Header image courtesy of Emily Li
At a population of seven million strong, Hong Kong’s tiny surface area manages to house characters from all walks of life, a diverse blend of all kinds of colours and creeds. Our experiences in this dense city might differ, but certain geographical stereotypes will still ring true among us Hongkongers. From laid-back Lamma to shopaholic Sha Tin, read on to find out which of the 18 districts appeals to your inner Hongkonger the most!
You somehow seem to be the underappreciated workaholic, rambunctious party animal, and sophisticated big shot all at the same time. We might catch you in your IFC office hunched over a computer in the wee hours of the night, or downing shots in LKF on a killer pub crawl. Either way, you’re Central and Western District, the dichotomous epitome of “work hard, play hard.”
A seasoned veteran by way of both booze and bookkeeping, you just about manage to juggle everything on your shoulders—stress, work, partying, and all. As a side note, friends of the jack-of-all-trades might notice that you’ve been going through a hipster phase lately if Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun’s indie cafés and newfangled art galleries have anything to say about it.
If you think that the times are a-changin’ and you feel that reference in your bones, we’d bet on you being just like the Eastern District. Maybe it’s because you just don’t get “the kids” these days or that one too many tech-necked youngsters have received a disapproving look from you on the MTR, but you’re simply too hardened to care.
An appreciator of nostalgia, we know the way to win your heart is through the classics, whether it be oldies but goodies at the Hong Kong Film Archive or tear-jerking viewings of Cantonese opera at Sunbeam Theatre. This uptown district, with the second-highest population of the 18 in Hong Kong, perfectly reflects the slow-moving, suburban kind of person you are.
Laid-back, mellow, free-spirited... Do these words resonate with you? If so, you might be the Islands District, the humble hippie. Like Lamma and Lantau, what sets you apart from most people is the lengths you go to in order to live out your nonconformist lifestyle, far away from the hubbub of Hong Kong.
Too often have you told us to take a chill pill, Islands, and we wish we could take a page out of your book more often. From your quirky speciality shops to your plentiful temples, the good vibes never seem to end with you. Alas, we can only visit you every once in a while, but when we do, we’ll be sure to order vegetarian.
To be honest, we haven’t heard more than a peep out of you, other than that your one claim the fame, the eponymous Kowloon Walled City, was a one-of-a-kind urban settlement, a lawless slum denser than New York, yadda yadda yadda…
Much like that one viral TikTok video you made, it seems that your glory days might be behind you, Kowloon City. We know your rich and promising history makes you capable of doing more, and we’re hoping that you’ll turn out a new smash hit project in the coming future.
Some might call you boring, or claim that you’re too introverted, but to us, you’re the homebody. Though you’re easily overlooked, make no mistake, Kwai Tsing, because there’s a certain charm to your modesty. The district’s surplus of family-friendly facilities can be likened to your comfy and humble personality, since you know how to truly enjoy the pleasures of being at home. Best brand of sleepytime tea? Rom-coms to binge on a rainy day? Looks like you’ve got it all sorted out for us, and we hope you never change, because you remind us all how nice it is to take a break from city life, and spend a night in for once.
Among the masses of factories and towering warehouses emerges a hardened spirit from this industrial hub: the workaholic Kwun Tong District. If you spend countless hours doing overtime at your desk, you might find yourself relating to the persevering character of this particular neighbourhood. Always expecting the best from yourself, your thoughts always stray to work, even when you’re not in the office.
When you do try to break away from the routine a bit, your resolve is much like Kwun Tong’s industrial buildings that have been repurposed into climbing gyms or laser tag centres over the years: No matter how much you try and give yourself a break, it still feels like another repackaged version of a laborious task you’ll commit yourself to yet again.
Did you know that High Island used to be a supervolcano 140 million years ago? Or that Happy Valley was named after the region’s wartime cemeteries? Or that the Five Great Clans of the New Territories are some of the first families to settle in Hong Kong? Who are we kidding—you’re the history buff, the know-it-all who always seems to have fun facts about our city on hand. From urban legends to random statistics, your wealth of knowledge is unmatchable in the history department.
Just like the North District, you’re an old soul at heart, even if your pop culture references get a little dated at times. No worries—it just means you’ve got refined taste, which shines through in your excellent recommendations for Netflix history documentaries to watch.
Everyone has something good to say about you, because what’s not to like? Your pretty hikes, mouth-watering eats, and unforgettable junk trips make the long haul over to the New Territories totally worth it. Whether it’s a chummy dinner at the Chuen Kee Seafood Restaurant or a dip in the Sai Kung Rock Pool, we can always count on you to keep us entertained. Despite their differences, you’ll be flattered to know that Hong Kong locals and newcomers alike will unite in their appreciation for you because you’re just that cool, Sai Kung.
If shopping was a sport, you’d be an all-time Olympic athlete at it, Sha Tin. And with one of the biggest malls in the district hitting foot traffic of almost a fifth of Hong Kong’s population every weekend, who can blame you? You’re always on the hunt for the latest and greatest, whether it’s the most recent iPhone or the bazillion little accessories that come with it. Your unending enthusiasm and short attention span mean that no shopping mall is too big for you, and before we know it, you’ve managed to scour all 350 shops with bulky bags in hand. Talk about an impressive feat! Still, we fear for your wallet and bank account balance if we were you.
Previously home to an art and design school, your creativity knows no bounds in the streets of Sham Shui Po! If the district’s infamous haberdashery stalls and fabric markets don’t make it obvious enough already, we know your craftiness is nothing to scoff at.
Trying to get rid of a nasty carpet stain, or take in the waist size of those pants you just bought? We know to come to you first because you’ve always got nifty little tricks up your sleeve for any occasion. Your catchphrase might just be, “Who needs that when you can just make that at home yourself?” At the same time, you sure know how to get the best bang for your buck when it comes to bargaining for your knick-knacks. Just like the thrifty spirit of this fast-paced district, you tend to shop smarter, not harder.
Do you have an immaculate tan? Or maybe a stockpile of sunscreen ready to go? Well, your remarkably diverse rotation of flip-flops tells us all we need to know about you, because you’re the Southern district, commonly spotted lounging on the likes of Stanley Beach and Repulse Bay, where your sunglasses never seem to leave your face.
When Hong Kong summer hits, we’ll be sure to see you geared up with a straw beach mat and umbrella in hand, ready for a lavish day of laying in the sun. We know that being a beach bum is so serious of a commitment for you that it often extends into the late night, Southern, and your diligent effort to make a yearly appearance at the Full Moon Party in Repulse is much appreciated.
In your book, there’s something for everyone when it comes to nature. Not a fan of hiking? Try a leisurely bike ride to Tai Mei Tuk! Or maybe you’ve got more of an affinity for the aquatic? Dip your toes into Bride’s Pool! If any of this resonates with you, you’re Tai Po, the nature aficionado with an unashamed love for all things off the (literal) beaten path.
Let’s face it: You’re simply in your best element in the outdoors, because to you, Hong Kong’s greenery is akin to a vacation getaway. As such, you’re the first to leave the office when the much-needed, nature-packed weekend rolls around. Sure, friends from out-of-town might visit for the nightlife and endless dining options at first, but they’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that your first-rate recommendations for scenic hikes are totally worth it, too.
Just like Tsuen Wan, tourists and newcomers to the city might skip over getting to know you at first, but Hong Kong locals will already know what’s up. Your unassuming personality might be likened to a hidden gem, only to reveal the treasure trove of good qualities underneath. The treasure trove, of course, being all your well-loved restaurants that appeal to hardcore foodies seeking out a new hipster haunt, but also modest locals looking for authentic Hong Kong comfort food.
Once you’ve opened up a bit more, friends of yours will realise that you’ve also got your own brand of fun, as evidenced by the district’s massive cat café The Cats Tea Room, the 2,300-square-foot lollapalooza that is Dudu Partyroom, and the artistic and historic landmark revitalisation project that is The Mills, where you can take in retail opportunities, culture, and the arts!
We’re actually not too sure what you’re getting up to where you are (and where is that, exactly?) but “Gold Coast” and “Pineapple Hill” sure sound like “real places” to us. You can be hard to reach and sometimes we wonder whether or not you even exist—we just see and hear so little of you! You seem to be soaking up the sun in some faraway land, unbeknownst to the rest of us Hongkongers.
We’ve never known anyone to party hard on a weekday until we met you, Wan Chai. If your alarmingly frequent after-work Wednesday “excursions” to Carnegies didn’t make it obvious already, your loud personality will, because you’re the party animal! A blast to visit, we would say that you’ve probably given us some of the wildest nights of our life, but, to be honest, we just can’t remember them.
Even though you can get a little too rowdy sometimes, you’re often the one that ends up calling us a cab nearing the late hours of the night. Your surprisingly self-sacrificing tendencies might reflect the ever-changing nature of beloved, boozy Wan Chai: Once known as the red light district and home to The World of Suzie Wong, its name is now synonymous with well-established bars from all walks of life, much like your unwavering loyalty when we’ve had one too many to drink.
While your friends are getting all bogged down by the hustle and bustle of the big city, you always manage to stay afloat and be the voice of patience and reason. The serene vibes of the Chi Lin Nunnery must have rubbed off on you because your friends always go to you first when they’re having a tough time. In fact, you’re the calm and collected one out of your crew, and you seem to have it all figured out.
From meditative mindfulness to late-night fortune-telling, there’s no shortage of wisdom you’re willing to dish out in our times of need. We might even try our hand at kau cim (Chinese lottery poetry) if it means we could be as put-together as you are!
Always spotted with the latest pair of Yeezys on foot, it seems like you always manage to keep up with the trends—or could it be a replica from the Ladies’ Market? No matter, because before we know it, you’re off to snap another iconic photo of your feet dangling off of a building ledge for your Instagram feed.
When it comes to garnering Instagram likes, we know you won’t settle for less, even if that means climbing a roof or two to get the perfect shot of Temple Street at night. In fact, your head can get so buried in your phone that some might even say that you’re just like Yau Tsim Mong’s population: a little dense.
Have you ever called out a coworker with a plastic takeout box, or wrinkled your nose at the thought of not bringing your own bags to Marketplace? Well, you’d fit right in as the Yuen Long district, the advocate who’s unafraid to stand up for what they believe in. Home to Hong Kong’s world-class Wetland Park and Mai Po Marshes, your unabashed support for mother nature and her creatures is only fitting for a person like you. We would not be surprised to see you volunteering at a nearby SPCA over the weekend.