Many people may not know this, but Hong Kong is the fourth most densely populated area on earth, led only by Macau (also in China), Monaco, and Singapore.
In a place which is 70% mountain and surrounded by sea, absolutely everything is crammed into one place, and with half the population working in the urban areas, everyone has to go out and fight for a place to eat at lunch time. And by fight, I mean that in a very literal sense….
Today I was in Quarry Bay teaching a Business English class, and arranged to meet some colleagues for lunch. However, it was pouring with rain, so everyone who worked in the surrounding office buildings (and there are MANY of them) all had to compete for a table in the nearby restaurants and eateries so they would not have to walk far in the rain.
We went to this little place near to the office, and in typical Hong Kong style, had to stand up next to some poor group sitting at a table, stalking them, literally waiting for them to leave. I was stalking one table, Juliana was stalking another, Annie was stalking a table on the other side of the room, and Silvia was stalking another table nearby. We were communicating with each other by signals — these guys are almost done! I truly felt like a vulture, just waiting to pounce.
Then, I don’t know what happened, but suddenly I just sort of snapped. I couldn’t stand there anymore, hovering over people trying to eat their lunch, keeping track of which table was about to finish eating, deciding which table would get up first and leave, just watching like a hawk, waiting for their prey to die for us to move in. Not to mention the fact that after hunting down a table, we’d have to then go and stand up in a massive line and wait to order. There were people all around, moving aroud like the living dead, monitoring how fast tables were eating. Then two women came and stood next to me as though making moves on the table I was stalking and I started preparing myself for a stand-off if they tried to claim the table once the current occupants stood up.
It just hit me — I can’t do this anymore. Call it claustrophobia, call it a panic attack, but I simply cannot handle the sheer density of Hong Kong anymore. I got so nervous and uncomfortable that I told my friends I had to go and take care of something work related. And I ran out of the restaurant and got the hell out of there.
I think this ultra-density is really starting to get to me.
Ironic, considering I spent a very happy year in Tokyo, and although I often suffered the squeeze on the Chuo line, it was NOTHING compared to Hong Kong. Tokyo is massive, spread out as far as the eye can see. Hong Kong is fighting for space, everyone is fighting for a place, and it’s not their fault. Either you stand up next to someone eating their lunch and wait for them to wipe their mouth with their napkin and stand up, or you simply don’t get a table and therefore you don’t eat lunch. It’s a dog eat dog world in Hong Kong when it comes to eating, and it is really, really starting to get to me.