Do you know these popular local terms used in Hong Kong to identify different lifestyles and groups of people? We present the Hong Kong Urban Dictionary.
Behind the endless bright city lights, the abundant towering buildings and the surreal Blade Runner-esque landscape of Hong Kong lies many niche cultures including independent local bookstores, Japanese wonderlands and underground tattoo parlours. We’ve put together a Hong Kong Urban Dictionary filled with popular culture terms that define identity, groups, and characterise different lifestyles in the city to help you understand a bit more about local culture and navigate your way through the city.
Popular culture within Hong Kong
The city of Hong Kong has an incredibly complex history, it was a former British colony for over half a century, and has only just returned to China in 1997 merely twenty years ago. During this unstable political period many Hong Kong families immigrated elsewhere including the United States, Canada and Australia. In the 90s and 2000s, Japanese popular culture dominated the city’s streets with teens and young adults imitating the style by dressing in bright and bold fashionable wear.
In the current day, Korean popular culture has taken over where Japan has left off, with K-Pop flooding the markets and influencing the city’s young through beauty and fashion. Hong Kong is a melting pot of a number of cultural influences with local individuals identifying with different groups and lifestyles. Here is our Hong Kong Urban Dictionary, featuring types of commonly used terms that have been popularised and found in day-to-day speech as well as online forums.
Hong Kong Urban Dictionary
The term ABC can refer to both men and women. ABC stands for American Born Chinese or Australian Born Chinese – but has been generalised to identify individuals born in a Western country, that have been raised overseas, or have been educated overseas and lean more towards Western values and characteristics than Chinese. The term has also been used to mock local Hong Kong females with no Western socialisation who have adopted western culture through their speech, clothes and characteristics also known as lan ABC (fake ABC).
Seoi translates to water and to cim seoi is to dive underwater, but not literally. If someone dives underwater, it means they disappear from the social radar for a while. The reason being could be because they’ve been too preoccupied with work, school, their new beau, or maybe they don’t feel like socialising. But these fellas do come back out to the surface eventually.
Faa Saang Jau
This one loosely translates to peanut guy and it very much does not have anything to do with peanuts or any nuts for that matter. While going for a stroll or minding your own business on the MTR, or heck even when you’re at home, you may hear a loud, banging argument out of the blue (it’s all too real in Hong Kong!) coming from neighbours or couples in public. If you stand-by and watch this unravel, this makes you the peanut guy, the peaceful spectator witnessing a not so peaceful convo.
Ga translates to add, and yau means oil but don’t grab your aprons and kitchenware because you will NOT be cooking up a storm. Ga Yau is popularly used amongst students (especially around the time of finals) and you’ll easily find spectators chanting this slogan as it means to persevere. Next time you want to show your support and encouragement to someone (or even yourself!), just tell them to ga yau!
Hang Jai and Hang Lui
Hang Jai and Hang Lui translates to Korean boy and Korean girl. The terms were popularised in the late 2000s, when Korean popular culture exploded in the Asian and international markets, and entered the conscience of Hong Kong consumers. The term is used to define local individuals who enjoy Korean music and culture, or are involved in the latest K-pop boy or girl band craze. A Hang Jai or Hang Lui sometimes incorporates Korean words in their day-to-day speech. The group can be easily identified as they closely follow Korean beauty and fashion trends; a pale complexion, straight drawn eyebrows, pink cheeks and lips, appear youthful and cute, and wear vibrant bright clothing.
Kong Nam and Kong Lui
Kong Nam and Kong Lui in Cantonese respectively means Hong Kong boy and Hong Kong girl. The terms are used to define local individuals who have been born and raised in Hong Kong. Kong Lui was originally used to describe an uptight and picky Hong Kong local girl, but in the current day has evolved to also mean a princess, a very high maintenance local girl, that demands her significant other to have the ability to pay for her meals, goods and take care of her. Kong Lui has also been used to reference a gold digger, expecting her other half to own a car, an apartment and have a steady high income job. Kong Nam – the male counterpart, is a term used to describe a subservient and submissive local male who is dominated and abides by the wishes of a Kong Liu.
Men Qing is a neutral term that can refer to both women and men and translates to a young intellect. The term began around the late 2000s, it was popularised in Taiwan and is often interpreted as the equivalent of the Asian hipster. Men Qing individuals enjoy going to artistic events, love photography, spend vast amounts of time at coffee shops, style themselves in neutral coloured linen wear, and like to read, owning a range of books from well-renowned Japanese author, Murakami. However within this group of individuals, there are internal disputes, that being those who believe they are genuinely Men Qing as opposed to those who just pose on social media as a modern intellect – for example sitting at a coffee shop in linen wear, with a book they will never read in hand.
The term MK is a reference to Mong Kok, one of the busiest areas in Hong Kong, and originated in the 90s and 2000s during the J-pop craze. Mong Kok was once the go-to area for Hong Kong high school students to meet their friends, eat, and shop cheap and fashionable goods imitating loud Japanese popular culture fashion trends. MK refers to both men and women who wear a mixture of bold fashionable items that regularly clash, they usually have dyed blonde or brown hair and wear punk silver jewellery. MK is currently considered a relatively dated term, and though once had a negative connotation of being outdated and unfashionable, it is now not regarded as such, and is widely accepted as simply a past fad.