Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ten tips to make your visit to Hong Kong as smooth as the finest Chinese silk

Hong Kong is blessed with constant blue skies, a comfortable climate, and a notoriously polite population - no wonder it's so popular with tourists!  If you're planning on visiting, however, be wary of the "advice" given in guidebooks.   It's often outdated, irrelevant, or just plain wrong.  I'm here to help your trip go far more smoothly.  Please read and follow the tips below:

1.  Stand to the left on escalators.  This will allow you to more easily carry out a conversation with the friend beside you, and you needn't worry about anyone behind you - even if they're late to a job interview with CY Leung co-attended by an up-and-coming pseudomodel, they will never ask you to get out of the way.

2.  Hold your umbrella at eye level.  This accomplishes two things.  First, it obstructs your view so you don't see all those other pesky pedestrians crowding the sidewalk, and second, if anyone dares get too close the umbrella will poke them in the eye, giving them a polite indication that you have the right of way.  (Note that the Chinese are generally shorter in stature than gweilos, so you may have to hunch or crabwalk to execute this.)

3.  Don't be shy about throwing your rubbish on the ground.  Hong Kong maintains such a high employment rate by having people specially designated to tidy the streets.  Someone will be along to pick it up eventually.

4.  Don't hold the handrail.

5.  Hong Kong life is hectic and non-stop, and you're an important person - you've got colleagues to answer to, friends to catch up with, and your digital farm to tend.  So when you get a notification from your phone be sure to stop immediately - no matter where you are - and see to it.  Those behind you on the MTR stairs or sidewalk don't mind waiting patiently.

A good spot to check your text messages.

6.  Don't learn any Cantonese.  After all, English is one of the official languages of Hong Kong!  If someone can't understand you, simply speak quickly and loudly until they back away.  This is a gentle  and polite reminder that they need to brush up on their language skills.

7.  Traffic can be brutal.  The best way to cope with this is to honk your horn repeatedly for 20-second intervals.  Everyone around you will be doing the same, and this creates a feeling of community.  It's one of the ways fellow drivers say, "We're in this together, buddy!"

8.  Make sure you tip well at restaurants.  This way, the waitstaff will come to expect generous tips from other gweilos, and Hong Kong will become more Westernized - making future tourists more comfortable.

9.  During the lunch rush, don't decide what you want to order until you're at the front of the line.  In fact, I'd advise not even looking at the menu until then.  This will give you a chance to have the counter staff explain in detail what exactly is cow lung, anyway?  Can you get the chili noodles with no chili?  Does the tuna bun have fish in it?  These are important considerations.  Hong Kongers generally get an entire hour for lunch, so they won't mind waiting.

"Can I have my noodles with no oil?  Oh, and add cheese."

10.  Walking around Hong Kong - especially in the summer heat - can be exhausting.  If you need a small pick-me-up to keep you going, you can often find fruit in small bowls outside shops.  This is indicated by a small sign in Chinese, but you probably won't be able to read it, so just look for the burning incense beside it.  This is just one of the myriad ways Hong Kongers express their hospitality to foreigners.

The area along Victoria harbour is a popular spot for a relaxing stroll and peaceful self-reflection.

I hope these tips explain a bit more about how life in Hong Kong works, and helps you have a wonderful visit to this great city.  See you soon!

1 comment:

  1. Just laughed my way through this entire post. It's so on the money! The constant stream of vehicular camaraderie right outside my window is an unrelenting source of good cheer.