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Lost in Hong Kong: Culture Shock at the City of Riches

Lost in Hong Kong; Culture Shock in the City of Riches; Richel Goes Places

I don’t think I experienced culture shock as much as ever than when my friends and I visited Hong Kong for 4D3N – we just got back yesterday! That’s saying something since I already spent a few months in some other Asian countries other than my home country, the Philippines. We pretty much got over the culture shock in the middle of the trip but it was a fun conversation we had during our first night in.

So, how did Hong Kong shocked us? Take a sit, grab some popcorn and let me count thy ways.

1. People stare. A lot and shamelessly.

I could use both hands and feet to count and still not be able to show you exactly how much people stared at us during the course of our trip. There were three experiences that stuck out to me the most.

One was when we were on the train on the way to Disneyland, my friends I were sitting at the same side of the train and there was a guy (around our age or a tad older) staring abashedly at us. We were all talking and laughing at each other, and I thought I was the only one who noticed the staring so I didn’t say anything but it turned out that my friends did too! He didn’t even look away when we stared right back at him. It was kind of creepy, to be honest. Glad he got off before we did!

Second was on the train back from Disneyland, there was this lady beside us and her daughter who were staring at Sydney and I’s eyes. It’s okay for them to look a few times since we were wearing violet contact lenses (visible color only if you’re looking close enough) but they were looking (and pointing) at our eyes the entire ten minute ride! Yikes!

Last one was when we were in Ngong Ping and we were walking towards the cable car ride back to the main island, there’s this guy who were staring at us as he was walking towards our direction and when he passed by us, he immediately took out his phone and took a photo of us. What the…

2. Time is gold. So run.

Life in Hong Kong seems to be set in x2 all the time! I feel like running just to catch up. You either have to walk really fast or be swallowed up in the crowd. People will push. People will ‘tsk’. People will make sure you know you’re in the way. Even escalators work in a fast pace! It’s kind of comical how my friends and I have to balance ourselves or hold onto the handrail so we won’t fall. Even rides at Ocean Park seems to be in a rush!

3. No time to hang-out after meals.

They have this unwritten ‘eat and go’ rule. People were literally up and gone in fifteen minutes or less. And news flash: you don’t have a choice either. Once your plate is cleared up of food, a crew will approach you and get your tray with no question. Pro here is that having tables is no problem at all.

PS. Don’t remove your plate from the trays. They don’t like that very much. Takes clearing the tables longer.

4. Servings are for 2. Most of the times.

Except for the times we ate at McDonald’s, I have never finished a complete meal in Hong Kong. Their servings are huge! I still mourn over my half-eaten HKD65 dinner on the first night. I have a huge appetite but I just can’t seem to finish a plate. I’m not sure where the people at Hong Kong put their meals in!

5. To each their own.

I guess this is because I was brought up in a culture where everyone lends a helping hand. But wow, it seems like people in HK couldn’t care less about you (unless they’re staring, lmao). You might be carrying a big ass luggage and is trying to get to the center of the bus but no one at the rear end is trying to help or even, I don’t know, try to move a bit to the side even if you ask nicely. It was a real struggle for us to try to hold on to our luggage and the bus pole, and to stop our luggage from rolling over other people’s toes since they won’t step back even just an inch. You might be carrying the same huge ass luggage up and down the stairs and everyone will try to overtake you and pretty much be in your way at the same time. It feels like a game of patintero. No surprise here: they will glare if your bag managed to touch any part of their body.

6. There will be language barriers.

I blame this culture shock on the fact that the Philippines is so colonialized that everyone is expected to speak English. When in Hong Kong and lost, it’s so hard to get answers out of locals since few only speak the language. Some restaurants also doesn’t offer the English name of the dishes. When all else fails, it seems we have to rely on fellow Filipinos or foreigners to help us out. The only English songs we heard during our entire stay were Taylor Swift, One Direction, and Justin Bieber songs.

The staff at Cosmic Guest House speaks fluent English though and kind enough to draw us maps before we leave so they deserve a shout-out in this part of my post!

7. Aggressive sellers and bargaining are the norms.

The sellers at the night markets were really aggressive – not in a physical sense. More like, if you turn around to leave, they will keep shouting lower prices and other deals. At one time, there’s this seller who keeps pushing their items onto our hands even if we say no. Just learn to firmly say no and leave. Bargaining at Hong Kong was really fun, though – it makes the deal you make at Divisoria look bad. Prices can go half (or even more) of the first price they offered you. We got shirts that go for around PHP70 each! Prices drop more if you’re buying as a group.

No longer related to the culture shock thing but I figure I’d put this experience in here as well. We were buying water on our first night in HK when there was two guys who were sort of hanging around the aisles in 7-Eleven where the water was. So we got two and were checking out the prices. It was only Sydney and I on that part (Yuna and Irish were on the other side of the store) and a huge black guy – who looks to be over 30! – decided it was okay to put his hand on Sydney’s shoulder first and asked her where she was from before doing the same to me!! We shrugged it off, paid for our water, and pulled our friends out of the store faster than you can imagine, but it was still the creepiest moment of our trip. Safe to say, we never returned to that 7-Eleven branch even if it was the nearest to our hostel!

Disclaimer: All opinions in this post is strictly my own and is based on the 4D3N stay I had at Hong Kong. This is not meant to offend anyone, merely state my experiences and observations while I was on the trip.

Have you been to Hong Kong?

xoxo, Richel V.

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38 Comments

  • Reply
    Tricia
    May 3, 2016 at 12:29 AM

    Haha! I live in Hong Kong and yes definitely agree with everything! After over ten years, I’ve gotten used to it but this again proves how no one is as hospitable as the Filipinos! People here only care for themselves and definitely have a time is money mentality! Always on the go, without a care about anyone or anything. Not that it’s necessarily such a “horrible” thing but it just goes to show how different cultures are!

    • Reply
      Richel V.
      May 3, 2016 at 12:31 PM

      This just instilled that I want to spend as much time in the PH as I can. Nothing beats PH hospitality so far, for me. Time is money, but a little friendliness goes a long way to! Hahaha.

  • Reply
    Shayne
    April 7, 2016 at 2:03 AM

    I’m just now catching up with this post! The English part is odd to me since Hong Kong was under the British up until 1997. I guess I never noticed? I got away with English while I was there for a short time, but had to put in some Chinese every now and then. I don’t speak Cantonese but can read and write simplified and traditional Chinese (characters are all the same, just different pronunciations), so I would literally write questions down if I had to! hahaha

    • Reply
      Richel V.
      April 7, 2016 at 9:25 AM

      In three instances, we’re still just walking towards a local before they mutter ‘No english’. Didn’t know Hong Kong was under the British. It’s odder that not many of them know the English language. I wished my Chinese friend came along – she would have been a great help to overcome the language barriers! Hahaha!

  • Reply
    E
    April 5, 2016 at 9:45 PM

    So true! They also seem not know to how to say “excuse” and “sorry” when they bumped into you.

    • Reply
      Richel V.
      April 6, 2016 at 9:28 AM

      Same thing with Singaporeans! I wonder if the other Asian countries are that rude.. Mm..

      • Reply
        E
        April 6, 2016 at 9:54 AM

        I’ve been to Indonesia and I noticed people there tend to apologize a lot. I’m also from the Philippines 🙂

        • Reply
          Richel V.
          April 6, 2016 at 9:59 AM

          I have to admit even fellow Filipinos are a bit rude. Sometimes I’m the one apologizing even if they’re the one who bumped into me! Haha!

  • Reply
    Medayu Bestari Praja
    March 14, 2016 at 10:38 AM

    I have never been in Hong Kong, and in fact I never go across the country before. What a pity of me rite? But well, I have a good time to read a lot about people’s travel journals and they enrich me sometimes I also wondering how amazing it feels rite? I wish I have a good time also.

    x Dayu | PR.JA

    • Reply
      Richel V.
      March 14, 2016 at 10:58 AM

      Where are you from, Dayu? It’s always fun for me to go a foreign country. Even experiencing culture shock is fun. I wish you can do some travelling yourself soon! 🙂

  • Reply
    Yshy
    March 7, 2016 at 8:39 PM

    I’ve also experienced having to “eat and go” in Tokyo! We Filipinos are indeed one of the most hospitable races in the world :>

    • Reply
      Richel V.
      March 7, 2016 at 8:52 PM

      Maybe it happens on all Asian countries except the Philippines??? Hahaha!

  • Reply
    Melai ツ (@melaidoodles)
    March 6, 2016 at 6:25 PM

    I was also surprised how people always seem on the run in Hong Kong when we went there. Their way of life is so much fast-paced than in Singapore! As for the staring, maybe those people were also tourists from China. They don’t really mean to be rude but are just amused with foreigners and young people traveling. Normally, locals or people who really live there are used to foreigners and won’t stare.

    • Reply
      Richel V.
      March 6, 2016 at 7:05 PM

      I was trying to recall if people at SG moved that fast as well but nope, it’s uniquely Hong Kong! Haha! I agree that some might be tourists but I think a good portion of them are also Hong Kongers. We usually get stares at the MTR!

  • Reply
    chasingbleu
    February 29, 2016 at 10:51 AM

    Wow. What’s with the staring, though? I don’t understand – are they being judgmental, or what? Haha. I usually can’t take people who stare at me. I wouldn’t really know what to do, given my personality can get aggressive when some people do that. 😛 I think HK is a nice place, I’d been wanting to visit there. But this post really gave me the heads up! Thanks a lot 🙂

    • Reply
      Richel V.
      February 29, 2016 at 11:15 AM

      I read from one of the blog posts at Aileen‘s blog that they stare at and judge everyone! Source is from a local. Haha! Not giving mind to the staring – which made me feel awkward as heck – the place is really nice! And I can’t wait to come back soon – even just to make the Disney princess in me feel elated again to visit Disneyland. <3

  • Reply
    Dicee
    February 28, 2016 at 9:51 PM

    I’ve been going to Hongkong almost half of my life. All of these are true especially the aggressive seller, and running. I love Hongkong, I got used to these stuff! I’m glad you posted this, I actually had a little laugh 😀

    • Reply
      Richel V.
      February 29, 2016 at 9:33 AM

      It wasn’t so funny to us on the first night when we were tired and hungry and people are staring and running us over! Hahaha! But we learned to adapt real quick and would love to visit again soon!

  • Reply
    Kaylee
    February 28, 2016 at 9:30 PM

    It sounds so busy! But Hong Kong is one of top cities to visit & it somehow made me want to actually experience all these 😀 This was such a helpful & honest tips xx

    Kaylee | JK’s Dawn

    • Reply
      Richel V.
      February 29, 2016 at 9:30 AM

      Hong Kong IS a busy country! Mornings are relatively quiet though. Do visit! I think we got used to the country’s quirks within a day or two. 🙂

  • Reply
    Hazel Asoy
    February 28, 2016 at 6:23 AM

    One of the main reasons why I’m afraid to visit other countries is due to the difference in culture and beliefs. But, I’m glad you shared your experiences in Hong Kong 🙂

    • Reply
      Richel V.
      February 29, 2016 at 9:31 AM

      Hope you get over that fear. It’s kind of fun to experience another’s different culture, for me. Kind of a learning experience and broadens my perspective. 🙂

  • Reply
    Sally.
    February 28, 2016 at 5:38 AM

    I love Hong Kong, my mums side lives there so I quite often go back to visit. I think I’m a little more used to the culture than you’d be but I can agree it would be a little alarming but they’re also thinking that the way we behave is a little strange too. 😛 I think generally I stay in the suburban areas rather than the touristy areas which might be a little different as well!

    Sally ~ DiagonSally

    • Reply
      Richel V.
      February 29, 2016 at 9:39 AM

      Jealous you got to visit a lot of times already! My family and I are planning to go next year – hopefully it’ll push through. I agree. If they visit our country, they’d be in a huge shock as well. Haha! We did visit some non-touristy area – when we got lost, lol – and it was a bit quiet around that side of the country. I don’t think I’ll ever got used to the staring tho but the rest are actually cute quirks.

  • Reply
    Karen
    February 26, 2016 at 4:14 PM

    This is our destination after our wedding. I don’t think that we were on vacation that time cos it’s so tiring!!! I mean wedding is tiring and then here comes Hong Kong. But why should I refuse a gift, right? Hahaha. I also got cultured shock with sharing of tables and chairs, like, we went to Tim Ho Wan for lunch and then the waiter guide us on a table that are already occupied by 2 people (1 table + 4 chairs).

    • Reply
      Richel V.
      February 26, 2016 at 5:32 PM

      We keep telling ourselves that our feet were probably cursing us out after a day out! Hahaha! I think it’s a requirement to be physically active when touring HK, lmao. Nevertheless, we had fun! Did you managed to visit Disneyland? My favorite place yet. <3

      • Reply
        Karen
        March 1, 2016 at 9:20 AM

        Yes, we did go to Disneyland! 🙂 But after visiting USS, I say I have move Disneyland to #2 spot. Hehehe.

        • Reply
          Richel V.
          March 1, 2016 at 9:50 AM

          I guess I’m more of a Disney girl since Disneyland moved up my top spot. Hahaha! <3

  • Reply
    Leta (@TheNerdyMeBlog)
    February 25, 2016 at 9:49 PM

    I would have got a really big culture shock as well! Staring is very rude in my opinion and I really hate when people do it. And the nerve of that guy to take a picture of you like that! I would have probably go very violent on him, haha. And that older guy, that should have been very creepy experience.
    I always wanted to visit Hong Kong and that place fascinate me in someway, but now I am not sure, haha. Here in Lithuania people usually eat and go also, rarely there are people who sit longer after a meal and chat, so that wouldn’t be shocking to me. But that staring, fast pace and huge meals would probably make me quite shocked. I’m not even talking about a lack of English speaking people.

    -Leta | The Nerdy Me

    • Reply
      Richel V.
      February 26, 2016 at 2:39 PM

      I wish I said something snappy to the older guy even just a simple, “Please don’t touch us”, but when experiencing it real time, my mind just went auto-pilot and said, “Leave it alone and run.” So I did. Better safe than sorry in a foreign land.

      Don’t let this post paint an ugly picture of Hong Kong! I actually love the country – with its efficient transportation system, bright lights, cheap finds, and AMAZING amusement parks! And I think you’ll get over the culture shock within your second/third day in the country like did. In the middle my friends and I were already joking to each other, “Did you expect anything else? Hurry up!” It was really fun! And yes, we sometimes share meal because of huge portions + we got to save. Hope you can visit the place soon so you can get to experience it first hand, haha!

  • Reply
    Louise Ramos
    February 25, 2016 at 7:14 PM

    Haha, these are so true. Hong Kong-ers like to stare, and I saw this in another blog post somewhere too. But I actually like the fast-paced life (or mabilis lang din talaga akong maglakad that friends even reprimand me for that )
    Can’t wait for your photos. I just love HK! It’s like a second home to me na because a family friend lives there so I often go, nagpapakakunwari-Chinese. Haha. But I do wish they could speak more English.
    Caffeine Rush

    • Reply
      Richel V.
      February 26, 2016 at 2:33 PM

      I don’t mind the fast paced life. Ayoko lang nung talagang binubunggo ka tapos madami ka pang dala. HAHAHA.

      Despite all of the ‘shocking’ experiences I had, I loved HK, as well! Can’t wait to come back next year! Sana di na maligaw. Ang struggle talaga na unti lang nageenglish. =))

  • Reply
    Clarisse
    February 25, 2016 at 1:03 PM

    OMG I remember those escalators, parang roller coaster! =))) But I love that Hong Kongers follow escalator etiquette, as well as street etiquette. I think that’s why we got so many dirty looks din during out time there, because we were the only ones talking on the MTR and staying on the left side of the escalator! 🙂

    • Reply
      Richel V.
      February 25, 2016 at 1:24 PM

      Ang tataas pa naman nung ibang escalators. Scary lang. Hahaha!

      Even when we’re not talking, they’re staring. I don’t know why, lol. 🙁 We are guilty of the not staying on the left side. Sanay na sa keep right ng Pinas! =)))

  • Reply
    Mira
    February 25, 2016 at 4:55 AM

    Hong Kong sounds like a crazy place! I can understand that you had a culture shock – I would have had one too, your experiences sound a bit scary. I hope you still had a good time though. 🙂 xx

    113-things-to-say.blogspot.com

    • Reply
      Richel V.
      February 25, 2016 at 9:47 AM

      It IS crazy! We had a great time – we just laughed the culture shock away. Hahaha! And frankly, now that we’re back in Manila, I think everyone is moving too slow, lol.

  • Reply
    Nati (@Artdicted2)
    February 25, 2016 at 12:23 AM

    Yes, you have to run in Hong Kong XD Still love this city
    Nati xx
    http://www.simplyartdicted.com

    • Reply
      Richel V.
      February 25, 2016 at 9:45 AM

      We didn’t realize we would be doing a lot of cardio when we booked this trip! Hahaha!

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