City of Contrasts
Hong Kong is a city of immense physical and social contrasts. Every day thousands of wealthy business executives leave their homes on the Peak and make their way past homeless street sleepers.
Serene islands and uninhabited hill areas are only miles from the most densely populated spot on the face of the earth. Tall skyscrapers produce a beautiful skyline beside one of the world's most scenic natural harbours.
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Culture: East Meets West
Hong Kong is a culture of the east and west. Because of the British occupation the traditional beliefs of the people of Hong Kong were not as dramatically affected as those living in Mainland China during the Rise of the Chinese Republic. Traditional practices, beliefs and medicine that have disappeared from mainland China still flourish here and it is not uncommon to see the melding of both Western and Eastern philosophies, medicine and beliefs as a way of life here in Hong Kong.
The most widely spoken language in Hong Kong is Cantonese. After the handover in 1997 the government adopted the biliterate and trilingual policy. Under this policy both Cantonese and English are acknowledged as the official languages. Cantonese has been acknowledged as the de facto official spoken dialect of the Chinese in Hong Kong, though English is spoken fluently among the business community and most popular tourist destinations. All official signs contain English, though most smaller local establishments may only have signs in Chinese. There has also been an increased interested and proficiency in Mandarin especially in the younger generation since the reunification with the mainland.
Food is a very important part of the culture in Hong Kong and is a fusion of eastern and western style cuisine. Relationships are built and business contracts are signed around the dining table, and because of the relative inexpensiveness and variety available it is common for people to dine out frequently. There is also a culture of expressing care for others through food. This shows in the language as it is common in the afternoon to greet someone by asking, "Have you eaten yet?' rather than saying 'Good afternoon'. In Hong Kong you are sure to find an unlimited variety of delicious and affordable food that you can enjoy with new and old friends alike.
Buddhism and Taoism are traditional Chinese religions. They have a considerable number of adherents in Hong Kong and form an integral part of the culture. There are more than 600 temples, shrines and monasteries found in Hong Kong and some can be traced back more than 700 years. Feng Shui is taken very seriously with Feng Shui experts being among the highest paid careers in Hong Kong. On expensive constructions sites it is not uncommon to hire consultants who are believed to be able to either make or break a business.
Hong Kong began as a coastal island geographically located off the southern coast of China. The city of Hong Kong began as a collection of fishing villages, a salt production site and trading ground. It was ceded to Britain in 1842 following the First Opium War with China under the Treaty of Nanking. The Kowloon Peninsula was handed over in 1860 and a 99-year lease on the New Territories, comprising the area north of Kowloon up to the Shenzhen River plus 235 outlying islands, was granted in 1898.
There was a large influx in Hong Kong's population in 1912 when Hong Kong served as a refuge for exiles from China following the establishment of the Chinese Republic. And again from 1937-1945 as over 700, 000 people fled from China for Hong Kong as the Japanese began their reign during World War II.