Saturday, July 30, 2005

Lan Kwai Fong

I caught up with a few old friends when I was in HK and I was extremely disappointed. I was actually describing how I felt to one of my current co-workers and i said how 'i was really surprised with how.... ' and before I could even finish the sentence she answered it for me: 'how superficial they are'. She lived in singapore for a little while and like me doesn't exactly fit into the materialistic scene.

We talked further and at first i though that perhaps they had changed. One friend in particular was particularly shallow and rather racist to 'locals'. Keep in mind that both of her parents are actually chinese its just she was brought up overseas. She was new to Hong Kong when we were first friends and i thought perhaps all the male attention she received had gone to her head. But then as my co-worker asked 'was it really them who had changed?'. Perhaps it was me having returned to Melbourne for a year who was seeing them from a different perspective.

I'm really not sure.

I read a interview with anthony won chau-sun recently where he was quoted as saying:

'Of course expats love Hong Kong. We have this colonial mentality of thinking of Westerners as superior so they live in Mid-Levels.'

While I don't completely agree with him, he does raise a good point. There are two types of expats in Hong Kong. The first type earn a very decent wage, and live in the midlevels. They are the type that love their LV bags and other designer brands. They might have domestic helpers and socialise mostly within their expat circles. It always makes me laugh when people talk about the greeks or the Vietnamese or whatever race sticking together in Australia because judging by some of the behavior of some of the expats in HK they do exactly the same. Americans tends to do it very well. I remember taking Mr T to a cafe in Hong Kong and him saying 'i'm the only chinese person here'. Not only that but there was no chinese waiter/waitresses and no chinese menu and the waiter was kind of rude to him. In fact I think he was the only chinese person on the block.

Sadly I think that type (the mid levels type) are the majority. The second type I would like to think I belong to. Especially considering I can only think of a handful of people that actually belong to this category. There are westerners in Hong Kong who attempt to learn about the culture rather than pretend they are back in the US or Aus, or wherever. Who attempt to try the local cuisine (the good thing is it's actually cheaper and tastier), and even the language. More importantly though they don't look down on 'locals' and refer to them with all sorts of generalisations. It can be a lonely place though existing without actually belonging to the larger expat scene or the local scene. Having said that though I've come back with obviously a lot more knowledge not to mention tried all sorts of amazing cantonese dishes.

Speaking of knowledge. I'm still continually surprised with some expats ignorance. I recently heard an acquaintance who has lived in Hong Kong for five years say 'chinese people don't drink'. Mmm thats strange I'm sure I saw lots of bars and quite a few of my friends (Mr T included) drink themself stupid. How can one live there and make such a stupid statement? I've also had friends who have grown up In Hong Kong without learning more than two words in cantonese. Now i know its a hard language and you can get by without speaking it, but its just seems really disrespectful to not even attempt to learn when you have there for twenty plus years.

It sad when you think about it, sad for the expats who fail to get a real sense of Hong Kong life, and sad for 'locals' who have to put up with rich snooty bastards who think they are better in some way.

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