Uniquely Hong Kong

Hong Kong has its own unique way of seeing the world, and getting things done -- let's call it 'Cantoculture'. The Batgung confront it here.

Education as salvation?

I was chatting with one of my colleagues the other day about schools in Hong Kong. He’d recently watched a documentary about one of Hong Kong’s most reputable secondary schools. He found the students’ – and staff’s – academic single-mindedness and general fervor impressive, but not in an entirely favorable way. He wondered if some of this intensity might be the product of transference – that is, the pious zeal of the some of the school’s staff and supporters who were members of religious orders seemed to spill over into their educational thought and work, shaping the school’s whole culture. Read more »

What's in a name?

If having a baby is difficult, sometimes choosing their name seems even harder. And when you've got two cultures & languages in the mix, things get even more complicated.

Choosing the English names for our two daughters has been my job, with MrsB holding the power of veto. The first time around, before we knew the baby's sex, I was suggesting "Huw" if it was a boy. It's a friend's name, and has a link to Wales where I'm from. "No!" says MrsB, "any Chinese person that hears you call his name will think you're swearing at him". Lucky it was a girl...

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More red pocket fun

As I wrote in my previous article on giving red pockets, the Chinese New Year (hereafter 'CNY') lai see custom is great in some ways, but a bit of a socio-cultural minefield in others. Even after getting through 16 CNY's in Hong Kong, 11 of them in which I've been married and therefore responsible for giving out red pockets, there are still dilemmas to be confronted, and lessons to be learned. So here are three more . . .  Read more »

Deep into Temple Street

As we've mentioned in our tourist guide for Kowloon, Temple Street has a lot more to offer to the close observer than just market stalls selling cheesy souvenirs and designer knock-offs. This article gives you quite a bit of background on this old and interesting area. Read more »

Power language

Some time ago, I came across the following quotation in a Washington Post review of a book about lost languages:

People will always educate their children in what they perceive as the power language. Success . . . means belonging to the elite; to belong to the elite you must speak the official and international language. As soon as they can, that is what even the most down-trodden of minority language speakers will aim at, for their children even more than for themselves.

This got me thinking about the linguistic situation in Hong Kong. Given that the language of power in Hong Kong was English for so many years, why is the English standard here so uneven at best, and why has it seemed to slip in recent years? Read more »

More little things in Hong Kong we could do without

Having completed our 'Hong Kong loves' lists, it follows naturally that we batgung must consider the polar opposite: the things we hate about Hong Kong. Mr B did his list a while back, so it's time I got to mine. Read more »

The end of the lunar year

I have lots of luck . . . and it's all bad. It's the end of the Chinese lunar year, and your thoughts may be wandering. Yes, they're definitely wandering! Read more »

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'. Read more »


There's stuff about Hong Kong we like, and stuff we don't, but how about all the other stuff that is just there in all its 'hongkongness'? Here are some of the highlights from the Batgung and their readers.

Mr B starts us off with ...

-- punching the lift door buttons till the door closes (and going back to your home country, getting into the lift, and thinking WHY DOESNT ANYONE PRESS THE BUTTON???)

In praise of odder women

It's been well over a year since we posted some pointers on dating a Chinese lady.

Has that article spawned a whole series of long-term, sweaty relationships, free of picking and sulking? Well then, maybe it is time to think about the big M word.

My rule of thumb is that if you are marrying in Hong Kong, you should marry an odd woman. (Disclaimer: I'm assuming you can tell the difference between "Nice but a bit different" odd, and "Boiling bunny on the stove, barking mad" odd.) Read more »

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