There is nothing more droll and jejune than being caught up in someone else’s cultural assumptions and prejudices. You struggle to decide between laughing it off or pointing out the naivety of the situation, but either way, it is an arid and annoying experience. Here in Hong Kong it is a common thing for people […]
There is nothing more droll and jejune than being caught up in someone else’s cultural assumptions and prejudices. You struggle to decide between laughing it off or pointing out the naivety of the situation, but either way, it is an arid and annoying experience.
Here in Hong Kong it is a common thing for people to make assumptions about you, just because you are a Westerner; perhaps the worst assumption being that all Westerners are the same. Take food: I’ve often heard the claim that Westerners don’t eel, for example. Where does that come from? Leaving aside the important role of Eel in the colonial diet of the US, or the famous Eel dishes of London – just think of the role that Eel plays in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese cuisine, to name just a few.
Then there’s the assumption that Westerners never venture off Hong Kong Island, spending all their time in a small number of entertainment precincts. Granted, some people do fit that description; rarely taking a ferry or MTR, spending every spare night in Lan Kwai Fong, Soho or Wan Chai. But, importantly for me, those folks are not the kind I would socialise with in any city, not just Hong Kong.
My experience (along with the experience of a lot of ex-pats I know) is quite different. When I’m browsing music or photo gear, it is always on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. My favourite shopping malls are off the Island (Harbour City and Festival Walk). Same goes for my favourite Indian restaurant, favourite theatre, favourite park and for a while, my favourite cafe.
I was pondering this earlier in the week on my way to some meetings in Kwai Fong, near the container port. It was one of those trips where I was the only western face on the train and the area I was visiting seemed equally devoid of westerners – at least on street level.
As I’ve mentioned before, it is alarming to meet Westerners who’ve been here a while, yet have no Chinese friends. Quite frankly, that’s not an “ex-pat” thing, because everyone I knew in Delhi, who spent a few years there, developed “local” friends.
I don’t claim to understand Hong Kong all that well. Living here for four and half years has given me plenty of experiences and I try, on occasion to write about them. But, this was never meant to be a “Hong Kong” blog. I started this blog before I moved here and it will continue after I leave. All the cities I’ve lived in before Hong Kong – Sydney, London, Delhi – had their appealing and undesirable aspects. A thoughtful blog will be honest about that and highlight the whole spectrum of what we experience, good and bad, pleasing and disappointing.
So, in the meantime I’ll do my best to steer clear of the assumption-makers and enjoy everything the breadth of this city has to offer – including the upcoming Hong Kong Arts Festival!