Hong Kong vs Taiwan: Comparing lives in two different places

Having lived in both Hong Kong and Taiwan, here I’ll recount some of the differences between the two places. Accompanied by comics from Taiwanese artist Jie Jie.

1. Air Quality.

Hong Kong citizens have gotten used to the higher-than-average level of PM 2.5, and even when the AQI number rises, they continue on their day as usual. In Taiwan, where the air is mostly clear all year round, whenever the AQI rises just a little or the sky turns foggy, my fellow classmates will clamp their sleeves to their mouths or don a face mask while whimpering in fear. (Admittedly, the air pollution in Taiwan has gotten worse over the years.)

2. Walking Speed.

Hong Kong really lives up to its name as a fast paced metropolis. The food, the service, the walking paces, everything is fast. Whilst living in Taiwan, I frequently would return to Hong Kong to visit my relatives during vacations. Whenever I returned back to Taipei, my friends would often complain about my brisk walking pace and tell me to slow down – a habit I wasn’t even aware of.

3. Not just walking, but elevators and escalators as well.

To keep up with the fast paced metropolis, escalators are fast. Especially in the MTR (or, as it is called in Taiwan, the MRT). While in Taiwan you would casually have the time to finish half of your drink, some newcomers in Hong Kong are too apprehensive to do anything except for grab the handrail as tightly as possible.

4. Language.

While Mandarin and English are the two main languages in Taiwan, in Hong Kong different dialects can be heard everywhere. As a very business-centered metropolis, people from all around the world travel here. Thus, many of the staff at concierge desks speak more than two languages.

5. Tutoring Ads.

When I moved to Taiwan, I found that studying ahead was a big deal with all students. The majority of all my classmates had at least one tutor; I myself had two. My friend had four. In Hong Kong I found that not only are tutors glamorized to seem like movie stars, they are certainly more expensive (even though much more people have tutors in Taiwan). While an average 2 hour math tutoring class in Taiwan will cost about HK$375, in Hong Kong it will cost HK$600-$700 at the very least.

6. Road-side restaurant service.

Most often, customers are treated like royalty at all restaurants. In Hong Kong, this is more common in higher-end, more expensive dining places. But on road-side dim sum shops or HK cafes, the loud atmosphere won’t be your only problem if you insist on arguing with the waitresses.

7. Independency.

The Taiwanese are relatively more independent than people in Hong Kong. A typically more westernized culture, many Hong Kong households will have a hired maid, whereas in Taiwan, only expats or people who have young children / ailing elderly can hire maids, making the number much lower than the one in Hong Kong.

8. The earthquakes.

In the face of natural calamities, the Taiwanese have learned not to blink an eye in the event of an earthquake. After living in Taiwan for three years, I’ve gotten used to the occasional large and small shudders that rock the island. And while there are no earthquakes in Hong Kong, speaking of one in Hong Kong can provoke quite a reaction of a mix of fear and admiration.

9. The frequent occurrences of typhoons.

With 3 to 4 typhoons occurring in Taiwan per year, citizens have grown used to the wind and sometimes torrential rains; and this hasn’t stopped some people from venturing outside in the storm, even if it’s a large one. However, in Hong Kong, even with a minor occurrence of a typhoon, it is an expected sight to see mothers bustling up and down the aisles of supermarkets, stocking up on supplies for a typhoon that won’t last more than a day.

10. Taxi drivers.

The cheerful greetings and faces of taxi drivers in Taiwan is a common site, but less frequent in Hong Kong. Some stone-faced drivers leave you sitting awkwardly in the backseat, twiddling your thumbs.

11. Traffic lights.

Go a couple yards, stop. Another couple, stop again. One short road in Taiwan can have up to five traffic lights, each lasting 90 seconds. For me, walking to school was even faster than taking a car there. In Hong Kong? No more than 40-50 seconds, max.


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