I love basketball. Every chance I get, I make it a point to play until my body refuses to continue. By the time I finish playing, my whole body will be covered in sweat. I’ll literally be able to wring out my shirt and leave a puddle of human coolant. Feet covered in blisters, and another pair of shoes decimated by my sick ass spin moves and crossovers. (Or me tripping over my own feet.) I’ve never been called a graceful player. Back home is rarely ever be considered that good really. My shooting is inconsistent, my passing is mediocre, and the less said about my dribbling the better. (Unless you’re trying to hurt my feelings, in which case go ahead and talk about my dribbling.)
My skills are not what get me wins on the court. Ok, they usually aren’t. Everybody catches fire on the court sometimes. No, what gets me wins by and large is my passion for the game. By what can only be described as a devotion for which, I lay my body on the line. Dramatic? Totally. Overstatement? Ask anybody I play against. Basketball is like a religion, and when I’m on the court I’m going to church. (To my religious family members, I don’t mean to blaspheme, it’s just a metaphor for the love I have for the game.)
That’s what I love about Hong Kong too. Here, ball is life. Every court I visit is occupied. There are 2, 3, 4 or more squads waiting for their next game. Basketball matters here. Everybody can stop studying or working for an hour or two. Cut loose, melt some stress away, and play some basketball.
It’s a very different game here too. Stylistically, it feels alien to the 1-on-1 focused, run and gun style of American ball. Here, there’s always another pass, a better shot. Everybody packs the paint because hardly anybody wants to shoot from deep. Funny enough, I wrote about those differences in college.
It was about the cultural distinctions between the United States, and Hong Kong that was seen in the way basketball is played. Most of the stuff feels pretty surface level looking back. And it’s definitely not authoritative on the subject. But, if you feel like reading through the eyes of a college junior, I’ve attached it below.
I’ll never play professionally. Playing anything organized is almost impossible at this stage. And I may have already peaked in my abilities. Yet, I still play. I’ll throw myself at every loose ball. I’ll fight for every rebound. I’ll give everything to the game of basketball and never expect a thing in return. Because that’s how it is. And besides…
Studying abroad in Hong-Kong is a wonderful opportunity. In fact, it was so nice for me I came back a second time, and then the 3rd time. And now I kind of just live and work here. Know this: you’ll never have all the answers, and there will always be surprises, but it’s good to at least have some helpful hints and tips. So here are 10 of those. Hints and tips that is. I don’t know if all ten will be surprises to you.
#1: Leave Your Preconceived Notions Behind
Hong-Kong is a wonderful, confounding, and mystical place. It’s a 100% Asian, but you’d be surprised by how westernized a lot of the city/special administrative region is. You’re going to see a lot of traditional Buddhist temples right next to places like a Gucci store or the Mac Depot. That’s just the way it is the year. A beautiful dichotomy of different worlds mixed and mashed together. They may seem obtuse to one another, but these parts of Hong Kong are like puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly despite being from different puzzles. So whatever you think you’re going to experience try not to bet on it too hard. You’ll experience way more than that.
#2 Get out of your dorm room (Also applies to regular college)
This is a problem that I had when I first came to Hong Kong. I stayed in my room too much. Thankfully, I was able to break out of my shell and go do a lot of really cool and fun things. You need to do this for yourself more than anything because life is an adventure. And in Hong Kong, there is adventure aplenty. Be your own challenge. You could live in Hong-Kong for 100 years and you would maybe get to half of the things there are to do in this wonderful city. Staying cooped up in your room is going to be the biggest mistake you can possibly make and on Kong. Make sure that you are taking advantage of every single moment that you get to spend here. Yes, your education is important. Which is why you need to educate yourself by getting out and actually experience this different culture.
Do yourself a favor, and get out of the city as much as you can. Because the islands are bitchin’. And so is the hiking. And the beaches. And the cheap airfare. You can travel to Taiwan for the long weekends for less than 600. (Or 2 weeks in Japan for 2000 like my friend Brandon did in the middle of the school year.)
And you know what? You can do a lot of great traveling without going on the airplane too! The outer parts of Hong Kong is a veritable treasure trove of interesting places to see and visit. I’ll give you a very short list:
More beaches than you can shake several sticks at.
So yeah, go places. And eat food there.
#4 Sample the Food
Eating in Hong-Kong is a privilege that you don’t get anywhere else. In fact, Hong-Kong has the most Michelin star restaurants per capita in the world. That might not sound like much to the non-foodies, but it is indicative of the fact that the food in Hong-Kong
is mostly stellar. Whether you want Western comfort food, European gourmet, authentic South/South East Asian dishes, or you just want to sample a little of everything… Hong Kong has you covered. Except for pizza. I say this on behalf of everybody who has
ever had an honest to goodness decent pizza. You will never find it good pizza in Hong-Kong the way you would find a good pizza pretty my journey where else. The travesty of pizza here is nothing short of an abomination. (Update: Pizza Box is ok.)
But if you can survive without pizza you’ll be fine. Because the food in Hong Kong is seriously delicious. Just where I live in Hung Hom, There are about two dozen restaurants that I absolutely adore. And that doesn’t include the dozens of other restaurants within walking distance that I still need to try. You will never have to worry about going hungry in Hong-Kong. The portions are big. The prices are small. And the taste is to die for. Again, except for pizza because it just tastes like death. (Except for Pizza Box).
#5 Get an Octopus Card
Seriously. You have no idea how bloody useful this thing is. You literally need it to go anywhere around Hong-Kong. Unless you want to spend more and buy every individual ticket for every specific location you’re ever going to go while taking their train system. Or if you just want to pay exact change every time you go on the bus. Because they don’t give change.
You can even use it when you are at stores like Circle K and 7-Eleven! You literally need it to go anywhere around Hong-Kong. And sometimes it’s even mandatory for certain objects. For instance, I literally could not use my University’s laundromat until I got an Octopus Card. It’s not fun washing your clothes in the sink. Then, when I wanted to buy a drink from the vending machine, I was out of luck! No change accepted… So get a damn Octopus Card.
#6 Don’t bring warm clothes.
This is more of a suggestion for people who were not born in the South. Yes, unless you enjoy boiling yourself alive in 90ﾟ & 90% humidity, you should probably pack cool clothing. You have to remember that this place is considered tropical. You can literally go to the rainforest. So leave your big puffy coat at home and bring shorts. Because you might look on fleek, but having a heat stroke is most assuredly not on fleek. (I apologize to my English Professor Dr. Picken for the repeat usage of the term “on fleek”)
#7 The Workload will be Different (Easier)
Listen, I won’t bullshit you: Classes in Hong Kong are 10 times easier than in America. When I studied at Lingnan, I was amazed by how easy everything was. Also, every student I spoke to from the States agrees that the workload is much lighter than in the States. THAT BEING SAID: Make sure you understand the syllabus in your classes before you go and skip your classes (more than you already do). Typically, 60% or more of your grade will exclusively be from your midterm and end term exams. Sometimes even more. Unless the transfer credits count toward your GPA (meaning they don’t transfer on a pass/fail basis), you can skip almost every class and still pass with enough studying before the exam. (Not saying I advocate that, or even did it myself, but I’d be remiss to not say it how it is.) Anywhere between 10-30% then comes from projects that pop up, but they’re 99% of the time a group project. Attendance is rarely mandatory and rarely counts for more than 10%. But again: CHECK YOUR SYLLABUS. TALK TO LOCALS FIRST.
Speaking of which:
#8 You are a Guest of Hong Kong. Act like it.
Be aware that you live in their home, and you are a guest. It’s ok if you don’t know everything right off the bat, but make sure you put in the effort. Understand what is and is not considered appropriate. Just because you’re being respectful doesn’t mean that you’re bowing to somebody else’s ideas. Learn from them, and don’t assume you know anywhere near as much as they do. (The fact I need to say this is ridiculous but whatever.) You may have learned it, but remember. They’ve lived it.
#9 Talk to People
I don’t care how much you hate talking to people. You will experience a kind of loneliness that you had never experienced before. Period. Being in Hong Kong by yourself is terrifying. You’re on the other end of the world almost 10,000 miles away from the nearest person who knows you in all likelihood. You need to talk to people, you need to make friends. Your friends from back home are exactly that, back home. They are not gonna come and visit. You have the ultimate opportunity to make friends around the world. People I got to talk to every day came from all stretches of the world. Finland, Mexico, Japan, Tanzania, Zimbabwe. Friendships that shaped my time here, and molded me into a more global thinker. You are in an International city like no other. Go out and make some friends. Because those people are just like you. Scared, alone, and looking to get drunk. So go get drunk with them.
#10 Where the party is at
If you want to know where all the awesome bars are, just remember these 3 letters. LKF, Otherwise known as Lan Kwai Fong. This place is 100% party central in the HK. You will see more drinking, deviance, and awkward grinding here then you have anywhere else in the world. And if you think you can find a more happening party place I will literally fight you. And then I’ll probably go to that place because it sounds awesome if it can out party LKF. But until you show me that place you need to remember that if you wanna go out and party you go to LKF. Fastest way there is going to be taking the MTR (train system) and getting off at Central Station. Take exit D2 out of the train station.
Bonus Tip: Know your MTR Map
This one is pretty simple. The MTR is how you demarcate locations the easiest in Hong Kong. The stops cover pretty much every area of interest in Hong Kong within a reasonable distance. If you want to get somewhere, but don’t know how to get there, ask what station it’s at. And if you’re lost, just ask for the nearest MTR station! They’re never far away, and they are constantly running. (Except for when they aren’t running after about 12:30 a.m. Then you need to wait until about 6:00 a.m.