Hong Kong Fun Facts 2

  • Numbers

Most Hong Kong people ( or Chinese in that matter) are superstitious one way or another (including me 😉 ).  Like other countries, we do have lucky and unlucky numbers and some number combinations are most agreeable with the majority. The meaning is often derived from the pronunciation of the numbers. For example : Number 2 in cantonese pronounces as “ye” which is the same sound as ‘easy‘ and is generally considered to be a lucky number.  3 means ‘birth‘ or ‘lively‘ and 6 is ‘continuity‘ and 9 means ‘eternity‘.  The luckiest number for chinese is the number 8 because it signifies ‘prosperity‘ and 18 means ‘prosper with certainty‘. The combination of 128 means ‘easy prosperity with certainty‘ , 138 means ‘prosperity for life‘ which 168 means ‘ongoing prosperity‘. These combinations are well liked by all chinese. However, numbers 167 and 169 in HK means ‘stupid prick‘ :P.

The most unlucky number for HK chinese is 4 , which sounds like ‘death‘ and in HK some buildings will even omit the fourth floor or fourteenth floor. Unlike western countries, 13 is actually a lucky number because it has the sound like ‘life for sure‘ or ‘sure live‘.

From time to time, HK government will auction off special number car license plates and in the past, plates with lucky numbers were auctioned off for millions of HK dollars.

People also prefer mobile numbers which consist of some of these lucky numbers and there are mobile telephone numbers for sale in some shops.

When people go to chinese restaurants for dinner or banquets, they will never order 7 dishes or courses because 7 is the number for the dead. Funeral dinners have 7 courses and buddhists have memorial ceremonies for the dead on the 7th day after death.

When people attend funerals, they will send flowers to the family of the deceased as well as giving funeral funds. They will put the sum in a white envelope for the family of the deceased and the total amount has to be in odd numbers eg.$101, $201, $501 .

 

  • Colors

Red is the lucky color for all chinese and traditional chinese bridal gown is red in color. Some parts of China still decorate the room of the newly weds in red ( when I visited Beijing few months ago, some old houses still have a ‘red’ room for the newly weds). People like to use red color decorations during Chinese New Year.

Green is the color of jealousy and the term ‘green hat’ means ‘betrayal’ and saying that the person ‘wears a green hat’ meaning ‘the partner has cheated on him / her’.

 

  • Chinese New Year

Chinese New year is ‘the’ most important festival or event in HK and China and because it goes according to the lunar calendar, so every year it will be at different days but it always falls in January or February.

It is customary for elderly persons and / or married chinese to give out ‘red packets’ (or ‘lai see’ in cantonese) which are money put inside small red envelopes, to children or singles for the 1st week of chinese new year (and 1st two weeks for the richer people).

The ‘red packets’ is either red or gold color and with lucky words and designs printed on them. Many banks and shops do have their own red packets design and will give them out as a free premium to customers. There are also red packets with chinese last names printed on them for people who want to differentiate their red packets from the others. This is usually the ones who put in at least HK$100 (US$12.5/ €10) in each red packet.

various design of red packets

 

Traditionally people use ‘newly printed’ bank notes as money for red packets as a symbol of lucky new beginning, so every year ( about one month before CNY) banks will issue new bank notes and you will see long queues in banks for withdrawal of these brand new bank notes.

During CNY (for the first 1-2 weeks) everyone will have to say “Kung hei fat choy” (cantonese) or “Gong xi fa cái” (mandarin) to each other, wishing each other good luck. (the phrase means wishing you prosperity)

People like to decorate their home with fresh flowers and a big flower fair will be set up in Victoria Park in HK causeway bay area one week before the CNY. Peak traffic hours will be last 3 evenings before new year and it is extremely crowded at night. For the past few years, there are also food stalls (snacks) and booths selling toys, gadgets and trinkets besides flowers.

Victoria Park Flower Fair

 

Traditionally peach blossom trees symbolize ‘luck in love affairs‘ for singles and ‘good business‘ for businessman. Many restaurants, offices, hotels and shopping malls will display a peach blossom tree in prominent areas as an auspicious symbol.

big peach blossom trees in the market

 

Huge peach blossom tree in display inside shopping mall

Tangerine symbolize ‘Good Luck and Good Fortune‘.

a 1.5 m tangerine tree cost around HK$2000 / US$250

Nacissuschrysanthemum, orchids are all auspicious flowers. Peony symbolizes ‘wealth and fortune’and gladiolus signify ‘promotion or advancement‘.

narcissus in flower fair

Gladiolus symbolize advancement

Peony symbolize wealthiness

There is a special kind of plant named ‘Nipple fruit‘ (proper name is Solanum mammosum) has a chinese name called ‘5 generations contemporaneous‘ or ‘Golden Fruit‘ (so much better than the English name :P) is one of the most popular home decorations’ plants during CNY.

 

During the first week of Chinese New Year, HK chinese have a tradition of visiting relatives and friends, bringing gifts and presents. The gifts are all edible items and are usually candies, chocolates, cookies, biscuits and fruits.

Traditionally, shops and companies will be closed on the first 3 days of CNY and on the first day of work, the boss or department head will give out red packets to all staff as a token of good luck.

First 3 days of CNY are public holiday in HK and 80 – 90% of the shops will be closed. All fresh food markets will be closed on the 1st day (some will be opened for a few hours on 2nd and 3rd day) but most supermarkets will remain open. 99.9% of the chinese restaurants will be closed on the first day (some will even be closed for the first 5 days of CNY) with the exceptions of the ones in hotels.

As a general known custom, policemen will avoid giving out parking tickets on the 1st day of CNY because it is considered to be ‘bad luck’ for the whole year for drivers. So you can see lots of ‘illegal parking’ on the 1st day.

Most HK chinese will avoid buying shoes for the first 2 weeks of CNY as shoes in cantonese rhymes with the ‘sighing sound’ of despair and sadness and is considered to be bad luck for new year.

 

  • Gifts and Presents

As mentioned before in my previous posting, you never give clocks to chinese as presents. People usually give money as presents for birthday and wedding banquets. (very practical, right? ;)) Cash coupons of different value can be purchased from various banks. At times, people do go for wedding lists but it is only popular among the upper class or more westernize group. For birthday dinners of a smaller scale, friends and relatives will then give out ‘actual tangible’ presents.

Chinese usually will have dinner banquets for their newborn children on or after 30 days of childbirth. Elderly relatives usually will give out gold ornaments as gifts to the baby.

 

  • Mobile Phones

I do not have the official statistics of the numbers of mobile phones in HK but I do not know of anyone who does not own a mobile phone. Many people have more than 1 phone and children start having their own phones from age 6 or 7.

HK is probably a mobile phone paradise for the mobile phone lovers.Not only prices are cheaper than most other countries, the selection is immense. You can find the latest and newest models of mobile phones in HK , sometimes even weeks before they launch in the US and Europe. There are many shops selling only mobile phones (you don’t need a contract) and you can buy a sim card from any 7-11 (24 hr supermarkets) or mobile network carrier’s shops.

 

mobile phone shops

 

There is also a huge second hand mobile phone market in HK and you can easily sell your phone to any small booths in the streets or ‘trade in’ for newer models in some of the phone shops.

There are people with a big sign written in chinese at some streets in causewaybay (HK side) and mongkok area (in kowloon side) which buy 2nd hand phones. They will check the phone that you want to sell and then give you a price. If the price is agreeable, then they will give you cash for your phone, no question asked. Normally they will offer you 30 – 75% of the market price depending on the models and the condition of the phones and normally they do not buy phones older than 18 – 24 months (from the time the model is launched). And because selling 2nd hand phones is so easy, stealing of mobile phones is not uncommon, especially in crowded places, bars and clubs.

 

  • Electronic Gadgets and Computers and computers accessories

In HK the prices of the electronic gadgets, computers and its accessories are very competitive and you will find several hundreds of shops in one building (3-4 stories) selling these kind of products in both HK and Kowloon. Of all the countries I have been to, I have never seen any place like this.

 

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