Novice teachers are often eager to embark on their journey in the teaching profession after years of teacher education, ready to actualize their educational ideals. Some head towards a smooth start while others encounter a wide range of constraints during their initial years of teaching. Drawing on narrative interviews with a number of novice English teachers in Shenzhen and Hong Kong for at least one academic year and other data sources such as their EFL learning autobiographies and school documents, this paper examines and compares (1) the opportunities and constraints these teachers face in their initial years of teaching and (2) their responses to the perceived opportunities and constraints in their attempts to take control of their teaching, in two different socio-cultural and educational contexts of Shenzhen and Hong Kong. This paper highlights how possibilities for and constraints on teacher autonomy are mediated by teacher agency, teacher identity and teacher beliefs. It also sheds light on how novice teachers can be afforded more opportunities in their struggle to become autonomous practitioners. Copyright © 2016 華中科技大學外國語學院.