Rain or shine, Hong Kong summers will soak you in heavy showers or sticky sweat – learn Cantonese slang all about it
- Don’t forget to bring your umbrella – otherwise, you might end up wet and miserable, also known as a ‘lok-tong-gai’, meaning ‘down soup chicken’
- When the weather is so hot your perspiration drenches your clothes, you can ‘guo-lahng-hor’, or ‘pass cold river’, by heading into a mall for air conditioning
Summers in Hong Kong can be fun as you catch some rays and have a blast at the beach. But you also have to brave the hot temperature, which can often feel unbearable, as well as the constant downpour of the rainy season.
It can be stressful when the temperature is so hot outside that you struggle to breathe or that you feel your sweat soaking your clothes. And if you forget to carry an umbrella, you risk being drenched in heavy showers.
Here are some Cantonese phrases to describe the Hong Kong summer experience, from the suffocating heat to the seemingly unpredictable downpours.
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1. “Down soup chicken”: 落湯雞 lok6 tong1 gai1 (lok-tong-gai)
Meaning: describes a person who looks wet and miserable after being soaked by the rain. One possible reason the phrase refers to chickens is that their feathers are not as waterproof as the ones ducks have.
In English: to look like a drowned rat; to be soaking wet; to be drenched to the skin
Example: Susan forgot to bring her umbrella today, so she became a lok-tong-gai when the heavy rain fell.
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2. “Pass cold river”: 過冷河 gwo3 laang5 ho4 (guo-lahng-haw)
Meaning: to enter a building with air conditioning to avoid the summer heat outside. Hongkongers will often find ways to get to their destination by weaving through malls to take advantage of the cool air.
In English: to beat the heat; to stay cool
Example: It is too hot to continue walking outside! Can we go to the mall to guo-lahng-haw?
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3. “Big sweat on small sweat”: 大汗疊細汗 daai6 hon6 dip6 sai3 hon6 (dai-hon-deep-sai-hon)
Meaning: to sweat a lot when the weather is hot. The phrase paints a picture of bigger sweat droplets piling on top of the smaller ones to show how profusely someone is sweating because of the heat.
In English: to sweat like a pig; to melt
Example: After hiking this mountain while being under the sun for the past three hours, all of us are just dai-hon-deep-sai-hon.
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4. “Baked”: 翳焗 ai3 guk6 (ai-gook)
Meaning: describes the feeling of suffocating when the weather is hot. The slang directly translates to “baked”, and it is used to show how the heat and humidity during Hong Kong summers can cause difficulties with breathing.
In English: stifling; stuffy; to be like an oven
Example: The recent weather has been so ai-gook that I can’t stand being outdoors for another minute.