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#OnlyInHongKong: 10 types of diners you’ll meet in Hong Kong restaurants

By Jen Paolini 18 October 2019
Header image courtesy of Phyllis Yeung
Hong Kong is well-known for its vibrant selection of restaurants and eateries, but we think it should be better known for its eclectic foodies. In this gourmet heaven of ours, where we boast over 11,000 restaurants, there are plenty of opportunities to bump into all sorts of hungry people. We’ve rounded up just a few of Hong Kong's most common diner personas. Raise your hand if you know at least five of them!

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1. The over-orderer

With eyes much, much larger than their stomach, the over-orderer likes to play the never-ending game of thinking they can finish the four appetisers, two mains, three drinks, and the two desserts they confidently put down at the start of the meal. What happens then? Well, this Hong Kong diner will coax you into helping them finish their dishes, be it just a bite of sticky mango pudding here or matcha mille crêpe cake there. At other times, they'd ask to doggy bag everything, using about six different plastic takeaway boxes filled up only a third of the way. Finally, they’ll insist you all split the bill evenly, although there’s loads of leftovers still on the table and you’re not the one who put them there. Unforgivable.

2. The phone addict

When you’re dining with the phone addict, you may as well just dine alone. They pay little to no attention to their food, taking the most cursory glance at the menu just to pick the first thing that appeals to them, because God forbid anything should tear their attention away from their phone. Be it to type out a work email (or twenty), or to catch up on the latest episode of a critically-acclaimed Korean drama, this Hong Kong diner has their eyes glued to the screen. And what about their food? It becomes stale and unappetising while it waits sadly to be eaten, or it’ll miss its mark completely on the way to the mouth, landing in a heap on the table or in their lap. Not that the phone addict notices; they’ll just return the fork and try for another bite.

3. The “camera-eats-first” Instagrammer

Not to be confused with the phone addict, the Instagrammer pays too much attention to their food—or rather, their food through the lens of a camera. Everything has to look good before it can taste good, and let’s be honest, nothing they order ever tastes good, because, by the time they get round to trying a bite of their artistically plated dish, it’s already cold. Often, they’ll wrestle with other diners (and the staff) for a prime spot by the window because “I need good lighting”. If you have the misfortune of dining with the Instagrammer, don’t think your plate will be spared either. “Wait, let me take a picture of it first!” they'll cry, so be prepared to wait your turn to eat lukewarm, deflated food. Hey, at least you’re getting a shout-out to their 35k followers on Instagram, right?

Read more! These are the 10 things only true Hongkongers carry in their bags.

4. The true foodie

If you’re ever stuck thinking about where to go for dinner or where to take your out-of-town visitors, there’s only one person to turn to: the true foodie. Doing research on new, exciting restaurants and giving thoughtful recommendations on where to eat is where they shine. During their free time, you’ll find them glued to their phones, learning everything there is to learn about what’s hot in the dining scene, and they always have their ear to the ground, hoping to pick up the latest scoop on brand-new restaurant openings. Over dinner, they’ll gush about the obscure food documentary on Netflix they’re currently obsessed with or encourage you to try a bite of that bizarre animal intestine that you really don’t think you have the stomach for. This Hong Kong diner probably runs a food blog, where they’ll write in-depth entries on new recipes they’ve tested over the weekend and reviews on their latest visits. The fact that they almost never shut up about food can become overbearing, but it’s pretty handy having a friend who’s always got fresh restaurant suggestions up their sleeves.

5. The thrifty diner

Don’t expect these guys to cough up for a single bite that didn’t touch their lips—the thrifty diner will pay exactly, and we mean exactly, $332.40 for their share of the meal, because that’s exactly how much their Parmesan ravioli from Pici and glass of Sauv Blanc cost. “I didn’t have any of the shared burrata cheese or cold cuts appetisers, so you’ll have to split that between yourselves. Here, I’ll just PayMe you exactly my part of the bill,” they offer, as if it makes calculating the rest of it less of a headache. It’s usually only after you’ve all gone your separate ways from the restaurant that you’ll realise the thrifty diner skimped out on the service charge. Curses!

6. The heat seeker

Heat seekers, you already know who you are, and you own it, loud and proud. Their taste buds are so wrecked by Ghost peppers and chillies and Sichuan peppercorns and whatnot, the only way that these spice lovers can taste anything at all is if it’s slathered in hot sauce. “This doesn’t taste like anything,” you’ll often hear them lament, and if they’re not following up with, “Hi, do you have any hot sauce? Yeah, Tabasco is fine,” you’ll see them discreetly whipping out a travel-sized bottle of Sriracha for emergency occasions.

Read more! These are the 10 bizarre things you only see in Hong Kong.

7. The envious thief

“Ooh, yours looks so much better than mine!” If you’re familiar with this relentless chorus, it’s because you’re eating out too much with the envious thief. Nothing that this Hong Kong diner orders is ever good enough, and they are consistently plagued with a bad case of food envy. How can it be otherwise, when the ramen in your bowl is always tastier-looking than theirs? This regretful eater will make puppy dog eyes at your food until you surrender and offer to switch, at which point they’ll pounce on your plate like a ravenous animal. If you manage to withstand their gaze, they’ll have to rely on their final trick: shamelessly asking for nibbles until they’ve eaten most of your dish. For the good of the public, perhaps they should just get “Can I have a bite of that?” tattooed on their foreheads.

8. The picky eater

No beef tripe, no duck tongues, no stinky tofu, no chicken feet, and no meat or fish with bones in them, please—the picky eater sure knows how to make dining out difficult. In fact, it’s a surprise when they do eat anything at all. “Can I have the truffle pizza, but without the truffle?” they’ll request as the rest of the table rolls their eyes, but you know better than to argue with a picky eater. Whether it’s ordering a burger with practically everything on the side, or asking for spicy dumplings just to dig the spicy filling out, there’s always something to nit-pick at. Maybe it’s best if we just leave them at home next time…

Read more! These are the 8 types of people you’ll meet in Hong Kong gyms.

9. The health freak

“Sorry, I’m pescatarian on Wednesdays, paleo most days, and I have a gluten allergy about half of the time, so what do you have on the menu that I can eat?” We don’t know, but what the health freak ends up with is probably something akin to air. All jokes aside, this particular breed of Hong Kong diner is almost always wrestling with themselves on what they can and cannot have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ultimately, they’ll resign themselves to a protein-packed salad or vegan wrap from MANA! or nood food, but not without telling you about it first.

10. The glutton

The glutton may seem like an over-orderer, but this one actually finishes everything you place in front of them (in an almost frightening manner). In fact, watching them do away with one plate after another like clockwork is a religious experience. Whether they’re scarfing down two bowls of wonton noodles and following it up with five orders of street-side fishballs and some egglets, or digging into a dinner buffet with gusto, they’ll always be hungry just a few hours later and on the lookout for the next thing to eat. On weekends, you’ll find them in their own personal heaven: splurging on all-you-can-eat brunch at Zuma or stuffing themselves at a bargain buffet at Pirata.
Read more! Check out the 7 types of people you’ll meet on Hong Kong’s MTR, or explore the rest of our Culture section.

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Jen Paolini

Content director

Born in Hong Kong, raised in Germany, and educated in the U.S., Jen is an award-winning creative with a background in illustration, communication design, art direction, and content creation. When she’s not getting lost in a good book, you’ll find her doing crosswords, eating dim sum, covering all sides of a “Hamilton” number, and taking naps.