Hong Kong daily life

One of the challenges of living the expat life is getting used to day-to-day differences you can't really prepare for. Here we provide some thoughts on all the 'little things' that make daily life in Hong Kong so interesting -- and occasionally infuriating.


We've got friends who've lived in HK for years but never take the minibuses -- I think out of embarrassment of shouting to get off. It's a shame that they miss out on all sorts of funny goings-on, and also a really convenient way to get around. In any case, any loud noise from a gweilo and the driver usually stops just to be on the safe side.

The drivers all have their own styles, too. Regular drivers on the route home include:

Twitchy: It's painful to watch, as there are more nervous tics and mannerisms than you can count. Fortunately, the spasms that work through his body don't seem to make it out through the steering wheel. Read more »


The temperature at the Hong Kong Observatory dropped to 19.9 degrees Celsius (i.e. 68 Fahrenheit) early this morning. For Hong Kong in mid-October, that's actually quite cool -- it's the result of the first big surge of the Northeast monsoon, which blesses Hong Kong with reasonable temperatures in the fall and winter. The projected high today is 24 C, or about 75 F.

Now, those of us from harsher climes would think this weather is very mild indeed. For example, the average nighttime low in my home area in the USA, at the very warmest peak of summer, is about 17 C (62 F). In fact, a day ranging from 20-24 sounds just about perfect, doesn't it -- it's essentially room temperature all the time, meaning you can wear all your favorite outfits, even the long-sleeved ones you've been saving all summer, without having to cover them up with a boring coat. Read more »

Let's do the time warp again . . .

Sorry, Mr Eliot, but in Hong Kong, August is the cruelest month.

I'm writing this on the 28th, but I can assure you that there are far more than three days' worth of time to endure before September really arrives.

I have a theory about why this is so: right at this moment, schoolchildren all over the northern hemisphere are watching their summer holidays tick remorselessly away. As time accelerates for them, the excess is allotted to those of us enduring a Hong Kong summer -- matter and energy must be conserved, you know.

Of course, what gets you down in a Hong Kong August is mostly the weather. We've just been brushed by a rather undistinguished little typhoon, and had a couple of days of clouds, off-and-on rain, brisk winds -- and temperatures in the comparatively merciful mid- to high-20s. And yet the Hong Kong Observatory has attempted to convince us that this week's return to sun-and-32 constitutes an 'improvement' in the general situation! Read more »

10 more things to love about Hong Kong

Mr Tall has spent a lot of time making snide remarks about things in Hong Kong. He's complained. He's made fun. He's had, to use Mother Tall's phrase, a smart mouth and a bad attitude.

This is no good, because the truth is, Mr Tall is very fond of living in Hong Kong, and right now, at least, would not want to live anywhere else. So, to promote balance at Batgung, to counterweight the yang with some yin, I'm following up Mr B's top ten list of things to love about Hong Kong with my own. He's already taken a lot of the best ones, so I'll try to avoid repeating his list. Let me underscore, however, his choices of the safety, the countryside, the salaries tax, the food(!), and the women(!!). Read more »

10 things to love about Hong Kong

With the current "We love Hong Kong" campaign in full swing, I pondered what I like about this place. Here, in no particular order, are ten reasons I love Hong Kong :

1. Weather
Grumble all you want about Hong Kong's hot, humid summers, but I prefer warm weather over long cold winters any day. Winters are cool enough to make a pleasant contrast from Summer, and we usually get a few days' really chilly weather each year to remind us what we're missing.

2. Convenience
Buses, trams, minibuses, ferries, subway, taxis ... it is such an easy place to get around. Pretty much anything you could want to buy is available, and shops are open late into the evening. Local colleagues on a recent business trip to Sydney were amazed to find that all the city centre shops were closed by 6pm on Saturday afternoon. Read more »

Is it something they put in the water?

When two cultures butt heads, you find a bunch of things that seem obviously right to one person, and just as obviously wrong to the other. Take something as simple as water ...

It's a lot more tricky than our Western upbringing would suggest. I can remember being told to "get out of those wet clothes before you catch your death of cold", but that's about the limit of my instructions with regard to water.

Ever been in Hong Kong when it has just started raining? That stuff must be dangerous, given the lengths that people go to to avoid it. Briefcases and newspapers are prime umbrella-substitutes, with sheets of cardboard also viewed favourably. If there aren't any suitable flat opbjects nearby, hold your hand over your head. Yup, that'll work (hands over mouths are also known to filter out 99.99% of all toxic gases when standing at the traffic lights waiting to cross the road). Read more »

SARS: will it change our lives?

Now that, God willing, the SARS crisis is coming to an end in Hong Kong, we can take a step back and look at the effects it's had on day-to-day life here. It's too early to say that Hong Kong life will be seriously affected, but it's safe to assume that at least a few things won't return to their pre-SARS state. Read more »

The joys of public transport in Hong Kong

A few weeks ago, I was waiting for a bus. It was hot. The late spring sunshine beat down on me. Across the street, and upwind, unfortunately, a garbage truck unloaded dumpsters, unleashing waves of ripe odors. I sweated, and mouth-breathed, even more than usual, and was rapidly overcome by a sense of profound self-pity (Mrs Tall can confirm that this is a common Mr Tall state of mind). My bus was late, and here I stood in these completely unacceptable conditions. I, an American, a citizen of the Global Colossus currently bestride the world, the home of the free and the SUV -- how could this be, this waiting for a busRead more »

Life behind the mask: SARS in Hong Kong

The Tall family made a long-awaited trip to the USA last month, mostly to introduce Baby Tall to her American grandparents. Among the usual joys of visiting the homeland, such as reminding oneself why American food makes people fat, it was very fine escaping temporarily from the SARS hysteria that's gripped Hong Kong for the past couple of months. Just going out on the street without girding one's countenance with a surgical mask is a remarkably pleasant experience when it's been a month since you've had it.

So, trip good, but flights bad. It turns out Baby Tall is not a good airplane sleeper (I'll spare you the details) so the Parents Tall returned to Hong Kong thoroughly exhausted. In this weakened state, both of us contracted good old-fashioned chest colds. Except that these days in Hong Kong there's nothing so simple these days. Read more »

Life in a Hong Kong high-rise, part II

As Mr T describes, life in a high-rise can be a shock for us small-town folk, and the side-effects take a bit of getting used to. All at once you live much closer to a bunch of families than you ever have before, but you have no idea who they are. The previous flat we lived in had an especially lively assortment of characters in the neighborhood.

Beans ! Every morning at around 8am we'd hear a rattling noise on the aircon and window panes. By chance the source of the rattling bounced in through the window one morning -- an uncooked red bean. So every morning, someone on a higher floor would reach out of their bedroom window and set free a handful of red beans. If you have any idea what significance this has, please share -- is there a local god that is particularly fond of red bean offerings? Read more »

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