OWL Magazine Korea

Hong Kong: Eat the Food, Not the Service

Hong Kong is a city where Eastern and Western cultures converge. It was once a British colony but became a part of China after the return process in 1999. However, it has maintained an autonomous system for 50 years after the return, still operating under the “One Country, Two Systems” framework within China.

“Known as the Gourmet City”

Hong Kong is known for its rich culinary culture, where both Eastern and Western influences have melded. Thanks to this, Hong Kong has earned the nickname “Gourmet City.”

The Michelin Guide, which compiles lists of top-notch restaurants, has been paying attention to Hong Kong for a long time. As a result, many restaurants in Hong Kong have made it onto the Michelin Guide.

“Service Culture in Hong Kong has not Developed as Much as its Food Culture”

While most aspects of Hong Kong are on par with developed countries, the service sector still lags behind and is reminiscent of a developing nation. Although you can see many sophisticated buildings built with past British support, ultimately, many people are from China, and as a result, civic consciousness and service have not progressed significantly.

In fact, when I first experienced rudeness in a Hong Kong restaurant, I even mistakenly thought I was experiencing racial discrimination. However, I later learned that this is considered normal service culture in Hong Kong. It’s described as brusque and rough. It’s a level of service that is fundamentally different from countries like South Korea and Japan, where the service industry is well-developed.

“In Hong Kong, Eat the Food, Not the Service”

In Hong Kong, it’s common to share a table and have a meal with strangers in restaurants. One day, I had a meal at a table with a Chinese aunty, a local Hong Kong aunty, and a quiet elderly lady.

The local Hong Kong aunty was fairly proficient in English, so we could communicate. She seemed to enjoy chatting. I conversed with her in English while communicating with the Chinese aunty next to me in Chinese. It seemed like the Chinese aunty had some complaints about Hong Kong’s service.

While communicating with her, I also talked to her about Hong Kong’s service. She said something that stuck with me: “In Hong Kong, eat the food, not the service.” It’s a phrase that seems to succinctly define Hong Kong’s service. It’s a phrase that exposes the brusque nature of Hong Kong’s unfriendly service.

With this one phrase, even when I received unfriendly service in Hong Kong, I no longer complained. Instead, I continued my journey in Hong Kong without feeling too upset, keeping this phrase in mind.

This is probably a phrase that people traveling to Hong Kong should keep in their hearts. It applies not only to restaurants but to all areas where service is provided, such as buses, trams, and subways.