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.


There was a major advertising campaign on recently for a weight-loss plan called 'Royal BodyPerfect'. Like most ads of this genre, it has before/after photos of a young woman. But if you're accustomed to ads in western countries done in this style, you're in for a shock.

In this particular ad, the 'before' picture shows a very nice-looking young woman who weighs, according to the caption, 120 pounds. She looks mildly padded, but certainly 'normal' according to almost any sane definition of the term.

The 'after' photo is of a stick-limbed, praying-mantis-like creature in short shorts and a halter top. She weighs 104. Read more »

SARS: will it change our lives?

Now that, God willing, the SARS crisis is coming to an end in Hong Kong, we can take a step back and look at the effects it's had on day-to-day life here. It's too early to say that Hong Kong life will be seriously affected, but it's safe to assume that at least a few things won't return to their pre-SARS state. Read more »

Alan and Hakken: Live!

Given my long-standing concerns over Hong Kong's Cantoculture, it was with fear and trembling I approached the Hong Kong Coliseum on a recent Friday evening. Mrs Tall, in a burst of nostalgia for her teenage pop-idol-worshipping years, had obtained tickets to a joint Alan Tam/Hakken Lee concert.

I expected the worst, and I was thoroughly disappointed: I had a great time.

How can this be, since all the most easily-mocked elements of Cantoculture were present in profusion? Read more »

Is Hong Kong child-friendly?

In a letter to the Batgung, an American thinking of moving to Hong Kong asked if Hong Kong is 'child friendly'. There are a number of ways to tackle this question. Read more »

The Mixmyth Defined

Baby Tall is doing well. She's seven months old, and now that she's been out and about a bit, we've confirmed our worries about something I'll call the 'Mix Myth'. That is, people in Hong Kong generally assume that any child who's a product of one Caucasian and one Chinese parent will grow up to be devastatingly attractive. No matter how grotesque her parents' appearances might be -- and I note I'm speaking entirely for myself, and not on behalf of Mrs Tall, who is growing more heart-stoppingly stunning every day -- a 'mixed' baby is expected to be catwalk-ready in about 15 years or so.

I've heard that this phenomenon is common in some other places, too, but I wonder if it is expressed quite as baldly as it is here. People come up to the Family Tall, and with no hesitation begin discussing the merits of Baby Tall's personal appearance right in front of Mrs Tall and me. So far, I can report the prognosis has generally been favorable, but this isn't necessarily a positive development. Read more »

Ode to a Chaan-teng

A chaan-teng is a restaurant,
For fast food Hong Kong style;
Pull up a stool! Brush off a roach!
Sit down and stay awhile.

Its floors are rank and sticky,
The air is full of smoke.
But listen to your tummy!
The food here is no joke.

Haute cuisine you will not find,
But there's plenty that is nice,
Just so long as you enjoy
Dead critter bits on rice.

Noodles, though, may be your thing,
They're here, in every type.
With squid balls for a topping,
Or maybe steaming tripe.

To wash 'em down you'll need a drink,
But don't look for fine wine;
A beer or tea is good enough Read more »

Hong Kong pop culture

Mr Tall feels the need to explain Hong Kong popular culture, but he is afraid. It is very hard for him to know where to start on this subject.

Now, we Americans know about stupid celebrities and mindless television. We've tasted drivel, and we know that we like it. Those of us under 50 or so have been immersed in a pop culture whose idiocy knows no lower limits -- a culture that has produced Howdy-Doodie, Scooby-Doo and Mr Magoo. We even rhyme bad!

So I am not a huge fan of popular culture in general. I have not, however, completely escaped acquiring some characteristics of pop-cultural geekdom. For example, I like the Simpsons very much. No, wait -- if Mrs Tall reads this, she will chastise me severely for engaging in such irresponsible understatement. Let's therefore rephrase: I am at least mildly obsessed with the Simpsons. I see it as my one tangible link back to American pop culture. My knowledge of other American TV shows and pop musicians and so on is, however, almost non-existent. I've been in Hong Kong a long, long time -- 12 years, and counting -- which is long enough to fall very far behind my American peers. Read more »

Being kind to animals?

Much ink is spilled, and many decibels produced, by westerners protesting the treatment of animals in Hong Kong, and even more so in China.

There's no doubt Chinese culture lacks a soft spot for animals. One trip to the backstreet markets in Guangzhou, where pangolins, barking deer and civet cats await the cooking pot, will open your eyes to the cruelty with which these living things are treated, as it did mine. Then there are the bear-bile farms, the horrific wild animal parks just across the border in Shenzhen, and so on. It seems in recent years there has been some progress in alleviating some of these cruelties, especially in Hong Kong, but it will certainly take many years before even the worst of them cease. Read more »

Dating a Hong Kong lady

Thinking about dating a local lady ? Ask yourself, will she ...


Local men seem resigned to giving their new girlfriends free and public access to their bodies. You've probably seen the couple I'm thinking about sitting opposite you on the MTR. Man sits staring blankly into space, while girlfriend makes a clinical assault on the poor guy's face. If time is short, then go for the most satisfying target -- what better way to pass a journey than popping a few of your companion's pimples? But if it's a longer journey, and all the pimples have been taken care of, then hairstyle, ears and even nose are all fair game. Read more »

Movies in Hong Kong

Seeing a movie in Hong Kong can be both a joy and a sorrow.

On the plus side, cinemas in Hong Kong allow their patrons to book seats in advance. This was a revelation to this American boy, who'd never come across this practice in his homeland. American moviegoers can buy tickets in advance, but then need to line up and push and shove well in advance of the film's start time in order to get decent seats. You'd think someone would have thought up a cinema seat-booking system in the land of the free and the home of the microcomputer, but I guess sometimes these things slip through the cracks. Read more »

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