Hong Kong Expats: Expat Kids
Growing up an expat kid can sometimes be difficult; a blend of cultures, particularly if assignments move from country to country, can alter a sense of belonging and identity. Yet, there are so many fantastic opportunities that come from being an expat kid, especially in bustling centers of economic and social growth such as Hong Kong.
In the age of social media, keeping contact with life anywhere around the world is easy. Facebook, Instagram, Skype…all these outlets for staying up to date with family and friends in other countries makes life far easier. Often the only difficulty is staying on top of the time difference. A round trip from Hong Kong to the UK pretty much takes two whole days, so face-to-face visits might not be so common, but that doesn’t mean isolation.
Attending school in Hong Kong leaves two choices: the local system taught in Cantonese, or the international system with a Westernized education, taught in English. Typically the qualifications offered in the international system are iGCSEs and the IB, but one school does offer A-levels. IB is increasing in recognition around the world, with universities such as the University of British Columbia and Edinburgh holding it in particularly high regard. As such, for higher education, these are common choices for expat kids in Hong Kong. School overseas is also a popular choice for GCSE and sixth form, with many British expats choosing to send their children to boarding schools. Quite often the kids attending sixth form in Hong Kong are locals or the kids of parents with permanent work placements.
Despite being taught in English, Mandarin is a part of the curriculum at least until it becomes optional at GCSE. The official languages of Hong Kong are English and Cantonese, so although Cantonese isn’t officially taught, for expat kids it’s not wholly essential. Basic greetings and the like are easy enough to pick up, and there is unlikely to be a situation where lack of knowledge of the language creates a problem. For the most part, there’s nearly always someone who’s willing and able to translate.
The social side of expat life is typically the highlight. Parents and kids often mix within the local community as well as just the expat community – for a lot of the older international schools, there are even a higher number of local kids than expats. Sport, however, makes up a huge part of Hong Kong expat life, culminating every year in the Hong Kong rugby 7s: essentially 40,000 expats in a weekend long party with rugby matches being played in the background.
In cities like Hong Kong, cultures collide. Both British and Chinese holidays are recognised, which for expat kids means a fair few days off of school, and schools themselves endeavor to educate kids about both Chinese and Western traditions. With the option to work in the UK or Hong Kong without a visa, growing up in such a place leaves expat kids with plenty of opportunities. Perhaps one of the biggest advantages is simply the ability to integrate within different cultures: the thought of working anywhere in the world isn’t a daunting one. The ability to grow up with such an international view of the world is nothing but an asset.