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Speaking the Language

Hong Kong (City) - Speaking the Language

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The two official languages in Hong Kong are English and Cantonese. While both languages are widely used and understood, most Hong Kong residents – both foreign and local residents, usually speak Cantonese.

English is widely used in the commercial and financial sectors. For example, staff at major banks, such as HSBC, will speak English. However, the standard of English use may differ from place to place, and some expatriates may find initial difficulties understanding the locals. English has also somewhat lost its significance as a working language under the new Chinese administration.

Mandarin has become increasingly popular in Hong Kong, especially in business communication, given the increased communication between Hong Kong and China. Although both Mandarin and Cantonese are dialects of the Chinese language, there are fundamental differences, such as tone (Cantonese has nine different tones while Mandarin only has 4).

Some argue that the use of Cantonese is in decline, given the rise in the use of Mandarin. This has sparked off debates as to whether expatriates living in Hong Kong should stick to learning Cantonese or Mandarin. Each argument has valid points.

Many expatriates living in Hong Kong agree that they find it easier, and indeed, much more enjoyable, to learn a bit of Cantonese for their everyday living, as it would improve interactions with the locals during their stay in Hong Kong. Learning Cantonese also helps them navigate and move around the city with greater ease, in addition to gaining greater appreciation for the Hong Kong culture and people. Others point out that Cantonese is not only spoken in Hong Kong as Cantonese is widely spoken in large parts of Southern China.

If, however, you foresee yourself having to communicate with other Chinese from other regions, it is a good idea to learn Mandarin instead of Cantonese. Some employers may specify their preference for a Mandarin-speaking candidate when dealing with Chinese counterparts.

Newspapers, Bookstores

The South Morning China Post (a href="http://www.scmp.com/portal/site/SCMP">www.scmp.com is Hong Kong's main English language newspaper, available online and from newsvendors. It covers daily and business news covering Hong Kong, Greater China and Asia. The Standard is Hong Kong's first free English language newspaper. It is also available online at www.thestandard.com.hk. The China Daily Hong Kong Edition (www.chinadaily.com.cn) is a state-run publication that reports on polices and directions of the PRC government. The Metropolis Daily, a free newspaper distributed at MTR stations, has an English section.

As one of the world's largest press industries, you can find Asian editions of international newspapers, such as the International Herald Tribune and the Financial Times. The Wall Street Journal Asia, for example, is published in Hong Kong.

Thanks to its British education legacy, Hong Kong has excellent public libraries with an extensive collection of more than 12 million items, ranging from books, periodicals and newspapers and so on. There are altogether 66 static and 10 mobile libraries throughout Hong Kong. Hong Kong residents may loan books from the library. A deposit is required if you are a non-resident. The Hong Kong Central Library is a reference library and is located at 66 Causeway Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.

Expat Health Insurance Partners

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