Macau, gambling mecca and playground for Asia’s high rollers, tax haven and free port, gazes across the Pearl River estuary to Hong Kong. Gambling is a favourite national pastime, particularly among southern Chinese. It is not surprising that in recent years, Macau’s gambling revenues have surpassed those of Las Vegas.
The administrative region of Macau was handed back over to China in 1999, following 150 years of Portuguese rule. The city’s Portuguese heritage is strongly evident in the beautiful late Manueline and baroque style architecture prevalent throughout the peninsula and two small islands of Taipa and Coloane that comprise the Macau special administrative region.
Macau is cherished as one of the most beautiful places in China. Vibrantly coloured Portuguese buildings and winding cobblestoned streets contrast with bustling Chinese shops, ancient temples shrouded in incense, hanging flower baskets and old-fashioned street lamps.
Despite being much smaller than Hong Kong, Macau boasts a population density that is three times as high. Fortunately this has not impacted property rental prices, which are still lower than those found in Hong Kong.
Expatriates tend to congregate in the residential areas of Taipa and Coloane, given their respective proximity to supermarkets and beaches. On these islands you can also find expat clubs and international schools, which make them an obvious choice for families.
What is special or unique about your city?
Macau is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China since December 20, 1999 and, like Hong Kong, benefits from the principle of "one country, two systems." The tiny SAR is growing in size - with more buildings on reclaimed land - and in the number and diversity of its attractions. The greatest of these continues to be Macau’s unique society, with communities from the East and West complementing each other, and the many people who come to visit.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Macau has built up a world-class tourist industry with a wide choice of hotels, resorts, sports facilities, restaurants and casinos.
Are these impressions likely to change?
As Macau has long been catering to the gambling and resort industries, increasingly more and more well-developed world-class hotels and resorts will be established, and the city may become more westernised.
What is the local language?
Chinese and Portuguese are the official languages, Cantonese being most widely spoken. The official languages are used in government departments in all official documents and communications. English is generally used in trade, tourism and commerce.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
English and Mandarin are generally used. Occasionally, there are part-time language training courses for new residents.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
Macau is one of the most densely populated regions and is among the cities with the highest level of population congestion in the world. Therefore, personal space is not as large as most westerners are used to.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
The only bad weather that affects daily life are the thunderstorms and tropical cyclones that occur frequently during the summer season.
The most comfortable period begins from the middle of October to December. In winter, the urban temperature sometimes drops below 10° C. Therefore, the annual minimum temperature is generally recorded in these two months. In spring, besides some occasional wet weather, fog, drizzle and low visibility days, the weather is mainly fine.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
The total population is around 461,000 residents; about 95% are ethnic Chinese from different provinces, primarily Guangdong and Fujian. The remaining 5% includes Portuguese, Europeans and residents from other regions.