Guangzhou VS Hong Kong

Hong Kong & China. 

You only need to turn on the news recently to see the names of these two countries pop up. It got me thinking about how I’d compare the 2 now that I’ve lived in each. This is 100% not political, just a reflection of my time in Guangzhou VS Hong Kong and the differences I’ve spotted.

Let’s start with a silly one.. 

IKEA. I’ve been to IKEA in 4 different countries now and for some reason I’m strangely proud of that fact. In case you wondered I’m pleased to report that they all serve meatballs! In Guangzhou I feel like it’s somewhere for people to go and “hang out” regardless if they actually need to purchase anything. If you visit in an afternoon it’s not uncommon to spot people (kids and adults) lounging on the sofas playing games on their phones or napping in the beds.




Hong Kong locals seem to have a slightly different approach (like the rest of us) in that they’ll hop on a bed to test the springs and promptly stand up again. No sleeping goes on here – that I’ve seen. 

Food. I might have said this before but I was pleasantly surprised after our move to Guangzhou to find out that we could get almost any food we wanted. We had Pizza Express, an incredible Mexican restaurant (they did the best margaritas which I miss dearly), Thai, Vietnamese and of course the Chinese food was the real deal. The only thing they didn’t do too well was Western. I’m talking proper British stuff like sandwiches and “healthy” things like salad (you can’t just put kale in a bowl and call it a salad). I once had a portion of fish & chips where the fish tasted like it was dipped in doughnut batter.

In Hong Kong we can get any food we want, which makes my tummy very happy indeed! We’re lucky that the Cantonese vein runs strong in HK so we can still enjoy the Chinese food that we’ve come to love and crave.

Note to self: regardless of where you live, nobody does fish & chips like the Brits.

One of my favourite places for lunch in Guangzhou! You pick the vegetables and meat (very questionable, my colleagues would pick all sorts but I was never brave enough to try any of it) and it’s cooked in Sichuan spices.
More Sichuan food (I love the numb spiciness of it) but don’t eat this with your eyes, it doesn’t look appealing.
Just trust me, it’s delicious.
Salted caramel ice cream sandwich from one of our favourite places in Hong Kong (feat. Toby’s hands.. ignore those).
These are to die for!

Public transport. Contrary to what I was expecting pre Guangzhou move, their underground system is as great as Hong Kongs. Of course I can only speak from the stations I visited and the experiences I had but both provide clean, well looked after services that are easy to navigate and are cheap! I’d never taken a bus in Guangzhou but quite frequently in HK I use the little 16 seat mini busses (public light bus) which are awesome!

One perk that Guangzhou has over Hong Kong is the price of Uber. In GZ you can get picked up in a nice (95% of the time) car by a driver wearing a full suit and you even get free bottled water (I’m easily pleased) and it’s super cheap. In HK you are picked up in someone’s family car that might be a bit grubby and you pay 3X the price. 

Hong Kong minibus.
This guy didn’t break around corners so everybody was holding on!

Air quality. I have to say it, the air is much nicer in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, in Guangzhou, we did experience a few too many hazy days that made you want to stay indoors. Hong Kong can also be affected but I definitely don’t think it’s as bad here (but don’t get me wrong, we do still get haze).

Outdoor space. Something I didn’t expect when we moved to Guangzhou was the amount of parks, they were everywhere. One of our favourite things to do on a weekend – when the air was clean and it wasn’t too hot – was to go for a walk around one of our favourites not far from our apartment. We’d get an ice cream and watch people practice Tai Chi and dance (a very popular thing for groups to get together & do especially in the evenings).

Luckily Hong Kong has just as many parks, if not more! There are so many hiking routes dotted all over the place and you can take boat trips to all of the different islands (fun fact, Hong Kong is made up of 263 individual islands!!). Our house is not far from the beginning of a hike into Ma On Shan country park which, taking our favourite route, leads to some beautiful views of Sai Kung town. Perfect walks for our dog! 

A beautiful sunny (and clear) day in Guangzhou.
South China Botanical Garden.
Sai Kung town from the base of Pyramid Hill – one of our favourite hikes!
Made it to the top!

Nature. Since we lived smack bang in the middle of Guangzhou city we rarely saw much wildlife. We’d spot the occasional cockroach but that was pretty much it. Our new place, being a stand alone house, seems to be an insect magnet. After a 2 week trip back to the UK in August we opened our front door to a cockroach homicide. There were bits of leg scattered around amongst bodies that had broken in half. We have NO idea what caused it, but it’s like they all went to our living room to die. Grim. We’ve also housed a few lizards in the last few months (which seem to poo EVERYWHERE). It’s always fun to catch those.

Hong Kong definitely takes the win for nature, the crowning moment being one afternoon that we spotted a black cobra in a stream just down the road from us. We spotted it amongst some rocks, shocking enough, but then its head popped out and Toby said “oh look.. it’s a cobra”. Needless to say we hastily made our retreat. 

Culture. I loved experiencing the atmosphere during Chinese holidays and celebrations in Guangzhou and lucky for us they also take place in Hong Kong! We still get to eat moon cake during mid autumn festival BUT we can now also enjoy Christmas as a public holiday – it isn’t recognised as a public holiday in China. 

Speaking of Christmas, 2019 is going to be a pretty special one for us as both sets of parents are coming to spend it here in Hong Kong! I absolutely love Christmas anyway but to be able to experience a completely different one in another country with family.. ooh I’m giddy at the thought. I can’t wait for a full house, Christmas music, ridiculous amounts of food (you best believe we’ve talked the parents into cooking for us) and board games galore.

Is it too early to start looking at decorations? Asking for a friend…

Do you think you’d prefer to visit Hong Kong or mainland China?

Let me know in the comments!

englishgirlinchina xo 


  1. Brenda
    October 13, 2019 / 10:46 am

    Lovely photos. That salted caramel bun has my name written all over it. A visit to Little Bao is a must at Christmas. Xx

  2. Dad
    October 15, 2019 / 6:57 pm

    I did chuckle at the cockroach graveyard
    Haskins has opened their Christmas shop, so it’s definitely not too early to start looking at decorations tell your friend 😉

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