Back in the fall, when I was telling people where I was studying abroad, I was asked many questions. Questions like “How long will you be there for?”, “What school will you be studying at?”, or “Are you nervous?” All of these I was able to answer. But I noticed other similar questions of “Are you excited to go to China?” and “Will you be able to use the internet?” These made me think of the idea for this blog post. I want to debunk some common misconceptions about studying in Hong Kong or Hong Kong in general.
Myth: Hong Kong is a city in China
This is a complicated one. Hong Kong belonged to China from at least 220 AD. But then the British came to Asia, there were a few wars between China and Britain and in order to create peace China agreed to give Britain control of Hong Kong for 99 years. In 1997, China regained Hong Kong with the agreement that Hong Kong would be a Special Administrative Region of China. Hong Kong has its own economy, currency, legal system, and passport. Hong Kong is allowed to act as its own independent country, but its head of government is selected by officials in China. All in all, Hong Kong is a part of China, but it is not as closely linked to China as some might assume.
Hong Kong skyline
Myth: People in Hong Kong speak Mandarin
Another question I got asked a lot before I left was “Are you going to learn to speak Mandarin?” Although it would be helpful on my trips to China, the simple answer was probably not since the two official languages of Hong Kong are Cantonese and English. Cantonese is a variation of Chinese that is spoken in Southeastern China. What’s interesting is that Mandarin and Cantonese are written the same way, but Cantonese has more levels of pitch when speaking.
Myth: The internet is censored
Before coming to Hong Kong, I knew that I would have access to some social media websites but wasn’t sure of the full extent. Turns out, I can access everything I typically would back home! If I need wind down at the end of an exhausting day I can go to Netflix or check Facebook. I can even iMessage or Snapchat friends and family back home throughout the day while I am out and about.
The fun fact of this post is: when Hong Kongers go to a local restaurant they like to wash their bowls, spoons, and chopsticks in the tea before using them. It is a way to get them extra clean with the hot water in case the kitchen didn’t do a good enough job.
Talk to you next time.