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Eight things that are true if you went to an international school in Hong Kong

Eye roll whenever someone says, “You speak really good English!”

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Of Hong Kong’s many primary and secondary schools, 53 of them are international schools. These institutions are known for a wide array of foreign accreditation, English-first education and often a high percentage of students from high-income families. If you’re lucky enough to call yourself an international school kid, here are eight things that you definitely know to be true. By Josiah Ng

8 things that are true if you went to an international school in Hong Kong

You always looked forward to casual dress day

You always looked forward to casual dress day

If you’ve ever attended an international school in Hong Kong, you’ll know what it’s like to be forced into bland cotton trousers and skirts with matching button-down shirts and blouses emblazoned with your school logo. Stuffy and ugly, the uniform made you look forward to casual days, or any school-sanctioned excuse to wear whatever the hell you wanted. What’s more – the week leading up to dress-casual day was usually spent carefully curating an outfit to blow away your supposedly fashion-backward schoolmates.

You took notes and did homework on a Macbook

You took notes and did homework on a Macbook

Okay, we realise not all schools require this, but one of the perks to having a student population generally coming from upper-income families is the access to premium resources. One of those is the ability to order Apple products – specifically Macbooks for each student – through school programmes, making the use of Macbooks absolutely mandatory for certain institutions. The 13” Macbook Pro goes from $9,988 to $14,388, so if you happen to spot teenagers running around in clusters an Apple laptop, chances are they go to an international school.

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You got to take a week off school to ‘see the world’

You got to take a week off school to ‘see the world’

Every international school has it – that week where students are required to go forth, see the world and maybe even volunteer or perform in places like Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Korea or Japan, or anywhere in Europe. The objective is always to give students a better perspective of the world, but really it’s a blissful week away from classes to goof off with your friends and get away from your parents.

A grades are never enough

A grades are never enough

IB, AP, A-levels, extracurricular tutorials, piano or violin lessons, gymnastics and another sport to boot… Even just the chosen accreditation is a lifetime of stress and trauma enough, but in a world where a B is a failure and an A is par for the course, you have to make sure you’re getting that piano diploma in addition to practising three days a week for your (parentally) chosen sport too. And though stress is commonplace in both international and local schools, the constant parental guilt-tripping reminders regarding your exorbitant tuition fees don’t make things any easier.

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Everybody knows everybody else

Everybody knows everybody else

The moment you friend or follow someone on social media who also went to an international school, there’s a high chance that you’ll discover a bunch of mutual friends between the two of you. Even if you’re not in the same year, everyone knows everyone or knows someone who knows someone who knows that person.

You always have a place to crash when you’re travelling

You always have a place to crash when you’re travelling

Speaking of knowing everyone, you probably have friends or friends of friends who live in all corners of the globe. Not only that, being an international school kid comes with all sorts of travel perks since your classmates have probably visited the places you’re thinking of going to (it’s a small world, literally and figuratively), know all the good spots and even know someone you can crash with while you’re there.

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You always get asked, “So where are you from?”

You always get asked, “So where are you from?”

This is the question that nearly everyone hates answering. There are only so many ways you can explain that you were born in the UK, lived in Singapore for two years and recently moved to Hong Kong without wanting to gouge your eyes out. Have fun explaining your convoluted origin story.

And have to deal with this annoying remark: “You speak really good English!”

And have to deal with this annoying remark: “You speak really good English!”

Applying in particular to international school students of Asian descent, there is always a genuine yet condescending surprise when you start uttering words in English. Without any stereotypical Asian accent and with proper grammar, it leads to shock and awe for listeners who don't realise that English is probably your first language, sometimes at the expense of your ability to communicate in your native tongue (whoops).

Think you’re local enough?

11 more signs that you’re a real Hongkonger

A lot of factors make up a person’s identity, but there are certain things that help qualify you as a true Hongkonger. We’ve previously mentioned 11 signs, including preferring warm water to cold and hating on Jackie Chan, so here are 11 more to see if you really fit the bill. 

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