The Expat’s Guide to a Gap Year in Hong Kong

We all need a break every now and then. Sometimes, life just gets too complicated and the multitude of pressures and obligations bears down on our shoulders with an incessant weight. You can easily feel like the mythical Atlas, barely holding up the entire celestial expanse on your back. A gap year serves as an excellent palate cleanser, especially if you travel to the far distant locales. Maintaining at least the basic regular work relationship during this adventure is desirable, simply so you can keep your financial stability intact. If you are ready to make the big step, here’s the expat’s guide to a Hong Kong gap year.

Hong Kong, city skyline, statue. Gap Year in Hong Kong
Honk Kong City Skyline

Everything You Need to Know to Have a Hong Kong Gap Year

Welcome to Hong Kong

While the gap year in Hong Kong appears to be a good idea on paper, you should make sure that this decision doesn’t plunge you in a world of debt. This means that you cannot simply wander the streets of Hong Kong slack-jawed for 12 months. You have to take up at least semi-regular work. However, let us not mince words – Hong Kong is an overwhelming monument to human civilization. And it is absolutely impossible to keep your cool after you move there, at least for several weeks. Even after the first impressions have settled in, this sprawling metropolis that boasts a gob-smacking population of 7.5 million people will surprise you pretty consistently throughout your stay.

Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China, it is its own little universe in all the ways that matter and its currency is the Hong Kong Dollar. It is different than the rest of China in two very distinct ways – it is much more politically liberal; and it has a strong capitalist economy. Naturally, since we are talking about a metropolis that is so welcoming to many people, the expat community is pretty prominent and it is virtually impossible not to network. In other words, this is a city where you will definitely not feel lonely. It is a well-connected region, but you should avoid sitting behind the wheel. Traffic jams and hectic rivers of vehicles lead to accidents and fuel waste. It is simply not financially feasible for an expat who has come to spend a gap year. Instead, use public transport.

Hong Kong, city, streets, transportation. Gap Year in Hong Kong
Hong Kong City Street

Teaching English should not be a problem

One of the smartest job decisions you can make during your gap year in Hong Kong is to teach a language. If you are a native English speaker, finding this sort of work should be a breeze. In fact, flexible English teachers are always in demand in China. This means that you can pretty much pick and choose your teaching parameters, such as the age of the pupils and types of courses. Working with young learners on the Monkey Tree ESL program can be an enriching experience if you are new to the teaching profession.

You can feel quite confident at teaching English as a second language to impressionable individuals between the ages of 3 and 12 without seeming under-qualified. In addition, everyone will be familiar with at least rudimentary English, as it is a widely spoken language on the streets of this city. In other words, it is an accessible prospect in every way. Of course, a TEFL/TESOL certificate will enable the most opportune circumstances for you.

Hong Kong, panorama, city, view,observation deck, Gap Year in Hong Kong
Observation Deck

Plentiful job opportunities

Apart from teaching, middle management jobs are harder and harder to find in Hong Kong. If you work in the realm of finances and banking, you should probably not move to this city for a gap year, unless you have the necessary “pedigree” for top brass positions. Multinational companies are a way to go, as they have a healthy mix of resident and expat employees. Combined with the aforementioned effortless networking for expats, you are bound to find a job.

If you are not particularly picky, side jobs and seasonal jobs are a true goldmine in this city. You can work in fast food joints, as a vendor, in small shops and bars. In addition, you can be a part of the cleaning staff in various establishments. This sort of work is fairly easy to come across, just look for vacancies slapped onto the window fronts.

Volunteering jobs

If you are financially well off for the year, you can look into volunteering jobs that will cover your traveling and living expenses. While volunteering is not mandatory, it does not pay salary. And it is predominantly coordinated by NGOs, if you choose the niche smartly (for example, something that is at least tangentially related to your designated profession), volunteering jobs can significantly improve your career prospects after the gap year in Hong Kong has run its course.

Hong Kong, boat, night. Gap Year in Hong Kong,Harbour Lights
Hong Kong Harbour Lights

Before you decide to forego your current circumstances and embark on a Hong Kong gap year adventure; you should definitely see what sort of work conditions you can muster. Keep in mind that there are no ideal conditions, and you are golden. Experiencing Hong Kong for a year will not only reinvigorate you with a new perspective and a new sense of purpose; it will also be an invaluable experience that hones your skills and encourages personal development.

About Olivia Williams Jones

Olivia is psychologist and entrepreneur from Brisbane. Mother of two beautiful children and proud owner of two silly boxer dogs. She is passionate writer, a traveler and conscious consumer, seeking healthy and sustainable products to incorporate into the lives of her family. Her motto is “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

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