Haggling in Hong Kong – it’s a serious sport.
If you’re good at throwing tantrums then you’re a good haggler in Hong Kong. Haggling in Hong Kong is all about making a fuss when you don’t get your own way; shouting, whining and acting like a spoiled teenager is all totally acceptable.
It’s all very good and well feeling uncomfortable when it comes to haggling, but when you witness an old, wrinkly (seemingly-adorable) old woman spit out her dummy in the middle of a busy market street, you know it’s time to get your haggle on. Shopping isn’t a joke in Hong Kong – the Chinese have no shame when it comes to bartering.
Haggling in Hong Kong is a sport, and you’d better get acquainted if you don’t want to be reduced to tears.
The Rules of Haggling in Hong Kong
So the same applies like before (more from the Art of Haggling series) – insults are not acceptable – unless you’re gently teasing someone on their personal appearance. Strangely enough, calling someone “plump” or “well fed” is all a part of Chinese banter. But they can mock their fellow Hong Kongers too and have been known to tease people for having “small pig eyes”. And yes, that is a direct translation.
So pig-eyed or big-thighed, you’d better grow a mighty thick skin if you want to survive haggling in Hong Kong.
Now don’t be alarmed; haggling in Hong Kong has tamed somewhat in recent years and you’ll find many stall owners who wouldn’t offend a fly. But be prepared for a bit of a heated battle and for the sake of your nerves, don’t take anything to heart.
Tips for Haggling in Hong Kong
1. Walk away, not once, but twice – walking away too many times in Bangkok may be considered rude. But in Hong Kong, you’d be stupid not to. The f**k-this-I’m-going-elsewhere tactic works a treat with Hong Kong market stall owners but remember that everyone has a breaking point, so on your seventh walk-off, they may just get bored and let you slip away.
2. Volume speaks louder than words – words, words, words. They won’t mean a thing unless you shout them so you better crank up the volume. Cantonese people love to talk loudly, walk loudly and do just about everything loudly. Whisperers and shy folk don’t stand a chance when haggling in Hong Kong, so if you want 70% off, assert it with the power of the decibel!
3. Don’t smile too much – grin like a happy-go-lucky tourist and you’ll reveal your weaknesses. Your face needs to represent your thoughts on the price. Frowning profusely is perfectly acceptable and throw in a few discontented grunts for good measure.
4. Don’t tip toe – in some countries, taking the slow and careful approach to bartering may be appropriate, but if you’re haggling in Hong Kong you have to be pretty candid about what you want. Just say you’re unhappy with the price and push until you get your desired discount.
5. Don’t feel sorry – never feel sorry unless you have genuinely offended someone (and it takes quite a lot to offend a thick-skinned Chinese stall owner). Sometimes, market workers will make comments that could lead you to believe that you’ve insulted them, but you must remember that it’s just your tantrum against their tantrum.
Enjoy Haggling in Hong Kong!
Remember, it’s all just Chinese banter but don’t take it too far and start insulting the country’s history or culture or anything like that – even the indestructible Chinese have feelings!
Enjoy haggling in Hong Kong and don’t be frightened off by the Chinese rage 😉