Exchange Diaries: Hong Kong, a month later

It's been a month since I've arrived in Hong Kong and I feel as if it might all be an illusion – maybe I'll wake up one day and I'll find myself in Kingston, an hour away from an 8:30 lecture. Nevertheless, it's the real deal... I'm half way around the world.

Since I got here, I've been mesmerized by all the sights, sounds and flavours of this place. Some have been positive, some were sightly sour, but all were eyeopening. It would take too long to share all my with you, but let me take you through the biggest differences I’ve noticed between my life here and my life in Canada.

1.Tall, narrow, and crowded

The title says it all… everything is tall, narrow and crowded. Hong Kong is very small, but has the task of fitting over seven million people in its space. These two factors result in skyscrapers that are between 30 to 50 stories high on the side of a mountain range. On any given day, it's common to find people pouring in and out of lobbies. Hong Kong is certainly an urban jungle!

2. Escalators galore

Mountains mean stairs: a painful combination. I think I've climbed up more steps since I got to Hong Kong than I have over the past year. Nevertheless, this city has a solution: escalators. You find them everywhere here, including outdoors! Moreover, the escalators here, especially the ones in the MTR (subway system) are much faster.

3. The wealth gap

This is something that's not as nice, but is readily apparent. There are malls here that don't sell a single thing that's under $100 CAD. The floors are marble and the storefronts have elaborate entrances. Right beside it (and this is no exaggeration), you'll find buildings with "holes in the wall" selling dollar store-quality items and factory rejects. You’ll also see illegal huts on the roofs of 30-storey apartments. This is Hong Kong: where millionaires and the ultra poor can't avoid each other.

4. Hall culture

I live on the 14th floor in an all-boys 'hall' (university residence). At the University of Hong Kong, most students stay in a hall for the entire duration of their degree. Therefore, halls are tight-knit communities... more so than at Queen's. All local 'freshmen' go through an intense orientation week, with military-style drills and other team-building activities. But I guess it works, because I can't tell the difference between the local freshmen and upper-years. These four certainly don't justify everything I noticed, but I hope it gives you a sense of how Hong Kong is much different from home. Look forward to an update in about a month's time.

Keep track of Brindan’s journey. His next post will appear in a month.

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