In many ways, Hong Kong is very similar to many Western cities. It has lots of high rise buildings (perhaps more than most – apparently Mongkok (an area of Hong Kong) has one of the highest population densities on Earth), English as well as Chinese can be seen on signs everywhere, there is a very efficient public transport network and all the major international brands have several outlets here.
However, in many smaller ways, there are differences which I find really interesting to observe. Here are a few:
As I’ve mentioned before, Hong Kong is a city of small, local businesses which can be found everywhere (mostly) outside of the big shiny shopping malls (which tend to have expensive designer brands). I’m sure you can get almost anything here if you know where to look!
Supplying the multitude of small shops is a complex network of delivery businesses who seem to deliver one type of product to a shop whenever it suits them, generally while the shop is open during the day. These deliveries may start on a lorry or van but are usually carried to the shop on small carts. These carts seem to be everywhere! The people pushing these carts often have no problem with taking them down the road rather than the busy pavements and cars and buses seem to be well used to driving round them.
Speaking of small businesses, they seem to be opening and closing all the time too. I believe this is partly because landlords have a habit of massively pushing the rent up once a contract is over (they do this for residential apartments too) so it becomes much cheaper to move elsewhere where you can negotiate a good deal. So sometimes I go somewhere to buy something, only to find it’s not there any more!
When a new business opens, it appears to be traditional for other businesses and individuals to celebrate this fact by presenting the new business with a huge bunch of flowers, which are then proudly displayed outside the premises for a week or so. It certainly lets you know that they are open for business!
Discounts are displayed very differently in Hong Kong (and, I assume mainland China). Instead of saying something like ‘30% off’, the sign will say ‘7折’ which equates to 70% of the original price – the 7 relates to the 70% remaining. Many signs will have the English equivalent too, but I have seen several which do not so it is a useful thing to know!
Most apartments in Hong Kong have tiled floors and it is customary to remove your shoes before entering. We did not do this to start with and our floors got very dirty very quickly so we changed our habits!
However, this is also because the floor outside is considered to be ‘dirty’. I have really noticed that people don’t tend to put their bags on the floor when on public transport but instead will keep it on their shoulder or on their lap. I have started to adopt this habit too – it does make sense really!
While we are on the subject of dirt, I have noticed that the locals consider a good way to clean things is to throw a lot of water on it. For example, in the public toilets a wet floor is a clean floor, and also a wet toilet seat is a clean toilet seat. This is very counter-cultural to a Westerner who would consider that a wet toilet seat may have unknown fluids on!
I’ll continue my observations on Hong Kong in Part 2 next Friday.
Thanks for reading!