Although English is widely spoken in Hong Kong, there are still plenty of opportunities to teach English here. Hong Kong has a NET (Native English Teacher) program that places teachers in Hong Kong public schools. They typically award a year contract and applications are due a few months before the school year starts (September), so start getting your paper early!
Training centers are a great alternative to public schools. Job boards such as Monster and Classified Post have jobs posted almost daily, so there are no shortages to jobs. There tends to be more jobs teaching younger children than adults. Most jobs require a university degree and a TEFL (or equivalent) certificate, so check requirements carefully.
Many volunteering opportunities are through church organizations. Many of them involve working with young children in classrooms improve their English. Other types of volunteer opportunities include interacting with handicapped children and adults by way of playing games, making crafts, and going for walks. Some of these organizations simply ask that you email them for more information and commit to a certain time frame. Ask around to see what type of volunteering and time frame suits you best.
Hong Kong seamlessly blends cultures from the east and west. When planning your gap year here, keep in mind that although you may find a lot similar in comparison to your home country, Hong Kong still has a culture all its own.
Cost of Living
Accommodation is relatively high compared to other Asian countries, with 2 bedroom apartments in the city center averaging about $20,000 HKD (approx $2800 USD), with utilities averaging around $1000 HKD (approx. $ 120 USD). Expect to spend about $450 HKD (approx. $65 USD) per month if you plan on only using public transportation.
Average meals out are anywhere from $50 HKD (approx. $6.50 USD) to $200 HKD (approx. $ 25 HKD)per person. Clothing is comparable to the US, with an average price of $70-$100 HKD (approx. $10-$15 USD) for a t-shirt.
Culture and Etiquette
Cantonese habits and customs are dominant in Hong Kong. A person’s actions, including their education, status, and reputation are all a reflection upon their family. This is evident when you first address people: people usually address people by their family names unless specifically asked by the host or colleague to do so.
You may find that the concept of personal space is smaller than you might be used to. People may stand very close when talking to you, but do not like to touch. While friends and couples like to hold hands, you rarely seeing any other types of public affection.
Health and Safety
Hong Kong has very high standards in regards to health. You can be safe knowing that restaurants and other public places are inspected to ensure clean standards. However, you will need to be careful of the tap water there. While the quality is fine, many people do not like the taste. Many prefer to boil the water and let it cool, or buy bottled water in supermarkets.
Health care is top-notch in Hong Kong. Hospitals and provide outstanding care. All patients will be treated, whether or not they can provide fees up front. Most doctors and health care professionals speak English, and many are trained overseas in places such as Australia, England and USA.
Hong Kong is considered very safe, day or night. Police officers are very friendly and you’ll often see them patrolling the streets. However, there can be a problem with pickpocketing in high traffic areas, so be sure to keep your valuables close to you.
Contributed by Sarah Li Cain
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