There are things that are distinctly Hong Kong. The sound of the MTR announcement, pedestrian beep, and bus stop notices. And there’s more.
1. You easily figure out the city’s familiar sounds
Octopus card’s ‘doot’, Hong Kong Tramways’ ‘ding ding’ or distinctive beeps at pedestrian crosswalks are very familiar tunes to locals. But you don’t have to stay in the city for long to get to know some of its distinctive sounds. Say for example the trilingual announcements at MTR trains.
2. You called a Cantonese-speaking friend to speak to a cab driver for directions
Taking the cab with a driver who speaks only Cantonese can be a challenge. Business travelers new to the city can easily send the message by handing over the business card of their hotel, but it’s not always the case. To a non-Cantonese speaker, the last yet still very effective option in reaching your destination is to call a local friend and ask him or her to talk to the driver for directions. Sit back and relax.
3. You had lunch or dinners on a large round table
A new colleague joining the team, an old colleague calling it quits or another colleague getting married? This is the place to converge. The occasion is often shared over a large plank of wood rolled by staff and draped with thick table cloth. And during one of your first of such dining socialization, you get to learn the legend behind tapping the table when someone pours tea on your cup or read new Chinese characters in the menu.
4. You got fined HK$320 for a traffic violation
To those who own motor vehicles, a minor violation is still a violation. Driving in an unauthorized lane, illegal parking, driving under influence or beating the red light all warrant at least reprimands and earn some degree of embarrassment in front of the public. Therefore when you commit one, expect a duty police officer on patrol to come over and admonish you. A common penalty though is HK$320 ($41) and damaged pride.
5. You joined Oxfam Trailwalker, Standard Chartered Marathon or dragon boat team
Joining such events serves multiple purposes: health development, bonding with friends or colleagues, promotion of charity or exploration of Hong Kong’s natural beauty. Exhaustion or ankle injury are small collaterals to enjoying these activities.
6. You moved flats more than five times
One thing that’s common to us who don’t own homes in the city is that we lived in various neighborhoods over the past 10 years or so. Driven by soaring property prices or the need for fresh surroundings, you notify your landlords, pack your things and arrange for a moving company or sweat it out yourself. Or the other way around: you can’t bear the excessive raise in monthly rental that are forced to move out.
7. You bought items in a garage sale or charity bazaar
Whether it’s sponsored by the ladies’ bazaar or members of religious community in your neighborhood, you found yourself in a second hand sales venue that promotes recycling or raise funds. Whether you went yourself or got dragged by a friend or spouse, skimming through items like used gadgets, bags, or old DVDs, is another way to bypass conventional sellers. At the same time, you’ll potentially make your small flat even more crowded.
8. You got more social online
In a thriving world of online market place, or at least a variation of it, it’s hard to resist offers that rival deals set forth by Ikea or Hong Kong computer fairs. You tried to meet new friends, hired your new helper or bought your prized cup board through AsiaXpat. You occasionally check deals posted by Asia Classified or ask parental or immigration related questions at Geoexpat or Discuss. Even with Facebook going mainstream, each of these websites remains ingrained as the go-to resource for specific needs — and wants.
9. You realized that money can’t buy happiness or excitement
You’d probably realize this everywhere, but read on. Last week you just bought an expensive flat screen TV, but the excitement you felt the moment you watched Avatar was not the same as the thought of buying this plasma unit. You already got iPhone 3G, but felt it was obsolete when Apple announced a newer version is released. You also think it’s about time you changed your wrist watch. You missed the time as a kid when you actually have to sleep with your new pair of shoes beside you.
10. You’ve received 4,236 leaflets from street people in six years
Or an equivalent to a certain number of trees cut down and transformed as marketing materials for companies who think people actually read them while walking in the street — not, they glance and immediately look for the nearest trash bin. Actually you should have received 17,281 leaflets if only you did not dodge most of these pieces of paper handed out to you by folks who wish their daily quota gets exhausted sooner than later.
11. You have spent 239 hours in queues
The experience of finally getting called and getting a seat waiting for someone to take your order is just priceless if you’re craving for your favorite food at your favorite restaurant. You didn’t realize it took you that number of hours just waiting for your turn. Not just to dine, but basically anything else, like waiting for the next train or bus, at the ATM booth or at the grocery’s cash register. With that amount of time, you could have spent reading 41 books or watched 140 films. You balk at this fact, as you kept yourself busy poking at your PSP, listening to your iPod or you actually read Harry Potter while waiting for your magic number to flash.
12. You have been stopped by someone you don’t know
He could be a Buddhist monk begging for loose change, a police officer on patrol asking for your ID, or another South Asian man touting for a restautant in Lan Kwai Fong or a tailor in Tsim Sha Tsui.
12. You have a smartphone-related ailment
Overuse of your smartphone has led to many mishaps. You bumped into a pedestrian on the street. You had to consult a chiropractor for wrist or shoulder strain. You realized your vision is a bit impaired due to watching your favorite drama while in a moving vehicle. Adding insult to injury, your boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with you because you don’t have quality time together anymore; sitting in a table, your eyes are fixated in that ubiquitous device.
Photo credit: Pixabay. License: CC0 Public Domain