My foreign friends always ask me some questions about us Macanese. Are Macanese addicted to gambling? Do all Macanese work in a casino? Are Macau residents used to eating Portuguese food? Or Chinese food? Do Macanese speak Portuguese? I’ve even heard visitors in public or on the bus who are already in Macau discussing these same misconceptions. So I want to talk about the real Macau to clear up any doubts people might have in their mind.
Macau is known as “Oriental Las Vegas” or “the Vegas of the East”. Yes, it’s true there are a lot of casinos here – 35 in total at the moment. The gaming industry is the pillar of the economy in Macau, even moreso than in Las Vegas. Even so, the suggestion that “all or most of the residents are addicted to gambling” is a long way from the truth. In fact, Macau’s residents are generally not regulars at the casinos and rarely spend money on gambling. They are more likely to place a small bet on football or horse racing for fun, but when it comes to the casinos almost all gaming revenue comes from visitors. The gaming industry has been very good for residents with over 80,000 people employed by the industry as we speak – making it easily the largest sector in Macau.
Macau was a Portuguese colony and with its blend of Portuguese and Cantonese ingredients and cooking techniques, some uniquely Macanese dishes have evolved over the years. Portuguese chicken, Bacalhau (salted cod) and Portuguese egg tarts are good examples. In recent times a lot of cafes have started to spring up around Macau too, while there is an amazing array of restaurants featuring the finest cuisines from all over the world.
With its mix of cultures, you might be surprised to find how many of Macau’s residents are multi-lingual. Although Portuguese and Chinese are the official languages, the residents generally speak Cantonese while English is common and more applicable than Portuguese.
Next time you visit Macau, have a chat to the residents on these issues and I’m sure they will appreciate that you have arrived with open eyes. After all, you don’t want to be a superficial traveler, right?