I heard from people and read in the articles that Hong Kong is an amazing place, but I couldn’t imagine that it’s that much…

Emotions

My plane landed in HK on Sunday early morning. First impressions looking from the window – I’m in tropics, mountains all around, tropical trees and palms. Airport is very spacious and well-organized. I found out it a bit later in the museum of history, that the whole platform – land – under the airport construction is artificial. They just built the airport above the sea next to the island. Imagine, they even check foreigners’ temperature upon the arrival, selecting every other person and putting some device to their forehead. Hardly had I got outside – the humidity and heat were overwhelming comparing to cold air conditioner in the plane, it felt like I just entered sauna. Well… I still have this feeling every time I am outside after a week of being here.

The second shock for me was the size of the apartment. It looked kind of small from the photo, but in reality it turned out to be super tiny. It seemed to me that in Belarus we have bigger corridors, where we just leave shoes and coats, or closets. What is more, for the price it asks you could rent a three-bedroom apartment in the very center of either Minsk or Riga. I found the explanation later.

For the third discovery, when I looked at the map before arriving to HK, all the distances seemed rather huge. However, here it turned out that the city is not particularly wide and many sightseeing attractions are situated in a quite walkable distances, unless you have to go across the channel. Thus, during the first days I was walking 20-30 km per day to grasp more of the city and its pace.

Most importantly, people here are very sociable and friendly. Most of the people I met, especially youngsters, spoke good English. It was funny that even those, who could not explain themselves well in English, were trying their best to help me out. One day a woman just approached us at the metro station, asking if we need some help, and then seemed kind of offended, when I told that everything was fine.

All in all, I enjoy being in Hong Kong a lot.Yeah.. it is often overcrowded during the peak hours, however, everybody is busy on their own, nobody tries to sell you something in the street and you manage to have your own space in the organized chaos of rushing people. It is fantastic that it is enough to turn around the corner by the Kowloon park, or any other park in the city to discover yourself in a complete silence. Furthermore, I admire a lot how people respect each other’s privacy and public spaces. On the bus/train stops, people queue in lines to get on the bus, it is prohibited to eat in public transport, you can’t smoke in most of the public territories, there are many common areas on the rooftops, where you can just bring your own food and drinks. It feels amazing here.

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Research and understanding 

History

One of the first things in my bucket list was Hong Kong History Museum – they are making guided tours in English every weekend. The museum is huge with life-size installations, which walk you through the development of Hong Kong from early centuries till nowadays. The museum creates the atmosphere of a one-day journey – the first expositions are hardly lightened just like it is at the dawn and the further you go the brighter the light becomes as if the sun goes up.

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For a rather short tour of 2 hours, I walked through the whole history of HK. Very shortly, Hong Kong being a remote far south point of China empire, developed as it is known now in the middle of 19th century, when China lost in the First Opium War and had to pass the island to Great Britain. Since then being a British colony Hong Kong, due to its favorable geographic position by the harbour and economic developments, has become the center of international trade. Tightening political situation in the Mainland China at that time led to the increased immigration to Hong Kong, which was boosting its economic powers even more. Limited land space and growing inflow of immigrants made it harder for people to find shelter, facilitating a number of public housing policies to be implemented and restricting to a minimum the size of the apartments. As the pact between China and Britain expired in 1997, Hong Kong returned back to People’s Republic of China under the model – “one country, two systems”, which allowed HK to maintain its own legal and economic system.

With the recent social movements for a greater autonomy from China, Hong Kongers differentiate themselves strictly from Chinese. Historically, they speak a different language – Cantonese (Mandarin in China), enjoy the freedom of speech and capitalist structure.

Education

With regard to the education system, children go to primary school at the age of 6, where they spent 6 years and later secondary school for the other 6 years. Here in Hong Kong only around 20% of students get to the university due to the limited amount of places and numerous applications. The admission is defined by their public exam score. Thus, youngsters put a lot of effort into the preparation. Concerning the tuition fees, there are few subsidised places for extraordinary good performance at the exam or sport achievements. Most of the students, however, are required to pay tuition fee, which can be funded by student loans. Bachelor degree programs usually take other 4 years of studies. Straight after bachelor, it is not common to go for Master’s degree – most of the students prefer to get more working experience, as well as save more money to afford Master’s tuition fees.

I heard from people and read in the articles that Hong Kong is an amazing place, but I couldn’t imagine that it’s that much. Next week I have a plan to discuss more with local people the political environment in HK, as well as explore more of its attractions.

Yours,
Julia

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