I arrived in Hong Kong just over ten months ago. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I hopped down the steps of the plane ready to begin life in the big, bright city of lights and dim sum (or at least that’s how I like to remember it!). For the first three months, I spent the majority of my time looking upwards and pointing my camera at shiny things. Everything was new and exciting, and some things just downright mystifying. Why was there a bride leaning solemnly by that traffic light? And why is that person wiping her brow? How sad… perhaps she’s been jilted?
Ten months and nine days on (but who’s counting?!) and I can honestly say that the magic of Hong Kong holds strong. I still take a picture of the skyline every time I go on the Star Ferry even though not one thing has changed since my last trip on one. I still take incognito photos every time a bride doing her engagement pictures glides past with her dress hitched-up, Converses exposed, and a posse of stylists trailing behind her. And I will never stop.
But despite this unrelenting ‘wide eyed-ness’, my shift from perpetual tourist to semi settled-resident is definitely occurring. Like any charismatic city worth its salt, I’ve found that life in Hong Kong is brimming with lots of funny little nuances, characteristics and home truths to learn about – and after ten months, I am just about getting the hang of some of them. So aside from those clearly very important things like language, work and the “real world” in general, here are five small things that every newcomer should know about Hong Kong!
I hail from the UK, where an umbrella stays permanently nestled in the bottom of my bag all year round. Why? Because it’s generally always drizzling… And we’re extremely pessimistic people. Umbrellas are a trusty friend, a ‘just-in-case’. In Hong Kong however, they really come into their own, taking on an almost heroic quality. Forget frizz-prevention, having an umbrella in your possession can literally save the day… nay, save your life. In a downpour, those oh-so-wise people who come prepared take to the streets armed with their umbrellas, ready to poke out the eyes of anyone who dares to step too close. And who can blame them? Get caught in a downpour here without one and let’s just say that number one: you will probably go home with one less eye than you had before, and two: you can prepare to become very well-acquainted with the hand-dryer at work.
AT A CROSSROADS
You know when you’re in a rush and you cross the road even though you know the car is approaching a little too close for comfort, but you decide to leg it anyway and trust that they’ll smile kindly at you, gently caress the brake and wave as you skip merrily on your way? After all, they’re not going to run you over, are they?! THEY ARE. Hong Kong streets are congested and there’s a reason everyone is waiting for that little green man to make an appearance. He’s your friend. Use him wisely.
HAPPY HONG KONG BIRTHDAY
“How long have you been here?” This isn’t a question you’ve ever been asked before, but now you’re in Hong Kong, knowing the answer to this question has become as important as knowing your wedding anniversary, or date of birth. It IS your date of birth.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
When I first arrived in Hong Kong, I spent the majority of my time staring, mouth-agog, at the prices of things in the supermarket. Finding the most expensive olive oil became like a very sad and demoralising game… And what is perhaps more worrying than spending $40 on a tin of chopped tomatoes or $190 on washing powder, is the fact that my perception of money has gradually started to shift from the very reasonable to the absolutely ludicrous. I now find myself shouting things across supermarkets like, “This salad is only 35 dollars?! Shall we get two? Can you freeze salad??” Oh yes, SALAD FOR EVERYONE.
One of the first things you learn upon arriving in Hong Kong is that, no matter what the hour, it’s always happy hour somewhere. Which is why, since arriving in the SAR, I’ve been hit by some of the worst hangovers of my existence thus far… hence the Hongover. Not to be mistaken for an ordinary hangover, the Hongover has actual superpowers. It lasts for three days and doesn’t even wait ‘til morning to hit you, often rearing its ugly head as early as 9pm the same day. It makes you mourn the days when rehydration sachets were reserved for dodgy traveller’s tummy rather than an essential drink to chug down the-morning-after-the-night-before for fear of drying up completely. Most importantly, it is also followed by an urgent need to re-evaluate your entire life and everything you thought you knew. Approach these so-called “happy” hours with caution (and a healthy dose of water to boot). Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
Check out a few more of our top newbie tips here.
Anna is a Communications Consultant originally from the UK, now living in Hong Kong. She writes about anything and everything of note, plus all the lovely things that she stumbles upon in Hong Kong, on her blog Blue Ruby Notes. You can also find her on Twitter @msannafarrell