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.

Rudeness and cultural differences

I came across a new story the other day about two men in the USA, both in their late 30s, who got into an argument about the rules for the baseball league their sons played in. It started with harsh words, escalated to fisticuffs, and culminated in the two of them taking turns whacking each other with, appropriately enough, a baseball bat. But at least they were sharing!

Anyway, the story brought to mind any number of similar incidents that have called into question the health of the civil society in America. I've seen very similar articles about 'Rude Britannia', too.

Here in Hong Kong, things often seem no better, but for different reasons. I've tried over my years here to understand Hong Kong-style rudeness, and I've made a couple of observations. They're based to some degree on things I've read about Chinese culture, but they're mostly the products of long and irritating experience. Read more »

Acupuncture in Hong Kong

Mrs B Senior has been in town for an extended visit. Complaining of a very painful shoulder, she's been recommended to give accupuncture a try. After several weeks' treatment, what's the verdict?

Mum's got in to a regular routine now, heading along to the doctor's every afternoon. Each treatment lasts for between 30 minutes and two hours, though it's never a continuous treatment. Instead the doctor starts with a check on what's hurting, puts some needles in her head (click photo for a bigger image)  Read more »

What's a gwailouh?

There comes a time in many a Hong Kong expatriate cultural commentator's life when he must face the word: gwai louh.

As anyone who's been simultaneously conscious and physically present in Hong Kong for more than three days knows, 'gwai louh' is the Cantonese slang term for a white-skinned foreigner. It's not a very nice term. I've seen it translated as 'foreign devil' most often, but this is only a rough attempt at nailing down its sense. For one thing, there's no direct reference to 'foreign' in the term 'gwai louh': 'gwai' means ghost or other unwholesome inhabitant of the netherworld; 'louh' simply means 'old guy'. Read more »

Red pocket fun

Chinese New Year is generally a time for rejoicing -- in three days of holiday from work, in the killer squid-and-pork, home-village-style dish my mother-in-law always makes, in seeing some of my favorite in-laws and in not seeing some not-so-favorite ones, and so on.

But there is a CNY problem that threatens to overshadow all of its joys: the dread red pockets, the scourge of the married man in a Chinese city. Read more »

The truth behind a Hong Kong wedding

The Talls went to a wedding a while back. It was a happy day, although the bride and groom looked a little frazzled by the time they said their good nights to the guests. This is understandable. Weddings anywhere are a big deal, but in Hong Kong they can be particularly intense.

Most weddings here blend western and Chinese traditions; this is nice, but it means there are many extra requirements for the joyful couple to meet. Hong Kong weddings are in fact so rich a subject there's no way I can hope to cover it here in one article. I hope we Batgung will have several to offer you in time.

For now, I'll give you an overview by providing a brief look behind the scenes of my own wedding day. In the table below, the middle column contains Mr and Mrs Tall's (well, mostly Mrs Tall's) well-thought-out 'Schedule for the Groom on his Big Day'. The right hand column reveals what I actually did. Mr Balding, who was one of my groomsmen, can confirm I'm being kind to myself. Read more »

Sport in Hong Kong, or Musings on a theme about playing sport from a learned one who doesn't (i.e. the Batpo!)

What is the national sport of Hong Kong? Well, since the 1996 Olympics, when the gracefully athletic Ms Lee Lai Shan put Hong Kong on the Windsurfing Map, I think we can honestly say she was the exception to the rule. Actually, let's throw the rule book away. Water sports are not high on HK school kids' list of sporting priorities. The thought of going swimming or even getting wet is a basic deterrent – look how locals cover their head by any means possible when it rains [using newspapers, tissues, pieces of cardboard, plastic bags and even one hand are the norm].

Fishing in Hong Kong is not so much a sport as a means to an end – it appeals to a large number of middle-aged gentlemen and the young unemployed, as they have the time and the inclination to kill something without a license. If they’re really lucky, they may even catch something big enough to eat without the ciguatera toxin. Read more »

The Batpo goes for drinks . . .

A guy takes a girl to a bar for a drink or two and the conversation may go something like this:

Girl: Hmmm what shall I have? Pussy Foot? Shirley Temple or Fruit Punch?

Boy: How about a Long Island Iced Tea? It only has a little alcohol in it.

Girl: Tee hee hee !

Boy: Go on -- have the Sex on the Beach, the Flaming Lamborghini, the Orgasmic thunder buster gutbreaker….

Girl: What's she having on the next table? The green red and blue drink with the umbrella -- I'll have that…. Is it Happy Hour?

And there, in a nutshell is how the bar business stays in business in HK. None of these three types of beers, several types of single malt whiskeys and a couple of lonely bottles of tonic water behind the barman . . . . No -- a true bar in HK needs a virtually encyclopedic drinks menu with cocktails and mocktails from around the World. Included in this inventory is a stockpile of cut fruit [preferably a little withered around the edges] strategically balanced on plastic toothpicks, an assortment of coloured umbrellas, a veritable Mount Everest of fake maraschino cherries and even some dry ice and a few sparklers. If you can find a waiter who will serve up these concoctions with a straight face then you're on to a winner. And be prepared to make more than one round as Happy Hours last from 5pm to 10pm in some places. Read more »

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