Eating in Hong Kong can be a fascinating experience. The long lines, shared tables and certain rituals not usually found overseas, it’s a marvel that this dining culture has pervaded across a significant segment of the dine-out loving population.
Here are some of the commonly observed habits we notice among the Hong Kong people.
They are patient enough to wait for long queues
It does not matter if they arrive late. If the restaurant is top notch, expect long lines of folks with unshakable commitment on where to eat, even if waiting time is half an hour or more. Otherwise, they’ll do “restaurant shopping”, making use of built-in reservation systems and see who gets them a table first.
They share tables
If people can share homes with Airbnb or cars with Uber and get paid, sharing tables is a common practice in space-deprived Hong Kong, especially on neighborhood cha chaan tengs. It’s one good gesture to observe among local people in a city where you barely know your apartment’s next door neighbor.
They are adventurous with food
Stinky tofu, no problem. Chicken feet, okay with me. Pig intestines, get me one. If others find them less appealing, Hong Kong people generally take them with pride.
They wash the utensils on the table
There is a reason why hot water — not cold or tap — is served in glasses (if not in bowls) by waitresses. It is used to clean chopsticks, plates, cups and bowls before dishes are served. Does this mean it’s not properly washed after the previous patron concluded his or her meal?
They take food photos
Whether it’s for bragging rights or simply excellent plating presentation, it’s become customary to share Instagrammable photos for friends to see, appreciate and perhaps envy. Not that it’s unique to Hong Kong people, but maybe it’s better to have variety of pictures to showcase on social media, not just selfies or theme park visits.
They are time-conscious
Without referring to watches, they seem to have an internal mechanism that calculates the time the order was taken and serving of dish. If for some reason, it’s longer than threshold of patience, restaurant’s efficiency is in question. Complaints can easily ensue in a city where people value time as shown by their walking speed and refusal to accommodate late entry at the lift. Getting their meals served quickly also means they’ll finish earlier, allowing the next customer in line to enjoy his meal sooner.
They seldom give tips
Unlike their American counterparts, Hong Kong people are not expected to tip after meals. Hong Kong people are not used to inflated costs; the price tags of grocery items have no tax add-ons. Besides, meals often have service charges that are often associated with tips.
They are specific with beverage orders
Whether it’s prescribed by their nutritionists or simply a personal choice, some locals can be demanding how they would like their orders be served. No ice, less sugar, serve lemons separately.
Take it or leave it, Hong Kong’s dining scene extends beyond consuming food and having a wonderful company. So the next time you head out for a meal, don’t be surprised to observe such behaviors.