Reasons not to like Hong Kong
I thought I could get Lissette to like Hong Kong. It didn’t happen.
I previously visited Hong Kong in 2001 on my first ever trip to Asia. I had spent 7 days here and loved it. My friend George, who was born in Hong Kong, had met me for a few days and we had a few interesting nights on the town. But my best memories were of going of on my own; hiking the hills around Hong Kong, visiting the city parks, or on a boat crossing the harbor. What stayed with me was the incredible natural beauty surrounding Hong Kong.
This time we were here for 2 days on our way back from Thailand. One of the things I love about Lissette is that she’s always happy and full of energy. So I was surprised to see a moody and withdrawn Lissette in Hong Kong. She didn’t like the city. She said that it reminded her of New York – one of the reasons she had left New York was because it was just too hectic, the people too stressed. That was her impression of Hong Kong.
But there was more than that. I think her mind had been made up on Hong Kong shortly after arrival. A female security guard had stopped us in the airport and asked to see my passport. She looked at it and said “go ahead”. We both started forward when she held out her arm in front of Lissette and said “ I no mean you, you show passport!”. She might as well have added “stupid brown person” by the way she said it. It made an instant bad impression on Lissette. George he had once confided that most Chinese are racist, especially when it comes to the darker races. Now that I’m with Lissette I’m more sensitive to how people react to us as a couple or to one of us individually.
You never know what you’re going to get. Examples: I was completely surprised at how warm locals were towards Lissette in Thailand. It had reassured me because I love Thailand and wanted Lissette to feel the same way. In Brazil I kept getting dirty looks but they seemingly had no problem with Lissette (I hadn’t expected that, I’ve never gone anywhere where I felt as disliked). In Hong Kong, on the other hand, it was Lissette who felt marginalized. And I have to admit, however much as I love Hong Kong, that I could see it. In some places in the world it still really pays to be a white man. Hong Kong is one of those places. Nobody likes to go somewhere and feel that they are looked down upon. In the end, I think it was this feeling that ruined Lissette’s experience.
Accommodation: I always stay at the Salisbury YMCA. Amazing views of the harbour.
I still love Hong Kong, the geography makes it one of the most impressive cities in the world and rates up there among other beautiful cities like San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, and Vancouver. Anybody have an opinion on that?
I’m sure there’s some colored people reading this who’ve been to Hong Kong. What was your experience?
Related: The Most Beautiful City in the World? Our candidates…and winner
Related: Hong Kong or Singapore? Which you should visit on a stopover
Ps. If you find our blog helpful, please consider using our links to book your flights, hotels, tours, and car rentals. Have a look at our Travel Resources page.
If you haven’t subscribed yet and want to get our posts and newsletters sent to your email, just insert your email address below
Hi Frank and Lissette,
I live in Vancouver and I am a Chinese descent born in Brazil. Was reading your blog on your trip to Brazil and checked your other trips, like this one in HK. One of my parents is from HK, so I visited HK a few times and always have a good time because of my relatives who were very fun and warm. And yes, I had a few bad experiences over there, like when I was not a Canadian yet, I had my Brazilian passport and was about to board the plane from HK to Canada, I was stopped and questioned by the airline staff even after passing through customs because it would be unnatural for an Asian girl to be born in South America probably. However, as other commentators said, it’s who you hang around with. I’ve met really nice Hong Kongers and some very snobbish ones as well.
Thanks for the comment. We’re planning on going to Vancouver next year. Been many times (I have, but not Lissette) but always look forward to seeing the West coast.
Yes, that is unusual seeing an Asian girl with a South American passport. Sometimes it’s just curiosity – Lissette had the same issue in Cuba and they also questioned her, thinking she was Cuban and wondering how a latina born in the US had a Canadian passport…
I’ll always love HK. As I say it was my first trip to Asia and I loved the geography and hiking the island. And hopefully Lissette likes it the 2nd time around. But I think we’ll wait until all the trouble is over…
Hi there fellow bloggers!
I’m originally from Malaysia but have lived in Hong Kong for more than 10 years now. As someone who loves Hong Kong, it pains me to read of Lissette’s negative experiences in Hong Kong and, at the same time, see that they really could have happened.
One of the things that I’ve long been uncomfortable with in Hong Kong is that there are so many domestic workers here — and that they are overwhelmingly women from the Philippines and Indonesia. One consequence of this state of affairs is that when many Hong Kongers (be they ethnic Chinese or otherwise) see a “brown” woman, they tend to assume that they’re domestic workers.
At the same time, my sense is that it shouldn’t and doesn’t take much to correct that impression if that’s indeed what the individual concerned is not. And before anything else: yes, one’s occupation does play a part in how someone perceives you here — but that’s a different matter from racism.
On a related note: before I moved to Hong Kong, I was told I wouldn’t like it because people (t)here are super status conscious. Post moving here, I’d say that social snobs do indeed exist but there also are lots of people who aren’t that way. Maybe it’s because a lot of my friends are (fellow) hikers. As my mother remarked when I told her that I haven’t met many of the snobs that I had been warned about, hikers are people who don’t mind getting sweaty and opt for comfortable clothes over that which looks flashy or is mega expensive.
To sum it up: I think how you feel about Hong Kong will depend on the company you keep and what you do here. In particular, if you get away from the super monied and overly touristy areas (e.g., those parts of Tsim Sha Tsui and Central with a preponderance of designer goods stores and hotels) and more into those areas where regular folks live and also go to play (with the latter very much including Hong Kong’s fabulous country parks!), the more I reckon that the both of you will have a good — even great — experience in Hong Kong!
Great point about the company you keep and fellow hikers – nothing like doing activities with people from different races to break down racial barriers. About the equation of brown people with domestic workers – good to understand but not sure it makes a brown person feel better (whether it be racism or based on social status).
Thanks for the comment, appreciate the feedback.
I was born on Vancouver, Canada. I grew up speaking my grandfather’s dialect from mainland China although I also grew up listening to HK Cantonese. I lived in HK from the ages of 2 to 4.
When I married and visited HK 30 years ago, I hated it. My wife’s relatives told me there was nothing to see when I wanted to play tourist. The locals either pretended or didn’t even try to make an effort to listen to my way of speaking Chinese. (I was expecting the patience one would afford a foreign speaker was universal or at least courteous.) The only places I did see were those cruddy alley markets of butchers and el-cheapo merchandise. After all these years, I ‘ve been back many times not by choice but that my wife had determined my 5 year absences had been long enough. I still hate the place. It’s dirty, sweaty, stinky and the crowds are pushy and indiscriminantly butt-in when in any lineup. To top it off, I just returned from a one week trip to Japan! I bet Japan is the cleanest place in Asia.
When I visit HK, I’m here in body not in spirit. I make no plans, have no expectations and just waiting for the day of departure. And I told my 26 year old son this too.
Thank you David. I actually really like Hong Kong – more than anything just for the amazing geography. Love going up to the peak and hiking around. But I agree with the downtown crowds and all that comes with that…
For me Hong Kong introduced me to Asia and I have good memories. But my wife never wants to go back, actually never wants to go back to China…she just felt discriminated against.
By the way, I’m also Canadian – born outside Quebec City but lived for a while in Vancouver. Another beautiful city 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
As a former ex-pat in Hong Kong I am always really sadden to hear that people don’t like the place. Hong Kong has some amazing opportunities to see some countryside, but on short visits people rarely get to see them. If you can get your gf to go back take her for a hike in the new territories or to the beaches of Lantau island.
Hi Chris. Appreciate the comment. Maybe I can convince her its a necessary layover on one of our trips;) Agree, some amazing geography. HK was the first place I visited in Asia and I’ll always remember how blown away I was by the city on that trip.
Valen-This Way Paradise
It’s so sad that they still have those cultural attitudes there. I also don’t like places that are too hectic, so I think I will be avoiding Hong Kong!
Sorry you had that experience at the airport. Glad you were able to enjoy your trip regardless, and didn’t let the negativity affect you. Some people are just miserable, and they want everyone else to be to!
I’ve never been to the Asia – so I always find blogger stories interesting. It’s a shame there are still so many cultural attitudes in the world. Love the evening photo of the boats on the water.