Tokyo is Mama Cass to Hong Kong’s Karen Carpenter. Tokyo is massive, sprawling and endless. Hong Kong is sinewy, narrow and bony. Tokyo spreads out over a vast valley, its back to the bay, the mountains in the distance. Hong Kong is perched nervously between countless peaks and the harbor, the South China Sea a stones throw away.

Depending on which statistics you choose to believe, Tokyo overtook Mexico City to become the most populous city in the world a few years ago. Around 22 million people call the greater metropolitan area of Tokyo home. Hong Kong has barely seven million citizens. And it shows.

Don’t let the massive skyscrapers, gridlocked streets and bustling sidewalks fool you. Hong Kong throbs restlessly because there is nowhere left to go. The city periodically reclaims land from the sea in order to build all those glass towers and shopping centers. And while it’s true seven million people is a lot of pork fried dumplings, the city has an earlier bed time than Tokyo. When my partner and I first arrived from Japan one evening in November, I said, “Where the hell did everyone go? What kind of 28 Days Later hellhole have we moved to!?”

Expat life in Hong Kong centers around Central, the aptly named business district. The neighborhoods popular with the gweilo crowd (or expats) radiate in three directions, the fourth direction being the harbor–no one lives there. You’ll find the majority of expats living in burgeoning Sheung Wan in the west to crowded Causeway Bay in the east, and up against The Peak in the very residential Mid-levels neighborhood on top. As a whole, it’s the white, gooey center in the middle of the Twinkie.

You see friends crossing the street while you’re in back of an idling cab, acquaintances staring at a window display while you whiz by on a bus. Walk into an expat heavy restaurant, coffee shop or bar and you’ll run into every Tom, Dick and Harriet you know. “Hey! What are you guys doing here!?”

A few months after we arrived, I even ran into the only person I have ever defriended on Facebook. She still lives in Tokyo, and was with her husband and toddler when I saw her–her lazy eye laying about listlessly as usual. They were riding up the escalator, while I was riding down. The husband spoke loudly and nervously as I stared at them blankly before looking away.

The problem with a smaller community is that you have to play nice. And while I play nice and am always fair, I’m a bitch when scorned. Thankfully, the fellow gweilo and locals I’ve met here are sweet and sincere. And I’d rather have sweet and sincere than bitter and two-faced any day. Who wouldn’t? Especially when they know you by name.