Dec 232008

And there you have it. I’m now in Hong Kong, my 31st foreign country.

…That is, if you consider Hong Kong to be a country. Technically it’s a SEZ (Special Economic Zone) of China…but I’d still pretty much call it a country. It’s got its own currency, its own passport, its own visa agreements, its own laws, and its own language. Culturally, it couldn’t be more different from the mainland.

So, what are my initial impressions?

I’d always sort of imagined Hong Kong to be like any other Asian metropolis I’d seen so far – perhaps like a sort of Chinese Tokyo. To my surprise, this was far from the reality. Except for the neon lights and Chinese characters, Hong Kong barely even feels like Asia – instead, it feels almost exactly like New York City. It’s shockingly international. And I don’t mean international like Itaewon is an international part of Seoul, or like Roppongi has a comparatively higher foreign population than the rest of Japan. I mean international like if you look around, there’s no such thing as a minority – many times it’s not even obvious where in the world you are. English is as commonly used and understood as in Israel; in fact, it seems to be extremely rare to come across someone who can’t speak it.

Aside from the globalization, the amount of money that’s clearly floating around this city is just staggering. I must’ve seen twenty Ferraris over this past week, not to mention countless Benz’s, Jaguars, Porches, Rolls Royces, and even a few Lamborghinis. That’s not to say that every part of Hong Kong is like this – but many areas on the Island itself could only be defined as…the epitome of opulence. You’d be hard pressed to find a shirt for under $200 in several of the shopping malls I’ve seen. I’ve witnessed at least five professional photo shoots, right out on the city streets – where 6-foot-tall fashion models were showing off their Louis Vuitton dresses under a 10-story brightly lit Christmas tree.

Hong Kong is quite noticeably different from your “Average City.”

Finally, the climate is very, very different from that of Beijing/Shijiazhuang. Up there I was struggling to hold back the shivers – even while wearing long underwear and 4 layers of tops. Here I’ve been walking around in a T-shirt and jeans. The smoggy skies have been replaced with almost cloudless blue every single day, and although the temperatures are indeed dropping, it’s thus far been very very pleasant.

(Note: This post was originally part of the previous, later split into two.)

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