24 February 2019
The best things in life are free, like a date in the park. But if you have to spend for a date, it will be more expensive in Hong Kong than in most other major cities. Photo: Bloomberg
The best things in life are free, like a date in the park. But if you have to spend for a date, it will be more expensive in Hong Kong than in most other major cities. Photo: Bloomberg

Why a cheap date is so expensive in Hong Kong

The localist firebrand Yau Wai-ching, before she was ousted from Legco, famously complained that young people can’t even find a room for a quick sex amid soaring property prices in the city.

But even before talking about that stage of a romantic liaison – the night is young, my dear – perhaps we should take a step backward and carp instead about how expensive it is to date a girl these days.

Did you know that Hong Kong ranks second only to Japan when it comes to the cost of having a cheap date? And over the last three years, it has registered the second highest increase in the cost of cheap date, behind India.

By cheap date we mean a taxi ride, a not-too-fancy dinner, a movie, some drinks at the pub, and then, maybe, the nightcap that Yau Wai-ching is talking about.

(For some young people, a “cheap date” means is a date who gets intoxicated after only a drink or two.)

Anyway, thanks to Deutsche Bank, which bothered to compile a report called Mapping the World’s Prices 2017, we now have some idea of the comparative prices of such things as flat rents, hotel rooms, iPhones, etcetera.

When it comes to a cheap date, the German bank says the average cost in Hong Kong is HK$863 (US$110.8), and that includes taxi rides, a dinner for two at a diner, two movie tickets, and a couple of beers at the pub.

That puts Hong Kong in the 20th place among the most expensive cities in the world, behind the No. 1, Zurich, where a young Casanova would have to cough up US$195.9, or about 77 percent more than in Hong Kong, to keep things going with his date.

Says Deutsche Bank: “Our advice to those in Zurich is either to marry young or choose your blind dates carefully as our ‘cheap date’ index continues to see Zurich as the most expensive place for courtship.”

The report came short of explaining why Hong Kong has seen the second highest surge (19 percent) in the cost of a cheap date, but we can come up with at least two reasons.

First, the strong US dollar makes Hong Kong, whose currency is pegged to the greenback, relatively more expensive than other European and Asian cities.

The biggest culprit, though, is the soaring price of property in the city, which affects everything from food and drinks to entertainment, as rent is one of the biggest components of a business establishment’s operating cost.

Hong Kong, according to the Deutsche Bank report, is also the second most expensive when it comes to home rent, next only to San Francisco.

The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Hong Kong is US$3,237 (HK$25,197) – probably before the latest near 20 percent year-to-date home price surge – or 6.5 percent below San Francisco’s US$3,449 but nearly 10 times Bangalore’s US$296.

Going back to Yau Wai-ching’s complaint, we fully agree with her that young lovers do find it hard to find a place for a little privacy in Hong Kong.

Even if you settle for the cheapest, roach-infested hotel in town, chances are you have to queue for at least one hour before you can get a room, by which time you and your partner probably have lost all the tender feelings you have for each other that brought you there in the first place.

“Even if we want to bang, we cannot find a room.” Well said, Wai-ching.

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EJ Insight writer

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