Only in HK
When I returned from London my self appointed life coach took a good look at my face and said approvingly, ‘You are whiter’. In HK this is code or shorthand for you look prettier because the fairer you are the better. Forget about the healthy tan that the West crave and pay good money to achieve with tanning salons and sunbeds. Shelves in pharmacies are filled with cosmetics which will whiten your complexion. I suspect they are pumped full of chemicals and very bad for your skin, I mean, how else would they lighten it? A bit like hair dye, you are forcing what is natural to change.
When the eager sales assistants try the hard sale on me I tell them with a straight face that I actually am proud of my darker complexion and they look aghast as if I am insane or uttered the unthinkable.
Can one be ‘racist’ against one’ own people? After all nobody with both parents who are Chinese will ever be truly ‘white’, so this smacks subconsciously of a worship of the foreign. I was surprised when a local friend informed me that if my ex and I had been living in HK I would have gained a higher status purely by being married to a white man. How bizarre. Why, I ask? Because a white person in HK would not be living on the poverty line.
This love of all things foreign extends to South Korea and previously Japan. Any item from said country will have a huge mark up and the same enthusiastic assistants will point out its superior quality compared to I guess products from the Mainland. HK relies totally on imports because all its manufacturing industries have died because it is simply a lot more economical to have factories in China as the labour is dirt cheap. Nobody farms anymore as it is back breaking work under the scorching sun and anyway it is hugely more lucrative to sell the land to property developers on the prowl.
So I smile and graciously thank the boss of the local cafe for the compliment. Back home I gaze into the mirror and whisper, ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of us all?’