Sunday, May 27, 2012

Going Home part 3

We’re leaving tomorrow morning! I’m pretty excited. I’ve been away from Minnesota for 16 months. That’s easily the longest time I’ve ever spent away from home. I’m looking forward to everything.

We’ve flown to a lot of places in this last year and a half. Wherever we go we always have to wait in the foreigner passport line – and that’s always the longest line. We’re finally going somewhere we can wait in the short line. I like going to new places and seeing new things, but sometimes it’s nice to hand my American passport to American security and have them say “welcome home”.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Going Home part 2

We finally got plane tickets for our trip back home. We’re leaving Hong Kong at 10:25am on Monday and arriving in Detroit at 1:35pm. Then we have 4 hours to sit around and wait for our 2 hour flight to Minneapolis at 5:35pm. The whole thing should take just over 21 hours. It’s pretty much the same thing we did when we first came here – only in reverse.

A flight at 10:25am means they’ll start boarding at 9:30, which means we should be at the airport by 8 – at the latest. To get there by 8 we should leave our apartment no later than 7:15 – it will be more crowded on a Monday morning. To leave at 7:15 I have to wake up at 6am – Ryan can sleep in until 6:30. I’ll be lucky to get him up at 6:45. Ryan likes to stay up late – he’s not a morning person. Sometimes he doesn’t even go to sleep until 6am. He’s really looking forward to this trip so it shouldn’t be too hard for him to wake up in time.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Adapting to Hong Kong part 3

More of the toughest things about adapting to life in Hong Kong.

The biggest difference I’ve noticed is the way we think. What’s common sense to an American is alien to a Chinese – and their version probably wouldn’t make any sense to us. I was raised to say hello to people when they say hello. When someone gives me something, I thank them. When I want something, I say please. If I’m walking and someone’s heading my way, I’ll get out of their way. If I accidentally bump into someone, I apologize. Waiting your turn is essential in a civilized society. Jumping in front of people who were there before you is beyond rude. These are all things I learned at an early age. None of it makes any sense to Chinese people. I don’t know all of their customs and I’m sure I do things they consider rude, but I think being courteous and civil is universal. I’m not sure how cutting in line can ever be courteous.

I’ve also noticed that a lot of people in Hong Kong are very racist. They’re not violent about it. No one’s going to string me up from a tree or spit in my face. I’m completely safe walking down the street in the middle of the night. I’ve done it, too. I’ve walked down dark alleys late at night that I’d never go near in America. There’s just not much violent crime here. Even though most of the locals probably look down at me, they’d never attack me. The most they ever do is point and call me a foreigner. I think that’s rude, but it’s not violent. It doesn’t hurt me – I am a foreigner. No matter what I do or how long I live here I’ll always be a foreigner. I don’t look Chinese and never will.

I pay higher prices for a lot of things because of my race. Go to any market and as soon as they see a white face, the price is 5 times higher than it would be for a Chinese. Everyone haggles anyway, but they start far too high with foreigners. I’ve been to restaurants where the prices are posted right on the wall, but they tell me it’s higher. Some restaurants won’t even serve me at all. Some of that is because they don’t know English and they assume I don’t know any Chinese. It’s just easier to tell me to leave than to deal with it. Some of it is pure racism.

Not that there’s no racism in my country. It’s all over the place. We have a pretty bleak history. I’m lucky that I’ve never really had to deal with it. I’ve heard comments from people who aren’t white, but if you’re white in America, you don’t have anything to complain about. We’ve always had it easier than everyone. If I go to an audition in the United States, I never have to ask if they’ll consider white people. If you’re black, you have to ask if it’s a “black part”. I’ve never had a bus or taxi not stop for me. I’ve never run home crying because someone called me a racial slur. I was called a honky once, but it didn’t make me cry. I don’t even know what that means. Most of all, my ancestors were never kidnapped from their homes and sold into slavery. Slavery was a long time ago, but my ancestors are Highland Scottish. Our troubles were a very long time ago.

American racists usually know they’re racist – they just don’t have a problem with it. I don’t think Chinese people know when they’re racist. It’s just common knowledge to them that everyone who isn’t Chinese is inferior. They don’t consider it racist when they tell their young children to point and scream “weigouren!” Chinese people are taught to be racist very young.

I didn’t mean for this to all sound negative, but it’s the toughest things about adapting to Hong Kong, not the easiest things. I’m the foreigner here. I’m the one who has to adapt to their ways. This is their country. It will never be mine. I could live here the rest of my life and I’d still just be a visitor.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Adapting to Hong Kong part 2

I was talking about the toughest things about adapting to Hong Kong.

When I was very young, my mother told me to walk heel to toe and roll my feet across the ground. That turns out to be good for the arches and really helped when I started dancing. Chinese people mostly shuffle their feet when they walk. It takes me years to wear out the soles of my shoes. Chinese people can do it in weeks. I don’t know how they ever had any spies or detectives. You can hear them coming a mile away.

When I take a shower I stand under the water and get myself totally wet. I wash my hair first because it takes forever to dry. I never blow dry it, but I’ll towel dry if I’m in a hurry. I wash myself and shave whatever needs shaving. All the time the water’s running. The Chinese system is to get yourself wet, turn off the water, soap up and then rinse with water that’s collected in a big scoop. That’s great for water conservation, but I don’t think it really gets the job done. You need fresh water to rinse off – and sometimes it’s just nice to stand under the shower.

I don’t drive in Hong Kong. I really wouldn’t want to. It all seems a lot more hectic than Minnesota, it’s a lot more crowded and there’s just nowhere to park. Since I don’t drive here I can’t really say what it’s like, but from everyone I’ve talked to that has driven in Hong Kong/China, they are the worst drivers in the world. The stereotype is that Chinese drivers are just bad. I don’t like stereotypes. They ignore too much and I think they’re only for lazy people who don’t want to get to know anybody. Stereotypes are bad, but everyone I’ve ever talked to who has driven in China says that they ignore the rules of the road and don’t use much common sense. Just from walking around I’ve seen that Chinese people don’t worry too much about personal space – and I guess that’s normal in such a crowded country – but I think personal space while driving is pretty important.

Americans and Chinese people approach work in different ways. Americans want to make as much money as possible while doing the least amount of work. We feel we’re entitled by birth to a decent wage, safe working conditions and lots of benefits. I’m not trashing Americans. I think those are all good things. Chinese people love money, too, but they’re a lot more willing to work for it. Hong Kong businessmen work all day. Not as in 10 hours, but from the early morning to well into late at night. Chinese factory workers work longer hours than any American would ever do – and for a lot less money. Americans with crappy jobs let you know how much they hate their jobs. Go into any American fast food place and the student behind the counter has an attitude – like he’s already paid his dues and selling you a pop is beneath him. Go into any Chinese fast food place and the student behind the counter is happy to see you. Maybe they know it’s better to be doing something than standing around all day. Maybe they’re happy to be helping people. Maybe they just know you can’t start at the top.

Our hobbies are very different. Americans collect things, belong to clubs and go places. We’re an active bunch that loves sports – whether playing or watching. The main hobbies in Hong Kong seem to be shopping & gambling. Hong Kong is a shopper’s paradise. There are malls everywhere. Americans love shopping, too, but I’ve never seen any mall as crowded as Hong Kong malls – and I lived near Mall of America.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Adapting to Hong Kong part 1

People always ask me what the toughest things are about adapting to living in Hong Kong. I think it’s probably hard to adapt to any culture that’s different from your own. I’ve heard Americans talk about how hard it was to adapt to living in Canada – and Canada isn’t really that different. It was probably hard for them because they weren’t living in their country anymore. Living in another country is always hard because you’re leaving your home behind. No matter how similar the cultures are, it’s still a different country.

I think Chinese culture might be as far away from America as you can get. I don’t mean they’re far apart geographically – although they are. I think the cultures are just as different as any 2 cultures can be. The way we talk, eat, sleep, walk, bathe, drive, work, play and think are different.

The languages are different, of course, but they’re very different. I took French in high school. I can barely speak any French to a native French person. I read it very slowly and I can’t understand anything anyone says in French since they all talk as if they're in a race, but I think French is a million times easier to learn than Chinese. If I lived in France for a year I’d be completely fluent just from being surrounded by it. I’m not bragging – this is what our French teacher said and I’ve heard other language types say the same thing. I’ve lived in Hong Kong over a year and I barely know anything. I’m surrounded by it every day. It’s not that I haven’t tried. It’s just a very different language.

English and French have things in common. There are similarities in the way we do things and the alphabet is practically the same. English and Chinese are different in every way. They don’t do any of the grammar rules we do and they don’t have an alphabet. You have to memorize characters – and there’s no way to look at them and just know how to pronounce them. The Spanish word biblioteca means bookstore or something about books. I don’t even know what it means, but I know how to pronounce it. Just look at it. There’s really only one way you’d pronounce it. How do you pronounce 圖書館? There’s no way to just look at it and know – unless you already know the language.

Chinese food isn’t just different from American food, it’s eaten in different ways. There’s a whole other etiquette and different procedures. When I was a kid, if we burped at the dinner table my father would slap us across the face. Chinese people burp left & right during meals. It’s a compliment to the cook. When we’re out to eat, everyone’s meal is served at the same time – it’s rude to eat if someone doesn’t have their food. Chinese restaurants bring out all the food whenever it’s ready. They eat whenever they get their food – it doesn’t matter if anyone else has theirs or not.

Chinese people sleep on rock hard beds with tiny thin pillows – and they put towels on their pillows instead of pillow cases. I’ve also heard that it’s normal for adult siblings to sleep in the same bed. That wouldn’t fly in my family.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Another Audition part 2

I went to the audition. They seemed pretty excited to have a foreigner there. There are plenty of foreigners in Hong Kong, but I guess I was the only one auditioning for them.

Everything was going well. They seemed very enthusiastic about having me there. Then they asked me to take my clothes off!

The thing is, they seemed like professionals. This was in a professional office in a professional building. This wasn’t one of those auditions in a hotel room or at Starbucks. I wouldn’t even show up for that. These are people you can look up on Google.

They said the part requires running away from the bad guy down a busy street while naked. I have 2 problems with that – I don’t want to do it and this was a first audition.

People say I’m a prude and need to loosen up about the whole nudity thing, but you don’t get naked at a first audition. Ever. Even if the part is nothing but all nudity all the time nobody takes their clothes off until much later in the audition process. The first rule of auditions is that if they ask you to get naked, wear a bikini or some weird S&M outfit, or do anything kinky at the first audition then that’s a major red flag warning. That’s simply not the way a professional casting is done. I know this is Hong Kong, but common sense applies everywhere.

So I said no and that’s the end of that. No horror movie for me. I don’t mind. I don’t want to do a nude scene – especially in my first movie – especially in some horror movie. If Steven Spielberg calls me to do “Schindler’s List II: The Revenge” and he wants me to get naked in a group gas chamber scene then I’d definitely say yes. That’s probably going to be a much better movie – and there’s absolutely nothing sexual about murdering people in gas chambers. The nudity in “Schindler’s List” was not at all titillating or gratuitous.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hong Kong Prices

People keep asking me about prices in Hong Kong. I’m running into a lot of people online who are going to move to Hong Kong or are thinking about it. I guess it makes sense to ask me because I live here. The thing is, it’s almost impossible to tell people how expensive Hong Kong is. Everyone’s experience will be different.

The single biggest expense will be rent. What you pay in rent will vary greatly depending on location, size and type of apartment. The expat and business areas where all the expats and business people seem to want to live are far more expensive. Prices drop dramatically just a few MTR stops away. They get even lower if you go farther. My apartment in Mong Kok would cost 3 times as much at Mid-Levels and half at Tai Po. My best advice is that you probably don’t need to be so close to your job. The MTR works very well. It’s only a few minutes between each stop and even though it’s always crowded, it all moves quickly.

I’ve heard that the price of apartments changes based on your skin color. When we found our apartment we looked around with and without a Chinese friend to help us. The prices seemed lower with the Chinese friend. I’d say it’s always best to bring along someone Chinese.

There’s a website that tells you the cost of living in whatever city. The one for Hong Kong doesn’t match my experience. Most of the prices seem too high, especially the food. The rent prices seem too low.

Hong Kong is a very large city with a lot of variety. I don’t think there’s any such thing as an average price here. Anyone can eat cheaply in Hong Kong, but if you want to live cheaply you’ll need to live away from everything.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Another Audition part 1

I got another audition. When it rains it pours. This one is for a horror movie. It’s all acting – no singing or dancing at all. That’s kind of strange to me. I always assumed I’d dance my way somewhere bigger & better.

I don’t like horror movies, but I don’t mind being in one. Is that hypocritical or selling out? I don’t think so. It’s not like I’m at the top where I can pick and choose. I should take whatever I can get. Just because it’s not my kind of movie doesn’t mean it has to be a bad movie. The quality of acting in horror movies is certainly a lot better than it used to be.

I hope they don’t start filming until after we get back from Minnesota.