6 differences between Hong Kong and mainland China

English is commonly spoken in Hong Kong but is rarely used in mainland China.

Hong Kong is one of China's special administrative regions, with many cultural and social differences compared to the mainland, which tourists need to know before coming. 

Cantonese and Mandarin 

The official Chinese is Mandarin. Based on the Beijing dialect, Mandarin became the national language in 1955 and was used in all mainland schools. Meanwhile, the official language of Hong Kong also has English and Cantonese. The same alphabet but Cantonese speakers and Mandarin speakers do not understand each other. 


Mainland Chinese people write simplified Chinese characters, while Hong Kong people use traditional Chinese characters. Simplified Chinese characters were an improvement in the 1950s, with the goal of eliminating illiteracy. This alphabet is based on traditional Chinese characters, but it is simplified to make it easier for learners to remember. 

If you want to use language translation applications such as Google Translate to assist in your Chinese trip, you should note that selecting simplified or traditional Chinese characters is appropriate for your destination. 


English-speaking tourists can easily walk in Hong Kong. All signposts, official documents, administrative services, as well as menus in most restaurants and websites are bilingual. Even in local schools, the English language instruction system is maintained. 

Signs on the streets of Beijing (left) and Hong Kong.

In contrast, foreign visitors will have to spend a lot of effort to find someone who can speak English fluently in mainland China when communicating every day. If you want to stay here longer than a short holiday, foreigners should really learn some basic Mandarin words. 


Weibo and WeChat are indispensable social networks of Chinese people, with different Internet systems. Due to "Great Firewall", Google and Facebook are completely blocked. Therefore, visitors who want to access these applications must use their own virtual network (VPN), but this system is also banned. On the contrary, network users in Hong Kong can access the Internet easily without a VPN. Facebook, Gmail or Instagram, and Snapchat are also widely used. 



Hong Kong people drive on the left side of the road, according to the transportation system inherited from Britain. Meanwhile, in China, people drive the right road, but visitors should not try to drive themselves in China, due to different rules of traffic. 




Hong Kong residents use Hong Kong dollars (HKD), while yuan (CNY) is the currency circulating in mainland China. HKD takes the exchange rate in US dollar (USD), while Yuan does not. Therefore, if traveling between these two destinations, visitors need to prepare separate currencies. 

By: Joshua Thompson

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