In an easy reference format, I will give some advice, tips, and some useful information to help give future Hong Kong interns an easy transition into this awesome culture, living in and exploring the city and sites, and being a part of the workforce.
Assimilating to Hong Kong’s Culture:
People of Hong Kong are very proud of their beautiful city and, therefore, try and keep it immaculate at all times. As a visitor, you should always do the same: never litter, spit out anything, or do anything that would destroy the beautiful surroundings. They have vigilant cops that are always on the lookout for something as little as throwing a cigarette on the ground (a friend got fined for it). The same applies for most Asian countries.
Be prepared for personal space invasion: People from Hong Kong and most Asian countries stand close together. When standing in line, visiting museums or riding public transportation, you may mistake the smaller personal space as pushiness, but that’s typical. Also, although people are in close proximity to you, I’ve never experienced or came across anyone who has experienced pick-pocketing or any type of thievery in these situations. In general, Hong Kong has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
Navigating the sidewalks: Be prepared to bob and weave as you walk from place to place as there seems to be no flow to the walking patterns. Although cars drive on the left side of the road, when moving from place to place on the sidewalk, people walk on the right, the left, and even the middle part of the sidewalk, so just keep your patience.
The Octopus Card: This is your lifeline to easy living in Hong Kong. This is the name of your Metro Card, but unlike ordinary metrocards, the Octopus is not only used for your transportation, it is also accepted by all 7-Elevens, Circle Ks, other convenience stores, some restaurants, and even vending machines.
Language barrier: Because English is one of their two main languages, the other being Cantonese, the language barrier is nothing to be worried about. On occasion, however, you can encounter some fun experience with charades when they do not speak English, which is more common in the local eatery.
Must see and do while in Hong Kong:
- Don’t miss a trip to Victoria Peak by way of the Peak Tram for only $3.60 one way or hike up for free.
- Take the Star Ferry at night to see great views of the city skyline from Victoria Harbor (super cheap).
- Make sure to visit the markets in Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui such as Temple Market, the Ladies Market, and other various markets that line the streets where it is like a game bartering for items.
- Explore the WW2 Bunkers and see the wild monkeys in Shing Mun Country Park.
- Go for a hike or speed boat ride to Sai Kung Beach Park that has a beach where you can camp overnight under the stars and places to go cliff jumping close by.
- Dragon Back Hike is a great 2-3 hour hike that gives you views of the beautiful beaches that surround the south side of Hong Kong Island.
- Take a day trip to Tai O Fishing village is one of the last remaining authentic fishing villages in Hong Kong. It is located on the west side on Lantau Island.
- Visit Ten Thousand Buddhas monastery located on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. A very peaceful place where you hike up the golden buddha-lined steps to the monastery at the top.
- Take a day trip to the surrounding beaches. If you find yourself at Big Wave Beach, you can go surfing/paddle boarding for about $10 for the whole day.
- Just get lost: I highly recommend to wander aimlessly through the streets of Hong Kong and to explore as many of the nooks and crannies of the city as you can.
Side note: If you are into jazz/blues music, every Saturday night a hair salon called Visage One transforms into a blues club for the night with local artists coming out to perform. Definitely a weekend highlight and go to spot when I was in town.
Easy guide to living in this lively, energetic, and unique city:
- Staying at the Harbour Plaza North Point, offers the best of all worlds: great pools, restaurants, views of beaches and mountains, clean and friendly service, nice room accommodations, affordable and easy access to outside laundry and dry cleaning services that fold, press, and deliver your clothes to the hotel, and is within close walking distance to the MTR , bus stops, and tons of restaurants and shops.
- Always carry an umbrella and download the app, MyObservatory, for constant weather reports as rain showers occur often and without warning.
- Plan enough time to take the MTR to work from your hotel, especially during the rush hour. You may have to wait 2 or 3 trains till you can get on one. When possible take the double decker tram. It is really cheap and a nice ride when not raining.
- Be aware of the time differences with regards to assignment deadlines for back in the states.
Transitioning into the job:
- To be on time is to be at least 15 minutes early. Our boss implemented a late punishment where if you were late, you had to buy everyone in the office Bubble Tea. So you literally paid the price for being late. I can say, proudly, that I never had to do this.
- Typically, it’s not polite to leave before the boss leaves. So if that means staying an extra hour or so on some nights, that’s what you have to do. That is a big cultural thing. However, some companies are more lenient with this policy, as was mine. As long as we were there for 9 hours, we were allowed to leave.
- Usual work hours vary between the hours of 9am to 6pm or 10am to 7pm.
- Prepare to be proactive and to teach yourself in some instances. Because you are an intern and the days are long, you may experience periods of downtime. In these instances, by being proactive and learning about specific roles in your company, you can create more opportunities to ask questions and take on more jobs.
- Proper business card etiquette: You will probably encounter an instance when you are giving or receiving a business card. There are a few things to remember when exchanging business cards.
- Business cards are exchanged using both hands.
- Hand your card so the typeface faces the recipient.
- Examine business cards carefully before putting them in a business card case.
- It is important to treat business cards with respect – never write on someone’s card unless directed to do so.
- Your own business cards should be maintained in pristine condition.
- Make certain your business card includes your job title. This helps your Hong Kong business colleagues understand where you fit in your company’s hierarchy.
So overall, come into your internship with an open mind, be willing to learn and take constructive criticism, meet as many people as possible during your trip, and get in as many of the sites as possible. In doing so, you will leave having an amazing experience and no regrets.
A final note: Be prepared for the unexpected. Having not been seriously sick in over 6 years, I landed in a Hong Kong hospital and I wasn’t quite prepared for this. Although the hospital care was excellent and the program staff, especially Claudia in Hong Kong and the staff at Temple Philly, were available for me during the entire experience, it is important to know your Temple Travel and Health Insurance numbers and contacts. Also, if you plan to travel on your own after the 8 weeks, there is extended Travel insurance available from Temple through 3 different options. I enrolled in the iNext plan. You won’t regret making sure you are covered in the case of an emergency.