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Weird SH*T You’d Only Find in Hong Kong

Andrea Lo

Walk around Hong Kong and you’ll see some truly one-of-a-kind things that you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. If you’ve ever wondered why so many people wear face masks, or why you’re served with a weird bowl of hot tea/water mix at dim sum (and no it’s not for drinking!!!) or even what’s the meaning behind the very odd name of a shop assistant: look no further. We have all the answers for Hong Kong’s strangest, most unique, and straight-up weird happenings.

Rinsing dishes and cups in a bowl of tea

When visiting a local dim sum restaurant, you might spot some very mild hot tea placed in a plastic bowl in the centre of the table. This is for squeamish Hongkongers to rinse their dishes and cups in, just to ensure they’re “clean” enough to eat and drink out of. You might argue that this doesn’t do anything (it doesn’t) – but hey, it’s how our grandparents and mum and dad have always done it. And we’ll continue doing it until our kids are old enough to do it for us.

Face masks and hand sanitisers, everywhere

Any clean freaks in the house? You’ll love our Hong Kong’s tireless efforts to maintain a clean city for all. From free hand sanitisers installed just about everywhere (malls, train stations) to people walking around with face masks on, we don’t mess around when it comes to hygiene. Don’t make fun: after a number of serious disease outbreaks over the last 20 years, Hongkongers are incredibly conscious about keeping it clean. Just to be clear, you are supposed to wear a face mask when you’re sick to avoid spreading germs. Feel a cold coming on? Be a responsible citizen and pop one on.

Weird English names

Ever seen someone with a name tags saying “Fanny Poon” or “Purple Lee”? Hong Kong is where you’ll find names like these. Many Hongkongers get to choose their English names, and in a bid to be creative, many pick, um, slightly “out-there” names. Wouldn’t you want something unique, if you got to choose your own? Just think of the great SEO…

Rock-bottom “haunted” property prices


Hong Kong is one of the most expensive places in the world to live, with property prices rocketing pretty much by the second. That is, unless someone has died in the home – in which case prices dip to actually affordable levels and sometimes even well below, if the death was gruesome enough. The Chinese are a superstitious people, and it is believed to bring bad luck to live in a “haunted” apartment. Feeling brave? There are websites that cater to those who aren’t bothered by murders and homicides, or who are in search of real bargains.


Obsession with dining trends

When a dining trend hits Hong Kong, we take it to the next level. Portuguese egg tarts, cookies… you name it. When a particular food takes off, restaurants and food stalls pop up all over the place, drawing long queues full of crazed fans. Case in point: just look at all those juiceries offering “cleanses” that have popped up in the last couple of years. Sigh.

“Cigarette hot potting”

Ever seen smokers circled around a bin on the streets? This is “affectionately” known as “cigarette hot potting”, after the Chinese style of dining where folks gather around a pan of cooking broth where raw ingredients are cooked. Increasingly stricter littering laws enforced in the mid-2000s meant that smokers who toss their cigarette butts on the ground are liable to a $5,000 fine – giving rise to the popularity of “cigarette hot potting”. Well, at least they’re keeping smoke confined to one place in public…

Crazy license plates

A cab with a license that reads “TAXI”. A seven-seater that says “Tesco”. In Hong Kong, you’ll find vanity license plates aplenty. Celebrities love these, too: spot “HK1”, owned by casino tycoon Stanley Ho; and “Deborah”, belonging to socialite Deborah Valdez-Hung – coincidentally both on Rolls Royce Phantoms. Want one of your own? All you have to do is submit a request to the Transport Department, and provided that no one else wants the same one, it’s yours – but you’ll have to pay, of course. If you’re up against someone else for the same license plate, you’ll have to enter into a bidding war. The relative ease of the process, though, means vanity license plates are ever so popular around the city.


Andrea Lo is a freelance journalist and translator based in Hong Kong. After cutting her teeth in the industry as a staff writer at a lifestyle magazine, she embraced the freelance life in 2015 and hasn’t looked back. She spends her time exploring the best of Hong Kong’s dining and nightlife scene, trialling new fitness trends, and travelling to exotic locales – all in the name of “research”.