Dealing With Culture Shock In Hong Kong – Some Advice For New Expats

Summers can be hot and humid, and it’s not uncommon for people to stay indoors for much of the summer. Temperatures can rise up to 35 degrees and the humidity hangs heavy over the entire city. The city’s many air-conditioned shopping centers serve as a cool haven in such weather. Hong Kong also witnesses a rainy season that lasts from May to September. Typhoons can occur during this period. These tropical cyclones are usually not a cause for worry. Hong Kong’s winters are mild. The cooler weather comes as a relief after the hot humid summer.It doesn’t snow in Hong Kong, although frost may occur sometimes. In these gentle winter months, all you need is a sweater for the daytime and a light jacket at night, when the weather gets crisper.

Accommodation

Accommodation comes at a high price in Hong Kong. Expats used to living in larger houses with front lawns and yards back home, may have to make some serious adjustments. Hong Kong is a small region, but is densely populated place and to accommodate everyone the homes have to be small. There has also been a rise in real estate prices in recent times. The cost of living in Hong Kong can be high for expats and a large share of income goes towards housing. There is also the cost of utilities to consider, as air conditioning is a requirement in summer. There are suburban homes in Hong Kong, but these are highly expensive. Most people take up residence in apartment buildings. The rent of such apartments can vary depending on the region.

Etiquette

There aren’t any strict rules of dining etiquette in Hong Kong, but there are some customs that are usually followed. Being aware of these customs in advance will help to reduce discomfort and awkwardness. There is often a set seating arrangement and one needs to wait until told where to sit. It is customary to wait for the host to start eating or wait until he asks you to begin. Dishes are placed upon a revolving tray and guests help themselves to what they want. It is expected that you try all the dishes, but avoid eating the last piece remaining on the tray. Chopsticks are used in Hong Kong and the practice is to place them in the chopstick rest when you are sipping your drink or speaking. When you are done with your meal, place them on the table or in the rest, but avoid placing them across the top of the bowl. Politely refusing a second service at least once during the course of dinner is considered good manners.

Gifting is an important aspect of Chinese culture and commonly practiced in Hong Kong. On important celebrations such as Chinese New Year, it’s traditional for married individuals and those with families to present red envelopes containing money to single individuals, employees and kids. It is impolite to open the envelope and peek inside upon receiving it. When visiting someone’s home, bringing a gift is customary as in most cultures. But don’t be surprised if the host or hostess initially refuses to accept it, as it’s considered to be sign of humbleness. They may also not open it right away so that the gift-giver is not embarrassed if the gift turns out to be inappropriate.

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Expats may be used to a friendly exchange of words or small talk in their home country. But in Hong Kong, small talk is not common, neither are friendly greetings. This is especially true in non-tourist areas. Another important difference is that while it is common to find people standing close to each other during a conversation, no body contact occurs at all. Hugging or patting the back is not expected and may cause confusion or offence.


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