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Before you go, explore the difficulties of living in Hong Kong

Before you go, explore the difficulties of living in Hong Kong

by Olivia Bell a month ago
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Table of contents

  • 1. Hong Kong is bursting at the seams
  • 2. Renting in Hong Kong is tough
  • 3. Air quality falls short
  • 4. Finding love is a challenge
  • 5. Local climate isn't for the weak-hearted
  • Some benefits of living in Hong Kong
  • Where to try sheng jian bao in Hong Kong?
  • Where to go for fine dining in Hong Kong?
  • What is the most popular dessert in Hong Kong?
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Hong Kong is like a playground for your senses: here you can feast on any cuisine your heart desires, wander along endless pedestrian paths, soak up the sun on sandy beaches, and hop between vibrant islands, all while being swept up in the city's electrifying vibe. If you consider yourself a globetrotter, a trip to Hong Kong is practically a must-do to experience its crazy rhythm.

But don't get too carried away thinking it's all smooth sailing. Just like any megapolis, Hong Kong has its quirks and challenges lurking beneath the surface. Sure, there are those fancy Michelin-starred establishments in thriving business quarters, but there's also a bunch of pesky little problems waiting to catch you off guard. So, let's explore the most typical headaches you might face here, and then wrap it up with some awesome restaurants to unwind and rediscover the charm of this city.

1. Hong Kong is bursting at the seams

Overcrowded Mong Kok neighborhood, Hong Kong. Photo by Fumihiko Ueno, licensed under CC BY 3.0Overcrowded Mong Kok neighborhood, Hong Kong. Photo by Fumihiko Ueno, licensed under CC BY 3.0

Just hop on the subway during rush hour and you'll see what we mean. After battling through the crowds instead of leisurely strolling, the city's buzz starts to lose its sparkle. Case in point: Mong Kok, a neighborhood so crammed with folks that it made it into the Guinness World Records for the highest population density – we're talking around 130,000 persons per square kilometer.

But what's wild about Mong Kok is that people actually live here, unlike the suits in Central who just come to work in the towering skyscrapers. Here, it's a whirlwind of activity: buying, selling, munching, and navigating through human traffic like a boss. Dodging elbows, squeezing past strangers, and trying not to trip over someone's shopping bags – it's like a real-life obstacle course. So, if you're planning a stroll through these streets, brace yourself for a serious hustle.

2. Renting in Hong Kong is tough

Looking upward at the Yick Cheong building. Photo by Benh LIEU SONG (Flickr), licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0Looking upward at the Yick Cheong building. Photo by Benh LIEU SONG (Flickr), licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

With demand for housing soaring and available space dwindling, the real estate market here is pretty intense. Developers are constantly looking for ways to maximize space, which often comes at a hefty price. Even in more affordable areas like Sham Shui Po, a small studio apartment could set you back around $380,000, while renting a basic, unfurnished one-bedroom apartment outside the city center could cost roughly $1,600 per month.

Those on lower incomes often find themselves relegated to communal living arrangements, where micro-apartments are divided by makeshift partitions. These ultra-tight spaces, sometimes as small as 4 square meters, can cost around $200 per month.

Even if you have a decent budget, don't count on finding apartments with traditional European layouts in Hong Kong. Bathrooms separated by glass doors and corridors doubling as both living rooms and kitchens are frequent features. In a nutshell, getting around the housing scene in Hong Kong demands adaptability and a readiness to embrace out-of-the-box living setups.

3. Air quality falls short

A foggy night in Hong Kong. Photo by Tomomi Wong, licensed under CC BY 2.0A foggy night in Hong Kong. Photo by Tomomi Wong, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Some brush off the haze, saying it's just a foggy day. Others claim things are getting better, but the truth is, air quality remains a concern. Factors like the bustling port, heavy traffic, and tall buildings affecting airflow all contribute to the problem, and visitors from the US, UK, or Europe might notice the difference right away. Locals often wear masks for protection, but escaping the pollution completely is tough.

Efforts are underway to improve air quality, but it's a long-term process. So, while the city works on it, maybe take a stroll in one of Hong Kong's parks – they offer a breath of fresh air in more ways than one.

4. Finding love is a challenge

With locals and expats alike being workaholics, it is tough to build serious romantic relationships here. Photo by Evgeniy Alyoshin on unsplash.comWith locals and expats alike being workaholics, it is tough to build serious romantic relationships here. Photo by Evgeniy Alyoshin on unsplash.com

Finding love in Hong Kong is like searching for a needle in a haystack – challenging and often fruitless. Many newcomers find themselves navigating the city's dating scene solo for years. While there are plenty of opportunities for meeting new people and socializing, forming lasting connections is a rare find.

Hong Kong’s diverse cultural landscape adds another layer of complexity. Most locals prefer keeping to themselves, and expats are often caught up in the whirlwind of work. The city's relentless workaholic lifestyle leaves little room for play, with long hours and cutthroat competition overshadowing romance. By day's end, exhaustion reigns supreme, with little energy remaining for anything beyond a rushed meal and a well-deserved nap.

5. Local climate isn't for the weak-hearted

The aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut in Tai Po, Hong Kong in 2018. Photo by cattan2011, licensed under CC BY 2.0The aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut in Tai Po, Hong Kong in 2018. Photo by cattan2011, licensed under CC BY 2.0

In Hong Kong, from April to September, it feels like stepping into a sauna – temperatures soar to +30°C with humidity hitting 99%. Even on cloudy days, the heat remains relentless. Locals somehow manage to look fresh in crisp suits, while expats find themselves stuck to their shirts, yet still carrying sweaters and scarves to fend off the ACs’ icy blasts on public transport.

By November, winter brings temperatures around +15°C, but don't expect a cozy chill – humidity lingers, and winds pick up. With no central heating to rely on, indoor spaces can feel just as cold, with tiled floors and thin walls doing little to retain warmth.

As if that wasn't enough, Hong Kong faces frequent typhoons. When a particularly dangerous one approaches, residents are alerted via smartphone apps to head home immediately. Everything shuts down, and flights may be canceled, especially when wind gusts exceed 100 km/h, posing a serious safety risk.

Some benefits of living in Hong Kong

Now, to restore your affection for this city, let's highlight its positives to balance things out. For example, don't let the heat scare you off – as October and November roll in, a delightful shift in weather known as the "velvet season" brings relief. It's the ideal time to take leisurely walks through the city's picturesque mountains and parks, savoring the cooler breeze.

Secondly, there's a plethora of entertainment options waiting to be explored – you can read about them here.

Lastly, to shake off any lingering stress from experiencing Hong Kong's less glamorous side, here are a few places you can head to right now for a satisfying culinary experience and some relaxation.

Where to try sheng jian bao in Hong Kong?
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Cheung Hing Kee Shanghai Pan Fried Buns
#605 of 38839 restaurants in Hong Kong, Hong Kong
48 Lock Rd, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong
Open until 9PM
Dim sum
Dim sum

It is a steamed, fried or baked small-portioned dish served in steamer baskets. It consists of various buns, dumplings and rice noodle rolls filled with a range of ingredients. Usually it is eaten for breakfast or lunch.

There are plenty of hole-in-the-wall spots like Cheung Hing Kee dishing out affordable grub across the city, but what makes it stand out is its prestigious Michelin star awarded in 2016, and subsequent recognition from Bib Gourmand. Tucked away on Lock Road in Tsim Sha Tsui Mansion, it may not catch your eye at first glance, but as they say, the real gems often fly under the radar.

Their specialty is sheng jian bao, or pan-fried soup buns – a rare find in Hong Kong and a delicacy from Shanghai. Bite through its paper-thin pastry, and you'll be greeted by a burst of hot, flavorful broth followed by tender pork filling. Describing the experience of savoring this expertly crafted dim sum is nearly impossible – everyone should taste it for themselves. Besides the traditional stuffing, try such options as shrimp, caviar, truffle, crabmeat, and a couple of others from their menu. Discovering this unassuming eatery amidst Hong Kong's hustle and bustle, travelers often find themselves forgetting all about the city's flaws.

Average bill – from $4.50 for 4 pcs

Where to go for fine dining in Hong Kong?
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Magistracy Dining Room
G/F, Central Magistracy, Tai Kwun, 1 Arbuthnot Road, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong
Closed until 12PM
Oysters
Oysters

Oysters are one of the most delicious seafood dishes. Oysters can be cooked in a variety of ways. They may be smoked, boiled, steamed, pan fried, grilled, or baked. The unique flavor of an oyster, which may be salty, sweet, buttery, copper, briny, or melon, heavily depends on where it was caught.

Drawing inspiration from the oldest and most esteemed restaurants in Britain, The Magistracy is a haven where haute cuisine, aristocratic ambiance, and impeccable etiquette converge. Set within the century-old Hong Kong Supreme Court building, now transformed into a lavish lounge with leather booths and exquisite wood finishes, its location alone promises a journey into elegance.

Here, you can indulge in classic London fare while soaking in the opulent surroundings and historic architecture. Start your culinary adventure with oysters and caviar, followed by a comforting beef tea broth. Then, dive into the main attractions of Chef Alyn Williams' menu. Whether it's delicate Dover Sole goujons or succulent slow-cooked roast beef, each dish is paired with simple yet flawlessly executed side options like creamed spinach or honey-glazed brussels sprouts.

Don't forget to save room for dessert, especially their decadent sticky toffee pudding. And for a truly memorable experience, head to the adjacent Botanical Garden for a couple of refreshing gin and tonics to top off your evening.

Average bill – $67

What is the most popular dessert in Hong Kong?
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Photo from Restaurant Guru
Kai Kai Dessert
#332 of 3002 restaurants with desserts in Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Ning Po St, 29 地下, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong
Closed until 12PM

For nearly four decades, the dessert restaurant Kai Kai remained a local favorite, tucked away from the limelight, until Michelin inspectors stumbled upon its charms in 2017. Recognizing its culinary excellence, they honored it with a coveted spot in the Michelin Hong Kong street food guide and later bestowed it with the esteemed Bib Gourmand award, an accolade it proudly retains to this day.

Nestled within its unassuming walls are some of the most delightful traditional Cantonese-style sweet soups you'll ever taste, also called tong sui. Picture puddings, but with a light and liquidy texture, brimming with delectable fillings like ginkgo or Job’s tears.

Savor their red bean soup with lotus seeds, sweet sesame rice ball in ginger sweet soup, or meticulously handcrafted black sesame paste, known for its velvety smoothness. And of course, don't leave without trying mango pomelo sago, a classic Hong Kong dessert made with creamy coconut milk that's sure to tantalize your taste buds.

Average bill – $10

Life in Hong Kong is a vibrant mix of contrasts, and it's up to you – whether to focus solely on the shortcomings or try to embrace this city in all its complexity. However, no matter how daunting the challenges may seem, we'll always provide you with some cozy nooks where you'll find solace from the chaos outside while treating yourself to delicious culinary delights.

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2 comments

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Lucy Bryant (Guest) a month ago Request content removal

This article rocks! Still gonna head to Hong Kong, love me some adventurous destinations. Oh, and tell us more about those sweet soups, won't you?

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