The best photographers in the world are probably not in Hong Kong. But there are thousands of people in Hong Kong who can be professional photographers specialized in food pictures. Everyone claims they’re foodies (“食家” in Cantonese) and posts a stack of food photos on their Facebook, instagram, Pinterest and of course, food blogs. “Restaurants” is the most searched keywords on internet; food places are packed with customers in queues waiting for a table with a limited usage time of maximum 1.5 hours (but after half an hour the staff will force you to leave). The entire city is crazy about food.
When you go to restaurants with a Hong Kongese, the first thing you do when the food arrives is not to eat, but to wait for your friend to take a picture of it and post it on social media network. Here you go:
Have you ever thought of what are the reasons Hong Kong people always take pictures of food (among a thousand other things)?
Here are my explanations:
They really like to eat
Hong Kong people’s love in food can trace back to the traditional Chinese cultural root. There’s an important Chinese idiom of “民以食為天” which literally means “people regard food as the sky”; and “sky” is the most important intrinsic belief to Chinese people since “sky” produces rains that grow food which in turns sustains people’s lives. With eating being extremely crucial not just for survival but also cultural sense, Hong Kong people regard restaurants as “heaven” and taking food photos as “showing how they feel excited in heaven”.
They have to eat out a lot
This reason pinpoints Hong Kong people’s busy schedule. They’re known for working hard, and because of those ridiculous work cultures Hong Kong people have to work late at night and leave only after their boss has headed out the office. They can hardly go to supermarket and buy food to cook at home. Therefore eating out after work and during weekend has become a popular culture. Browsing Openrice.com to read reviews about different restaurants is a staple before choosing which restaurants to go. When they can finally enjoy their dinner, how could Hong Kongers resist taking a picture of the lovely sushi or freshly fried foie gras? Of course their joy can only be communicated if they share the photos with friends, so using smartphone to finish the task is a routine before actually eating.
Photo sharing shows their tastes
All those photos taken of the food would be meaningless if Hong Kong people don’t share them online to their friends. Most often, the shared photos are tagged with the name and address of the restaurants through Facebook check-in or Foursquare so that their friends know if they go to the recently most sought-after restaurants or some cafés run by pop teen models with big dolly eyes. In a word, sharing of food pictures in essence conveys the tastes of the photographer to their friends and people all over the world through social media network. This can also be an indirect way of self-identification by showing their social status through telling others how many Michelin-starred restaurants they go or how they could find a table at a popular restaurant while there are 200 people queuing outside. Well, lining up for 2 hours to dine at a renowned restaurant for half an hour is one of the 9 characteristics of Hong Kong food culture.
Eating is a good way to kill time
There are not much natural resources in Hong Kong. Although there are many good hiking spots, beaches and sports centers, Hong Kong culture is not very outdoor-oriented. People seem to enjoy doing more quiet and indoor activities (usually this involves air-conditioner) such as watching Korean dramas, shopping, karaoke and eating out. Watching TV dramas and karaoke aren’t very photo-sharing friendly; shopping requires a great deal of fortune to brag to others that you buy at designer stores; but taking photos of food? Easy trick. Popular restaurants can be cheap, and even if they go to afternoon tea at a nice hotel, it’s still cheaper than a luxury handbag plus food is essential, food is king and food is everything. Therefore, the easy two-second snap of food photos has evolved to a daily habit to Hong Kong people, as it’s a really good way to spend their time after their tiring work.
Do you take pictures of food? I do.