[Response] @Rubenerd Show 275

On the most recent episode of the Rubénerd Show (Episode 275) I was given an honourable mention, for a number of reasons, but one was in regards to population density and the difference between Sydney, Singapore and Hong Kong.

During the show (when else?), Ruben stated:

[Hornsby, a suburb of Outer Sydney]'s quite different from anywhere I've ever lived before. [...] My sister and I grew up in Singapore. Which is probably.. I guess Singapore was sort of, to put that into perspective, I'm not sure if it was the highest, but in terms of a country it's the highest density in the world. Which is kind of a cop-out because the country is the size of a peanut to begin with! And then they have a big city on it.

And I think [...] it's not the densest city by a long shot. I think actually Hong Kong is. [...] But yeah, it's pretty packed.

My partner and I went [to Singapore] in December/January again. So she'd never been outside Australia until recently she went to Hong Kong - so that would have been quite the eye-opener! And we went to Singapore after that. And I don't know - it's dense and there's obviously a lot of people and it can be kind of overwhelming if you've never been exposed to things like that.

Interestingly, overwhelming the experience was not! I don’t particularly understand why this might be the case, but the streets of Hong Kong felt no different than a packed crowd out to watch fireworks on New Years’ Eve in Sydney, or a packed George Street in Town Hall as we joined the fray to watch a yearly Chinese New Year Twilight Parade around February.

In many ways, I felt more home in Hong Kong because for once everyone was almost the same height as me which meant standing on a single step made it pretty easy to get a birds’ eye view over a crowd. For the first time it felt like I was in a crowd of people like my own… and for the first time I began to seriously consider why my parents had decided to leave Hong Kong when I could have grown up learning more of my language and culture and becoming more like a true person from Hong Kong.

But that aside, not to go all Fact Check, but I was curious about Ruben’s claims of population density and thus decided to consult with my good buddy Wikipedia. It turns out that neither Hong Kong nor Singapore are the densest country in the world, although these figures are somewhat old. In fact, this goes to…. drumroll please: MACAU!

This is pretty surprising to me, as when I went to Macau I’d felt that there had been plenty of open space, particularly in comparison to Hong Kong’s endless concrete playground. But I guess this is where it can be misleading as we don’t realise that what is happening is the majority of the population is clustered into a tiny area because of all the open area around it. So that’s another reason why Macau can simply rely on its road network of cars and buses other than the size of it island itself (30.3 km²) is a breadcrumb to Singapore’s peanut (714.3 km²). Wording used pretty liberally here, I know.

In terms of city district density, Macau also takes the cake although it has tough competition. It lags far behind the Philippines, India and other countries in terms of actual city density though. If you thought the crush was bad, apparently think again!