Located at the mouth of the Pearl River Delta on the coast of southern China, Hong Kong is a major port and global financial center famed for its tower-studded skyline, as well as the bustling and beautiful Victoria Harbour.
Hong Kong comprises Hong Kong Island, which lies to the south of the harbour, the Kowloon Peninsula, which forms its northern shores, the New Territories to the north of Kowloon, which stretch all the way to Mainland China, and more than 200 outlying islands, including Lantau Island, where Hong Kong International Airport is located.
Hong Kong can mostly thank its colonial history and international harbour for the rich blend of cultures that give it its unique character. While the majority of the city’s population are Chinese speakers, simply walking the streets will expose you to a medley of Asian and European languages.
Cantonese, a minority dialect of Mainland China, is spoken by 88 per cent of people in Hong Kong. Nonetheless, other Chinese dialects, such as Hakka, Taishanese and Teochiu are also present, as is Mandarin of course – China’s official dialect, which has become more widely spoken in Hong Kong since the reunification in 1997.
From Hong Kong’s establishment as a colonial port, through its period as a manufacturing hub, and up until its current role as an international financial centre, the city’s population has always looked outwards. As a result, English is widely spoken. Today, it is the language of preference in the government, business and tourism sectors. All official signs and public transport announcements, as well as most menus, are bilingual. As a visitor, you can expect to encounter minimal problems communicating in English as most taxi drivers, salespeople, tourism industry employees and police have reached competent levels of the language. In fact, many locals even pepper their Chinese speech with English words and phrases.
The comfort with which these languages and dialects co-exist reflects the high level of cultural tolerance in Hong Kong, where multiple denominations of Christian churches share space with Chinese joss houses; Buddhist, Taoist and Sikh temples; mosques and synagogues. Moreover, the presence of enduring and ancient cultures in a society that has had to constantly adapt to change has created a unique contemporary culture that is a true mixture of tradition and innovation.