Being expensive isn't the chief factor. The chief factor is the VIBE. The vibe in HK feels totally soulless. The people walk fast like ants and worker bees with no soul, no authenticity, no warmness, no emotion, etc. If you are a living soul, you feel alienated and isolated, even though you're surrounded by thousands of people. There's simply no connection or soul. It's like being in the movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" from 1978 where everyone has become soulless zombies and alien clones with no emotions or feelings, and you are the last living soul and normal human left. Very scary and Twilight Zone like. Also, the mom and pop shops and businesses are rude and crass. The owners in them look grumpy and miserable and yell and scoff at you a lot for no reason. Makes you want to deck them. It's their style but we westerners take that personally.
That's the vibe you will find in any large business city, Winston. Not just Hong Kong, also Singapore, London, Shanghai. When people swarm the streets just to go to to work or to move from the office to a place where they will use their 30 minutes lunch break, or do some grocery shopping before they wind up at home, exhausted...you will hardly see them happy and smiling.
They will be preoccupied about paying up their mortgages or rents, support their children's education, get that promotion or payrise that will give them that little more breathing space, and so on.
It's what we call "the rat race" in London, so well visualised by the beautiful short animation film by Steve Cutts.
You have been lucky, very lucky, to have escaped the rat race. You can afford planning your next trip to China or Taiwan or Angeles City, where you can have your ego tickled by dates and meet like-minded people who can entertain you with discussions about topics you mutually like, like spirituality and conspiracies.
I don't know on what proportion, but you are also lucky to live off a combination of passive income from HA and money from your family. Nothing wrong with that, but please understand that only a tiny minority of people can afford to survive, indeed live, if frugally, without a full-time job that will nail them to a place, a family, a routine.
For most of other people, it's a life enslaved: bills to pay, responsibilities and the elusive dream of happiness that's always a year away, a thousand dollars away, a gym workout away...you get it.
The Hong Kong-ers who look soulless and distant to you and your mindset aren't necessarily bad or evil people. They are people with something in mind. They are embraced, caged, enslaved by their dreams, their ambitions or simply their life routine and have no other choice than going ahead.
For all your criticism towards those people, it actually takes courage and persistence to forge ahead with a life like that. I made the choice of removing myself from the rat race, but that's only because I divorced by ex-wife, I had no kids and no family to support. Aging apart, my parents are doing well. My ex-wife is between jobs but at least she found another partner whom she is happy with.
Yet, I often find myself admiring those people who are still running the rat race, perhaps because they won't give up, perhaps because they can't give up. They are still making money in London and pay high taxes, dreaming of their next 2-week holiday in a prison-style resort in Thailand or Egypt. They know their kids won't have the opportunities they want to give them, if they stop working or if they move somewhere else "just because".
So, Winston, I might perhaps sound counter-intuitive but those miserable people you see in Hong Kong probably have a better reason to be miserable than we have to be happy
. You may not agree with their life choices and the behaviour that results from them, but you shouldn't criticise them as some sort of evil aliens.
To them, who are indeed the majority, we are the Twilight Zone dwellers.