Every city has its own rhythm, its own pace and its own moods. And I react to it.
Some cities have me active and running around, never asleep. Some have me in a lazy mood, where I don’t seem to get anything ‘done’. As far as I have anything to ‘do’.
My mood in Hong Kong is different, and difficult to describe. I realized this when I had a lunch yesterday with Claude, a world citizen who lived in the UK, the US, strolled extensively through Asia and washed ashore in Hong Kong, to stay.
We talked about traveling, the different styles and ways to travel… which made me think about all this.
Hong Kong is a fast paced city. Time is money.
Especially in the expat bubble, which, as it seems to me, is mostly composed of bankers in the largest sense, and maybe a couple of wives running a gallery, or going shopping. I’m exaggerating of course….
‘Work hard, play hard‘ seems to be the motto of those guys. In suits, they make lots of money, spend lots, have drinks in fancy clubs and excellent restaurants…
On the other side, the ‘locals’ e.g. the Hong Kong Chinese population. Just as bustling and running around, they’re playing on a different level though. Shops and services, trades, construction, deliveries, laundry, restaurants… but they seem to be running around all the time, too.
Patience is not a virtue here in this city, and I realize this has been transferred to me.
I have nothing to do or nowhere to be, but I catch myself running somewhere, out of breath. Till I realize: slow down, no hurry. Be there 10 minutes later. Who cares but me?
Still, I feel pushed, driven, I have to run, do something… it’s a certain uneasiness that I did not have in Seattle or Montreal or Mexico City, where I had such a slow pace.
I can’t say I like this side of me, it reminds me too much of my ‘get-out-of-my-way’ attitude and grumpiness I had in the last years in Brussels. I feel slightly uneasy, aggressive…
Politeness is also not really a virtue valued high in Hong Kong. Step on your foot, run into you without watching, push you over and jump the queue at any occasion possible? Don’t expect an apology.
Holding a door open for the next person? Rare.
I literally said out loud: ‘How rude!’ to a person running me over and not apologizing, more than once. No reaction whatsoever.
My friend Will told me that, in his eyes, these values just don’t exist in Chinese mentality, so no one really realizes they lack. The good side: no one takes offense if you run him over, either.
It is just such a difference with my only other experience in Asia, extremely polite and over-the-top friendly Japan. It is the only reference I have so far, I am curious how Bangkok and India will measure up to that.
Japan was, even in extremely populated Tokyo during the rush hour, an absolutely polite environment. People went out of their way to not be in your way.
It was sometimes as if the best Japanese was the one who tried to be invisible and no bother to any fellow citizens.
This clearly is not the case here.
I don’t want to be unfair, or judge. I am simply trying to describe what I experience and observe. And now it impacts on me and my behavior.
And I don’t want to sound to negative. It’s been a fun time here, and I met friendly, smiling people, too.
I guess the difference is the human contact. Once in touch, people are nice and friendly. It’s just in the big mass that this gets lost and everybody is running on his own.