Hong Kong

January 6th, 1997

My dear Jocelyne!

Klaus and I were invited to Hong Kong and Bali for New Year’s Eve and the first half of January as a birthday present. We stayed in Hong Kong from December 29 until today. It is winter in Hong Kong as well, but the lowest temperature is 15 – 18 °C. This is a very pleasant temperature for us, as we don’t even need a coat.

Upon our arrival here, I was impressed by its many skyscrapers – not only in the business districts, but everywhere. Obviously, a lot of them are used for housing and living, not only for business.

Then there is the waterfront. It is huge and really ocean-like, with many boats, ships, and ferries underway all the time. There are many islands around, lots of them with mountains – often dark brown, without vegetation.

The hills of the island of Hong Kong itself are green and high, offering a panorama of the city when it’s clear enough (which was only once during our stay).

The people are wonderfully friendly. I didn’t sense any aggressions in the city, although it can be very crowded – especially in Kowloon, the southern part of the Chinese mainland, which is in fact an essential part of Hong Kong, although it doesn’t belong to the island itself.

On New Year’s Eve, I had the chance to see how the people of Hong Kong were partying, and I enjoyed it very much. The waiters and cooks of the hotel bar, the lobby, and the restaurants were singing and dancing together with the guests when the first of January arrived – without really stopping to work though, just sharing the fun and joy. I didn’t meet anybody who seemed to be depressed or hear anybody complain that he or she had to work, as could be expected in Europe.

In Hong Kong, the people celebrate twice: the western New Year (and also Christmas; the whole town was still decorated with the seasonaltrappings) and the Chinese lunar New Year at the beginning of February (in 1997, it will be on February 7).

Everybody I met during my stay in Hong Kong who was working seemed to enjoy their work – permitting me to enjoy the service offered much more than I usually do.

A friend of mine who lives in Hong Kong told me that it has one of the lowest crime rates in the world – nearly none at all – and during the fifteen years he has lived there, nobody ever treated him in an unfriendly way anywhere – never! Neither has he ever been stopped for any reason by the police.

The Chinese love good food. They love to eat, altogether. So you find huge numbers of restaurants everywhere. Mainly Chinese food, of course. But you find food from all over the world in Hong Kong – and all of the food chains, as well. McDonald’s has occupied the best locations, as usual.

The very good restaurants serve excellent food indeed. The Chinese are famous for being demanding in this respect, having an educated taste. You can eat plenty of fish, duck, chicken, pork, beef – and vegetarian cuisine.

Only 20 % of the 6.2 million inhabitants of Hong Kong believe in a religion – about 15 % are Buddhists, and 5 % Catholics, according to our tourist guide. The 80 % nonreligious choose whatever they like and whenever they need it. So you don’t find as many vegetarians as you would expect from people subscribing to the Buddhist faith.

I was always very impressed by the shopping malls in the United States, especially the ones in Atlanta. They are like independent little villages, or even towns, and offer a great degree of all-around supply. But they are dwarfs compared to the dense network of shopping malls in Hong Kong. Every available meter seems to be used to have built one, or to construct a new one.

The commitment of the people of Hong Kong to trade is evident. They like to sell, and they like to go shopping. Of course, this goes hand in hand. You could call it material communication…