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.

In which Mr Tall discovers he is unintentionally fashionable

I write these words in a state of high excitement: after decades of being a walking insult to fashion, I am suddenly, by no conscious effort of my own, trendy.

How did I do it? It was as easy as putting on a shirt this morning. I have a nice thin cotton shirt Mrs Tall procured for me from an export store several years ago. It's made by Country Road in Australia, and it's completely unexceptionable -- except for its color. When she found it in the store, Mrs Tall in fact called me to check if it'd be all right, because it was, shall we say, a shade of 'dusty rose'. Now that it's been worn and washed repeatedly, there's no question: it's pink. Read more »

Fat city

Globesity, portion distortion, super-sizing -- I guess we are all more than a little familiar with the sickness of the century. Coming from a Western country, I am obviously no stranger to three square meals supplemented with the three essential C's: cake, chocolate and coffee. More than a few squillion words have been written by medically educated boffins about diet, fitness and fatness. In HK, it is turning into a national obsession. I expect more HKongers could name three beauty centres offering instant weight loss programmes than three prominent politicians. Read more »

Meet the parents

I've always found it a bit nerve-wracking to meet a girlfriend's parents for the first time, and especially when they are from another country. I first met MrsB's parents one Mid-Autumn festival, several years ago. The idea was that if we met them at a family dinner, I could see the whole family in one go. Given that with all the brothers, sisters, wives, husbands and children it adds up to 25+ people, that seemed like an efficient way to get things done. Plus, there would be plenty of people to restrain the father if he decided no gweilo was going to be seeing any daughter of his.

As we walked up the road to her Sister's house, two of her neices on the balcony saw us, and we heard them announce excitedly to the people inside "Here comes [MrsB] ..... and there's a GWEILO with her !!!". Read more »

Rudeness reconsidered

A while back I considered the topic of rudeness in Hong Kong culture. One suggestion I made was that things on this front were likely to get better since, in an unexpected turnabout, it's typically the older generation here who's far ruder than younger people.

The Talls were out shopping the other night, and had a couple of picture-perfect confirmations of this unlikely fact.

Since Toddler Tall is just 16 months old, we still take her out in a stroller on most outings. When we take the MTR, we therefore try to use those extra-wide turnstiles. The problem is, these turnstiles serve both those getting on the train, and those getting off. This means it's easy to get stuck behind a long line of people going through from the other direction, one after another, before the electronic controls on the turnstile make it possible for someone on the 'wrong' side to use it. Lots of Hong Kong people who aren't carrying large packages or pushing baby strollers, or wheelchairs, or whatever, use these turnstiles in order to save the couple of steps it would take to get to one of the regular ones. Read more »

Little things we could do without

We've written of the things we like, and Mr Tall notes the "gwai privilege", but you can't live here for long before thinking of a few things you wouldn't miss ... Read more »


The temperature at the Hong Kong Observatory dropped to 19.9 degrees Celsius (i.e. 68 Fahrenheit) early this morning. For Hong Kong in mid-October, that's actually quite cool -- it's the result of the first big surge of the Northeast monsoon, which blesses Hong Kong with reasonable temperatures in the fall and winter. The projected high today is 24 C, or about 75 F.

Now, those of us from harsher climes would think this weather is very mild indeed. For example, the average nighttime low in my home area in the USA, at the very warmest peak of summer, is about 17 C (62 F). In fact, a day ranging from 20-24 sounds just about perfect, doesn't it -- it's essentially room temperature all the time, meaning you can wear all your favorite outfits, even the long-sleeved ones you've been saving all summer, without having to cover them up with a boring coat. Read more »

Asian travel: good or evil?

HK being quote "Asia's World City" unquote -- [what exactly does that mean?] -- it's not been unknown for expats/locals to use HK as Asia's hub to even more exotic and distant places. Read more »

Hong Kong baby care 101

Mrs Tall and I are now experienced parents, since Baby Tall is now over a year old, and has graduated to the status of 'Toddler Tall'. We've therefore got some advice to pass along to Mr and Mrs B, and other new parents, about 'the right way' to bring up children in Hong Kong. Read more »

Is it something they put in the water?

When two cultures butt heads, you find a bunch of things that seem obviously right to one person, and just as obviously wrong to the other. Take something as simple as water ...

It's a lot more tricky than our Western upbringing would suggest. I can remember being told to "get out of those wet clothes before you catch your death of cold", but that's about the limit of my instructions with regard to water.

Ever been in Hong Kong when it has just started raining? That stuff must be dangerous, given the lengths that people go to to avoid it. Briefcases and newspapers are prime umbrella-substitutes, with sheets of cardboard also viewed favourably. If there aren't any suitable flat opbjects nearby, hold your hand over your head. Yup, that'll work (hands over mouths are also known to filter out 99.99% of all toxic gases when standing at the traffic lights waiting to cross the road). Read more »


I begin this article with a tribute to Mrs Tall's remarkable creativity. We'd been talking about the fact that a lot of people running local companies still provided jobs to deadbeat relatives out of a sense of family obligation. I mentioned that this was called 'nepotism' in English. In reference to the burden this creates, she then quipped, 'It's a lot like liposuction, but instead it's neposuction'.

She was exactly right!

Neposuction is in fact the inverse of nepotism. It can be defined as the process by which one's money and/or influence is siphoned off by family members: no matter how big the globs of it you accumulate may be, it's never enough to resist that endless sucking. Neposuction is particularly prevalent in many 'traditional' societies much admired by starry-eyed anthropologists in western universities. In fact, at best it's an economically counterproductive way to give members of your extended family some unearned funds to squander; at worst, it's a debilitating form of near-slavery for those caught on the wrong end, i.e. the neposuckees. Read more »

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