In my first 2 weeks in HK, i experienced terrible headaches and was irritable during the day. Panadol provided little relief and visits to the doctor resulted in a clean bill of health. Then I started paying attention to what was causing all the headaches and it was all the noise around me. Noise came in the form of people shouting down their handphones, roadworks going on daily, 10,000 conversations happening at the same time in a restaurant, impatient honking from buses, cars, trams etc. To add to it all, the cantonese language is spoken quickly, sharply, crudely and staccato-like (imagine a louder version of the morse-code). It may be capable of being melodious like French (e.g.) but it remains to be heard.
It baffled me the first time I passed a couple of women shouting at each other. I got worried that the argument could turn violent until they both suddenly laughed. Or the time, the guy next to me on the escalator, whipped out his handphone and started shouting into it. It’s possible that the other person could hear him even without the handphone! The conversations are often spirited and somewhat aggressive, hence to non-local residents it sounds like an argument.
After 17 months, I’ve adjusted to the noise -level but when I first arrived, it was quite a shock to the system. To say that I was not used to the noise is an understatement, my ear was buzzing from the high volume and I thought I was losing my hearing. I dread to think that as part of the adjustment, my speak volume has increased.