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Stop sticking out like a teetotaler in Wanchai and try out these little tricks for blending in with the locals in Hong Kong.
1. How to hail a cross-harbor cab
To get a cab that is willing to cross the harbor, you could do the obvious and look for one of the rare signs for a cross-harbor taxi stand.
Or you could just randomly flag down cabs and have an awkward shouting negotiation through the car window with the driver who will be seated on the far side of the car.
Or use the cross-harbor arm wave.
Extend one arm in front of on-coming cab, use the hand and wrist to make an ocean wave motion, indicating that you want the cab to metaphorically brave the harbor waters.
Yes, we know that cabs are legally obliged to take you wherever you want to go. A true Hong Konger knows that laws should be interpreted only as loose guidelines. See the recent chief executive (and election) dramas for further details.
2. How to speak
End every sentence, in English or any other language, with a Cantonese final particle, such as: la, ar, wor, gar.
For example: "Hong Kong is so awesome la!"
3. How to use an umbrella
The importance of the umbrella to Hong Kongers can't be overestimated. Rarely exalted, often abused, regularly left at a bar or in a car, the underdog tool is a Hong Konger's best friend, come rain or shine.
People, particularly women, always have a little retractable umbrella on them that also has an anti-UV coating.
The umbrella keeps them relatively dry during downpours. For a city that gets rain for six months of a year, its denizens really don't like to get wet.
The other half of the year is usually hot with strong sunshine and the magical shield is pulled out again to block sunrays and keep the skin Fancl white.
4. How to document life
S**t Hong Kong people say at restaurants: “Oh this dessert looks so cute! Hold on, can you take a photo of me and this dessert? Do one more with the flash off. I blinked, take another one.”
Next thing you know, eight sets of photos with the same dessert but a variation of faces are uploaded to Facebook while the cake collects dust.
Nothing in Hong Kong is more satisfying than flooding friends with photos of our food. It can be more satisfying than eating the food itself.
So always ask if anyone wants to take a photo before setting your chopsticks into something.
5. How to ask for tissues
Asking for Kleenex will get you nowhere. We know the little sheets of delicate paper for wiping fingers and noses as "tissue" (pronounced "T-see-u") or Tempo, the dominating brand in Hong Kong.
Most self-respecting Hong Kongers always have a wad of Tempo at the ready, partly because newspapers and magazines come with a complimentary pack. Sometimes, promo folks hand them out at MTR exits just to make sure you aren't without.
6. How to tip
A service charge is almost always included in the bill, so Hong Kong diners don't bother tipping unless the waiter did something extraordinary such as deboning your sweet and sour pork.
Tipping is more about getting rid of loose change really. So people will leave HK$5.50 for a $500 meal.
7. How to order food
Hong Kongers are very specific (picky) about what they want to order. The customized meal orders at a local diner rivals Starbucks coffee orders.
The most commonly heard orders are "iced lemon tea with less sweetness no ice and lemon slices on the side" as well as "fish ball noodles with no greens plus beef brisket soup base."
There's no chef snootiness to put up with here.
8. How to abbreviate
One thing Hong Kongers have in common with Aussies -- we like to abbreviate.
It's either because we are extremely lazy or extremely industrious -- we can't be bothered to say the full phrase or we need to fit in as many nouns as possible in a short amount of time. Either way, we like it low on syllables.
The 7-Eleven convenience store is just “Seven” (pronounced "seh-fun"), Circle K is “OK” and the spam and egg sandwich is literally “sp-egg-wich” in Cantonese.
Our favorite is saying "sorry" -- rendered as, simply, “sor."
9. How to not hold up the line
When it comes to commuting, it is all about not stopping. The body must be constantly moving foward.
That is why train and bus schedules are committed to memory and it is also why it's imperative Octopus cards are always topped up and taken out ahead of time when one needs to pay.
The idea is to pass nonchalantly through the MTR turnstile without having to slow down at all.
Don't be the slowpoke tourist who fumbles to find the Octopus card at the bottom of your bag only after you hit the turnstile.
Or worse yet, not have enough credit.
There's nothing more blush-worthy than the haunting, high-pitched beep of a rejected Octopus and the walk of shame away from the turnstile.
10. How to count with hands
The best citizenship test as immigration officials will tell you, is to count in the local dialect. Take it up a notch and count in the local sign language.
These three numbers can really show off your local know-how: six, nine and 10.
The number six can be represented by holding up six fingers. If you're a gauche tourist.
Hong Kongers like to do it elegantly and use the "hang ten" hand sign to symbolize six.
Nine gets a graphic representation, by curling the index finger down to resemble the shape of the number "9."
And to sweep your fruit vendor off her feet, make a cross with your index fingers to indicate that it is exactly 10 apples you want. The international sign for warding off vampires is the Hong Kong sign for the number preceding eleven.