But one school has gone out of its way to make the newcomers feel at home, and its efforts are paying off.
Kelvin Yau Siu-hung, the principal of Hong Kong Teachers' Association Lee Heng Kwei Secondary School, says the English language and Western culture in Hong Kong are the hardest things for new immigrants to understand. The school helps them learn these subjects by organising special trips and other events.
'We take our students to Western movies, and to Disneyland and Ocean Park, to let them experience the life of local people,' Yau says. 'Sometimes they visit a Western restaurant to see how the food is prepared and learn how to order dishes in English. These activities improve their English and their understanding of Western culture.'
New immigrants also get support from fellow schoolmates through a big brother and sister scheme.
'We have senior students who used to be new immigrants helping out the newcomers. They have meetings at lunch or after school where the big brothers and sisters share with them their experience of adjusting to new life in an unfamiliar city,' Yau says.
He says the school's efforts have been recognised by both parents and the Education Bureau. 'Many students apply to this school because their relatives or friends told them we take good care of new immigrant students. The Education Bureau also refers new immigrant students to us.'
Pang Siu-yuen was admitted to the school when she arrived in Hong Kong after completing her primary education on the mainland. 'Back home I speak Hakka and Putonghua with my family and friends. I was not fluent in Cantonese and know very little English. My classmates here never look down on me. They are willing to be friends and help me adjust,' she says.
Now in Form Three, Siu-yuen has adjusted to life in Hong Kong and is happy she is studying here.
'This school has so many more facilities and activities than my school on the mainland. I really treasure the chance to study here,' she says.
Chow Ho-yin is a local Form Three student at the school. He says he has learned not to take things for granted from his mainland schoolmates. He is impressed by their attitude towards life and learning.
'New immigrant students take classes very seriously. They study very hard. It's not easy for them to enter a school like this and they cherish their school life. Hong Kong students are born with many privileges so we don't treasure what we have as much. New immigrant students remind me I need to be grateful for all the things I have,' he says.
Aside from good study habits and a positive attitude, new immigrant pupils have taught Ho-yin to be more down to earth. 'I used to complain we have to stand in the sun during morning assembly. My mainland classmates told me we are lucky to have air-conditioned classrooms,' he says.
The third former says he has never had problems communicating with the newcomers. 'We come from very different backgrounds and have different interests, but we can still become good friends. Local youngsters like to talk about local pop stars, while new immigrant students want to talk about mainland pop stars, but we can always find a way to get along.'