Is the Cost of Living in Hong Kong too High for Teachers? (2019)
I’ve wanted to write about this subject for a good while now. This topic has long piqued my interest and was set in motion again when a good friend of mine from Sweden (also a teacher) decided to move back to his home country after living in this mega city for as long as I have, eleven years and change. We’d often talk about Hong Kong and how it had changed over the years, how it had gotten more expensive to eat out and buy and do well... anything.
Here we are, in 2019 and I want to explore the cost of living in Hong Kong from the perspective of a teacher who’s lived here and worked their way up into International schools. I’m going to use a base salary of HK$ 35,000 as it’s a number I believe reflects a starting salary in international schools. For local, you’d be looking to knock about HK$10,000 off of that number. To get an overall snapshot of the cost of living in Hong Kong in 2019, I am using Numbeo as a framework to guide me when looking at the average costs of living here. I want to use the averages found her to temper my own experience in Hong Kong, so let’s go on a little journey together to see how affordable Hong Kong is for a teacher in 2019. My hope is to give you, the reader a “boots on the ground” look at living in this city in 2019 as a teacher. Perhaps this article will help you in calculating your own cost of living here. I very much hope that’s the case, anyway, on with the show!
I live outside the city in a two bedroom apartment that costs me less than the average suggested here. My rent comes out to HK$ 8,000 a month which is a really good deal in this day and age. If you’re calculating for yourself, I think the averages suggested here reflect the rental situation in Hong Kong quite well.
Salary after deducting rent= HK$ 27,000
In my experience, If you can control the cost of your rent, it will very much dictate what kind of life you have here as it takes a huge chunk of your salary. If you look at the breakdown Numbeo has done based on their statistical model of average costs in Hong Kong, potentially half of your salary could get soaked up by rent. Yikes!
Travelling to work may take up quite a bit of your time and certainly some of your salary. If you live close to an MTR station, you very well could get to work on a monthly pass costing you around HK$ 500.
In my case, I live quite far from where I work so I opt to take two minibuses in the morning to work and then the MTR and a minibus home. This ends up costing me HK$ 720 per month just to get to work.
Remaining Salary = HK$ 26,280
Obviously, travel is not always consistent. There might be mornings where you need to take a taxi because you are running late or the heavens have opened, which happens often here in the summer. I’d earmark closer to HK$ 1,000 — HK$ 1,500 to cover your transport cost more accurately for the month. I’ve left transport for leisure out of this equation because it will vary wildly depending on how often you get out and about.
As a busy teacher, you might end up eating out more often than you think. Looking at this, it really depends on the type of food you want to eat. When it says “Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant” in my experience, that price point is referring to eating locally like at a Cha Chaang Teng or local noodle bar. If you prefer to eat more western food, you’d be looking in the HK$ 150–200 range. On an average week, I’d say I eat out about three times a week with my wife. We’d probably do local food two nights of the week and western for one so my cost breakup would be about HK$ 3,500 for the month (just for dinner)
Remaining Salary after Restaurant deductions = HK$ 22,780
You can always save a bit of money by cooking yourself. Groceries tend to be cheaper if you shop in markets and local supermarkets like ParknShop and Wellcome. As soon as you start going to international supermarkets like Taste, Great and Fusion, things start looking a lot more expensive. Personally, I’d estimate a cost of HK$ 3,000 per month to be adequate if you stick locally.
Remaining Salary = HK$ 19,780
I wrote an article a while back exploring the idea of living in Hong Kong on 20K as a NET where I took my living cost over six months and averaged them out monthly. I have made some adjustments to some of my utilities, especially my phone bill that saves me a bit of money but I’d still say the dollar amounts are quite similar. HK$ 515(Electricity) -HK$ 53(Water bill rounded down) HK$ 140 (phone) Internet (HK$ 219) which comes out to HK$ 927. Bear in mind that some bills come quarterly so they are averaged out here.
Remaining Salary = HK$ 18,853
Personally, I go to the gym (Pure Fitness, which I’m enjoying so far and am considering doing a write up on) which puts me HK$ 600 out of pocket each month. Got to keep fit! We also go to the cinema once a month (HK$ 100) and I like to socialise with my various friends (don’t overthink this one, I have like two friends, ha!) which costs about HK$ 2000 per month on average. Again, this is highly personal.
Remaining Salary = HK$ 16,153
So, What’s the Conclusion?
When writing these kinds of articles it’s always hard to think about the best way to approach them as people’s lives and expectations are so different. Really, what I am trying to do is show you how I live here so you can see how your lifestyle could work in Hong Kong in comparison to how I live. There are obvious things I have missed out here like credit card bills, health bills, travel, child expenses, savings, pet expenses, each meal every day, buying clothes, keeping up with the latest gadgets, and so on and so forth.
From my own perspective, I feel Hong Kong is certainly expensive but not so expensive that you can’t live here. I recently read an article in the SCMP about two Canadians who’d moved to Hong Kong and I think it’s worth mentioning what they had to say about living in Hong Kong as their comments echo my own experience. Here’s the excerpt below:
“While the cost of living in Hong Kong is higher than in Canada, the couple can earn more so their quality of life is better.”
I’d be really curious to hear what other people living in Hong Kong have to say about how “liveable” they think the city is in 2019. Do you think it’s too expensive? If you have anything to add, please chime in down below in the comment section. I consider this article a work in progress and will edit it to reflect the varying views and experiences of the people living in Hong Kong. Thanks for reading!