|Live and Study Abroad • Hong Kong
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|Welcome to Hong Kong!
Are you ready? We are going to take-off! (courtesy of HK Tourism Board)
In this section, you will find the answers about:
Why Asia? Why HK?
Do you know HK?
Facts and Figures
On 'My' First Day
Websites that should be on you Bookmark starting from now
Understanding about Asia
So presumably, you have chosen HK as your destination. So why HK? Would it be something like I am going to say?
Asia is becoming more and more important in global affairs. Everyone talks about Asia every day. Being the future leaders of the world, it is useful and necessary for you to get familiar with Asia. There is nothing better than having a direct contact if you want to know about a certain place. So there are more than 50 countries in Asia, living in any one of them may do that.
However, it is very difficult for someone to live in a strange environment. To minimize the difficulty and prevent anything from ruining your determination of gaining knowledge of a foreign country, it maybe easier if you can go to a place where foreigners can adapt relatively faster and smoother. Under this consideration, HK is probably the best choice.
Hong Kong is a place where East meets West. In some areas like Stanley, Discovery Bay, it is not surprising for someone to develop an impression of a little town in a western country. Most HK people can understand English though they may not be able to speak fluently.
99% of the signage on the streets and of the shops are bilingual (Chinese and English). (More than 50% of the restaurants do not provide English menu)
Hong Kong also has plenty of shops selling a variety of food or product imported from western countries. It is thus, easy to understand why HK has a large population of foreigners - 700,000
HK is versatile. From dancing in a club to diving in the water, there is always something for every one. Most importantly, most of the things are affordable in HK. Shopping, dining and transportation are cheaper than some other Asian countries. Yet at the same time, you can also enjoy a king and queen living style according to your preference.
Starting point of unlimited potential
HK is modern, convenient and in high-quality. With the finest airport in the world, it is very easy for you to plan your trip to further explore Asia during your stay. There are direct flights to almost every countries in Asia, which is quite cheap. To most other popular tourist destinations, the flight time from HK is usually less than 4 hours.
Safe and free
HK has about the lowest crime rate in the world (1.015% in 2016). It is so safe to walking around the city area even after midnight (you need to be smart and stay vigilant for sure).
About Hong Kong
Hong Kong is not China
So you have chosen HK as your destination. What do u think you can get from her? Fun, new friends, and new experience are guaranteed. What about cultural exchange?
In HK, it is not easy to experience Chinese tradition and culture. You have to work hard to get it. It may be easier to get that in the region of New Territories, particularly in the old farming villages. Nevertheless, the best time to understand about Chinese culture in HK is during the times of the traditional festivals or events, Such as, Chinese New Year, Dragon Boat Day, Mid-Autumn Festival, etc..
If you think you can come to HK to know more about China, you are more than 50% wrong. It is a Chinese society, but the culture and values of mainland China are quite different from those of HK. If you want to know the real China, just go to China. Anyway, it is interesting to see that there are Chinese people dominating the population of China, Macao, HK and Taiwan, but they are so different among each other.
The Climate in HK is pleasant as a whole. Although it is hot, humid and raining crazy in Summer, only a very small casualty resulting from natural disasters in HK over the past.
In hot seasons, people usually wear short sleeves shirts and shorts. They are acceptable in almost every places and occasions.
In cold seasons, a sweater or a jacket will be enough, except during the coldest period then you may need a coat or something.
Typhoon and Rainstorm
Sometimes, you may get an extra day-off from work or school if HK is hit by strong typhoon (hurricane) or storm. The HK Observatory will issue signal and in most of the case when you see the following signals, you are not supposed to go to work or school.
Different companies and schools can have different policy regarding the extra day-off in respect to the change of strength / seriousness of the typhoon or storm. Please seek the information from your company or school beforehand.
Also, you are advised to make it a habit to check with the HK Observatory from time to time.
Health - water, food, hygiene
You are not advised to drink tap water directly in HK. (My friends and I drink water directly from domestic taps all the times and we are fine...)
Foods are safe to eat from anywhere in general. If you are allergic to MSG like me, you may need to be careful. Chinese restaurants use a lot of MSG here. I always get sick from eating Chinese foods but they are really taste :D.
HK is hygienic. No vaccination is necessary when going to HK. If you need further information, you may go to the Travel Health Centre of the Department of Health in Sham Shui Po. The address is: 1/F Cheung Sha Wan Government Complex, 303 Cheung Sha Wan Road, Sham Shui Po (Exit C1 from Sham Shui Po MTR Station).
Hong Kong is in the far east, Asia; South of China, on the east side of the Pearl Estuary. Precisely, the location of HK is 23.5' N and 114.5' E. It is in the time zone of GMT +8 throughout the year (no daylight saving since 1976).
HK is divided into 3 areas - Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories. HK Island is the political and commercial center of the area. Kowloon is a mixed area of residential and commercial uses. In between HK Island and Kowloon lies the Victoria Harbour. Victoria Harbour is one of the world's best 3 natural harbors and is the busiest harbor in the world in most of the times. Finally, the New Territories refers to the area between Kowloon and mainland China, and all the other islands of HK (235). They are mostly residential area with some industrial developments. 90% of the area of HK Island and the New Territories are covered in steep hills. In the South of the HK Island and the New Territories people can find some beautiful beaches.
HK had been a fishing village for over 6,000 years. Revolutionary changes took place after HK became a colony of the British Empire in 1841. Since then, HK is growing rapidly and amazingly. Within a century, HK's population increased from 5,000 to 2 millions. By the time HK was unified with China again in 1997, HK has became an important city of international transportation, trade, communication, entertainment, finance, culture and manufacturing.
Today, HK is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. However, HK still enjoys a high degree of autonomy. That's why you need different visas to study in HK and visit China. HK has her own flag; system of government, laws and finance system; and delegation in major international organizations.
Population and Language
In 2014, HK has an area of about 1104 sq km. It is expected to increase because of more and more land obtained from reclamation. In such a small place housed 7.2 millions people. 95% are Chinese. Most people in HK are living in the New Territories (4 millions).
Chinese and English are the official languages of HK, although more than half of the population don't speak English at all. People in HK and a large area of Guangdong province of China speak Cantonese, a dialect of Chinese language, instead of Mandarin.
Signs in HK are bilingual, so to most of the shops' name. But not every restaurant has English menu.
Radio progrmas for ethnic minorities
Selamat Pagi Indonesians -FM 94.8-96.9, every Sunday 0700-0800
Saptahik Sandesh - AM 567, every Sunday 0705-0800
HK Ki Shaam - AM 567, every Sunday 0805-0900
Desi Tadka - AM 1044, every Sunday 1600-1700
Siam Meung Yim - AM 1044, every Sinday 1700-1800
Working hours of government office is roughly 08:30 to 17:30. Banks open from 09:00 to 17:00. Both office and bank only open from Monday to Friday. Shops normally open at 10:30 and closed at 22:00, and most restaurants operates from 08:00 to midnight.
There are 17 public holidays in a year.
Currency (Please refer to Preparation - Finance)
Home in Hong Kong
GDP per capita of HK may be on the top 20 on the planet; but when talking about living space, HK may easily fall to the bottom of the list. It is because not only it is one of the most densely populated cities in the world; but also property price is ridiculously high here.
You may like to know almost half of the population in HK lives in government provided units. The average size of the unit is about 300 square feet (30 square meter) and it is very common that it is shared among 4 people or more. To many young people here, it is a unrealistic dream to have your own bedroom.Very often they share a tiny room with their siblings or grannies with bund begs. Yes, Chinese people live with their grannies usually. Everyone in the unit shares the same one and only one bathroom.
It costs ~ HK$ 1,000 a month for living in government subsidizes unit; or HK$ 15,000 a month in private units / HK$ 4 millions+ to own one.
Because of that, please don't be offended when your local friends say no to your idea of visiting their homes. They may get embarrassed when you find out how little space they have; or they simply think it is not nice to have guests in their homes where it is too small to make everyone comfortable. They will not tell you the reason (if you still don't understand after reading what I have written) because they think it is embarrassing, again.
Perhaps, there are a small percentage of the population who are able to afford a relatively bigger living space; and they are very rich people. Similarly, there are some people who may not be able to afford anything at all. You may see people sleeping on the streets somewhere (usually in Kowloon); or they may be able to afford living in just a small room inside a building. A small room means something less than 100 square feet (10 square meter). Sometimes, it is shared among 2 to 4 people. They shared a communal bathroom and kitchen with other people in the building. It costs about HK$ 3,000 a month.
In the most extreme case (actually not that extreme in HK because there is a significant amount of people who are in this case), some less fortunate people in HK can only live in 'cage homes' which is actually a bund bed enclosed by iron bars which provides a little security. Theses people can only afford a bed space and they keep all their belongings on their bed. This is why the bed is enclosed by iron bars so they can 'lock' their beds when they leave. They are people who do not want to sleep on the streets. It STILL costs about HK$ 2,000 a month.
Can you imagine there are about 100,000 people live in a cage like this in HK nowadays? You think you know HK before you come? Not until now.
Facts and Figures
HK is a very tiny spot on the globe, but it does have so many world's no 1. Some are a little funny though.
Figures in 2016
Population - 7,374,900 (Male:Female = 46.3:53.7)
Population Density - 6,760 persons per square kilometer (47,040 in Kowloon area)
Area - 1,105.7 square km
Unemployment Rate - 3.2
GDP per capita - US$ 43,530
Rainfall - 3,027 mm
Mean temperature - 23.6 'c
Life expectancy - Male 81.3 / Female 87.3
Crime rate - 2.5%
Things you should probably know - Is that Chicken Feet?
When you go somewhere for the first time, you may have a lot of new experiences because of the difference in cultural and social values. Yet it could be uncomfortable sometimes. Facing it rather running away from it is the best way to deal with culture shock; since it is something you have to deal with every day if you are going to stay in the place for a while. To some people, it is like Chicken Feet from Hong Kong / China. You may not like it, or you may not want to see it; but it is something you will see every day, and maybe something you will love gradually.
So, whenever someone experience culture shock, I will just tell him or her: "oh come on, it is just chicken feet!"
Below is something, not culture shock necessarily, that you may want to know before or after you come to HK.
The content below is divided into 4 categories - Food, Daily life, Real Culture Shock and Things You Haven't Expected
There is no refill for the drinks you have paid
For Americans, and some Europeans as well, never try to ask for a refill of your coke or coffee in a local-style restaurant. In HK, what you pay for a drink is only for one serving. Only when you are in an "American" restaurant, like Dan Ryan, Ruby's Tuesday, Outback Australian etc., you may have unlimited refill for your drinks. It will be indicated in the menu as well.Do the math by yourself if you are Going Dutch
In 99% of the restaurants in HK / China, it is impossible to ask for separated bills for every one if you are going in a group. It is not a Chinese norm to pay separately so the restaurant is reluctant to do that. Group every one's share when you settle the bill.10% service charge
Many restaurants include an addition of 10% in the total amount known as service charge in the bill. It is not exactly tips because it never goes to the pocket of the waiters (If you want to tip the waiters, just give them directly). Foreigners always forget about the 10% service charge, and resulted in a fight between each other when they are confused who has not paid for his / her part (just kidding). Well the truth is, time is always wasted on repeated calculations and arguing. The real issue is so obvious but we just always neglect. So, if you go to a restaurant where 10% service charge will be charged, the total amount of money you will have to pay at the end of the day will be 110% of every thing together. Besides, it will be 'unfair' if people just divide the service charge equally between each other, but not according to the price of each item, if they care.Is it Hot water or Cold water?
If you ask for water (it is free in most of the restaurants here), make sure you know "what you are asking for". If you ask for hot water, there should be no problem. If you ask for cold water, they will give you water in room temperature or even higher when it is Winter (below 20'C / 70'F in HK standard). You have to say 'Ice' water if you want something chilling.Gecko, snake, and turtle
There are restaurants here you can try eating gecko, snake, chicken testicles and turtle, etc. but not cat and dog. They can be found in China, Korea and Vietnam. And in China, you can even get monkey's brain, scorpion, cockroach, rat, fox, centipede, spider, etc. Compare to all these cuisines, chicken feet is just nothing.No napkin provided
In traditional Chinese restaurant, you would not be provided with any napkin. However, they may give you napkin together if you ask them to give you folk and knife instead of chopsticks...I know it is not truth but it seems to implying that Chinese people don't clean their mouth after meal.Lazy Susan on a messy table
When eating in a group, Chinese people love having all the food on a table and let every one takes what they want at the same time. They seldom pass the dishes between each other. Instead they put every thing on a 'lazy Susan' - a rotatable round board almost the same size of the dining table, right in the middle. So, everyone just spins the board and take what they want when it is in front of them. Of course, you won't spin the board while it is being spun by another person. If it happens to you that you want to have the food in front of you while there are other people taking other food from the lazy Susan, you don't need to wait. Just take the food together at the same time.No Open Container Rule
Not like in the US, there is no open-container rule in HK. People can drink anywhere they want (but not in any occasion). You can only consume alcohol in bars and restaurants after you reach 18. (The legal age for buying cigarette is 18; and having sex is 16 btw) Note that there is no illegal age of drinking and smoking. But the parents or guardians of a child may be charged of negligence if their kids are found drinking or smoking / taking drugs)Daily Life
You don't get the whole world in your hands with your personal check, and sometimes credit card also
Personal check is not accepted in almost every where in HK, unless you are talking about a HK$ 10,000 or more transaction. Credit card is accepted every where in general, but not in small shops and restaurants.Too many salesperson
Wages for salesperson and waiters in HK is low so it is okay for their bosses to employ more than enough people working in their shop or restaurant. It is very common to see 5 people serving you together in a small shop.You have been watched!
Walking on the streets, eating in restaurants, and taking elevators back to your dorm room, you will see so many cameras pointing at you. It should not be a bad thing because you know where they are and they help to make HK somehow the safest place in the world. Frankly, this happens in every big cities in the world, it is just you can actually see the cameras in HK.People are always busy, and why?
HK people are always busy for something, working round the clock, rushing to here and there. But if you could ask them to stop and think about what they are doing (almost impossible though), they couldn't tell you why they are behaving like that. In a recent survey, fathers and their children in HK said they don't think their children need anything but their money. I can't believe it is true, and I don't think it is actually the case for themselves either. Anyway, this may explain why HK people are always busy. Running into the MTR even there are trains coming in every minute (They must have gone crazy if they were living in NYC or Paris where train only comes every 5 to 10 minutes), climbing on escalator when it is moving very fast already, and squeezing into MTR without any concern of other people. (Similar thing also happens when using the elevators / escalators, and passing through doors)Was it really a former British Colony?
HK was under the British rule for more than 150 years before the reunification with China in 1997. Everything here is bilingual, BUT, more than 50% of the Chinese here don't know any English at all.Too much courtesy
Chinese (and Japanese) are being known as being over courteous. They always insist in giving you gifts, treating you a dinner, and show too much concern about your good self. They are just being nice to you although it might be annoying sometimes. In shops and restaurants, the staff say thank you to you all the times.On the road
To some of you, the first thing you may notice when you come to HK is that people drive on the left side of the road. The steering wheel is on the right side of a car, and traffic comes from a different direction. So BE CAREFUL when you are crossing the road. Never let your preconception blinds you! Look at both sides of the road because traffic may come from either sides. AND REMEMBER, there is NO right of way for pedestrians here.Where is the Sun / Moon?
HK is experiencing the worst air pollution of the decade. HK is in the tropical region and in the past there were so many beautiful sunny days and visibility was high. Since China becomes the world's factory, air pollution has become very very serious in HK. Sky is always covered in smog and visibility is miserably low even in the country side like in the New Territories.A Desert-Like temperature difference
HK is very hot and humid but it is comfortable once you are indoor. However, shopping malls, classrooms, cinemas, they all have their air-conditioners turn on to maximum output so it will be freezing indoor any where but hot like hell outside. That explains why locals wear so many clothes even when it is Summer.The biggest mall in the world
If you ask a return foreigner how he would describe HK, the first thing he would think of is probably shopping. HK does not have the biggest mall in the world like China, but it sure has the most number of mall in the world. Every where, in every 5 minutes there are shops and restaurants. Totally, HK has about 90 train stations, and there are shops or malls right above almost every single one. You don't have to worry about where to buy the things you need, just jump on the train!The Sun never set in HK (Day Light Saving)
The Sun never set in HK. Shops and restaurants never closed here. And since 1976 they don't do day light saving. HK is in the time zone of GMT +8 and it is always like that throughout the year.The Real Culture Shock
No greeting in the morning
Chinese people, especially when meeting a foreigner, are very subtle. It is just their appearance actually, they are all friendly people. But when they meet a stranger, especially foreigner whom they may not know how to talk to; they will become so shy that they would just avoid making any encounter in order to prevent having any misunderstanding. Even though it is kinda rude to put a pair of deaf ears on their head when people talking to them, they think it would have been more impolite if they have said something wrong. "You can't hold the water back together once it is split" - it is a typical Chinese saying used to remind people to be careful when they speak. So, if you couldn't get a local saying Good Morning to you, or telling you where the MTR is, don't be sad. They are not rude, they are just frustrated and trying to be nice.Rule 101..NO, it is Rule 1001!
It maybe the educational system, or the Chinese way of thinking. Chinese people preferred to be told clearly what they could do and what they could not do. In school, they are taught in a way that everything comes from the books is correct and all you need to do is memorizing everything; and you will become a wise man and very successful in the future. At home, parents have the highest authority and they have the final say of everything. You have to obey everything they said and arguing with your parents is considered a very bad thing (The word Parents in Chinese actually means 'the leader of the family'; not father and mother). 'The circumstance has been changing nowadays, but it is how they are raised. So, in HK (China), you can see there are always so many rules every where. You just need to understand they are there only for making sure every one can enjoy, can be safe, and can experience the same thing again and again.You want a 4, 7, 8?
Talking about lucky and unlucky numbers. 4 is the worst in any sense because it sounds similar to the word 'dead' in Chinese (and Japanese). There is no 4th floor or 14th floor in many buildings here. So, AVOID it as much as you could. For e.g., never send 4 flowers to a Chinese girl! 7 is the next worst thing because it is a number for the deaths and evils. When someone dies, his soul will appear to his family for the last farewell on the 7th day after he died. Also if you want to treat the ghost or evil spirit a meal so you can stay away from their disturbance, you will have to prepare a meal with 7 courses. 9 is actually a good number because it means everlasting, but it is also considered improper to prepare a meal with 9 courses because only the gods and spirits deserve this kind of treatment. Also 7 and 9 sound similar to the words which mean 'idiot' in Cantonese.SCAM - Monks never wander on streets
Sometimes, you may find a guy dressing like a Buddhist monk on the street. He will come to you wishing you luck and asking for money because he has no food, no income; but he is poor because he is doing good for the sake of mankind. He will come to you every time because you are a foreigner. He thinks foreigners are usually generous but the most important thing is, foreigners don't know he is fake. It has been declared that real monks from the Buddhist temples in HK will never ask people for money on the streets. So, what you see is just some frauds with some brain.Mong Kok
People from Europe and America will be shocked when they go to Mong Kok. Although it looks almost the same any where in all developed Asian cities, Mong Kok in HK is sure the craziest place among them. Mong Kok is the most densely populated area in the world (130,000 people / sq meter). The place is filled with huge billboards (30ft x 20ft), neon signs, and sounds coming from every direction with Asian pop music, commercials, and street performers. Mong Kok is also a place where you can eat and shop 24/7. The Ladies' Market is a shoppers' paradise. The Sneakers Street is where you can find all the latest sneaker designs. The Fish Street, Bird Street, Electronics Street, Cell Phone Mall, Armament Street, Toy Street, every street has its specialization for shopping. Thai food, Vietnamese food, Chinese food, Japanese food, Korean food, Taiwanese food, Indian food, European food and American food all can be found in Mong Kok. However, you don't wanna try food from your own country when you come to Mong Kok. You will be tempted to try the many different kinds of street snack there. Fish ball, stinky tofu, shark fin soup, assorted noodle, chicken pie, fried cuttlefish, meat ball, just to name a few!Have I scared you enough? Just REMEMBER, you are going to a foreign country. Culture shock is something you should expect and you could not avoid. If you could embrace all the culture shock, you will find every thing is actually very funny! You will have an exciting experience which you will never forget. People will be so jealous of you, and your eyes will be so wide-opened that you will no longer afraid of facing any new challenge. On the other hand, you will become a very positive person and determine to solve any problem and difficulty ahead of you. Culture shock is something you should value and not escape from. It is out there every day. Unless you are covering yourself under your blanket and hiding from the society, you have to face it at any time. So, why not trying to understand every thing you see, you hear, you do every day? Once you understand the story behind, you will gonna love it. You will just think how silly you were in the past, and you will just tell yourself and the others "nah, no big deal, its just Chicken Feet!".
Things you might not have expected
Unable to contact home in the first few days
Yes, HK is a very modern city. Communication facilities are plenty and efficient. However, it still takes time to set up Internet and phone network when you move to a new place. So, it may happen you will not have any chance to contact home and tell the people there everything is okay in the first few days, or even weeks. Nevertheless, you can go to an Internet bar or coffee shops where you may find Internet connection. Still, you may let the people at your home to be prepared of the communication blackout and not to be too worried if they did not hear from you for a few days.
In the first few weeks or more, you may be experiencing the city every day and having good food. You will feel like you are having a long Summer or Spring break. It is normal and harmless, as long as you are exploring the meaning of life. But just remember, you are NOT coming for vacation. You are coming to experience life.
Most of the things in HK are cheap, not the cheapest but there are so many things you can buy here. Things in China are cheaper but there is not as many choices as in HK. So, you may go back home with far more stuff than when you come.
It is common for people from different countries to develop a relationship after they met each other in HK, although no one knows how long it would be lasting for.
On the other hand, it is also common for those who were in a relationship before they came to HK, and become single after a while. It could be a challenge for you and your other half because of the separation. You may need to prepare for whatever comes.
Interaction with Locals
As I have said in the beginning, you may find it difficult to experience Chinese culture in HK. You might have thought of making a few local friends which would be helpful in this context. However, if you are going to study in HK, it may be difficult again to make friends with local students. Things are quite different in a working environment since the locals there are more familiar with having a foreigner-colleague.
Most of them are shy / don't feel comfortable in speaking English; or they are busy with study and part-time job so you may not see them often even if they are your roomie. Apart from that, local boys may spend a lot of time playing computer games or anything indoor; and local girls may spend a lot time with their families or partners.
If your roomie is from HK, you probably would not see them in the weekends because they usually go home during that time. Local students in HK are not like those in other countries that they will travel to another region to go to college. Therefore, all the local students have their home in HK and it is common for them to go home in the weekends.
Of course, there are always some open, active and nice Chinese or HK students who are eager to be friend with you and be a good host. I just want to say, it is your choice to come to HK; the local students / people have no obligation to make you feel happy and warm. It is your dream and desire to understand a different culture since you have made up the biggest decision by buying the flight ticket already. Hence, why feel bad for some small obstruction instead of working harder to get what you are looking for? Be more positive, open, active and tolerant. Join a club, sports, get out of your room. People don't come and find you at your room when the door is closed.
Comfort is boring – the more you feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, confused, the more you will learn. Get on the MTR and get off at somewhere you can’t even pronounce its name. Explore the neighborhood there.
Don’t go to Pizza Hut - when you feel disconnected, connect yourself to something new. Eat something new every day, HK is a food paradise. Even if you are vegetarian, don't get upset when you don't have a choice. Try before you say no.
“When in Rome, do as the Romans”: Conform, you are not at home anymore! 入鄉隨俗 as the Chinese saying. There is no right or wrong. It is just different
Nevertheless, remember these few things about local people:
1. Often things are not directly spoken – read the context beneath the actual text / situations, tones and expressions. (they seldom say no to you. 'No' is a very impolite word in Chinese. So, think again when they say yes)
2. People are judged as groups, not individuals. So, you are representing not only yourself, but your family, your school, your hometown, your country and your entire culture.
3. As you may have stereotyped the Chinese, so do they in vice versa. Don't feel bad when they show too much interest (or few) on you. It is natural to become curious or conservative when people meeting with something new or unfamiliar to them. On the other hand, it is a great opportunity for you to introduce your 'real' culture and make new friends!
Too much lecturing. Let me just show you some videos I received from some international students in 2009, which basically tell you what it is like studying abroad in HK. Of course, if you have a better preparation, I am sure you can do even better. (courtesy of Ryan Walsh) More videos about studying aboard in HK can be found in About Me.
On 'My' First Day
Just some suggestions on things you may want to do on your first day / week / month:
Websites that should be on you Bookmark starting from now
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