Rudeness in Hong Kong, part III

I can assure that you that I am tireless, dear readers, in my quest to answer the question 'Are lots of Hong Kong people really really rude, or does it just seem that way to me, because I'm an undereducated smalltown rube?'.

A recent incident has left me farther than ever from a definitive answer, which I've already sought in two previous articles.

The other day, I was taking Toddler Tall to see her pediatrician. We got on the MTR, about mid-morning on a weekday, and all seats were occupied, but only just. The car we entered had only a couple of people standing. No one got up to give us a seat. I'm not complaining about this, by the way -- although occasionally people in Hong Kong (blessings be upon them!) do give up their seats to people with small children, I certainly don't think doing so is necessary. In fact I have an aversion to -- and Mrs Tall is rendered apoplectic by -- people who scoop a five or six-year-old child into their arms and schlep it into an MTR carriage or bus in order to manipulate those already seated into 'doing the polite thing'.

Also, let me emphasize that Toddler Tall didn't look all that ill (she just had one of the seemingly never-ending series of common cold viruses she's been systematically working through lately) and, as her nickname suggests, she's big for her age -- she looks like a little girl, not a baby, and is perfectly capable of holding on to a support pole on her own, which is just what she did.

Anyway, we trundled along for three stops, and were just pulling into the fourth, when a gentleman in his 30s jumped out of his seat, caught my eye, and proceeded to make a lavish show of ushering Toddler Tall over to take his seat. He waved her in like a signalman landing a fighter on an aircraft carrier. He even swept the surrounding area with a steely gaze to ward off any usurpers who might be trying to grab the seat before we could get there (actually, there wasn't really anyone else around).

And then, as the doors opened, he got off the train.

So just allow me to recap here. This guy was already on the train when we got on. He sat there and watched us stand for four stops. And then he enacts a little pageant of politeness to make sure we get his seat -- when he's done with it?

Pardon my cynical nature, but isn't this a parody of chivalry? Or am I too harsh? Was Mr Seat really being polite, in making sure we got his seat when he vacated it, or was he a self-publicizing and self-congratulatory jerk?


rudeness in hk, part iii

i enjoy reading ur blogs. thank u for them.

i'm from NY but have been resident in HK for the past 3 yrs. i dont find HK to be any ruder than NY. to b fair, i've also heard some heads say that NY is rude. so perhaps they r on an equal lvl of rudenss, the perception of which depedns on one's point of reference. most things r relative, if i may state. anyways, i think environmental determinism plays a part. the dense, competetive, and stressful urban environment of NY and HK breeds a culture that can seem rude. but in these cities, humans become just a part of the surroundings - strangers become impersonified. u can't treat everyone u come across on the streets and public transport like the way one might treat the town folks in the suburbs. especially, if one is born and raised such an environment, then his/her awareness of out-of-town people's perception of his/her behavior will be low. and perhaps u just have to remember that this is their culture. this is the lvl of politeness that is established here. and u gotta respect that. can't come to anohter culture and expect them to play by ur standards. pls understnahd that i'm not preaching - just offering my pov.

that guy on the train was perhaps thinking this: "since i was in this seat first, it is mine until i'm done with it. however, when i'm done, i want that man with the lil kid to get it." i don't think that he was pretending to be polite, etc. - generally do not see any evidence of hypocracy. this seems fair to me. afterall, in HK and NY, u take care of urself first. that be the rule.


Yes there are rude people in the world and there are nice people in the world. the only difference is not their existence but your reaction to them. You have no control over their background, upbringing or education. you will never change them. All you can chance is how you respond.
As I'm getting older, interested bemusement seems to be more appropriate than getting hot under the collar...

Gee whiz...well, I'm a New

Gee whiz...well, I'm a New Yorker. I've lived in NYC for nearly 20 years. New Yorkers are historically considered "rude", but anyone who lives here knows that's not really true. Usually the rude people here are foreigners or Americans from other parts of the country that have not been here that long. They react to the stress of living in a big city for the first time by being...rude! Anyway, about Hong Kong...the point I'm trying to make is that you don't have to live in Hong Kong to see rude Chinese people! We have them right here on our NYC subways. Whenever I'm on a train (subway) that goes through Chinatown, the doors open and it's like a mad scramble as the Chinese people (who are mostly from Hong Kong / Guangzhou) race into the car and frantically try to grab an empty seat. It used to really bother me (don't they have any dignity?) but now I find it just comical. In an American's eyes, this is childish and embarrassing, to behave that way. Is it that vital and important to get a seat as if your life depended on it? And most of them appear to be friends- I would love for once to see one of them offer their friend the seat before grabbing it for themselves. I guess that is what we call in the West a "tasteful" way to behave.

I absolutely second this

I absolutely second this traveler's opinion. I went through and had experienced the exact same thing.

Rudeness in Blighty

We haven't had much recent action on this frequently-hot topic, which is all good, in my book -- it must mean we're all having a nice peaceful time in HK.

Or maybe not. 

But, in any case, things sound worse in the UK of late, as recounted in this article from a new online magazine, Standpoint.

'Make Courtesy Our Way of Life'

When I first went to Singapore in 1980, there was a billboard with the slogan 'Make Courtesy Our Way of Life'. Yes, I know Hong Kong isn't Singapore (or vice versa -although I've met more than a few people who think it is!) and it's certainly not a nanny state, but I've found Singaporeans much less abrupt and rude than Hong Kongers. I don't think that's down to government social engineering, probably because Singapore is more racialy mixed and even ethnic Chinese accept that while they're a majority in Singapore, they're not a majority in the wider region. In Hong Kong, which is a city in China, that doesn't apply, and there's more leeway for chauvinism and xenophobia.

rudeness article

Slate magazine has an article on the roots of rudeness that should be required reading for anyone who's interested in the topic.

It's multifaceted and worth reading right through, so I won't attempt a quick summary, but I will quote my favorite bit:

Humans' sense of indignation is not just limited to violations against us. Even if you're able-bodied, think of how offended you feel when you see another able-bodied person pull into a handicapped parking spot. Most of us will just walk on, quietly irate, but a few will yell at the driver. These moral enforcers are vital to society.

Oh man, I can feel a surge of self-righteousness infusing me even as I post this . . . .

lol sorry i laughed, but

lol sorry i laughed, but that sums it right there.

"...comments exchanged in a

"...comments exchanged in a heated manor."


heated manor? HAHAHAHHAHAHAA.

Rudeness is in the eye of the beholder?


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I went to Hong Kong and Macau last December with my family.  Like most other first time travelers to a foreign country, we were all excited naturally.  Our itinerary included all the places we see on travel magazines and travel channels on TV, like Disneyland, Harbor View and Victoria Peak in Hong Kong and the Gondola ride at the Venetian Hotel and ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Macau.  Coming over to these places was a dream vacation for us, it would be a four-day stress free holiday for me, or so I’ve thought.

On our first day in Hong Kong, we decided to be more adventurous and visited Wan Chai along Tai Yuen Street.  I have a small collection of toys and was aiming to get a load of cheap toys which is what the strip is famous for.  We took the tram in front of our hotel and were told by a fellow passenger, who happened to be, just like us, a Filipino, who, I presumed is working in Hong Kong, to get-off the bus after three stops, cross the street and there, Tai Yuen .   

Unfortunately, we took the wrong tram on our return trip to the hotel.  We were circling around until all the passengers were gone.  I politely asked the driver if he could help us find our way.  I tried vainly to spell-out the name of our hotel, knowing Hong Kong Chinese barely speak English, but he didn’t care much.  He was motioning his hand, with some distinct look in his eyes, demanding for our fare.  He was talking so fast and loud in Mandarin (?).  I hurriedly paid him-off and leaved.  I would not risk being jailed in a foreign land for a measly sum of 50 HK cents.  I just laughed it off and jokingly told my daughters that maybe the man had gone through a really rough day. 


We spent the next day in the comfort of our group and tour guide.  The mix of people, Filipinos, Indians, Caucasians and of course Chinese seemed to get along well in destinations like Disney Park, Harbor View, etc.


I wanted to document every step of the way, so we brought along our SLR camera and video cam.  I was clueless that these gadgets would invite another trouble for me.  We took the fast blue ferry from Hong Kong to Macau and as soon as we get off, I hurriedly took my video cam wanting to catch the scene of my family walking off the ram and into another Chinese special economic zone, Macau.  I was shooting my camera while the rest were busy filling-up the immigration forms when I heard a lone voice shouting in Cantonese (?), maybe directing something to somebody somewhere from our line.  As I removed my eyes from the video display of my cam, I noticed that everyone was looking at me. The man repeated in obviously irate voice whatever he was shouting awhile ago.  It was me alright, I’m dead.  A Filipino tourist whispered to me that maybe, cameras are off-limits inside the immigration area.  Judging from his uniform, he must be a high ranking immigration official.  Our tour guide, who sent us off to the ferry, never warned me of such rules plus I have not noticed any signs prohibiting shooting or taking of pictures.   Paranoia sets in.  I felt the redness in my face.  I didn’t help when someone from our line mentioned that government offices, like ports, are manned not by locals but officials from mainland China.  True or not, it really frightens me.  I was thinking of the many misfortunes tourist encountered in an unfriendly territory.  I put the camera in my bag and bowed to the official three times.  It worked.


In Macau, staying at the Venetian Hotel will cost me a fortune. We settled at a quaint hotel fronting a rotunda.  The trip going to the Venetian was only a few minutes anyway.  After a joyous ride at the Gondola, a seemingly endless walk and a hundred pictures or so of the magnificent hotel, we called it a day.  Going back to our hotel we took a cab. 


I hurriedly took the front sit while my wife and two daughters seated at the rear.  In the Philippines, it is customary to greet somebody you have just met good morning or good evening.  “Good evening”, I said to the driver.  In my face, he suddenly exploded as if I said or done something offensive to him.  His face was red, his eyes blazing and although I don’t know what he was saying, I am sure it was not good.  Do these people can’t at least lower their voice when talking to strangers?  For the past three days I was shouted-at three times.  


The hotel’s bell boy mediated for us.  He translated in Cantonese the English name of our hotel.  I was thinking of getting off the taxi, what with the temperamental introduction between the driver and us.  We did not because it might offend him more.  He drove like mad.  He speeded off along the narrow alleys, pushed us on one side of the cab on curves and made us stretch our necks when he stepped on the breaks.  It took us only a few minutes and in all those times he never stopped shouting whatever he was shouting in my ear.  We paid the exact fare.


Rude?  It can’t be call polite.

Hong Kongers in London

Expats become more competitve than the various nationalities they came accross, as they can collate a wide and significant range of knowledge / experience from each city / work knowledge they have encountered. Some people obviously take for granted that they will never be an immigrant.  I ignore most of it, from whatever culture. I just try to set a good example by being respectful and polite and if people can't reciprocate then they're the ones who can't adapt, and its their problem, not mine.

Rudeness in Hong Kong, part III

Cantonese can be a very rude language.  Now I live in Brisbane and most Chinese speak mandarin, besides mandarin is a pleasure to listen to, the people are actually more open and nicer.

Before anyong accuses me of being a racist I am a Hong Kong born Chinese, as far as I can remember Hong Kong people have always been superficial and rude. (result of the crammed condtions and being a colony ?)