10 things you need to know about Hong Kong Flickr: Jonathan Kos-Read

10 things you need to know about Hong Kong

An insider's guide to the city of old and new.

With a British colonial past and a Chinese identity, the way of life in Hong Kong is full of interesting contrasts. As the locals would admit, it does unfortunately revolve around one commodity more than others – cold hard cash. Whether among the grassroots or the tycoons, money is constantly on the tip of the tongues of the Hongkongers, who watch the economy, local and global, very closely. The culture is very competitive, from kindergartens where children are urged by their parents to get a head start on their PhDs, to workplaces where everyone looks out for opportunities and career development. It is not difficult to understand why the Hong Kongnese are so competitive. With over seven million people living in a tiny city that has few natural resources, the city’s inhabitants strive to stand out from the crowd in every possible way.

While this might sound excessive, the Hongkongers also know how to let their down. They are some of the most enthusiastic travellers you will ever meet. They love cuisine, fashion and have their finger on the pulse of anything they are interested in. Most visitors will find Hong Kong extremely efficient and its people knowledgeable about foreign cultures. Their logical and organised way of working also make them wonderful business partners and colleagues.

1. Food

Physically, the Hongkonger's compact build belies their passion for food. They eat and drink with great gusto, and the cuisine offered in Hong Kong is as Chinese as it is international.

Related: Hong Kong's top eats

Hong Kong top eats

2. Go shopping

In addition to its myriad of high-class shopping malls, Hong Kong is home to some of the most intimate and interesting shopping experiences. Many small independent boutiques who offer a high level of personal service and elusive quality.

Related: Hong Kong's secret luxury boutiques

3. Take to the sea

With over 260 islands, Hong Kong has many marinas and they are all privately run, catering to the city's passion for boat charter, sailing and yachting. In addition to using boats as means for transportation, boating can also act as a form of entertainment. Aqua Luna is one of the city's last remaining red sail junk boats. In Cantonese, it is named after the infamous pirate Cheung Po Tsai who used to terrorise Hong Kong during its earliest colonial days.

Related: Set sail on Hong Kong's luxury Chines junk boats

Junk boat in Hong Kong

4. Pragmaticism

Hong Kong is defined by its efficiency and practicality. Accommodating for both locals and visitors, in this metropolis one would not be surprised to stumble across raincoats and umbrellas available at McDonalds during a torrential downpour, shawls and blankets in chilly movie theatres, automatic taxi doors, and air conditioning just about everywhere.  

5. Get out of the city

To escape the stress of Hong Kong’s intimidating metropolitan vibe, venture outside the city for a day trip to enjoy gorgeous views of its skyline. Unlike many urban travel destination, Hong Kong's concrete jungle is surrounded by coastlines and natural beauty. The small peninsula of Stanley specifically stands out as a day trip among the rest.

Related: A day out in Stanley, Hong Kong

Stanley, Hong Kong

6. Don’t go for a stroll

Nine months of the year, visitors often find it difficult to find their way around the labyrinthine streets while coping with the warm and extremely humid climate. If all else fails, remember where the Victoria Harbour is, which immediately gives you an idea where you are on the island's northern shore on the island, or the tip of the peninsula.

Unfortunately, most Hongkongers will not stop to help visitors with directions, but you can always ask doormen, security guards or look for an information desk if you are inside a skyscraper. Alternatively, flag down a taxi and let the driver take you where you need to go.

7. Dim Sum

‘Yum Cha’ meaning ‘tea tasting’ is an old tradition that started in rural teahouses along the roadside in China. It became a way to socialise and relax for farmers as well as travellers. Eventually they added light snacks to the menu, which were shared amongst diners.The ritual of dim sum became the popular custom that it is today in Guangdong, a southern province in China. What began as a simple Chinese snack has since then evolved over thousands of years throughout the world. Most common and diverse in Hong Kong, it is usually served from 5 a.m. until mid-afternoon, and is popular as a take-out option but more so as a social dining experience to be shared with friends and family.

Literally meaning ‘to touch the heart,’ dim sum carries this virtue throughout the entire process. From preparation, where chefs take great care due to the intricacy of each dish, to the part where everyone eats! No matter where you are in Hong Kong you will see how much both locals and tourists truly enjoy this cultural practice.

Dim Sum at the Grand Hyatt

8. Pamper yourself

Despite its stressful and pulsing energy, Hong Kong is home to some of the most luxurious and relaxing spas worldwide. Spas catered to both men and women offer some of the most unique treatments and massages from around the globe. There is no better time to enjoy some serious tender loving care than after a long day of shopping and shuffling through Hong Kong’s busy streets.

Related: Hong Kong's top spas

Plateau spa, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong

9. Drink

From tea to a night-cap, Hong Kong’s drinking culture is all about socialising. Whether its traditional morning tea time with family or a romantic evening at one of Hong Kong’s sophisticated cocktail bars paired with artisan tapas you won’t be short of drinking options in this 24 hour city.

10. Look up

From skyscrapers to historic landmarks, two extremes of architectural styles exist side by side in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s modern, shiny and towering high rises juxtapose the city’s historic Chinese buildings. Ten of Hong Kong's oldest landmarks, which all happen to be located in the Central Western district, exude a distinctive style from another era.

Related: See centennial architecture in Hong Kong

Museum of Medical Sciences, Hong Kong