Thursday, 13 August 2009

Cultural Differences

Having been working in Hong Kong for a year, plus the fact that I was born here, I thought I had an upper-hand in understanding how a traditional 'Hong Konger' feels and thinks compared to a random foreigner without any links to this place - how wrong I was...

I've always heard that the locals here could tell whether a Chinese person is born and bred in Hong Kong or not.  Apparently, Chinese born or bred elsewheres have this 'dumb' look about them, that they don't look very street-wise.  I still remember over a decade ago, I came back to Hong Kong for a short visit and was put under this category.  Needless to say, I wasn't very flattered to be labelled as dumb but what can you do?  I wasn't planning on returning so I put it out of my mind. A few years ago though, I came back again for another brief visit, this time, I really liked the place.  People could still tell we're from overseas but only because of our 'friendly aura' and our non-Chinese looking noses!  It was, overall, a much more positive experience this second time round.  So much so that I decided I could work in this place - and here I am now!

I discovered how much I had been 'Hong Kong-ized' when I returned to England for a break and found myself ignoring shop assistants greeting me.  I've been so used to not making eye-contact with people (especially those giving out leaflets on the streets!) and putting on this hostile face (to ward off con artists - no joke, they are everywhere here - don't say I haven't warned you!) that I carried this defensive behaviour home.  Fortunately, it didn't take me long to pack those barriers away. I soon got used to smiling to strangers again (namely shop assistants and grannies around town!). But now that I'm back in Hong Kong, my mask is back on when I venture out..

So that's on the outside, what about the inside?

My decision to relocate to Hong Kong was met with praises and encouragements from my British friends:  'Go for it!', 'You're so brave!' Unfortuantely, the story is very different on this side of the world.  Only the other day, from a conversation I had with a neighbour in the village I moved out of a few months ago, I learned that people there thought I relocated to Hong Kong because I couldn't find a job in the UK!  I was shocked!  How could they think of such a thing (i.e. to think the worse in others)?  I wasn't a fresh graduate nor an unemployed soul - but then, how would they know?  So I put her straight.  Mind you, I don't think she believed me - some people here just do not understand the concept of giving up a stable job for the unknown - well, I'm a living example!

Universe, please open the minds of these people...for their own sake!

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