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Canadian family w two kids moving in Nov. to HK

  1. #1
    ernieandbert is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2011

    Canadian family w two kids moving in Nov. to HK

    Hello everyone,

    We have two kids: 3 and 1, and going to move to HK in November to start to work in Central area. Can't wait to get away from the cold winter in Canada (will miss the slopes though). Can anyone please give us some advice on where is better to live and school system there?

    We are debating on live close to office and having that luxury walking home fast and to be with our kids. On the other hand, we will miss the green grass and open space with view for our kids to grow up and spending time outdoors with them as oppose to live in the Mid-level / Wanchai area with no view. Our budget is around HKD40k but again debating if commuting could take too long and we should move our furniture or not. Think we will bring our kids' stuff: their beds, change table, books, toys, clothing etc. We don’t have moving allowance so the less we ship the more we save and can use that saving for our tickets to come back to visit our parents in Canada for x-mas.

    Our 3yr old is in pre-school and 1yr is in daycare in Canada now, both open from 7am - 6pm. What kind of school system is there in HK? Heard someone mentioned that the schools are only 1/2 day and you ought to hire a live in maid/nanny to take care of the kids. In that case, we may need a 3bd (for us and grandparents' visits). What kind of pre-school / daycare are there? How long is the waiting list? Do they accept overseas applications? We think we might send our kids to local school if they accept foreigners (we will have HK ID so guess we won’t be foreigners anymore once we landed). But also heard the local schools work really hard on kids, ie. Tons of home work etc. unlike in Canada they can just go and play at school, while learn things at the same time but no pressure.

    Desperately need advice from you guys. Deeply appreciated.

  2. #2
    lesliefu is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    South District
    here's my take on things...

    1) if you are both working i would suggest hiring a helper because your kids won't be in school till 6pm and we don't have much in terms of daycare here. normal school hours would apply to your 3yr old (8/9-2/3pm) but your 1 year old would have to be accompanied by an adult to "go to school" as kids must be at least 2 years 4mth (6mths) before they are legally allowed to attend school on their own.

    2) i'm not sure about the housing situation now...sorry. but i would double check about the sizes of your beds / changing tables before you ship them over as they could be too big for the apartment here.

    3) there are plenty of pre-schools here...woodlands, sunshine house, tutor time, lingnan (local), international montessori ...all of the above (except lingnan) have multiple campuses around HK so it's convenient. i know for a fact that woodlands has a playgroup class that your child can go with your helper to for 2 hours (either 2X a week or 3 X a week) from experience - woodlands is montessori can also look into Victoria Nursery and Kindergarten (local with IB) as they have many campuses too - also play based in the early years...homework takes 5mins to complete and is given 1 time a week

    hope this helps -

  3. #3
    howardcoombs is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Happy Valley
    At a budget of 40K, if you are willing to be reasonable in your requirements, you can get a place in Happy Valley which is close to many schools, many green areas as well as within 15 mins to Central (non rush hour). Keep in mind the general rules that further out you go, the more space you will get. 40K is a reasonable budget but certainly not huge.


  4. #4
    carang's Avatar
    carang is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Sai Kung
    i'm canadian, too... but from the prairies. i've been here for 16+ years and have 2 kids (4 & 6).

    it really depends on you as a family. personally, i could never live in mid-levels or some such. i don't like the built up areas at all. i'm much happier farther out and commuting. i like my home to be my sanctuary and i just can't imagine that in the middle of the city.

    that said, i've lived almost everywhere there is to live in HK (stopped counting after move # 18). the two places that i would recommend would be discovery bay or sai kung.

    discovery bay is a little enclave in and of itself. it's like a small town. everyone knows everyone, which can be good but can also be a pain in the neck. there are no private cars and it is extremely safe (as is all of hong kong). there are dozens of playgrounds, a beach (although swimming there is not for the faint of heart), clubhouses you can join etc. and with $40k budget, you may luck out and even get a place with a small garden/terrace. if you get this, then you'd also have a separate helper's room (although to most north americans, they are more like closets). you would be 30-45 minutes from central, depending on how long it takes you to get to the ferry (always get a seat and air-con).
    the biggest drawback with Db is the lack of school places. this is a MAJOR problem for folks from DB.

    Sai kung, would offer a full house (2100') and possibly a garden, but definitely a rooftop terrace. you would get 4-5 bedrooms and maybe even a carpark space. there are a few kindergartens around that cater to expats, but there are also local schools with lots of expat kids. this is the route we've decided to take.

    our kids go to a local cantonese speaking kindergarten and have a great time. yes, they have "homework" but it isn't really that difficult (except the chinese) and my kids are ok doing it. you can choose 1/2 day (8:45-11:55) OR full day (8-8:45 drop off, pick up 4-5:30). right now, the 1/2 day is FREE and the full day is $817 which includes lunch and snacks. in order to get these prices, you have to apply for the gov't voucher for pre-primary education. it is ONLY applicable to certain kindergartens which meet strict criteria. we have decided now, to follow through with using the gov't system for primary school, too. the school our eldest will attend is right on the waterfront with a large outdoor play area and the teachers seem to be ok too. this school is also designated as a school for non-chinese speaking children, so there are quite a few expats that have decided to send their kids here as well.

    if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. i have always found the folks on here to be EXTREMELY helpful and friendly.

  5. #5
    Gracey is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Hong Kong
    I wouldn't worry too much about the commutes here. HK is small and people complain even when they're only 20-30 minutes from work on public transit.
    If it's greenery and space you want, then move a bit outside the city. The difference in time you spend with your kids is not going to be hugely different, whether you take a 10-minute cab to work or a 30-minute ferry.
    Also, the further out you move, the more reasonable the cost. And you can use the extra money for a helper (about HK 4000 or CAD 500 a month) or English-language education.
    Be careful about local schools -- they are really very different, and many are Cantonese or Chinese-language only. It's not as easy as just sending your kids to the local public school in Canada.

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