Big things come in small packages and I cannot stress enough how fitting this phrase is for Hong Kong. Hong Kong is approximately 1, 104 square kilometers and fits into Australia 7, 012 times (for you trivia nuts) but the infinite number of skyscrapers and economical use of space makes it feel much bigger than it is. Six weeks into my exchange semester at Hong Kong PolyU and still none the wiser. Every day is a new discovery, another chance to get lost, literally, in Hong Kong. And let’s face it, there’s no better city to be lost in because you can never wander the streets of Hong Kong hungry. There are places to eat every coupla metres and if not, there is always good ol’ faithful, 7/11 lurking around the corner.
Here are some tips and observations I’ve picked up trying to assimilate into local life
- Space is limited, no surprises here
Having to share a small room with a stranger and an even smaller bathroom with three strangers ended up being a blessing in disguise (roomie dinners and TV nights are a thing).
- Shops don’t open til mid day
Mild exaggeration but shops don’t open until around 10am with the exception of banks and probably 7/11.
- Always walk into dodgy looking staircases and or alleyways (at your own risk)
Because you will never know what you will find! Space is so limited in Hong Kong so you might find some hidden gems.
- Don’t pretend you can speak Cantonese cause it ain’t endearing
Too many negative experiences have taught me to keep my mouth shut and to only use my bare minimum Cantonese when bargaining- the locals really don’t have patience.
- Snag some bakery goodness bargains
If you’re living on a budget and aren’t fussed about breakfast, go to the bakery at the end of the day where they slash prices to get rid of the bread for the next day.
- Student Octopus cards don’t have discounts on buses
WHICH SUCKS SO MUCH BECAUSE BUSES CAN BE MORE CONVENIENT THAN CHANGING MTR LIKE THREE TIMES (but there are discounts after you make more than two trips in a day, something to that extent).
- There is no way to avoid the high mobile costs
Somehow all the mobile companies conspired to make as much money as they possibly can from international students so there is no “phone plan” that we’re all familiar with. Just accept the fact you will have to fork it out if you want data 24/7 (and free wifi isn’t as accessible as you would think).
- Wednesday is ladies night
Which means free drinks for all the ladies, HOLLA. Some places are 21 over only (however the crowd I was with got in regardless). But no amount of free alcohol in the world makes the creepy old men in all the bars go away.
9. IFC mall, BYO drinks and free view
The “Red Bar” in particular allows you to bring your own alcohol while enjoying the panoramic view of the famous Hong Kong skyline and if you get kicked out there is seating on the IFC rooftop anyway…
10. PLAN YO HOLIDAYS.
Seriously, cannot stress this enough! They are pretty strict with attendance here so make sure you attend at least the bare minimum. Also planning ahead helps with finding cheap flights. Cathay Pacific has specials every Tuesday and HK Express is the Hong Kong Jetstar but be warned, they have a reputation for delaying flights…
I could go on forever but I’ll leave you with this. Hong Kong is an exciting, truly happening city that never sleeps with a lot to offer besides the obvious. Beyond the tall buildings and bright lights there are some great nature sights to see, affordable delicious food to eat and an expanding underground arts scene to experience. All that’s missing is you!