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Raising children in West ...

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I have lived a very exciting childhood, not confined by the walls or weather when compared to my British partner who was brought up somewhat differently. He suffered from asthma and allergies so spent more time indoors. He also did not have the freedom as I did to go down the elevator and get a snack from 7-eleven or play hide-and-seek in the connecting blocks of stairs for hours. I am concerned that my children will also suffer from similar fate even though we do try to do different activities with them, you simply cannot stroll out for a walk in the evening in this country. Most of the time it is raining or the children are down with cold or some sort of illnesses. But then I also know Hong Kong is extremely crowded, my children will probably end up wearing glasses and I might have to still bring them back to this country for higher education. It is also not easy moving with young children and then the issue of jobs and maintenance. Would like to hear what other parents think and what would they do in my situation.

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Clearly it's a trade off... the UK might not be perfect - (and you've generally called out some of the more negative aspects in your post) - some of the more positive aspects (in my opinion are):


  • Clean drinkable water out the tap (without the need for a filter)
  • The air quality is far better
  • HK also has weather issues (regular typhoons and storms) - not to mention high UV index!
  • In the UK you're never really far away from the great outdoors - and the UK has some of the best outdoor/nature experiences you can imagine (you only need to look)
  • Free healthcare
  • Free education (available if you don't want to go down the fee paying route)
  • Children are generally less stressed and not as prone to anxiety, depression and suicide (due to various pressures!)
  • HK is the most expensive place to live (per sq ft in the world!)
  • Owning a house is a realistic prospect for most in the UK
  • Owning a car is a realistic prospect for most in the UK
  • Getting a job and making a career is a realistic prospect for most in the UK


(PS I'm white and grew up in the UK and had a very similar upbringing to what you had by the sound of it!!) - don't confuse how your partner was brought up as being 'normal' or a-typical (sounds like he possibly had over protective parents who wrapped him in cotton wool)... the choice is yours how you raise your kids and the values you teach them! - in saying the above, I do realise and appreciate that in this day and age I necessarily wouldn't be happy letting my son out to do half the things I did as I don't think it's as safe as it was when I was younger (but then again - I'd suggest this is the same of HK as well).

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It's a really hard decision to make. I think the UK is a fantastic place to raise a family and I'm biased as I've lived here all my life.


In general, I find the 'Chinese' aspects of education very narrow-minded and competitive (think Tiger Mom). Many Chinese people come out not have as broad a range of skills as say a child coming out of the UK education system.


However if you are in HK you may also have the option to go to British/International school route, which has more similarities with UK education system.


Prospects for future regarding jobs and careers - it really depends. Many UK or HK educated children will find prospects in their home country, or abroad, there isn't really a limitation - if you reach good grades you can study anywhere.


What pangster mentioned regarding prospects - houses, cars, jobs - these are being squeezed anyway by the way the global economy is working. I think most graduates even now are finding it nearly impossible to get on the housing ladder unless they are entering a very high earning career like law or accounting and earning over say £80k annually. I shudder to think what this'll be like in 15-20 years time, whether you are in the UK or in HK.


Regarding safety and children walking around on their own to go to 7 Eleven/cornershop - this is probably similar in HK as in UK, these days people are more aware of dangers to children safety. However where I live in North London, I always see kids around 10 years old going out of their houses and going to the park without parental supervision, so it really depends on where you live.


In short it's a very hard decision! Let us know how you end up making a decision.

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I was raised in Hong Kong, and I've been educated under the Hong Kong, Canadian, British and mainland Chinese education systems (not to impress, but perhaps to give you an idea of where I come from), so perhaps I can share some of my thoughts, if you find it helpful. I'm only going to comment on education, because I always feel like environment is pretty much a personal thing - what's good for one person might be detrimental for some - e.g. lots of people hate living in small places, but I've also met a fair share of people who actually prefer the mini-apartment lifestyle.


When I was a kid, I went to a Cantonese medium school - my parents thought it be essential to be native in Cantonese, and so I went there. To be quite frank, I didn't think too much of it, but in my third year of schooling, I started to display signs of severe anxiety (like bruxism), and my parents thought it was wise to transfer me out of that system. In terms of schooling, it's true that it can be fairly rigid in a local school, but if you want your children to have a good feel of the language, you can't beat having the experience of being educated in that language.


Later on, I attended a local Canadian international school, and I remember schooling became a lot easier. My grades were okay all along, but now I was getting decent grades and having some semblance of a childhood. And, as you'd have it, my bruxism also stopped.


I then transferred to a British international school in my sixth year, and thinking back, it was the happiest time of my life. Some of the friends I made during that time became really good (like lifelong good) friends, and I felt that the general quality of people - students and teachers alike - there was really high. There were Mandarin classes but I chose to take them only up till year 9, and stopped afterwards. Everything went well during that time, and life was pretty balanced.


And then, I made the decision to switch systems again (after year 11), and went to a Mandarin medium school, in order to get into a Chinese university. Most of my classmates thought I was crazy - the language switch was intense, the pressure skyrocketed, but I had my reasons - I wanted a native degree of fluency in Mandarin (among other things), and I went.


I won't lie - it was very, very hard. Language wise, it was okay, because I've received some education in it (with a bit of intensive work on my part, I caught up within three four months), but the system was very intense, and the polar opposite of British pedagogy, which I was already used to at that point. I'm almost embarrassed to admit it now as well, but when I first went to China, be it Shenzhen or Shanghai, I distinctly remember experiencing cultural shocks on multiple occasions. But again, if you're serious about getting to a native fluency, you can only guarantee that through education.


In my opinion, I think that if I were a parent, I'd probably do something similar to what my parents did - I'd have my kids attend a Cantonese medium primary school for a few years (I am rather proud of my Cantonese heritage lol), then transfer them out to a bilingual (Mandarin - Chinese) international school (ensuring it's really bilingual! Don't want them have leanings towards one language). If possible, I'd probably want them to have the experience of living abroad and immerse themselves in French (but maybe that's just me liking French a little too much). Achieving a native level proficiency in languages is pretty set during our high school years, so that's what I'd like to do ideally.


But I wouldn't underestimate Chinese education just yet. True it has many flaws, but I learnt the value of working hard under the system. If you can work with your children to combine the best of the both worlds, the academic rigour of the Chinese system, which trains up one's perseverance, and the flexibility and creativity enabled through a Western system, I think your children will emerge truly international.

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