Hong Kong Restaurant South St. Paul

I was living in Japan as a Rotary exchange student in 1997 when the British lease of Hong Kong expired. Watching the celebrations on television, I longed to visit and see Hong Kong for myself. These people knew how to party, I thought. What’s more, they lived in a beautiful tropical city, sitting right on the water, with some of the tallest and narrowest buildings I had ever seen. Fourteen years later, I finally made it, and Hong Kong did not disappoint.

Hong Kong has a lot of immigrants who come for a wide strata of economic opportunity – from housekeeping to banking. People come heavily from SE Asia and the English-speaking world. This melting pot of people was immediately apparent to me because Hong Kong is the only country I have been where people drive on the left, but don’t necessarily walk on the left. I’m never quite sure what side of the street to gravitate to here – my guess is people just walk on whatever side they’re used to. In New York, speed and position on the sidewalk are important, so I try to walk in step wherever I am.

Much about Hong Kong is very familiar to me – yet even the challenges seem somewhat easier here. Many people speak English, and you can certainly get by without speaking Cantonese (our British friends who live here have never learned; one told us that with his Mandarin and English he has never once needed to use Cantonese in his five years spent here). Like in most parts of Asia, signs are in English and Chinese. For me, having both sets of writing juxtaposed has provided an opportunity for review and new knowledge. My Chinese character reading, developed when I studied Japanese in high school and college, has grown rusty (decayed or rotten even), but as I discovered when I visited mainland China four years ago, I can still read characters I can’t pronounce.

Hong Kong is a great place to travel with a child. People are eager to engage children, safe high chairs are widely available at restaurants, and there is a lot for a curious toddler to watch. The only real negative is the Darwinistic-type approach most people take to getting on subways and anything that requires queuing; upon entering the subway at Disneyland, there were people literally stepping over Jude’s stroller to get in front of me. I have experience with this strategy in Japan (NOT New York), and without a child this is tolerable, but with a child you can’t be afraid to stick out your elbows and make yourself a little wider and a little sharper so you can get where you need to go. Do as the locals do – otherwise, the subway doors might shut in front of you!

Hong Kong is obsessed with cleanliness. There is hand sanitizer in many public places, admonishing you to use it, and there were even signs at the airport describing the importance of hand washing. When we were at HK Disneyland, a local woman was very distressed that Jude was putting his fingers in his mouth. (I wasn’t happy about it, but I was surely not distressed.) She was about to physically remove his fingers when I jumped in and did it myself.

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