10 things you should know before visiting Hong Kong

Posted on October 30, 2019 by

One of the Asian destinations that are on almost everyone’s list is Hong Kong because not only is the airfare quite cheap but also the shopping experience won’t burn a hole in your pocket. The dynamic culture of the place and its tech-markets are also added bonuses. It is impossible for one to forget the delicacies of Hong Kong since the culinary experience is one of the things Hong Kong can be remembered by. But before you visit Hong Kong, let’s clear some confusion regarding what this “country” is all about.

Is the Hong Kong part of China or are they a separate country? It is not quite easy to understand. While Hong Kong has its own currency, passport system, and legal system, Hong Kong is called the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) which whether they like it or not, is a part of China. But hey, did you know that Hong Kong was under the United Kingdom’s rule till 1997? So, there exists a Hong Kong Basic Law between China and Britain. Under this law, Hong Kong gets to have its own political, economic and governmental systems making it into a separate country from China. Therefore, they retain their passport system, currency and are basically autonomous.

If you ask someone living in Hong Kong whether they are Chinese, you will get different answers depending on their ideology and political leaning. Some of the Hong Kong citizens would tell you they are Chinese but NOT Chinese at the same time. They have no problems in being called Chinese because of their ethnicity and culture since they are genetically Chinese. But they do not wish to accept that they are under the Chinese rule and thus refrain from becoming Geopolitically Chinese. They still follow the Chinese culture and lifestyle though.

Now that the confusion is clear, these are some things you should know about Hong Kong:

#1: The Greenery in Hong Kong

Most foreigners have this perception about Hong Kong that there isn’t much greenery there but that is not true. Their green spaces include country parks that are not as big and sprawling as Central Park or Hyde Park but are still pretty green. In fact, 2/3rd of Hong Kong is made up of countryside with lots of greenery all around. It is a different matter, however, that you cannot lie down in the parks or take a sunbath there but hiking in lush green surroundings is encouraged and so the average Hong Kong citizen is taking more liking towards hiking.

There are a number of small mountains spread in Hong Kong and many beautiful islands as well. So if you are visiting Hong Kong, do head to the geological parks, go trekking there and climb up to Sunset Peak. The natural wonders in Hong Kong are also worth appreciating especially the Basaltic columns.

#2: Not all Hilly around here

Apart from Hong Kong Island, you won’t find hills in the New Territories of Hong Kong. The towns are all flat and though there are some regions in Hong Kong with beautiful hilly topography because of volcanic, you can rest assured you won’t be gasping for breath while wandering around Hong Kong.

#3: Get an Octopus card, it is used everywhere

Octopus card used to be a means for paying for different kinds of transports but there days, it has become its own form of payment. You can use it to pay at shops, at convenience stores, cinemas, restaurants and even at hospitals. If you don’t know what an Octopus card is, it is just like London’s Oyster card except that it gives you plenty of discounts and you can easily buy one at any convenience store or any MTR station for $6.40+ or HK$50. The Octopus card is widely used by Hong Kong’s population but there is a story behind its name too. Since Octopus card was meant for traveling, the number 8 represents the eight different directions like north, west, south, east, northwest, northeast, southwest, southeast. In the Cantonese language, it is called Baat Daaht Tung translating to “Eight-arrived pass” or “go everywhere pass”. 8 is considered a lucky number in Chinese culture as well and thus the English name Octopus since Octopus has eight tentacles.

#4: Hong Kong believes in being late

It did not mean that in a negative sense but the markets of Hong Kong open up late and stay open till late. It does not mean that all shops open late but many boutiques start opening around 11 am in the morning. Shopping malls are a different matter altogether but if you are planning to visit the markets and see the local private-owned shops, plan your shopping endeavors for afternoons and evenings. Lunchtime would be considered the best since the shops remain open till 8 pm in the night and that will give you plenty of time to head to different shops and spend as much time as you want.

#5: No Museum Fees on Wednesdays

No idea about the reason behind this but if you are going to any government museum, schedule it for a Wednesday since you won’t have to pay any fees. But you must remember that this will be the day when museums will be most crowded as well as schools often take the museum trip on Wednesdays. But it sure is a nice way to save some money that you can spend on food and snacks later on.

#6: Get ready for the stares

If you aren’t Asian, you are going to get stared at but that is completely normal. Even if you are Asian but dressed oddly, the locals will look at you and judge you too. It is nothing to feel bad about since they do it to everyone. Staring and being a bit judgy, gossiping and whispering in the corner, it is all part of the culture.

But one thing that makes the stares endurable is when locals ask you to take selfies with them. Hong Kongers love taking pictures with foreigners. If you are visiting Disneyland especially, get ready to be swarmed by school girls who will mob you until you take tons of pictures with them. You don’t need to be famous to get all the love and attention in Hong Kong.

#7: Hong Kongers live a fast life, so don’t get in the way.

If you travel in Hong Kong by public transport or walk around the Mass transit railway while it is rush hour, you will get to know that Hong Kongers do not tolerate people getting in the way of wherever they are going. You might be just wandering around the market in Hong Kong during the weekend to get a vibe of the place but people will shove you, push you aside, sneer at you and ‘tsk’ ‘tsk’, it is better to just get out of their way. It is just that people in Hong Kong have such a busy and fast-paced life that they do not have time to slow down and wait for the other person to pass.

#8: If you see scarves and boots, don’t worry it still is summer

People in Hong Kong are not accustomed to cold temperatures. Anything below 20 degrees is cold for them. Since Hong-Kong is a sub-tropical area, the temperature remains around 27 degrees. This is why when it is below 20, you will see people wearing scarves, mufflers, jackets and even fur boots even while you are comfortable wearing a half-sleeve tee and shorts. Winter is an odd concept in Hong Kong.

#9: Hong Kong food = take-out

People live near shopping malls and restaurants which mostly have food stalls that are affordable and delicious. So people in Hong Kong love to eat out. You will find people more eager to have take-out or eat at a restaurant than cook in their own kitchen. Moreover, the busy schedule does not leave much time to pack lunches or cook own dinner. With no cooking comes additional benefit of not having to go grocery shopping often, no washing dishes and no cleaning the kitchen all the time.

#10: Surname comes before the first name

The trend does not only exist in Hong Kong alone. In China, as well as many other oriental countries, people put their last names before their names. So, make sure that when someone is introducing themselves or someone else to you, you don’t get confused, especially if it is not an English name. Suppose you hear the name Chien Yu-Chin, then Chien is the last name or as the Hong Kongers say the family name while Yu-Chin is how you should address them. It is definitely easier to ask for nicknames or just give one yourself.

So, here was the list of ten things you should know before you visit Hong Kong so you can merge and conversate with the locals well, without offending anyone. Have a lot of fun exploring new things.

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