Multicultural City, Hong Kong
When I was in Hong Kong it was the weekend and raining, we could not understand why there were so many people (families) sitting on the floor in every available bit of dry space- pedestrian subways; under bridges; civic spaces. On sunday it is like being at a rock concert with so many people seemingly 'camped out' on the streets- then we realised, living conditions in the high-rise accomodation is so cramped that it is customary for everybody to congregate on the streets as an extension of their living space.
Otherwise there is still a huge British influence in Hong Kong and the people are very civilised and westernised.
As HK is a fairly westernised city, there aren't many unfamiliar Asian gestures that you need to avoid (i.e. in Greece your palms shouldn't face others with your fingers spread out like showing a "five"). Handshakes and waves are good, though of course flicking the finger should be avoided.
The victory sign (as formed with the middle and index finger with your nails facing outward) may be considered rude in Europe but not here.
Hong Kong had returned to Mainland-China in 1997, but alot of British colonial cultures and building can be found in the city. Most Hong Kong people can speak English quite well, so language and communication should not be a problem in Hong Kong for tourists.
Hong Kong is packed with people. Patience is definitely a virtue here, as you will wait in lines, get crowded into, get cut in front of, etc.. Sundays are strange, all maids get the day off. This doesn't seem strange until you see several thousand Phillipino women crowding ever open spot and stairwell in the city.
There is a Jewish community of a decent size. There are a couple of synagogues on HK.The other tip is that the people of HK speak Canton not Mandarin. If you learned anything while in China it will not help you here.The people of HK have a holier than thou attitude about themselves as opposed to china,but if you ask anyone if they have been there the answer will be no. It is difficult to travel between the 2 for them not outsiders.
Hong Kong is the midway point between Chinese and western culture too. For example, in an ultra-modern skyscraper, you might find a taoist shrine in a corner to a protective god. People are superstitious, yet use the latest computers and high-tech gadgets.
Traditions die hard here [like in many chinatowns around the world] and it is an exciting blend of old and new that makes sense to the locals, but is an enigma to outsiders.
Hong Kong also combines elements of east and west in a thriving Canto-pop music industry, a good movie industry, and produces large amounts of television programming.
A good way to learn Cantonese is probably watching a lot of Cantonese soapseries or Hong Kong movies [without subtitles ofcourse]. I know this is the way many chinese kids learn cantonese.
Another thing I noticed about the Hongkongers are their names.... their English names that is. You'll see that the people here love having unusual names. It is not uncommon to find names like Hanky, Zeus, Yummy, Seraphin, Money, Cash (serious!) and even, Adonis here! I'm not kidding. I know of someone with the name - Adonis (an ex-colleague). Of course, I expected to see someone who looks like an Adonis appearing before me. When he arrived for a meeting, we almost fell off our chair.... (don't mean to sound rude here).... because the person that stood before us was a tiny little man with a weather-beaten face!! My colleague (so mean of her!) nudged me and asked me to gently tell him to change his name to something else lest he'd be the butt of more jokes. Of course I didn't do it.
What I'm trying to say here is that - Hongkongers love to coin up very UNUSUAL names for themselves! Cute! :-)
Photo Below: Fireworks on New Year's Eve as seen from Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Hong Kong is a good first destination for westerners making their first foray into Asia. The years of British influsnce makes Hong Kong more Western, while at the same time keeping a basic Chinese flavor. The area is pretty bilingual so sineage is in English and Chinese. REalize, however, that not all Asian destinations are this bilingual. Still Hong Kong is fun to visit, and the people are friendly and generally pleasant to deal with.
Apparently at the weekend the roads around the Mandarin Oriental turns into a big street party for the Philippino community. It's a sight to behold. If I hadn't read about the phenomenom from another members' page I wouldn't have realised what was going on. People sit on the roads and pavements eating, chatting (loudly), painting their nails and generally just chilling out. They were not threatening at all and seemed to be in good humour - I was with my b/f though, so that may have helped that we were not harassed.
When arriving to the HK stations and ferry piers you will see hundreds of Phillipino and Malasyan ladies who picnic in the corridors and aisles while awaiting their transport.
I heard they were foreign ladies who come to HK to serve as maids or waitresses in the big city.
It is a very curious sight and it gives us a good idea of how much immigration HK takes from other Asian countries.
In Sai Ying Pui on the west of HK Island,along the Queens Road West, there are a few shops specialized in paper arts. You can see any type of articles you can imagine of: A house, a lumosine with driver, laptops, LCD TVs, Nike shoes, a happy meal, sushi lunch box, or even a pretty women in bikinis...of course, as I mentioned, they are all made in papers!! Fantastic? Amazing? Want to bring them home?? Oh no...these great craftworks are all reserved for the deads...
I know many foreign tourists do not care, and of course the shop keepers as well, but I can tell you most local people care a lot. "Bak Mo Gum Kei"--no taboos at all--is a perfect phrase for the embarassing moment if a Chinese resident sees you taking a paper-made laptop home, but you might like to avoid that by keeping it sealed. And please, do not make it a gift for someone else in your home country. Moreover, delicate packaging is essential for such craftworks.
My recommendation is take more photos rather than buying them and chat with the shop keepers to understand the art in depth; Or visit them in August or September when such shops also sell paper-made Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns too. Same amazing art, but minus the taboo!
Even in a human anthill like Hong Kong, the casual Dutchman still stands out... Multicultural yes, but just not for me :-)