Hong Kong is one of the two Special Administrative Regions (SAR) of China (the other being Macau). Before the transfer of sovereignty to China in 1997, Hong Kong had been a British colony for nearly 150 years. As a result, most infrastructure inherits the design and standards of Britain. During the 1950s to 1990s, the city-state developed rapidly, becoming the first of the “Four Asian Tigers” through the development of a strong manufacturing base and later a financial sector. Hong Kong is now famous for being a leading financial centre in East Asia, with the presence of local and some of the most recognized banks from around the world. Hong Kong is also famous for its transition port, transporting a significant volume of exports from China to the rest of the world. With its political and legal independence, Hong Kong is known as the Oriental Pearl with a twist of British influence in the culture.
Hong Kong is much more than a harbour city. The traveller weary of its crowded streets may be tempted to describe it as Hong Kongcrete. Yet, this territory with its cloudy mountains and rocky islands is mostly a rural landscape. Much of the countryside is classified as Country Park and, although 7 million people are never far away, it is possible to find pockets of wilderness that will reward the more intrepid tourist.
The majority of Hong Kong’s population are Han Chinese (93.6%), mostly of Cantonese ancestry, though there are also sizeable numbers of other Chinese groups such as Chiuchao (Teochews), Shanghainese and Hakkas. A significant number of Indian, Pakistani and Nepalese live here too, and many have families that have lived in Hong Kong for several generations.
The large numbers of Filipinos, Indonesians and Thais, most of whom are employed as domestic helpers also live in Hong Kong. On Sundays, the free day of many foreign domestic workers, they congregate in the thousands in Central and Admiralty and spend the day there together, sitting talking, eating and drinking wherever there is free space. Several whole streets in the Central area are blocked off for foreign domestic helpers on Sundays.
Hong Kong is also home to a significant number of people hailing from Australia, Europe, Japan, Korea and North America, making it a truly international metropolis.
The people of Hong Kong are somewhat reserved, but very friendly, especially to children. A few words of Cantonese learned will ingratiate you further. Greeting with Nihao(你好, “hello” in Mandarin) will not serve the purpose however, as the local language here is Cantonese. A simple “hello” would be good enough, but if you insist, you can say Nei-ho (你好 in Cantonese) to greet local people and they will appreciate you for respecting their local culture which is distinctive from that in China.
What the traveller will notice is the sheer volume of people and their density. Whilst Mong Kok is seen as the indicator of the worst of this, even in the other areas of Kowloon, you will still struggle for personal space. Whilst bumping into people (accidentally of course) is very common, it isn’t considered particularly bad manners and you are unlikely to upset the locals, especially if you give a short apology.
Winters are generally very mild, with daytime temperatures of 18-22°C (64–72°F) but with nights dipping into 10°C (50°F) and below sometimes, especially in the countryside. Christmas in Hong Kong is considered warm compared with many other Northern Hemisphere countries. Chinese New Year is notorious for cold (10°C/50°F), wet weather; this is because winter in Hong Kong tends to start out mild and dry and then turn a bit cool and wet later, though the cool weather is brief.Hong Kong has a sub-tropical climate, but is cooled in winter by sea breezes. Summer (June to September) is long, humid and hot with temperatures often exceeding 32°C (90°F) and with night time temperatures that do not drop below 25°C (77°F). Typhoons usually occur between June and September and can bring a halt to local business activities for a day or less (see natural disaster section).
Spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November/December) have average temperature between 21-24°C (70-5°F). Autumn is probably a more comfortable season as spring tends to be more humid and rainy.
Although most buildings in Hong Kong have air-conditioning to cope with the summer weather, winter heating is something of a novelty. During the coldest days, most locals simply wear more layers even indoors. In a restaurant for example, it is not unusual to see customers eating with their jackets and scarves on.