Love, Health and Safety in Hong Kong: A Conversation with Lane Pybas
This month, we’re interviewing women from all over the world and asking them about their experiences traveling to Hong Kong. We had the privilege of speaking with Lane Pybas about her experience traveling through Hong Kong. Here are the safety and health tips Lane wants you to know before you board the plane.
Health in Hong Kong
Feminine Hygienic Products: What’s available/what’s legal/where to buy them?
Tampons and pads are readily available in grocery and drug stores, although local women tend to use pads more than tampons so there aren’t as many brands of tampons to choose from as there are in the US.
Birth Control: What’s available/what’s legal/where to buy them?
Condoms can be found in grocery, drug, and convenience stores throughout Hong Kong, and oral contraceptive pills can be purchased in drug stores and in local pharmacies without a prescription. Pharmacists can usually speak solid English if you have any questions about the different brands (which are mostly Chinese brands) or the instructions.
Gynecologists: Are there any that you recommend? How, if at all, is a visit different from at home?
Hong Kong has two branches of Planned Parenthood, which provide reproductive health care services that are very comparable to what you would receive in the United States. Gynecologists can also be found at public and private hospitals throughout the city, though the quality of care might vary considerably.
Breastfeeding: What are accepted places for women to breastfeed? Is it accepted to do so in public?
I noticed that Hong Kong has designated breastfeeding rooms in most of its subway stations, but I’m not sure about the availability of other breastfeeding rooms in public places. Breastfeeding in public seems fairly taboo here, as I never saw any women doing it, but it is perfectly legal.
Romance in Hong Kong
Dating Locals: What are the norms and traditions? What should women look out for?
Hong Kong teenagers don’t usually start dating until college, and many will wait even longer. Hong Kong’s school and work cultures are notoriously stressful, so dating casually isn’t a high priority among many young people.
Hong Kong men can seem reserved toward Western women. If you are interested in dating a Hong Kong man, you might need to initiate the relationship yourself, while also keeping in mind that he might have more traditional or conservative views about women than you are used to.
Types of Men: Describe a few “typical” types of men.
The stereotypical Hong Kong man is an overworked banker or businessman who thinks of nothing all day but profits and interest rates. Indeed, many Hong Kong men do nothing to dispel this stereotype, and can come across as somewhat robotic or materialistic as a result. But Hong Kong is an incredibly diverse city and the wide spectrum of men reflects that. In general, though, I’d say that Hong Kong men tend to be a bit straight-laced and conservative, but not lacking in humor or intellect.
I didn’t have much experience in encountering attitudes toward LGBTQ communities, but I suspect that while Hong Kong is more socially progressive than most Asian cities, homosexuality is still somewhat taboo there. There are gay clubs and gay pride festivals in Hong Kong, but the government does not recognize same-sex couples, and same-sex marriage is illegal.
Women’s Place in Hong Kong Society
Women’s Rights: Do women have the same position in society as men? How can you tell?
Hong Kong women are highly educated and independent but they still face discrimination in the workplace and at large. The high school I taught in was run by a total old men’s club and the teachers often openly and blatantly showed preference toward male students. Women also face a lot of inequality at home, as they are often expected to take subservient roles to fathers, husbands, and sons in accordance with Confucian values.
Local Women: What are some clear cultural differences between you and them?
Hong Kong women are very intelligent and assertive, which are both necessary traits in such a big and competitive city. At the same time, though, Hong Kong women can seem a bit conservative and more imbedded in traditional gender roles than American women, but that is definitely not always the case. Hong Kong women also tend to dress more formally and femininely than Americans, but again there are always exceptions.
Perception of Foreign Women: How do local men/women react to you when you say where you’re from?
Hong Kong is an incredibly diverse city where foreign women abound. Most Hong Kongers are completely used to foreigners and they probably won’t pay you much attention, good or bad.
Safety in Hong Kong
Transportation: Any that are safer/less safe for women to take?
I think the transportation in Hong Kong is generally very safe, even at night and in more remote areas. The trains and buses have frequent and regular stops, and they are all very well monitored.
Dangerous area/s: Any specifically for women?
Hong Kong is remarkably safe. However, pick pocketing or theft can occasionally occur in crowded or remote areas. It is also a good idea to be cautious in nightclubs, as foreigners can sometimes be targeted for crimes there.
Clothing: What to wear/what not to wear?
I think most clothing is acceptable in Hong Kong within reason. Hong Kongers are pretty fashionable and are thus pretty accepting of different or unique types of attire. Things might be a little stricter in the workplace, though, where conservative dress codes are typically enforced.