Hong Kong Exchange, Travel

It’s The Little Things

During my time in Hong Kong, life has obviously been different from life in Ohio. Big differences, like riding the bus and taking the MTR instead of driving, impact everyday life in substantial ways. But I’ve also noticed a slew of small differences. They’re not life-changing, but they’re just enough to make me say “Huh, that’s interesting.” I’ve been sick this week and haven’t really done anything, so I’d like to share these observations in the meantime.

  • People here are smart enough not to eat Tide Pods. My local friends had never heard of the “challenge.” Good.
  • Currency here is as follows: $1000, $500, $100, $50, $20 & $10 bills, and $10, $5, $2, $1, $0.5, $0.2 & $0.1 coins. So, the smallest coin here is a 10-cent piece, most items are sold in 10-cent increments, and tax is included in the price. If, for some reason, a transaction comes out to a total like $16.46, the transaction would be rounded, so to $16.50, which helps reduce change and the types of coins needed. Take this example: In the U.S., an item at a Dollar Tree or on a restaurant’s dollar menu might be taxed six cents, so paying with $2 would leave you with 94 cents in change and nine coins (eight if you get a half-dollar coin). That’s a huge pet peeve of mine. But here, no transaction resulting in under $1 HKD in change should leave you with more than three coins in your pocket, and no amount of change under $10 (the smallest bill) should leave you with more than six coins.
  • When I go online, most of the ads I see are in Chinese. This is really strange to me, because it seems my IP address location is overriding my cookies. I mean, my laptop and my phone know I speak English; it’s the only language I regularly use, and the cookies should know that…but nonetheless, my ads are in Chinese (probably Cantonese), and I don’t understand them. I’m not just seeing the same old ads with Chinese dub; these are new ads for local products and items popular here. Look, I’m not gonna buy the product if I don’t know what the ad is telling me. Marketers are wasting their money on me right now, and I’m amazed that my location overrides the fact that I don’t speak Chinese. It just seems like a huge oversight.

  • On a similar note, some websites load in Chinese by default, (e.g., Google) or redirect to their Hong Kong counterpart (e.g., Yahoo.com redirects to hk.yahoo.com, so I must specify I want to go to us.yahoo.com every time). Then there’s YouTube, which loads in English and gives me recommendations based on my watch history, just like usual. But the “Trending” section shows me videos that are trending in the Hong Kong area, not in my home country. Odd.
  • Most items in stores have packaging partially or entirely in English. But finding laundry detergent was the most frustrating thing I’ve had to do here because I couldn’t find any brand that had more than a few words in English on the packaging. I ended up buying liquid softener on accident the first time I tried and had to consult Sam to determine what is and is not detergent.
  • Nutrition labels are not sufficiently informative here. They usually tell you how much of each nutrient the item has, but they don’t tell you how much of that nutrient you need in a day. For example, my Kellogg’s Coco Pops (literally just Cocoa Krispies but by a different name) tell me that there are 81 milligrams of calcium in each serving. But I have no idea how many milligrams are recommended per day, and the box doesn’t give a percentage of daily value like labels in the U.S. do.
  • I’ve mentioned this before, but restaurants work differently here. Once the host(ess) seats you, you are left alone until you raise your hand to order. Immediately after placing your order, you receive the bill that you pay when you’re finished eating. If you later decide you want dessert, you just raise your hand, order, and your bill is revised. You don’t tip when you finish eating.

  • I accidentally grabbed an alcoholic drink without realizing because it just looked like soda to me. I realized my mistake after the first sip. Not a fan, even at 0.6% alcohol. Even so, the drinking age here is 18, so I could’ve kept drinking it if I wanted to (I most certainly did not).
  • Hong Kongers drive on the left side of the road, and the steering wheels are at the front right seat of vehicles. Most crosswalks have signs that tell you which way to look before crossing the street. I appreciate the help, because I almost always continue to look the wrong way, even though I know which side of the road cars would be coming from. Old habits are hard to break.
  • On escalators, people almost always keep to the right, which leaves room for those who are in a hurry to pass on the left. It’s a common courtesy rarely seen in the U.S. In elevators, people tend to be impatient. As soon as people are done filing in and out of the elevator, the one closest to the control panel will hit the “Close Door” button, often mashing it multiple times, as if doing so will make the door close faster.
  • The common courtesy extends elsewhere: it is expected that seats in the MTR are reserved for the elderly, those with injuries and those with infants. If there are extra empty seats, they then go to women. Occasionally a couple will sit together if there are enough seats, but very rarely will an able-bodied man sit down by himself on the MTR.
  • Western medicine is hard to come by here. You can’t just go to the store and pick some up. I’ve gone through almost half of the box of DayQuil/NyQuil I brought from the U.S., so I can really only afford to get sick one more time before I have to either turn to Chinese medicine or go to the Western medicine hospital that I’ve been told exists somewhere around here. For simplicity’s sake, I hope I don’t have to explore either option.
  • While sick, I bought a new game on Steam (the major video game website for PCs, if you’re not familiar). As it turns out, Steam games are cheaper here once currency converts. Sometimes it’s a 5-10% difference, but other times it’s more. So I updated my “home country” on Steam, had it convert my store credit from USD to HKD, then bought a game for the equivalent of $12 USD, despite the fact it’s almost $25 in the U.S. I’m curious as to why games are priced differently here.

Anyhow, I’m finally on the way back to 100%, so I should be back out there exploring the city in the next couple days!


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