為何要體驗香港人的本地生活 – why you should go local in Hong Kong (and not only there)

Sing and I love to follow the steps of locals when we travel. Of course, as every tourist I will go to those ‘must-see’ places, but I won’t mind getting lost or leaving subway one stop earlier just to see more. You might find a small local diner that is not in your guidebook or you might get a chance to learn more about the place you’re about to visit.

image (2)Especially in the case of cities like Hong Kong YOU SHOULD go local. And there are plenty reasons why!

  1. It’s cheap. Let’s face it – if something is in the guidebook you’re carrying, it’s probably quite pricey. I don’t know why, but literally every single guidebook that I had while traveling would suggest some posh-y places that I would be too cheap to go and I know the prices there are high mostly because the spot is focus on the tourists. Before the trip I would try to read local forums, sites like OpenRice, whatsapp our local friends or just randomly wander around the streets and look if the price is in my ‘worth my money’ range.
    If the place is typically for locals (i.e. no English menu), you’re more likely to find good prices.
  2. It’s entertaining. In some cities like Paris, those hop on – hop off buses make sense, it’s just cheaper than taking a subway and will get you to all of the destinations you should see. But I don’t see the reason why would you have that kind of bus in Hong Kong. I mean, a trip with star ferry takes around 8 minutes and less than 3 HKD (0.38 USD/0,35 EUR). Double-decked tram will take you to many places in Hong Kong island for the same price! For that price just enter on the first station and take a ride around the island until the last station! You will find so many hidden gems on your way!
    And if my words cannot convince you, just look at the video!

  3. Getting lost is a great adventure. So you took my advice and went with a random tram to some random spot… How cool is that! You now have the opportunity to practice your language skills, doesn’t matter if it’s English or Cantonese or any other. Just go out of your comfort zone and ask for a directions or ask if someone knows a good foodie spot somewhere near!
    Sing forces me to go out of my speaking-Cantonese-comfort-zone and asks me to order the food for us. And when you go to a Hong Kong diner or dai pai dong you will more likely approach an aunty whose English is limited to ‘Bye, bye’. Now if you enter my room in the middle of the night, wake me up and ask me to order you a beer I will be like ‘Yat zun bejau, m’goi’.image (1)
  4. It’s tasty. Local Hong Kong food is just A-W-E-S-O-M-E. There’s everything for everyone – for vegetarians, for meat lovers, for people who like Asian cuisine and for those who want some Western tastes. Baked pork chop rice and Hong Kong style milk tea or lemon tea with barbecue meat over rice and gai lan. Did I mention the choice of fresh and dried seafood? Snack stands opened until late? Noodle store where for 30 HKD you can get a bowl of noodles filled with happiness and other ingredients? Or maybe you have a sweet tooth and you love mango? I should actually become Mango Chan (I bet there’s a lady named like that in Hong Kong already – still better than Iceland and Rainbow, though). I ate mango sago with a coconut milk EVERY SINGLE DAY during this trip.
  5. You can learn a lot. You can learn about the customs, history, traditions. As I mentioned previously, you can practice your language skills. If you’re lucky enough, you might encounter people who will teach you more than you expected.
    I was lucky enough, my bridesmaid (my male maid of honor and self-called the King of Karaoke) is originally from Macau and when we told him we are coming to visit him, he took his car and drove us around to the places we wouldn’t go ourselves. Most of the tourists will only see the fancy hotels and then walk to the ruins of St. Paul’s cathedral, maybe see what is up the hill and hereimage (3) you go – ‘I’ve seen a lot in Macau’, that’s what I used to say but thanks to our friend we could see more and learn more than we would normally do. Not to mention he took us to an amazing Portuguese restaurant and now Sing is always like ‘I would eat something Portuguese now’. Thanks, Raymond.
    And yes, of course I made a video – I will upload it in near future on my YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/myhongkonghusband.
  6. You support local businesses and not big chains. In my opinion that is the most important thing – you probably have seen that picture online saying ‘If each of us spent $100 a year more on local businesses instead of chain stores, it would put an extra $3 million a year into our economy.’
    I won’t argue if it’s true or not, I’m not an economist but I have my eyes and my mind. I can read the property prices. Hong Kong’s properties are probably one of (if not) the most expensive in the world. Even luxury stores like Gucci say they might quit because the rental prices are too high, how can those little local family businesses survive without our help? How many fish balls have to be made and sold to cover the high cost? I don’t say ‘Quit eating/buying at chain stores’, because that’s not a solution, but getting your meal or whatever you’re looking for at a local store and the other one in the chain could greatly help and actually make a difference.

So what’s your take on this topic? Do you prefer to travel like a tourist or try to blend in as a local? I would love to hear your opinions and maybe even have a discussion! 🙂

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50 thoughts on “為何要體驗香港人的本地生活 – why you should go local in Hong Kong (and not only there)

  1. I think I tend to mix it up. In Turkey, local is the way to go. I’ve learned so much and definitely improved my language skills through my travels. I think it depends with whom I’m travelling – trying to make everyone happy. My boyfriend and I like to go to the local spots – sometimes we tend to go TOO local and end up in dodgy places (more than once). My cousins and my mother are more high maintenance haha.

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  2. I think it really depends. If I am a tourist, I would prioritize doing all the touristy stuff. I would think of myself as being there to boost their tourism industry. Of course, if I get go around like a local, or if a local is bringing me around, that would be a nice bonus.

    In some places, the locals might not like tourists doing what they are doing. For example, taking the Metro or dining at their lunch places, when space is scarce already, it is annoying to see tourists join them and take their spots, delaying them from getting to work/back home from work. I always thought Hong Kong falls under this category. Maybe you are tagging along with Sing and can somewhat speak Cantonese so you are fine. 🙂

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  3. When you go to a new place it’s normal that you want to go to the tourist places, like monument, temples, etc. However for eating I never follow the guides recommendations, I always walk around and find a place with many locals inside 😀

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  4. I love wandering around in the small streets to explore all the local places and hidden treasures in the town. Eating and chatting time local always give one’s the insight about their countries too.

    Speaking of this topic, I’m not sure if it’s my look or my ability to act local. Everywhere I”ve travelled so far I always get this question of are you a local… Once when my wife and I were in Laos, an old couple we came across refused to believe that I’m not a Laotian…

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  5. The best restaurants I found in Europe, I found because we were walking around the cities. Or because we asked a native where to go. Great advice!

    And now I am hungry. I must stop reading your posts on an empty stomach.

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  6. We eat at small local places all the time, we appreciate the cheap price and authentic taste.
    There is just one thing that might trouble people without Chinese/Cantonese language skills: At many small restaurants, menus are in Chinese/Cantonese only, and most of the time, the stuff does not speak English. For me alone it would be almost impossible to order anything. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Your experience reminded me my holiday in Korea many years ago. I went into a local restaurant where they only had a manu in Korean. I pointed at things randomly then after a while the writer brought out a live octopus in a fish tank. Got the poor thing out with his bare hand and cut the legs off with a pair of kitchen scissors and served them up on a plate with sesame oil. I was the only one at the table who had them and never again…

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  7. Most of the time I don’t enjoy an expensive restaurant no matter how good the food is. I feel more comfortable eating reasonably priced food with ordinary people. I haven’t been to Hong Kong for a long time. You’re making me hungry.

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  8. I’d love to visit Hong Kong! I/we do both. I check out recommended things to do before leaving, so there’s generally a few ‘tourist’ places I want I want to see and follow a loose agenda, but normally we take local transport, explore, go off the beaten tourist track. There’s always an alley way that draws my attention! My last trip to was to Athens. We explored Muses Hill in moonlight, took the tram to the beaches, ate street food which was way more tastier than some vegan restaurants we found there and just explored! When I 1st moved to Barcelona, I explored, got lost which is how I found amazing places the locals shop at not on tourist maps. And after 10 years, I’ve still to visit some of the tourist hotspots!

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  9. I’ve never had a chance to visit Hong-Kong.I don’t think I’ll have one either due to my health and mobility condition. But I had a lovely tour on your post. Thank you!

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  10. I guided tour by the King of Karaoke sounds like such a privilege. I’m completely with you on the local thing, but sometimes, when you’re only in the city for a very short while, it can be difficult to immerse completely, because going local usually also requires quite a lot of research and asking (locals) around:) I’m visiting Hong Kong for the second time in December. Looking forward to go back and I’ll definitely be using your blog to navigating the city:)

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    1. There’s a good way to balance – local transport, local food, tourist spots 😀 I would be upset if I missed ‘the must see’, but I love small local cafes. We laughed in Paris a lot, because lost of places lacked English menu and we played charades trying to figure it out 😀

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  11. I love this! It’s so true that the best experiences are usually when you go local. It’s always the best if you know locals who can give you advice or guide you, like your tour of Macau with the “King of Karaoke”. Otherwise, you just don’t know where to find the best small restaurants – since they’re so often (at least in Asia) completely indistinguishable from the very worst! Plus, picking random things on a menu is always an option, but there’s always the chance you’ll get something truly terrible, and after a long day sight-seeing, sometimes you just want the comfort of being able to read a menu! I love that many more local spots in East and Southeast Asia are providing English translations more and more thanks to the influx of tourists, for whom English is the de facto tourist language! Some of my favourite experiences living abroad though have been not just having locals show me around, but going to local homes and eating home cooked food as the locals do. It’s truly a wonderful experience!

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  12. When I go to a new place I like to wander the streets and just see what people do, what’s for sale in local shops, enjoy the parks. I like to go to grocery stores because I think that gives you a sense of how people live.

    My preference is to walk over any kind of transport until I get a feel for the city. That allows me to recognize where I m going (and thereby know when to get off the bus or tell the taxi to stop.

    In China I especially like to walk along the streets where people are selling things on the sidewalk and watch the grandparents and kids, see what fruits and veggies are in season, and watch the local people pick and choose and haggle.

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  13. In my recent trip to Austria I tried to go local, since it’s a pricey country. So far I succeeded in shopping at super markets where you can easily blend in and buy something cheap. And a couple of times tried to pretend being a local by ordering in German. Such things are exciting, but it’s good to do some search about ‘going local-places’ before the trip.

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  14. I couldn’t blend in as much when I visited HK with my family, but yes, I love the local shops that sell hot noodle soup for a fraction of the cost at touristy restos. And the soups are just dee-li-shus!

    It’s what I look for in Hong Kong. And that citron iced tea? Yummy.

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  15. Hi Paulina, I started following your blog a few months ago while we were planning our recent trip to Hong Kong. It’s been really useful to us for our visit, and so very interesting to read about all your experiences over there. So I’ve nominated you for a blog award in my latest post, to say thank you for a fascinating blog!

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