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
Yanni Chow |

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Here are 4 Cantonese phrases to describe the rain and heat that Hong Kong summer months are known for. Photo: Nora Tam

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.

Maybe being a “lok-tong-gai” isn’t so bad – this young model has turned the drenched look into a fashion statement. Photo: May Tse

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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?

Air-conditioned malls keep Hongkongers cool on hot days. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

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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.

Some people prefer to embrace the heat and bask in the sun’s rays. Photo: May Tse

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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.

Everyone in Hong Kong needs fans to cool down on the dog days of summer. Photo: K.Y. Cheng
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