You’ve been living and working in Hong Kong for well over a year now and are starting to notice some changes (or you are completely oblivious to them and your friends are not-so-kindly pointing them out to you): either a magician has waved his magical wand and miraculously made this crazy city irritate you less, or -let’s face the truth here- you’re becoming more like a local.
Here is my list of the Top 13 Mostly True Signs You’ve Become A Local Hong Konger
1. You forget how to walk.
Walking in a straight line no longer makes sense to you and your walking speed varies every ten paces, usually thanks to your addiction to your smartphone. You happen to casually zigzag in front of others to ensure that no one can get around you. Walking the streets has become a game foreigners will always lose.
2. You can justify waiting in a 1+ hour long queue for just about anything.
You’re willing to sacrifice hours of your time for that perfect xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung, or that Louis Vuitton handbag that you just have to get your hands on. Your logic is totally flawless because it’s totally worth it.
3. You lack most forms of common courtesy.
The words “please”, “thank you”, and “excuse me” barely exist in your vocabulary. You now live in a fast-paced city where no one has time to be nice and polite. Deliberately and frantically, you press the elevator-door close button when you see someone walking towards you. You have places to go and business to attend to – there’s no time to wait that extra ten seconds! Smiling is a movement your facial muscles rarely use. Serious effort and concentration is required.
4. You use two hairdryers to blow-dry your hair and/or use them to dry parts of your body off at the gym.
In the city that never sleeps, who has time to use only one hairdryer? Plus, the hot air just feels fantastic on your skin! Con: you look absolutely ridiculous. Pro: us expats get a good laugh out of it.
5. You loathe trips to Kowloon.
Ready for a trip to the sardine-packed, chaotic part of Hong Kong known as Kowloon (or, the more offensive term, “The Dark Side”)? I know you aren’t! Sure, at first you were excited about getting off the island to explore the “real Hong Kong”, but now you’d much prefer to stay in your HK Island bubble. Whether it’s the stinky tofu smell from the food stalls, aggressive haggling at the Ladies Market, or the constant “do you want a watch or a handbag?” as you walk down the street, you do anything in your power to avoid crossing the harbor.
6. You are the human version of a sloth.
Your daily goal is to do as little physical activity as humanly possible to get by. With McDonald’s and Starbucks delivery service, it’s not hard. Just the thought of walking up a set of stairs brings a bead of sweat to your forehead. Waiting twice as long for an elevator is a much better and sensible option.
7. Your table manners are seriously lacking.
When you first arrived in Hong Kong, you were mortified at the sounds coming from locals around a restaurant table. With your nose scrunched up, you would focus your judging eyes in their direction while muttering crude words under your breath. Now, you don’t even bat an eyelash at their customary day to day habits. In fact, you’re also the one spewing chicken bones onto the table!
8. You can’t remember the last time you cooked your own meal.
Your kitchen is a shoebox and you work over 12 hours a day. Do people actually expect you to cook a meal? Your poor excuse for a stove and lack of an oven gives you the right to eat out constantly. Advantage: eating local food is cheap. Disadvantage: you haven’t had a piece of fruit in at least two weeks.
9. Your skin hasn’t seen the sun in over a year.
The sun is your enemy and your umbrella is your shield. Not moving your umbrella for people walking by you on already narrow sidewalks is just part of the routine. Don’t even get me started on what the streets are like when it rains. Stay inside at all costs. Also, whitening cream has been added to your shopping list.
10. You own matching outfits with your significant other.
11. Your favourite things to do include eating, taking pictures of your food, and playing Candy Crush.
Eating has become one of your favourite hobbies – sitting solo at a restaurant, shoving fish balls down your throat on the side of the road, in a crowded cha chaan teng, awkwardly out of a plastic bag, or seeing how fast you can finish (aka slurp up) a bowl of noodles.
12. You have picked up local HK slang.
You can’t say more than two sentences without having them end in “ok la” or “la”. When frustrated, you heavily groan “ai-yah” or click your tongue. You say “bi-byeee” with a high-pitched Chinese accent when leaving company and refer to other foreigners as gweilos.
13. You just don’t care. About anything. At all. Ever.
Except for yourself, of course. You have picked up some bizarre local habits that you’re not even aware of. You feel no shame in plucking your facial hair on the bus or clipping your nails on a bench in the park. Clearing your throat every ten seconds and spewing it out on the ground has become second nature. Your normal level of speech has gone from 70 decibels to over 100. Chewing with your mouth open and not giving your seat on the MTR to an elderly man or an expectant mother are just part of who you are now. Hong Kong has officially converted you. Welcome to the life of a local.
Note: This list was written with plenty of sarcastic, cynical, and hopefully humorous overtones by an expat who is actually head over heels in love with Hong Kong.