I love HK
One travels to see the unique landmarks, indulge in the local cuisine and get acquainted with a different culture and way of life. To broaden our horizons … We look out for what is different and indigenious. My pet hate is multi-nationals like McDonalds or Star Bucks. If Beijing is the same as London I may as well stay at home.
Hong Kong fortunately has hung onto its eccentricities in spite of the determined alen invasion. Here are some random idiomsyncracies I have spotted so far.
First on the radio and tv every few minutes there are financial reports on how the Hang Seng Index is doing, either up or down by how many points. I have no clue what it means. Followed by the exchange rate of major currencies and a detailed update on stocks and shares. Here the latter are not just for the rich. The interest rate for savings is laughably low so people like to take a gamble. There are even phone ins where an expert advises on whether to ‘deal or no deal’, gazing into his proverbial crystal ball. You wonder if he can predict the future what the hell is he still doing on the radio and not sunning himself in the Bahamas. Nobody ever seems to phone in and blame the expert for bankruptcy demanding compensation or they’ll juImp off the nearest skyscraper. It is revealing that the pursuit of wealth is uppermost, from the richest man Lee Ka Shing to the man in the street.
Second a high population in very little space the locals are extremely law abiding. Like the streets which are extremely clean people behave in an orderly manner, queue obediently for transport, toilets, to be served, to pay etc. The intrepid traveller out and about after recovering from jet lag will see crowds waiting patiently in front of the traffic lights. As soon as the green man appears everybody crosses; no running across dodging traffic or jaywalking. Similarly no littering, no grafitti, no vandalism, no spitting … Why? Have they been brainwashed or are they like the Stepford Wives? Not even one rebellious soul amongst the crowd? The answer Mr David Cameron is every offence however minute is punishable by incarceration or a hefy fine. For example if you are caught littering that’s a cool $1000 thank you very much. In too much of a hurry for ‘green man’, $300 first offence if you are caught again then that’s double. Not wearing seatbelts will put you in prison 3 months and the second for smuggling more than 2 tins of baby formula to the Mainland will keep you off the streets half a year. These are not idle threats. I wonder how they deal with prison overcrowding. If anything is going to put the fear of God in you, this will. The over the top punishment is necessary to control the high population. Otherwise anarchy would rule and get in the way of chasing the all important dollar.
Regular public announcements aimed at educating the masses range from reminders to wash your hands after visiting the toilet to how to avoid a heat stroke and switching off your engine when stationary to protect the environment.
You’ll also see the odd adult sporting a green surgical mask over their nose and mouth going about their business. No the brain surgeon hasn’t lost her way to the operating theatre. Hong Kongers are very health conscious and would rather suffocate behind the mask than breathe in germs. Even more insane are the joggers under the scorching sun. It is exhausting to just sit on the couch never mind be energetic. They must be extremely fit or they’d run the risk of suffering a coronary.
Cycling is the latest fad reserved for your one day off with mates or the significant other. The exercise isn’t the main object but the professional cycling attire from head to toe. However in my humble opinion the intended image of cool and rich backfires. Just looks like too much hard work for me. But then I am a couch potato.
No matter where you go in rain or shine you’ll see old frail ladies in their eighties on the prowl for cardboard that has been thrown out. To us this is rubbish but to their beady eyes the $ sign lights up. They sell them for a pittance but it is pure profit and they have time. The locals inform me that some do it to ease the boredom and not because they are desperate. But I don’t know what it is, the sight of a lady who has worked hard all her life and raised a family and most likely has grandchildren now scavanging for cardboard for mere cents, pushing a heavy metal trolley breaks my heart. Every time. I always give them $20 dollars to treat themselves. Hardly breaking the bank; it’s less than 2 quid. Every single one is taken by surprise. It is such a familiar sight that nobody gives them a thought. One only yesterday in Tai Po wished me good health and wealth. I laughed and said, ‘Good health would be good. Wealth is optional.’ She touched me the most, bent over struggling to load damp pieces of flat cardboard onto the metal trolley. ‘Why are you carrying on in the rain Pau Pau (Grandma)? Shouldn’t you be putting your feet up at home?’ She shook her head indicating the work had to be done before the heavy rain ruined everything. $20 is nothing but it brought a smile to her wrinkled lived-in face.
No old men following this money making route. Well women do outlive men generally. The ones still alive are to be found round a Chinese chess board watching the ongoing battle of wits and shouting tips or warnings.
More later alligator.