Hong Kong. If anyone asked me to describe Hong Kong in one word, I simply couldn’t. Let’s start with that Hong Kong has its own laws, currency, flag, language and much more – making it a very unique place. When I first moved there, it was quite a challenge for me to get used to the completely different culture and climate, which was so different from what I was used to in Europe. There were so many good things that genuinely amazed me to the deepest corners of my mind and body. This metropolitan city is so unique and unpredictable, that wherever you go, you always end up in a place completely different from any other place in the city. If I had to describe Hong Kong to someone, I would say that it’s New York, Paris, London and every other city combined. Hong Kong is a place with many skyscrapers that are mixed with greenness and nature teeming with wildlife. Besides unbelievably rich nature, the height of buildings was the thing that amazed be a lot. It’s funny when you think that buildings higher than 30 floors are already considered as skyscrapers in Europe, as houses there are quite low in general. In contrast, almost every domestic building in Hong Kong has at least 25 floors. Even my office in the company that I worked for was on the 22nd floor, providing me with an opportunity to have my morning coffees with amazing views all the time. To be fair, almost every place I visited took my breath away and made me say ‘oh my god’ endless of times, which you probably understood through the first post about Hong Kong (Hong Kong, pt.1). However, even though you cannot deny the charm this place has, after spending 3 months living there, you start to see things from a slightly different perspective, which might not be that visible to a tourist eye.
If you’re aware of the current events in Hong Kong, you probably know that there’s a protest going on. To be fair, I think that worldwide media doesn’t portray what is really happening there at all. When I got to Hong Kong in the end of June, it was quite peaceful and calm, as if there was nothing to worry about. However, when the time passed, it got more and more serious and dangerous. A lot of innocent people, even kids and teenagers got hurt. Some people were rejected by hospitals, as they didn’t want to get into any problems with police officers; others were injured really badly or arrested for nothing. There were two incidents that I memorised the most. A woman was shot in her eye by a police officer causing a permanent blindness of her right eye. She was less than 20 years old. A student used a green laser and was accused of using a gun and arrested for that. After this incident, many protesters gathered around the science museum and lighted the whole building by using thousands of lasers, just to support the guy and the mad situation he was involved. Besides such stories, there was a period of time when gangster squads appeared who literally used knives and baseball bats to hit people involved in the protest, not necessarily people who actually protested. It was the time you told ‘stay safe’ instead of ‘bye’ to your colleagues after work.
I learned so many shocking and terrifying things about political issues between Hong Kong and China. Sometimes I happened to accidentally appear in protest places, one time almost ended up in the middle of the riot, experienced closed metro stations and 10% phone battery with zero idea of how to get back home. However, what I found out was that Hong Kongers are extremely united as a nation – you can call them one nucleus that cannot be brought down easily. It became clear to me when I saw over 2 million people protesting for 2 months and closing all the main roads just by sitting or standing in the middle of them in rotation. Can you believe that? Even though I got goosebumps every time I saw police officers with all the ammunition (masks, guns, shields and etc.), it was quite interesting for me to see and feel the protest in real life (not that I enjoyed seeing people hurt). When you actually see people being so united, people with hope in their eyes, you always want to see what will happen next. That all of this will finally lead somewhere.
Consumption of plastic
Another quite shocking thing for me was when I realized how much plastic Asian countries actually consume. I know that plastic consumption is a worldwide issue and I’m by no means saying that only Asia is responsible for that, but I have never seen and experienced more unnecessary ways plastic is used. One of the many examples I had encountered throughout my time there could be this: I could say that the pack of toilet paper I bought on my first day looked like the ones we have in Europe if it wasn’t for a thicker outer plastic packaging. However, when I opened it, I saw each roll packed separately. Why would you do that? Or the time we went to some Thai bar for dinner and each table had a plastic tablecloth that was thrown away straight after people finished eating. All of this was done only for it to be easier to clean tables later. These are only two examples of dozens. I know it might not reflect the whole situation and might not even sound that shocking or important, however, when you live there as a resident and you actually care about the environment, you start to feel annoyed and confused with these huge amounts of plastic consumption in almost everything.
Let’s talk about food. Good food is my world honestly, and I probably spend the most money in this sphere. I didn’t know what to expect in Hong Kong at all, however, what I knew very well was that in Lithuania or in almost any other European country, Chinese or Asian food overall is much different than from where it’s originally from. Thus, when I came to Hong Kong I found out that Chinese people eat.. everything! You can even find chicken claws or a whole cooked duck with a head in shops, and that’s not the weirdest thing at all. I didn’t try everything, but for me living in Hong Kong was like a heaven of Asian food, and I honestly loved everything I tried there. Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Hong Kongese food – that’s what I live for! Even though I missed European food while living there, now after I came back to the UK, I cannot stop thinking about Asian food. You always want what you cannot have at the moment, don’t you? Living there and getting along with locals gave me an opportunity to try the best places that you wouldn’t normally go as a tourist, simply because sometimes you can find such restaurants only in the neighbourhoods that are not that popular. That doesn’t mean food is less tasty, obviously. On my very last evening, I tried the most traditional dish called ‘hot pot’ in a place where you could clearly see locals being surprised by seeing a European person there. Moreover, the selection of exotic fruits in every marketplace was crazy wide! What concerns drinks, I fell in love with iced milk and iced lemon teas. I was actually amazed with how much Asians love tea, both hot and cold. I can tell that I caught this habit as well! That’s exactly why I am so thankful for this unmemorable experience of trying out a lot of local delicacies and exploring the hidden places.
Even though sometimes I felt like an alien because of all the looks and stares I received, people in Hong Kong or Asian people in general are very calm and friendly. When I first came to the company I worked for 3 months, everyone were very welcoming and accepted me in a super friendly way, thus, it didn’t take a lot time for me to make new friends. However, I do agree that living pace in Hong Kong is very fast, and there are many times when you just get stuck in masses of people. What I noticed in such situations was that people rarely apologize if they accidentally hit you while walking, which I wasn’t really used to in the UK or Lithuania. Moreover, just because Hong Kong is so overcrowded, sometimes you have to experience cramped trains or not being able to enter the train at all, simply because there are just too many people. Even if there’s no space left in the train, some people will still try to push you just to fit as many passengers as possible. What’s more, service in restaurants is quite different than in Europe. You always have to wave/call the waiter in Hong Kong, otherwise you can sit there forever and no one will come to your table. Also, it’s not that common to leave tips, and you have to go to the counter every time you want to pay. Another interesting thing – people in Hong Kong, especially elderly people, are very superstitious. For example, all floors including number 4 mean bad luck, as the pronunciation is similar to the word ‘death’. Thus, no one wants to live or work there. Or, for instance, number 8 means luck, wealth and fortune, therefore, people even tend to pay more money to buy flats in such floors. Overall, It took me some time to get used to the culture and all of the distinct habits that I experienced every day. Nonetheless, I loved people there. Not only the ones who became my friends.
The only thing I never got used to while living in Hong Kong was the weather. It’s super humid and summer is the worst time to be there. Even though sometimes I thought that I finally got used to it, I actually didn’t. After this summer, I realised why people love umbrellas so much and carry them even if it’s sunny – it actually helps to prevent from the super strong sun. There are so many places where you can hike and see amazing views, but with this kind of weather I didn’t have many chances to do it, as it was simply too hot. Sometimes you have to find a closest shop or mall and pretend that you’re looking for something just to take a breath and cool down for a bit (every inside place in Hong Kong has air conditioners). Also, believe me, weather there changes every 5 minutes, so it’s better to be prepared for everything. Because of this subtropical climate, Hong Kong has a lot of greenness that is filled with insects and HUGE cockroaches, which also can fly. I know right?! Thankfully, I didn’t experience meeting a cockroach in my flat. However, don’t be surprised to find some other living creatures in your house from time to time. For instance, I had a roommate who didn’t pay rent at all. It was a lizard which I later named Bob. Despite getting personal with him, me and my other roommate had to evict him, sadly (it’s just how it is in Hong Kong).
Living in Hong Kong is quite expensive, but it was worth every dollar I paid. Clubbing, on the other had, is really cheap and so different from Europe, hence, you must try it if you ever visit Hong Kong! Also, I wanted to do some sports there and I accidentally found one yoga studio named Lazy Cat Yoga just near my neighbourhood, which was very small and cosy. All people were very professional and friendly there, making it even harder for me to leave the city. Not just because of that. Hong Kong taught me how important it is to love yourself and live your life to the fullest even when you’re alone. In Hong Kong, I felt more myself than ever in my life, I felt almost as a local after those 3 months that I spent there, and it definitely became my home. Of course, I missed my friends and family, but I also made a few really close friends there, which is even more sad, because I have no idea when I’ll see them in my life, but I surely know I will someday. Living there made me experience the best and the deepest moments with myself and I had never felt more free. I would just go on the streets, listen to the music and smile for no reason. Even though Hong Kong is so fast paced and you occasionally want to throw up or just hit the ground when almost every place in town resembles a mass-event (or maybe it’s just me, not a human-lover), or when it seems like you’re about to choke from smog, people, and heat, I loved every bit of this city and the amazing experience it gave me. Thank you for everything, Hong Kong. You were full of surprises.