Asia

Hong Kong: Asia’s World City

HKSAR Day celebrations at Hong Kong Stadium | Photo credit: Tourism Hong Kong

This former British imperial enclave has undergone a sustained period of reflection and change since the hand-over from British colonial to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

On 1 July 1997, Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of China in an arrangement lasting 50 years. Under the ‘one country, two systems’ policy, Hong Kong maintains its own political, social and economic systems. English remains an official language and Hong Kong’s border with China still exists.

 Hong Kong was part of China before coming under British administration as a result of the 19th-century Opium Wars. When peace terms were drawn up in 1841, Hong Kong Island was ceded to Britain. It remained under British control (apart from a four-year period under Japanese occupation during WWII) until the 1997 handover. 

Much has changed since 1841 when then Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston described Hong Kong as ‘nothing but a barren island without a house upon it’. Hong Kong continues to be one of the world’s major business centres and a popular tourist destination.

Hong Kong perches on the edge of mainland China occupying an anomalous position as a territory straddling two worlds. Past and present fuse to create a capitalist utopia embedded within the world’s largest Communist country. The city offers visitors a dense concentration of shops and shopping malls with a cross-pollinated cosmopolitan culture that embraces Nepalese and British cuisines with equal enthusiasm. It is an ideal gateway for travellers to Southeast Asia and China, providing a smooth transition from west to east.

As one of the key economies of the Pacific Rim, Hong Kong Island showcases a gleaming landscape of skyscrapers and boasts a highly developed transport infrastructure that makes moving around a dream.

Hong Kong consists of four sections: Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, the New Territories and the Outlying Islands. Kowloon and the New Territories form part of the Chinese mainland to the north of Victoria Harbour. Hong Kong Island, containing the central business hub, lies on the southern side of the harbour facing Kowloon, and is an eclectic mix of modern skyscrapers, colonial buildings and traditional temples. The Outlying Islands comprise a composite of 234 islands. Hong Kong Island itself is the core of the old imperial possession, and Kowloon, just across the harbour is the other half of the main conurbation.

In the proverbial scale of Cantonese values, money comes first. And Hong Kong still has plenty of that. Hong Kong has a more determined sense of its separate identity than ever before, and continues to be a city of commerce, whose dedication to fast money has never been greater. The city offers a warp-speed ‘shop till you drop’ lifestyle combined with enclaves of tradition. 

However, its economic future lies, undoubtedly, in aligning itself closely with the Pan-Pearl River Delta cities, all of which are working together to create an economic power zone in southern China, Hong Kong and Macau. 

Away from the business of making money, and its traditional fine dining, great shopping and world-class hotels, Hong Kong has its visually stunning natural beauties in the shape of looming mountains, secluded islets, white beaches, hiking trails and island landscapes. 

The Special Administrative Region (SAR) branded Hong Kong as ‘Asia’s World City’. Visitors can judge how true that is but, unquestionably, Hong Kong remains … Hong Kong.

Did You Know?

  • The English-language name Hong Kong is an approximate phonetic rendering of the Hakka or Cantonese name “香港”, meaning fragrant harbour or incense harbour.
  • Kowloon, one of Hong Kong’s mainland regions, means Nine Dragons.
  • Residents of Hong Kong are sometimes referred to as Hongkongers.
  • One of the more noticeable contradictions is Hong Kong’s balancing of a modernised way of life with traditional superstitious Chinese practises. Concepts like Fung shui are taken very seriously, with expensive construction projects often hiring expert consultants, and are often believed to make or break a business. Other objects like bagua mirrors are still regularly used to deflect evil spirits, and buildings often lack any floor number that has a 4 in it, due to its similarity to the word for “die” in the Chinese language.
  • The emblem for the reunification of Hong Kong with China is Sousa Chinensis
(the Chinese White Dolphin) which in fact is pink.
  • Hong Kong is very hilly and there are outdoor escalators in the Central district of the Island.
The Central-Mid-levels escalator is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world.
  • The daily English newspaper in Hong Kong is The Standard

How to Get Here

Hong Kong harbor and Kowloon | Photo credit: Herry Lawford

Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) Hong Kong’s airport is located approximately 45 km from central Hong Kong.

It is the world’s fifth busiest passenger airport, with an average of 750 aircraft departing or arriving each day. The expanse and quality of shopping, dining and relaxation facilities at Chep Lap Kok are a real eye-opener for any first-time visitor. The new SkyPlaza serves as a focal point for air, sea and surface traffic and forms part of the larger SkyCity development, including the AsiaWorld-Expo exhibition centre and concert venue, a hotel, golf course and cross-boundary ferry terminal.

The (new) airport , which opened in 1998, is on Lantau Island is linked to the mainland by the Tsing Ma Bridge, one of the world’s longest suspension bridges. When the new bridge was opened people were crazy about going to see it and Lantau Island. One Sunday there were 30,000 people going to the island.

Hong Kong International Airport has a suite of facilities appropriate to its size and importance. There are almost 120 immigration desks for arriving passengers and just under 100 for departing passengers, operated by Hong Kong’s Immigration Department. Estimated baggage reclaim time is as low as 10 minutes. The Hong Kong SkyMart shopping centre has over 160 shops, including 40 food and beverage outlets. Three information centres provide extensive services, including hotel reservation and touch-screen passenger information kiosks. Currency Exchange Bureaux are open daily and car hire is available at the Ground Transport Centre.

Rail, bus and taxi links from the airport to central Hong Kong leave from the Ground Transportation Centre. The easiest connection is via the high-speed MTR Airport Express train which operates daily between 0550-0048 hrs and leaves every 12 minutes, taking passengers from the airport to central Hong Kong in just 24 minutes. The MTR stops enroute at Tsing Yi and Kowloon stations. There is a combined Airport Express Tourist Octopus three-day Hong Kong transport pass available, which allows for a single journey into Hong Kong, plus three days of unlimited travel on the MTR. Passengers can also take advantage of free shuttle buses linking MTR’s Hong Kong and Kowloon stations with major hotels; there is also a free check-in service at both stations for up to a day before departure. 

By bus, the quickest way to central Hong Kong is on the Airbus and City Flyer airport bus, which departs every 15 minutes (Travel time 1 hour).

Taxis to Hong Kong are readily available. Red taxis serve Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, green taxis serve the New Territories and blue taxis serve Lantau Island (Travel time to Hong Kong is 45 minutes).

Turbojet provides direct ferry services from Chep Lap Kok Airport to and from Macau daily 0945-2200 hrs and takes 45 minutes.

Hong Kong Dollar

When exchanging money in Hong Kong, you’ll get the best rate at banks. It is often best to exchange as few dollars as is practical. Exchange rates can vary among banks, so it may pay to check around if you’re exchanging a large amount. Most banks also charge commission. Others many not charge commission but have lower rates. Most charge a commission on traveler’s checks but the exchange rate is usually better for traveler’s checks than cash. Hotels give a slightly less favourable exchange rate but it’s convenient. Currency exchange bureaus can be found around the city, but should be avoided. If you exchange money at Hong Kong International Airport, change only what you need as exchange rates are lower than at banks in town.

The easiest and often least expensive way to get local currency is from an ATM. There are ATMs throughout Hong Kong. Be sure you know your 4-digit PIN and daily withdrawal limit before you depart. For locations of ATMs you can visit these VISA and MasterCard Web sites.

Credit cards are a safe way to carry money, provide a convenient record of all your expenses, and generally offer relatively good exchange rates. You can withdraw cash advances using your credit cards at banks or ATMs, but keep in mind that you’ll pay interest for cash advances. Also, many banks may assess a 1- 3 percent transaction fee on charges you incur abroad. All major hotels and better shops and restaurants accept credit cards. If you do pay with a credit card, check to make sure that “HK” appears before the dollar sign given for the total amount.

Traveler’s checks can be readily exchanged for Hong Kong dollars at banks, hotels and currency exchange offices.

The Hong Kong Dollar is also inter-changeable for the Chinese “Renminbi” (or the People’s money).

Note You can possibly make use of an Octopus Card, which is an electronic fare card that is accepted by almost all public transport, and at many restaurants and stores. It’s easy and convenient to use, saves time and eliminates need for small change. You can add money to it when you need to, and any unspent value in On-Loan Octopus is refundable along with the HK$50 deposit (minus HK$7 handling fee for cards returned within three months).

What will the seasonal weather be like?

The climate in Hong Kong is sub-tropical, with hot humid summers and cool dry winters.

The mild autumn months, in October and November, are the most favourable for visiting the city.
In the height of summer humidity is high and temperatures hover in the thirties Celsius. The winter months of January and February are generally wet and cold.
Monsoon winds blow in from the north between September and March, and from the south between April and August.

Getting Around

Hong Kong has a highly developed transportation network, encompassing both public and private transport. Over 90 percent of

daily travel is on public transport, making it the highest percentage in the world. The Octopus Smart Card can be used to pay for fares on almost all railways, buses and ferries, and also for car parks and parking meters.

Hong Kong is geographically compact and boasts one of the world’s most efficient, safe, affordable and frequent public transport systems. Whether by taxi, ferry, rail, bus or tram, you can get around easily and catch wonderful glimpses of the city along the way.
MTR is the subway and train system. It’s the most convenient way of navigating in Hong Kong. The MTR reaches many parts of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.

The second most popular transportation experience is the Peak Tram, a cog-wheel railway departing from its own station on Garden Road. Since 1888, this funicular railway has been carrying local residents and breathless visitors to the top of the Peak for the best view in town. There are also 162 double-decker trams rambling noisily but regularly along the north shore of Hong Kong Island only.

Bus routes, with double-decker and single-level buses, traverse almost all of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. Fares are low and are based on distance travelled. Exact change is required. Octopus cards are accepted.

There are three, colour-coded taxi zones in Hong Kong: Hong Kong Island (Red taxis), New Territories (Green), and Lantau Island(Blue). All taxis are air-conditioned and metered. Although some drivers understand English, it is advisable to get someone to write down your intended destination in Chinese, and/or ask someone to tell the driver in Cantonese before you go.

As well, there are a number of ferry services that operate between islands. The Star Ferry’s cross harbour trip between Kowloon and HK Central is a quick 8 minute and inexpensive ride and provides a great views of the harbour and both Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. For connection to the surrounding islands, outlying area, and points up into the Pearl River Delta, Hong Kong’s ferries are usually faster and sometimes cheaper than buses or trams.

What not to miss …

Mask Dancers on Parade in Hong Kong | Photo credit: Laszlo Ilyes

So now you are in Hong Kong … What next!? The most prudent and beneficial method of seeing what you would like to see, and discovering many other sites you may not be aware of, is to plan in advance. You will want to make the most efficient use of time while you explore this most fascinating, and sometimes overwhelming city. Hong Kong can be one of the most engaging and unexpectedly beautiful urban spectacles on earth. So here’s a variety of ideas …

Perhaps, in order to get your bearings, have a look at Hong Kong – from on high. View Hong Kong from Victoria Peak. The futuristic, seven-storey Peak Tower is reached by the Peak Tram that rises 386m up the mountainside. Much of the pleasure derived from a trip to Victoria Peak lies in the journey to its summit. The funicular railway or peak tram has steadily made its way up the mountain since 1888. Or, you can visit the impressive 78-storey Central Plaza. Visitors can view the city from the Sky Lobby on its 46th floor. After 6:00 PM each day, neon rooftop lights change colour every hour to denote the time.

Another popular way to see and feel Hong Kong is to experience the buzz of city life by riding the 800m long central-mid-levels escalator (the world’s longest covered outdoor escalator) which transports tens of thousands of people each day and has created its own escalator culture of cafes and restaurants. And then you can mingle with the crowds at Mong Kok, thought to be the world’s most densely populated urban area. Exotic fish and amphibians are sold at the Goldfish Market, and nearby is the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, where you can see intricate bamboo birdcages and songbirds can be purchased. Rearing caged songbirds is a time-honoured Chinese pursuit and the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden is Hong Kong’s shrine to this obsession. There are about 70 stalls, each with its own chorus, with ornate cages and cage furniture providing added interest. The birds here are pampered and cosseted, even fed honey nectar to sweeten their songs. Just north of the Bird Garden, there is also a fine flower market and a goldfish market.

And after familiarizing yourself with the city, you are now probably ready to see the sites …

You can observe glimpses of Hong Kong’s colonial past at Government House, the residence of 25 British governors from 1855 until Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997. Other vestiges of Hong Kong’s British history can be seen in St John’s Cathedral, thought to be the oldest Christian church in the Far East.

Some 200 years ago, Hong Kong’s Aberdeen district was a haven for pirates. Located on the southern shore of Hong Kong Island, Aberdeen has become a popular destination where visitors can experience the traditional lifestyle of boat dwellers and sample fresh seafood. Aberdeen is a lively marina busy with junks, sampans, water taxis (kai do), cruisers and yachts. You can take a tour onboard one of the many sampans.

See the country’s oldest Chinese temple, Man Mo Temple on Hong Kong Island, which honours the gods of literature (Man) and war (Mo). The smell of incense still pervades this temple. For a more spiritual retreat, visit either the Chi Lin Nunnery, a spectacular Tang Dynasty-style complex, or Wong Tai Sin Temple. This grand Taoist temple is one of the most frequently visited temples in Hong Kong. It is dedicated to Wong Tai Sin, a legendary hermit who reputedly had healing powers and could foretell the future. Also, try and visit Hong Kong’s only historic pagoda, the Tsui Shing Lau Pagoda.

Also try and visit the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (which actually houses around 13,000 small Buddha statues).

A visit to Hong Kong would not be complete without riding the famous Star Ferry to Kowloon from Central. While you are near the Star Ferry Pier on the Kowloon side, watch for the Clock Tower, which is the only remaining part of the old terminus for the Kowloon-Canton Railway line. Built in 1915, the tower made it into the 21st century thanks to the Heritage Society in Hong Kong, which put up a brave fight to save it as one of the few original landmarks of Tsim Sha Tsui. The promenade in front of the Clock Tower is one of the best places to watch the daily 8 PM light show on Hong Kong Island at dusk and snap a perfect postcard shot of the city’s skyline. Or, take a morning harbour cruise and watch the Noon Day Gun that has fired at midday since the 1840s at Causeway Bay.

Statue Square Previously not a feature on traditional Hong Kong tourist itineraries, Statue Square is now a must-see, on account of its dazzling ensemble of modernist architecture. The headquarters building of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) forms the south side of the square and just to the east of it is I M Pei’s Bank of China Tower.

Museums

Black clay teapot at the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware| Photo credit: Flickr user istolethetv

Note The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) offers a Museum Weekly Pass for that allows visitors unlimited access to these seven major museums: Museum of History, Heritage Museum, Museum of Coastal Defence, Museum of Art, Science Museum, Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum and the Space Museum. The pass is available at participating museums and at the HKTB Visitor Information Centers.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum The exhibits at this popular museum document the life and times of the man widely considered the father of modern China. Hong Kong takes pride in his local-son status and the fact that he was educated here. The museum includes audiovisual programs as well as artefacts of his life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Hong Kong Museum of History provides visitors an historical overview of the city, focusing on pirates, wars, economic growth and hardships. It also has an excellent collection of local photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Lei Cheng Uk Branch Museum centers on a Han Dynasty tomb dating back some 2,000 years; it’s the oldest historical monument in Hong Kong. It also displays artefacts found in the tomb and presents exhibits on the life and culture of the Han Dynasty.

If you have an interest in tea, visit the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, which features a permanent collection of Chinese tea-drinking ware displayed in a magnificent 1846 mansion. The mansion was originally home to commanders of the British armed forces and is now Hong Kong’s oldest surviving colonial building.

Arts

The Hong Kong Arts Centre is a showcase for contemporary art, with major international and local exhibitions of paintings, photography, crafts and design staged regularly.

Hong Kong Heritage Museum exhibits a look into the arts and cultural offerings of Hong Kong, with 12 galleries built around the traditional Chinese open courtyard. Displays range from Chinese art to the world of comics to Chinese opera.

Hong Kong Museum of Art This museum, located in the Hong Kong Cultural Center, contains more than 12,500 artworks from Chinese antiques to contemporary works by local artists. The gallery also regularly features traveling exhibitions of Western art from top museum collections around the world, and exhibits the Xubaizhai collection of Chinese painting and calligraphy.

For the kids …

Although you may have been to Disney FL and CA, it can be an interesting experience visiting a Disneyland in another world. And of course, if you are with the kids, it’s like a day off to just ‘play’.

The Ocean Park and Middle Kingdom is a theme park spread over two parts, connected to each other by a cable car. A spectacular aquarium, reputed to be the largest in world, is complemented by a funfair containing a roller coaster, space wheel, octopus and swinging ship amongst its rides. Entrance fee also includes a visit to the ancient Chinese Middle Kingdom.

About Shopping

Good luck! The English translation of Hong Kong may as well be “Shop-ing”

If Hong Kong is the ‘City of Life’, then life is a mall. Some speculate that Hong Kongers need to shop to escape their cramped dwellings. Others simply ascribe the shopping mania to disposable income, greed and – increasingly, hoards of affluent shopaholic visitors from mainland China. The prime shopping areas are bedlam at weekends and merely chaotic during the rest of the week. 

Once famous for bargain electronics and imitation brand-names, Hong Kong is no longer as cheap as it once was and prices are now closer to European or American averages. Shops selling Chinese art objects and souvenirs cluster around the escalator up to the Mid-Levels and along nearby Cat Street. Within Hong Kong, Shanghai Tang, right by Central MTR station, is probably the best venue for quality Chinese goods – silks, fabrics, ornaments and furniture. 

Mall rats in Hong Kong have plenty of warrens to choose from. The swishest of the malls, IFC in Central, has everything from Swarovski crystal to McDonald’s burgers, Pacific Place, in Admiralty, has three floors of almost entirely luxury brands, while The Landmark and Prince’s Arcade vie for the custom of chic Central.

Festival Walk in northern Kowloon is worth the trip from Central, for its variety and quality. Causeway Bay has the big Japanese department stores, Sogo and Mitsukoshi, as well as towering Times Square.

On the Kowloon side of Hong Kong, across from the island, is Nathan Road. Starting near Victoria Harbour, the road runs north until it intersects with Boundary Street. It is the main thoroughfare in Kowloon and is lined with street vendors, markets, boutiques, restaurants and department stores. A popular stop is the Yue Hwa Chinese Products Emporium ( Yue Hwa Chinese Products Emporium Limited ) – it’s very popular with locals and visitors alike.

Hong Kong has many markets. One of the most delightful is the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, on Prince Edward Road West, in Kowloon. Open daily, this market is primarily concerned with the sale of song birds. Nearby, on Tung Choi Street, is a flower market and a goldfish market. Or try the Western Market is held in a four-storey red brick colonial building that was constructed in 1906. After extensive renovation it re-opened in 1991 and now occupies an entire block at the western end of Central Hong Kong. The building houses a variety of shops and stalls that sell a range of products from curios to assorted silks and fabrics.

Hong Kong after dark…

Hong Kong's famous Nathan Road in Central at night | Photo credit: Joop Dorresteijn www.joopdorresteijn.com

Come evening and Hong Kong takes on a completely new look. Visitors to the city, after a long day of sightseeing, shopping and other activities, begin preparing for Hong Kong after the sun sets.

Although not known as a performing arts cultural institution, Hong Kong can offer visitors an evening out of quality and enjoyable cultural entertainment.

The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra is resident at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, and performs from September to July. It is backed up by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra. Visiting orchestras of all standards frequently tour Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, also hosts frequent concerts. Traditional Chinese opera is performed at the China Club.

Hong Kong’s classical ballet troupe is the Hong Kong Ballet which often performs at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and The Hong Kong Dance Company features a traditional Chinese repertoire, while the City Contemporary Dance Company is a more modern dance ensemble. Both perform at a variety of venues.

The Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and the Hong Kong Arts Centre are shrines of theatrical culture, and you can check local listings to see ‘what’s on’.

In the evening, the glittering Night Park in Tsim Sha Tsui is thronged by people. Dazzling neon lights give the park a dazzling appearance. You can indulge in a fine dinner and then just stroll.

Hong Kong boasts some of the best pubs and bars in Asia, where one can chill out. Almost all hotels have clubs. These clubs are the city’s trendiest hangouts where DJs entertain the guests.

Asia’s World City lives it up by night – most hot in-town venues don’t even get going until midnight. Lan Kwai Fong, the famous square mile of Central with the most relaxed drinking hours and the most intense partying, is still a beating nightlife heart. SoHo is a slightly more chic and relaxed concentration of brasseries, bars and beer spots, just off the Mid-Levels Escalator.
Hong Kong nightclubs can be segregated in two streams: Western and Chinese. While Western clubs take care of foreign visitors, the Chinese variety cater to the locals and Chinese. Both versions work however …

Sports / Outdoor Adventure

You will be surprised by the number of sports and outdoor activities in and around the HK area. If an activity is of interest, have a go. After all, it’s not that often that you can surf in the waters of The New Territories or bet on a good time at Hong Kong race track …

Take a dip in the sea. If you have been sightseeing for a period, you may just be ready for a ‘do nothing’ day. Hong Kong has over 30 highly acclaimed beaches. Deep Water Bay/Repulse Bay Beach on the residential south side of Hong Kong Island is quiet on weekdays. Also on the south side are Repulse Bay Beach and Stanley Main Beach. South Bay Beach, near Repulse Bay, is one of Hong Kong Island’s best and most secluded spots for swimming, sunbathing and relaxing. A short distance along South Bay Road, it’s just out-of-the-way enough to discourage crowds. Lo So Shing Beach on Lamma Island is perhaps the best beach on the island and the one that’s closest to the second-largest village, Sok Kwu Wan. Lantau Island has some very good beaches. Two of the best, and close to one another, are Pui O Beach and Cheung Sha Upper Beach.

If you want to find Hong Kong’s best surf and a stunning stretch of wild beach surrounded by glorious hills, make the trek to Dai Long Wan Beach in Sai Kung Country Park. This is a favourite spot for the city’s growing surfing community. It takes about three hours to get there, so pack light.

If you want to play a round, you can visit The Jockey Club Kau Sai Chau Public Golf Course, which was designed by Gary Player, is inexpensive and boasts a stunning island location. Other courses are located at Discovery Bay, Deep Water Bay, Clearwater Bay and Fanling. Most courses are open to visitors on weekdays only.

Horse racing in Hong Kong | Photo credit: Geoff Wong

Horse Racing Have a go and spend a HK$10 bet on the horses. Vast sums of money change hands at Hong Kong’s horse racing meetings, held from September to June, Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and Wednesday evening. The two main racecourses are Happy Valley (Hong Kong Island) and Shatin (New Territories). Horse racing is the only legal form of gambling, and betting on horse racing is the number one recreational pastime within Hong Kong.

Watching wildlife is always a fun and sometimes educational experience. You can spot macaque monkeys, wild boar, civet cats, barking deer and the Chinese pangolin in the country parks at Sai Kung East and West. Watch birds at the Mai Po marshes near Yuen Long in the New Territories and look out for the Chinese pink dolphin near Lantau Island.

Although expensive, it’s a unique thrill and a spectacular and exclusive way to see the sights. A helicopter tour above Hong Kong can give you an impressive bird’s eye view of most of the city. You can fly around the harbour and look down upon the skyscrapers of Central, cruise along beautiful bays and beaches and cross over to the Outlying Islands.

Tai Chi is an ancient martial art with numerous benefits for the body and mind. Whether you want to participate or just observe, the best places to go would be Kowloon Park and Victoria Park at Causeway Bay in the early morning or late afternoon.

Local Customs and Etiquette

The handshake is commonly used when greeting westerners. 

During a greeting, many Hong Kong Chinese lower their eyes as a sign of respect. There is no need for you to emulate this gesture, although prolonged eye contact should be avoided during the greeting.
If you are at a large function, you may introduce yourself to other guests. At smaller functions, it is polite to wait for your host or hostess to introduce you.

The Chinese traditionally have 3 names: The surname, or family name is first and is followed by two personal names. The first personal name is their father’s name and the second personal name is their own name. Address the person by an honorific title and their surname. If they want to move to a first name basis, they will advise you which name to use. Some Chinese adopt more western names and may ask you to call them by that name.

Gift Giving Etiquette

A gift may be refused one or two times before it is accepted.

If you are invited to someone’s home, bring good quality sweets, fruit, flowers, or imported spirits to the hostess. Do not give red or white flowers. Do not give scissors, knives or other cutting utensils, as they indicate that you want to sever the relationship. Do not give clocks, handkerchiefs or straw sandals, as they are associated with funerals and death. Do not wrap gifts in white, blue or black paper.

Gold and red are lucky colours, so they make excellent gift wrapping. Elaborate gift wrapping is important.

Do not give odd numbers as many are considered unlucky. Never give a quantity of four items Eight is a particularly auspicious number, so giving eight of something bestows good fortune on the recipient.

A small gift for the children is always appreciated; however, do not give green hats.

Always present gifts with two hands. Gifts are not opened when received.

Dining Etiquette

Table manners are rather relaxed in Hong Kong, although there are certain rules of etiquette. When in doubt, watch what others do and emulate their behaviour.

Wait to be told where to sit There is often a seating plan.

Wait for the host to tell you to start eating or for him to begin eating. Food is served on a revolving tray. You should try everything. Never eat the last piece from the serving tray. Burping is considered a compliment. Chopsticks should be returned to the chopstick rest after every few bites and when you drink or stop to speak.

Always refuse a second serving at least once if you don’t want to appear gluttonous. Leave some food in your bowl when you have finished eating.

When you have finished eating, place your chopsticks in the chopstick rest or on the table. Do not place your chopsticks across the top of your bowl.

The host offers the first toast. You may reciprocate later in the meal.

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