Cost of Living (With Kids)


I am considering an offer of work in HK with my company. I am married with 3 kids, however and do not think that the offer I expect to recieve is going to cut-it with the cost of schooling etc.

Two of the kids are school aged, one primary, one secondary with the third requiring day-care of some kind, ideally in a social environment, i.e. day-care, kindergarten...

The offer is likely to be in the region of HK$45,000 per month. This is inclusive of housing allowance. The company stopped offering ex-pats additional schooling allowances some time after hand-over so that's that. We want the kids to attend ESF schools (about HK$12,500 per month in fees.

By my (rough) calculations we are at least HK$20,000 a month short of what we would need to have a decent/good standard of living, assuming HK$14-15000 per month for rent. I want to take full advantage of living out there to show the kids some more of the world so i also want some 'pocket money' for travelling.....

Can someone give a little guidance as to whether my sums are there or thereabouts?

Many thanks,


3 kids

You won't have a decent standard of living on just that salary if you want your kids to attend an ESF school.

There are local alternatives to ESF but will involve teaching in a language in addition to English. For example, one of my kids attends a local DSS (direct subsidy) school that teaches in English and Mandarin. Yearly fee is about 20k excluding stuff like books, uniform, bus fees etc.

As for the little one - kindergartens usually start at age 3. Plenty of English options are around. Many local ones, if run by charitable/non-profit organisations, get a fee subsidy from the govt. So you just pay for books/uniform etc, but you will have to settle for Cantonese language. Most expats seem to have a problem with this. I don't, my older two both speak Cantonese, and my eldest also speaks Mandarin quite well.

With regards to rent you need to decide where to live. Rental varies greatly with location but, in general, the further from the island you go, the more you get for your money. 15k would probably be enough for a decent 3 bed apartment with facilties in somewhere like Tai Po. You may want to consider Village houses as a cheaper option. Usually split into 3 levels of 700sq ft, many with 3 beds and a helpers room. Bit of a squeeze for 5 of you but maybe worth looking into.

Something worth considering is what your spouse intends to do. Once they have a dependent visa they will be free to take up any employment they wish - unlike you, who will be restricted to the job for which the work visa is associated with.

Anyway, food for thought. Best of luck.

School fees

Hi peemac2;

Phil's earlier comments are right on the money, so to speak. The scenario you're faced with is not completely impossible, but the school fees would indeed be a killer on that pay, and it would be a big ask of your older children if you planned to send them to a local school. My daughter, like Phil's kids, also attends a local school, but she's been brought up bilingual, and doesn't face the adjustment hurdles students new to HK would face.

You're also right to identify the desire to travel as one of the selling points of coming here in the first place, so money for that is not precisely essential, but it sure is nice to have.

I do wish you the best, and hope you find a way to work it out with your company. As I'm sure you'll realize from reading even a small selection of the articles on this site, MrB and I are both very fond of HK life; it's a great city.