I’ve been back from my trip to Hong Kong for a little over a month now. Here are some little differences I’ve noticed between there and here.
Space is at a premium in Hong Kong, so parking spots are tiny. Most cars have folding side-mirrors, and proximity sensors that beep faster the closer you are to something when backing up. Vans and SUVs have mirrors on the back windows that lets a driver see the back bumper through the rear-view mirror. That way, you can squeeze into a space without any guess work, although it takes about three or four turns, Austin Powers style.
Some parking lots also have these lights above the spots that let people know if a car is parked in the space — green means it’s available. That way, you can see what spots are free with a quick glance, instead of driving around and hunting.
Taking care of the elderly
In the parks, there are workout areas for the elderly. They include things like Gazelles, bench steppers, and wheels you can rotate for flexibility. This is so awesome. Canada should have something like this. My grandma used come to this park to work out before she had colon cancer.
How cool is it that the symbol they use is the silhouette of someone doing single whip. I found this symbol in many parks actually, and I think it means that it’s a public park.
There are also speakers that beep at the traffic lights to let blind people know when to cross, and subway escalators that click constantly, so they know where to get on.
Sometimes the commercials are dubbed over, so there are Caucasian actors in them speaking Chinese. Sometimes, they’re redone completely, such as the Oreo cookie commercial with the two young girls, where the younger one tries to dunk her cookie in her milk, except she has a sip cup. So she ends up pouring the milk onto the cookie and laughing. In Hong Kong this is re-done, pretty much shot-for-shot, except with two Chinese boys.
Also, instead of the slogan “Red Bull gives you wings”, the cartoons use inconsistent variations, such as, “No red bull, how can I fly?” (in Chinese).
Plumbing provides soft water, or softer than what I get at home in the city. That means your skin doesn’t dry out, even with even hot showers.
I still don’t understand how the electrical outlets work. There seems to be one type of plug but many different types of adapters, not including the ones for North American plugs. Two prongs, three prongs, square prongs, round prongs, flat prongs, or combinations thereof. This is a picture of the adapters I needed to get my MacBook Pro and external hard drive going.
No central air or hot water
A lot of Hong Kong living is in apartments, so there’s no central air. That means an air conditioning unit in every room, sometimes two if the room is big. The units aren’t always connected to windows, (as you can see in this picture at the top right), which makes me wonder where the hot air goes. Is there a vent behind the A/C unit? Also, since these units are high up, they have fancy remotes with LCD screens that control both on/off and the temperature.
There’s also no central hot water tank. Each shower and sink has it’s own small gas-powered tank, which instantly ignites the gas to heat the water coming in as soon as the hot water is turned on from the faucet. It’s a little scary to be taking a shower in the tub, and seeing a plume of blue flames across from you at all times.
No daylight savings
Hong Kong doesn’t have daylight savings, because the difference in light between the summer and the winter isn’t great enough. This was especially confusing, when I went from Hong Kong being 13 hours ahead before I got there, to 12 hours ahead when I landed, because my flight was on the day that we’re supposed to adjust our clocks in North America.
I would see people eating by themselves all the time in Hong Kong, whereas in North America it seems to be a little more taboo, like saying you don’t have any friends or something. This guy was watching a TV in the corner to hear the race results at the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, since betting on them is so popular. Actually, pretty much everyone in here was following the race, probably for the same reasons.
Eight-digit telephone numbers
With an extra number, the pacing becomes different when telling someone your number. Most people seem to break it up in 4 and 4. My dad tried to tell me his number, and broke it up into 3, 3, and 2. I couldn’t understand him. It’s like he was speaking a different language.
Boiling drinking water
Everyone has little water canteens in the kitchen, to keep water hot, and a jug for room temperature water. That’s because the water that comes out of the tap can’t be trusted, so any water used for drinking is boiled beforehand. I’ve been told that if you drink hot water out of the faucet without boiling, there will be the taste of other foods in there. This makes the water used to rinse your mouth somewhat scary.
Pizza Hut and McCafé
Pizza Hut’s in Hong Kong are way classier than what we have here. They also serve a wider variety of foods, like the honey lemon tea, and this snack platter, with chocolate drizzled peaches and strawberries.
There’s also a McDonald’s version of a coffee house, named McCafé, which competes with high-end coffee shops. They’re usually located inside McDonalds, and serve more expensive fare.
It’s not uncommon to share tables with other people at a restaurant. If there isn’t enough space, it means the restaurant is very good. This was probably one of the hardest things to get used to. No private conversations, and since Chinese food can be rather messy, you really have to be careful.
Toothpicks at every table
Since it’s not considered impolite in Chinese culture to use a toothpick while sitting at the table after a meal (provided your hand is covering your mouth), there are toothpick dispensers on the tables in restaurants and in houses.
Also, instead of black pepper, which is not common for Chinese cooking, there are white pepper shakers.
I was in my uncle’s Jaguar, and we went to a gas station to fill up one time. I don’t know if the tank was empty, but the gas cost him $100 CAD. I asked him how much he drove to have to fill up, and he told me 300km, which put the price of gas at roughly 2–3 times what it is in Canada. It’s pretty much all stop and go in Hong Kong. It seemed like stretches of highway aren’t longer than 10km, and the speed limit is 80km/h.
Crosswalks are divided in two parts of the street, with a walk signal that often only gets you half way to the middle of the street, cause it’s mounted to the median. There’s usually a “don’t walk” signal for the other half. This is because traffic is commonly allowed to flow in one direction but not the other, even though it’s coming from the opposite side, and not perpendicular.
There’s also a generous median in the middle; since Hong Kong is so populous, it lets a lot more people stand in the middle and wait. You’ll notice in the picture that you can’t run straight across the street, because the railings of the median go for a bit of a jog to one side first.
Taxis are everywhere in Hong Kong. The fares seem to be about the same, which is strange, considering how much more expensive gas is over there. The drivers can hit a switch to open the back passenger doors automatically. Very useful when your hands are full.
There seems to be a lot of funding that goes into parks and recreational areas. That means there are always tons of workers who look after the parks, whether it’s trimming shrubbery, sweeping floors, picking up litter, cleaning the bathrooms, watering plants, and the like.
The trees and flowers are also often labeled with little yellow plaques that have the Chinese and Latin names.
No stars in the sky
I didn’t notice any stars while I was in Hong Kong. Which I was not surprised about, as it’s so urbanized. Light pollution is just one of the many pollutions that seem to affect such a populous city.
The subway has stores that line the halls. Not just convenience stores, but travel agencies, bakeries, tea shops, and Chinese medicine shops. You can see them near the beginning of my Hong Kong: Markets video.
The voice that announces the stops is pre-recorded in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English (with a British accent). This is different from the Toronto subway system, where the train driver announces each stop in English only, with a garbled voice. The maps on subway cars also have blinking LEDs that let you know where you are. It’s a super easy system to use.
Sometimes, the distance to get from one subway car to another is pretty big, even though it’s at the same station, so there are not only escalators, but moving walkways to get between them faster.
1st floor vs ground floor
In Chinese, the ground floor is different from the 1st floor, and the 1st floor is really the second floor. This is really confusing, because when a sign is translated to English, the first floor is the ground floor. So even though you have one sign with both Chinese and English on it explaining what’s on each floor, the Chinese will say “1st floor” and directly across the translation will be “2nd floor”.