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Elevator and escalator etiquette

If you want to stand on an escalator, be sure to stand on the right. If you wish to walk up or down the escalator, do so quickly on the left. As for elevators, if you are standing by the door, press the door open button until all nearby passengers may enter the elevator. As soon as the elevator is boarded, immediately press the close door button. File into and out of the elevator very swiftly.


These are the unwritten rules of Hong Kong elevator and escalator etiquette.

A very long escalator in Mong Kok, Hong Kong

Back in the states, it would have seemed odd to me that I would find myself writing a post on vertical vehicles, but Hong Kong’s idealized and practiced elevator and escalator norms I find to be emblematic of the kind of serious efficiency which the city has mastered. Lines that I would have previously considered too long disappear within a few short minutes. Payments with a tap-and-go “Octopus” card allow purchases to happen in a blink. Store clerks and waiters avoid small talk at all costs to ensure the service tasks themselves are done properly and quickly.


One can never fully understand this kind of environment, these seamless queuing practices and high standards of efficiency, until one visits this place. There is sort of a mutual understanding among all citizens—and integrated foreigners—to play their part, melting into the steady rhythm of the city’s fast pace.


While some might initially perceive this as a sense of coldness across the city, I find that it comes out of the necessity to make-do while living in one of the world’s most densely populated cities. For one, the sheer number of buildings over one hundred meters (1,303 to be exact) necessitate not only functioning elevators and escalators, but a culture of efficiency to make it all work. And so, I find myself standing on the right and walking on the left: getting onto Hong Kong’s level.

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