One weekday morning in Hong Kong as usual I took the bus from MacDonnell Road down to the Central to work. A lady with a big back pack got on the next stop. USA, during my time there was sort of back water, uncool, second to Britain or Europe in large. She had the windblown look, her hair wasn’t coiffed and she wore sandals.
“Excuse me, Mister, where should I get off for Wing On Building?” She asked in her perfect Cantonese but not Hong Kong accented. She was polite and confident.
No reply. Only the noise of bus in motion.
It was the Middle Level, the road was winging – want some adrenaline rush? Ride the bus in Hong Kong, especially from the Peak and Mid Level: they beat out any roller coaster rides. She stayed by the entrance which was at the front even there were empty seats, trying hard to balance herself as the bus made wild turns. I felt that the able drivers sometimes were having fun themselves by exhilarating the swings.
“Excuse me, Mister, where should I get off for Wing On Building?” The lady asked the young driver again.
No reply. And he made a wild turn that almost throw her to the floor.
Without knowing where she was from but felt she fit the bill as some one visiting from San Francisco, hicky-ish and unsavvy. Although to that point, I had never visited US, I remembered thinking to myself, might be this was the reason that I never had any desire to set my feet in USA. Hmmmmmmmm .. .. some thought – New York certainly isn’t USA, IMHO.
The lady pushed her hair back, and bravely asked the third time.
Not a single passenger in the bus spoke up. Instead, they emitted enough annoyance that thin skinned Irene – well, I was young – kept her mouth shut.
The lady turned around, looked at us, said
“It’s so rude.” She’s definitely not a local, had no clue.
Then asked again.
Of course, was being ignored again.
– When I came to New York years later, I was wide eyed seeing drivers would stop the bus and giving out instructions .. and seeing them couldn’t make the turn even that was wider than Hong Kong’s. HK bus drivers were very skilled who never required the opposing car to back off, making room for the bus to turn. The only thing I miss about HK is its pace, and food too. New York is bit slow for me.
Hong Kong’s a place no help was available hence no one would seek one nor expect one. Everyone could or should manage their own affair marvelously.
If you bumped into some one, you did not apologize, rather to stare that person down, why did you bump into me?
– My first week in New York, I frequent the Soho and the village almost daily. One afternoon I was aimlessly paving the Bleecker Street and .. bumped into some one. We said “I’m sorry” almost simultaneously. An hour later, I wandered into a cafe, the bumper was the busboy there who put up his hand to his head, gave me a slight salute as to say sorry one more time.
HK: In the bathroom of a restaurant. When it’s my turn, I entered the booth but doubled out of it right away, looking for bathroom tissue. The woman behind me in line was a mother, she immediately pushed her daughter into the booth.
I looked at her in disbelieve.
“I thought you’re done.” She sheepishly explained.
The bus wasn’t the Benz and that restaurant wasn’t in Mandarin. But in general, the average Hong Kongers’ manner and education are far below that of New Yorkers, and they had no culture, except bare-knuckle money-culture. If one enjoys this, all the power to her or to him. Hong Kong didn’t get where it is by nicey and kissy. But if NY got where it is with a deep rooted culture and manner, why couldn’t some place else? I found average HKers coarse and loud. The majiang playing before a wedding or banquet was thunderously deafening, and to some degree, entertaining.
As a financial center, I often wondered, given HK’s fast pace, driven and can-do attitude, why it never rose to the top, always trailing behind New York and London or Tokyo? Size matters? (I don’t think color matters here) Or because the world governs by the western culture/American laws?
.. ~ .. ~ .. ~ .. ~ ..I’m not trying to be beautiful – I’m just trying to look better than everyone else there.
My time in HK 1979-86 (except intermittent absences in Europe that totaling about 2 years) was the high of boat people from Vietnam, plus massive immigrants from China, legal or illegal. One of Auntie Jennie’s colleagues, a classical musician has swum to shore to reach the Fragrant Port. China was still irrelevant. HKers had animosity toward us, the wai shen ren, 外省人 outsiders. We were esay to spot: appearances and conversation. The term da lu zai 大陆仔 mainland (refers to China) boy or da lu mei 大陆妹 mainland girl reached flashover after the soap opera starring Chow Yunfat 周润发, with his bro or sidekick 阿灿 portraying a mainland boy character. Although it’s a condescending term bestowed by the HKers but to me, it’s just an adjective, a fact that neither reduced me nor elevated me. For the Fashionistas with Canonesses deficiency mainland girls, many of them would pretend they were from Taiwan. It never bothered me being a mainland girl – easy to say now. I am who I am. I didn’t tell myself that I was better, because I knew I was better and had it better than the rest. No need to argue with the retards and plebs.
This tension between the lcoals and mainlanders, and the meanness must have gotten to many. In the early 90s when doves of finely educated mainland Chinese students from the US Ivy Leagues began migrating to Hong Kong – sent by venerable American or International banks or conglomerates, they openly talked about the ‘revenge’ they managed heaping on the locals, and feeling vindicated when the clerks at esteemed shops and stores began trying hard to master Mandarin in order to make the sale. “We Speak Mandarin” was a common sign at stores in Hong Kong.
My way to deal with the nasty HKers was talk them down in English – Sad but ture, very effective. It wasn’t my English was adequate, but was better than the average HKers. If you think Cantonese sounds coarse, wait till the HKers speak English, the average HKers, give you the goosebumps. Butter becomes buttar, broker’s brokar ..
Two Americans, Carly Gullickson and Travis Parrott just won the mixed doubles title, $150k prize money with 1 trophy. Who’s going to keep it? .. Odd years stays at his house and even years at hers? Getting married, it’ll stay in the family 🙂