Hong Kong is well known for being a diverse region with global connections to many affluent foreign cities. It has become a popular location for tourists because of its unique food, shopping malls, and sightseeing opportunities. With so much to see and so many sights to take it, it’s easy to forget to notice and appreciate the little quirks about Hong Kong that make it a unique spot. Check out these 10 interesting facts about Hong Kong that you may not have known about!
It becomes evident that Hong Kong is densely populated and bustling with life when we look at the number of tall buildings in the city. This lively city has 6,604 buildings that are considered high-rises. In one of the most densely populated cities in the world, skyscrapers are necessary to support the ever-growing population. In fact, Hong Kong is the city with the largest number of skyscrapers (defined as buildings taller than 100 meters) in the world. With over 1,300 buildings that are over 100 meters, the numbers of skyscrapers in Hong Kong nearly doubles the number in New York, a city known for its skyscrapers. These skyscrapers have become popular sightseeing locations for tourists, as they can get a nice view of the city. The tallest multi-story building in Hong Kong, the International Commerce Centre (ICC) reaches a height of 484 meters and has 118 floors and has become a popular destination for tourists.
Hong Kong is officially known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Hong Kong became a British colony after the First Opium War, and was under British control until 1984, when the Sino-British Joint Declaration placed Hong Kong under the rule of the People’s Republic of China. Ruled under the principle of one country, two systems, Hong Kong has control in all areas except for defense and foreign affairs for 50 years after the transfer of power. For this reason, Hong Kong maintains its capitalist economic system even though they are officially under the rule of China, a communist state. The legal system in Hong Kong is unaffected by the laws of the legal system in China. Hong Kong follows the English Common Law tradition that was established under British rule. As a result, Hong Kong seems to serve as the product of blending British and Chinese influence.
3) Efficient Public Transportation
The Mass Transit Railway Corporation, better known as the MTR, is the leading railway transportation system in Hong Kong and Mainland China. The MTR has services that make riding the subway incredibly convenient. Stations have public computers, glass doors blocking tracks, touch-and-go payment (the Octopus Card, which will be explained in detail later), and many other services for convenience . Using the subway as a means of transportation is a common option for people living in Hong Kong, as traffic makes it very difficult to travel by car. For this reason, using public transportation is a faster means of transportation than traveling by car in most cases. In fact, only 6 of every 100 cars in Hong Kong are used for personal use. In contrast to the U.S., where approximately 70 of every 100 cars are used for personal purposes, public transportation is more common in Hong Kong.
4) Hong Kong Flag
The Hong Kong flag, a white flower on a red background, was first adopted in 1990. The red background symbolizes celebration and is also present in the National People’s Republic of China flag. The red background implies the close ties between China and Hong Kong, demonstrating that Hong Kong is under the rule of China. The white flower,a “Bauhinia blakeana” is a type of orchid that is sometimes called the Hong Kong Orchid and was named after the British governor of Hong Kong, Sir Henry Blake. The flower also serves as a symbol of harmony, and thus, implies a harmonious relationship between Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China. On each petal of the flower, there is a red star, which serves as a symbol of communism and socialism. The flag was declared to be the national flag on July 1, 1997, when Hong Kong became under Chinese rule.
In Chinese culture, certain numbers are considered to be auspicious or inauspicious. This is reflected in Hong Kong society in numerous ways and this superstitious concept is demonstrated in public areas. Numbers are considered to be lucky or unlucky based on its Chinese or Cantonese pronunciation. Numbers that sound similar to words that have positive meanings are considered lucky, whereas numbers that sound similar to words with negative meanings are considered to be unlucky. In Hong Kong, some residential buildings eliminate floors that have the number “4” present. This also affects consumer culture, as electronic phones, like the Nokia, do not have a series starting with the number “4”. This is because the number “4” is considered an inauspicious number in Chinese culture since it sounds similar to the Chinese word for death. Additionally, most buildings in Hong Kong do not have a 13th floor, since that number is considered unlucky as well. This clearly illustrates the effects of Hong Kong’s superstitious culture.
6) Feng Shui in Hong Kong
In addition to being particularly sensitive about numbers, people living in Hong Kong pay very close attention to feng shui, an ancient method of bringing good luck . Literally wind and water in Cantonese, feng shui affects many aspects of life in Hong Kong, from choosing the location of a business to picking a date for a marriage. In fact, Hong Kong itself is noted to naturally possess exceptional feng shui due to its ideal location. Everything from the mountain ranges in Kowloon to the water of Victoria Harbor is said to bring good luck to Hong Kong, making it an ideal location for business ventures.
There are two official languages of Hong Kong, Chinese (Spoken Cantonese) and English. Cantonese speakers comprise of 89.5% of the population in Hong Kong, making it the most commonly spoken language in the area. A common misconception about Hong Kong is that its native language is Mandarin Chinese. A dialect of Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese is far more popular in Hong Kong and has many characteristics that make it unlike Mandarin Chinese. Cantonese is mainly an oral language and is constantly evolving due to popular culture and the creation of slang. Additionally, it has six different tones as opposed to Mandarin Chinese’s four tones. So although Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese share the same written language, Cantonese is full of non-standard usage and slang, making it a colloquial language. Additionally, in Hong Kong, most written signs are in the form of traditional characters as opposed to Mainland China, which uses simplified characters.
8) The Name
In Cantonese, “Hong Kong” is literally translated as “fragrant harbor”. Known for its naturally deep harbor and densely populated city, the name “fragrant harbor” was originally a reference to Hong Kong’s influence in the East Asian trade network. Nowadays, however, the name “fragrant harbor” seems to be contradictory to the condition that the harbor is in. Victoria Harbor, an influential harbor in Hong Kong, was previously known to have pure waters and abundant wildlife. Now, the waters are murky and wildlife is almost non-existent as a result of human activity. Point source pollution and hydrocarbon pollution is the main source of damage to the environment of the harbor. This has resulted in the implementation of anti-commercial fishing laws, which were created in response to the fear of contaminated fish. Because of excess sewage in harbor waters, Victoria Harbor has a lingering foul odor, making Hong Kong contradictory to its name.
9) The Idea of “Face”
In Cantonese, the word “face” is synonymous with a person’s reputation and dignity. Face is treated like an intangible quality that can be gained or lost based on a person’s actions. Interactions between people can affect someone’s face. For example, genuinely complimenting another person and showing them respect would give them face (dignity). In contrast, insulting someone publicly or reprimanding someone can result in the loss of a person’s face. In Hong Kong, the concept of face is present in everyday society and in the workplace as well. For this reason, businesses also uphold the concept of face, which makes it a quality that does not necessarily have to be held by a single individual. This idea is carried out in the form of business transactions, where both parties would have to make sure that they are giving the other party face.
10) Tea Consumption and Culture
Hong Kong is known for their unique method of brewing milk tea. Instead of using the typical sugar and milk, Cantonese tea brewers use condensed or evaporated milk to give the milk tea a rich and full flavor. Additionally, teashops and restaurants are very particular about their choice of black tea leaves. Authentic teashops brew their milk teas with a blend of different black tea leaves, using Ceylon tea as a main component. In order to smoothly blend tea, a sackcloth bag is used to filter tea leaves. For this reason, some people refer to Hong Kong style milk tea as “pantyhose milk tea” and “silk stocking milk tea”, a name derived from the similarity that the sackcloth has to a woman’s silk stockings. For the Cantonese, a good proper cup of milk tea is smooth, creamy, and full-bodied. A common way to test this is to observe the milk tea after taking the first sip. If a ring of white froth appears inside the lip of the cup, then there is a proper concentration of butterfat in the drink.