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

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 and popular real slot machines, 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 strugglefor 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. Not many people can speak English.

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.