Oh, hey there! It’s been a while hasn’t it?
As England is in the its third lockdown, it’s been pretty quiet around here – I hope you’re doing OK wherever you may be!
This year, I’ve decided to start a new series of blog posts in collaboration with my pals to talk about a specific topic that I’m interested in – and hopefully you’ll find them enlightening too.
My first interview of this series is with Kanna, legend and kindergarten-teacher extraordinaire! Having moved from Wales to Hong Kong eight years ago, Kanna’s here to tell you all about the ups and downs of living and teaching in my favourite special administrative region…
1. Having also grown up in the UK, did you ever imagine that you’d end up living in Hong Kong?
I didn’t expect to land in Hong Kong, but I knew I didn’t want to stay in the UK after uni; it was just meant to be!
2. What are the best 5 things about living in Hong Kong?
– The diversity of GOOD food available at an affordable price!
– Convenience of transportation, which means you are able to hang out with friends after work, even if they don’t work nearby.
– Shops and restaurants open till 10:30pm or with some, until late in the morning. This is great if you’re out with friends who finish work late in Hong Kong, means there is always something to eat.
– There is an extensive range of products at various prices, which means you don’t have to be rich to keep up with the latest fashion trends.
– Low taxes!
(Kanna’s on the far left)
3. What are the worst 5 things about living in Hong Kong?
– Rent prices!!!!
– A lot of people don’t have basic manners e.g. holding a door open as you walk through to let the person behind you or in front to get past too
– Education culture
– Hot, humid summers. I love the heat but not when it prevents you from going out and being able to feel comfortable i.e sitting at the park or hiking
4. Where are your favourite places to visit?
My favourite places to go are: Tai Mo Shan, biking from Tai Wai to Tai Mei Tuk, Big Wave Bay, West Kowloon and chilling at Hung Hom pier at night.
5. I know you’re a big foodie – can you give us the lowdown on your favourite restaurants in Hong Kong?
In no particular order: Ma Lat (numbing spice) Hot Pot, Old Street (Taiwanese food), Kut Kut Siu (barbecue), most dai pai dongs (traditional open-air restaurants for good cheap eats), Seoul Korean Restaurant, Kyber Pass Mess (Indian), Supreme Restaurant (chicken hot pot) just to name a few 😉
(Beef brisket noodles at a traditional HK noodle shop)
6. If someone has never visited Hong Kong before and is only there for 2 days, what would you say are essential spots and restaurants to visit?
Must go to places: Sham Shui Po, Mong Kok, The Peak, Cheung Chau
Restaurants: Dai pai dong in Sham Shui Po (no Chinese name), any Chinese dim sum restaurant, a cha chan teng (Hong Kong style cafe) and ma lat hot pot!
(At the Dai Pai Dong: deep fried squid with salted egg yolk, deep fried aubergines with chili and garlic, sweet and sour pork and stir fried seasonal vegetables)
7. Have you always wanted to be a teacher? If not, what other careers have you considered?
I thought I wanted to do something related to the marketing field whilst I was studying for my degree. When I came out of uni, I didn’t really think about what I really wanted to do. An opportunity came up for me to go to Singapore, so I went with it. Once I got to Hong Kong, I had no idea what I wanted to do so took on all kinds of jobs. It was only after working at my first tutorial centre that I figured I wanted to become a teacher; however, it was not decided whether in centres or schools.
8. Could you tell me about your teaching background and the challenges that you’ve faced through teaching in Hong Kong?
Most BBCs, ABCs etc. (British/American Born Chinese) will probably tell you that one of the major hurdles with teaching in Hong Kong is the discrimination from your own kind! Even though a lot of us have good English, this is often overlooked because we’re not white.
A lot of parents have the mentality that if you are Caucasian, your English must be excellent and therefore able to teach (which honestly is really ignorant). I feel like we have to work extra hard to prove our ability and win over parents. As part of the Hong Kong culture, it is difficult to change people’s narrow mindedness and ignorance, but it’s not impossible. Working at my current school confirms that.
9. I know that you love what you do, what are the highlights of the job for you?
The highlights of my job are being able to actually spend time having fun with the students. They are rushed in class to complete multiple activities in a short amount of time. For K1s, at least once a week, I get to go in for 20 mins and read them a story, play games with them that are tied in with the content that I’m teaching, instead of them sitting in their chairs in front of the smart board, being talked AT. For K2s and K3s, this happens twice a week. It’s rewarding to see the progress of the children’s ability, where English is not their 1st language, as they move through K1 to K2 to K3. This is a reason why I have chosen to work at local schools instead of international.
A further highlight of this job is being able to interact with the kids on a daily basis. Seeing their happy faces, listening to their stories, receiving hugs and just being able to see their genuine love for you is by far the most rewarding part of my job. Kids at this age don’t conceal their feelings for you; whether they like or dislike you, you will be able to tell.
The most important highlight of my job is being able to relieve the stress and or boredom of their daily school routine and remind them that being a kid should be about having fun, not just focusing on studies. A lot of parents and school institutions seem to have forgotten that, which makes me sad for the children.
10. If someone from the UK or any other English-speaking country is considering teaching in Hong Kong, what advice would you give them?
I have many pieces of advice. The first advice I would give is that if you truly want to teach in Hong Kong, don’t be discouraged by the prejudice. If your heart is in the job and you really want to make a difference, you need to persevere. The more experience you build and the more you improve in your teaching technique to be able to cater to the children’s needs and achieve what you aim for, that’s all that matters. This will be noted by parents, some may be ignorant, but they aren’t blind.
My second piece of advice is to gain teaching experience in schools if you want to work in schools in the future. Experience in tutorial centres don’t carry as much weight.
Last but not least, get a teaching qualification! If you have a teaching qualification and at least 3 years of solid teaching experience under your belt, you will have a stronger bargaining power. This means you don’t have to accept any BS offer like $15k having 3 years teaching experience when the next person may get $25k who may have less experience. Qualifications and experience give you choice!
11. If you could try another career for a week, what would you like to try?
I think I would try marketing/advertising, just to see what it’s like in Hong Kong.
12. Do you see yourself teaching for the rest of your life?
I would like to keep one foot in teaching, because it genuinely feels less like a job for me. If I were to move completely to management, I know I wouldn’t be happy in what I do.
Kanna is honestly one of the most hardworking people that I know and I’m so happy to see that she’s found such joy through living and teaching in Hong Kong! Hopefully I’ll be able to visit her this year -*crosses everything*- and we can try all of her favourite restaurants because she always finds the most delicious bargains – the ma lat hot pot and dai pai dong are calling my name (or I’m calling theirs…)! 😉