If you want to really get to know the city you’re living in, here’s some advice straight from a local.
Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first — like finding a roof over your head.
While expat enclaves — especially in and around Hong Kong Island west — are popular picks, be open to other districts where you can often get more bang for your buck. Walk-up buildings tend to be cheaper than apartment blocks with security.
Get set up with a Hong Kong ID card and cell phone. Be sure to compare prices for phone contracts: telecoms companies include Smartone, PCCW, 3, CSL and New World Mobility.
Hong Kong is such a small city as it is, and so it’s a shame that many newcomers confine themselves to an even smaller bubble, visiting the same places and doing the same thing every weekend. There’s life beyond the Central-Sheung Wan-Sai Ying Pun trifecta, hiking Dragon’s Back on weekends, and going on junk trips during the summer months. Explore small alleyways, markets, shops hidden away on upstairs malls, and family-run shops offering traditional services (printing press and umbrella fixing, to name a few).
As convenient as 7-Elevens and supermarkets are, they’re not always the best places to go if you’re looking for a bargain. Visit local pharmacies and wet markets, which offer goods at much cheaper prices than big chains — not to mention fresh produce at better prices than big supermarkets.
At local pharmacies, you’ll be able to find everything from over-the-counter medicine and beauty products to a range of household goods like washing up liquid and bathroom cleaners.
Wet markets are the place to go for fresh vegetables, meats and seafoods. Learn how to hack the traditional Chinese unit system — these are the most commonly used measurements:
1 tael (兩) = approx. 37.5g
1 catty (斤) = 16 taels / approx. 604g
And another shopping tip: You might not be able to find everything you need in one shop — so if you have specific items in mind, be prepared to visit multiple establishments.
You may have heard Hong Kong being referred to as “the 852,” “Honkers,” and its people “Hongkies.” Please don’t pick these up — they’re not particularly attractive, and definitely not used by real Hongkongers.
While Hongkongers love to bitch about things, overall we’re a pretty resilient bunch. Every newcomer has to face a whole host of problems, but the best thing to do in most cases is to accept Hong Kong, flaws and all. Get used to small living spaces, high pollution levels, the insane heat and humidity, the suffocating crowds, the bad traffic — all of it. The sooner you learn to accept them, and find the things that you like about the city, the happier you’ll be for it.
Hong Kong has lots of quirks unique to the city, much like cities everywhere else.
Instead of steering away from them, or even mocking them, try to understand those little nuances that make it truly special.
Baffled by the custom of giving lai see during Chinese New Year? It’s to express gratitude — and for good karma for your own family, too. (So don’t cheap out.) Not sure why cha chaan teng staff are always so rude? It’s part of the charm when visiting these eateries. It’s always nice to immerse in Hong Kong’s customs and traditions instead of trying to apply standards you’re familiar with from back home — so go ahead and make yourself at home.
Looking for more in-depth stories about Hong Kong? Check out our city living section.