There are laws in regulations in every society, but those legitimate rules are not enough to shape the culture especially when a place is so bustling with multi-culture history and people; a place like Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong, there are so many unwritten rules, and also customs, that secure the order of the city. Not joking, but it posts great effect on that. Here are some widely used rules:
Left walking; right stand on escalator
This is the famous and common rule. While on an escalator, people standing still stay on the right side while those who are in a rush trotting on the left side. Sometimes, when people standing still on the left side, busy commuters who are desperate to rush back to the office might find it annoyed. It’s so common that many citizens think this is a legitimate rule. Take the escalators at MTR as an example, in reality, the actual escalator safety rule of MTR is “stand still and hold the handrail” which means no running on escalators.
Dropping off quickly from mini-bus
If you think taxi is the quickest transportation on the roads of Hong Kong, it might not be true. Mini-buses, especially those “red mini-buses” that don’t have fixed routes to follow, are extremely quick. The faster the mini-bus drivers drive, the more customers the driver would earn the fares from within a fixed time slot of using the mini-buses. Mini-buses are so fast that it becomes well-known for customers to make sure they drop off quickly (and also get on quickly) so that none of the second is wasted as time means money for the bus drivers. Sometimes, mini-buses running over-night are so quick that you feel like your bottom is completely separated from the seat. No joking.
Reminding people who don’t zip their bag
Hong Kong citizens are conscious of their wealth. True, because they’ve been through different waves of economic developments, both ups and downs. Very often, when people see strangers walk on the streets carrying a bag that is unzipped, they would remind that person to zip up their bag, usually with words like “hey buddy, zip your bag while your stuffs will get stolen”. It’s not rare to see women preferring to put their purse in shoulder (zipped, of course) then on hand because they maintain high level of alerts for their assets. Although people are protective of their belongings, it doesn’t overthrow the fact that Hong Kong is still one of the safest places in the world.
Preferring seats close to wall of restaurants
Dining is a big culture in Hong Kong, people eat out a lot. When it comes to dining at Cha Caan Tangs (“tea restaurants”, local Hong Kong restaurants), customers always prefer to sit at those seats that are marked off perpendicularly from the wall that have higher privacy. These are the so-called “Kaa Seats” (卡位 in Cantonese). It’s true that some people prefers to dine in a more private environment during their meals for better conversations, however, the preference over this kind of seats are getting so common that, even customers who don’t get such seats while they enter the restaurants, the nice staffs would offer to change customers to Kaa Seats as it’s a kind of small privilege even at a local low-priced restaurant. It’s common to hear customers getting into restaurants saying “Kaa Seats, please!”.
Newcomers living in the city might get confused by taxis that indicate vacancy but not willing to take any customers. The reason behind is usually that, those taxis are not running on Hong Kong Island but Kowloon only (or vice versa). That explains hundreds of taxis that pass through the busy Lan Kwai Fong without being willing to take any customers living on Hong Kong Island as the drivers are actually only looking into customers going back to Kowloon. An easy way to check if a taxi is willing to bring you to the other side of the Harbour, is to make a hand gesture of U shape (mimicking the movement of cars crossing a tunnel) to the taxi driver.
Looking at the unspoken rules above, many of the reasoning of how these rules emerge comes from the culture of speed, wealth protection and sense of privacy. Speed, especially, is important for hard-working Hong Kongers who believe that success come from hard work. Wherever Hong Kong people go, it needs to be fast because time means fortune.