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.

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No hate, please. There's enough of that in the world already.