From Hong Kong, with love
I am just back from my Hong Kong trip. It was one of the most interesting trips of my life. It taught me how to survive in a place where no one, absolutely no one, speaks your language and what they speak is all Greek to you. It was a complete adjustment in terms of weather, lifestyle and everything you can think of. I was lucky to find 3 very nice people without whom I wouldn’t have had half the fun. Maria Toner , my roommate (from Ireland) (oh! she was a complete sweetheart) , Alexander Crespo Paunero (aka AlexanDRA Crispy Potato) (from Spain) who kept us entertained by falling in my traps and being played pranks on.. (oh! how he hates me) and Oana Propescu (from Romania) who was one of the sweetest persons I have ever met. I can fill pages after pages of blog about my amazing experiences there. However, that is not possible given the looming deadline of my dissertation: 15,000 words in 3 weeks! (God help me!!) So, I want to note down a few striking experiences without which this trip would not have been what it was. Right, here’s your guide to one of the most beautiful places in the world- Hong Kong.
1) When you are waiting in the queue to reach the till, and it’s your turn, the hand gesture of the lady at the till (to ask you to come to the counter) looks more like she is pointing at some door right behind you!
2) They answer phone calls with something that sounds like “why?” instead of hello. Alex once went “why what???” when someone called him by mistake and started to talk thinking it was someone else.
3) If you ask Chinese people “did you eat?” they’ll answer “eat”!! I always thought that it was to confirm what I asked but soon I realised that that’s how you answer yes or no in Chinese- by repeating the verb, either in positive or in negative!
4) They love their jelly. It can range anything from turtle meat to beans, they’ll just relish it.
5) Knocking on the table after a meal is a sign of gratitude to the host! For us in India, it would be a sign of impatience and hence wont make the host or the hostess very happy.
6) While quoting a discount on an item, they’ll quote what %age you have to pay and not the other way round which is the usual way for us. Think of my joy followed by disappointment when the lady at the store announced that all the items in the shop were on 90% discount!
7) This one almost got me into the black-books of the HongKongese..
I am so accustomed with the UK popular culture of holding the door open for the person behind you to enter that in HK too I would do the same. On that fateful day I was walking out of the “mini-bank” on the campus when I saw an Asian guy walking towards the door. I walked out and was holding the door for him till he neared the door. When I assumed that he was at the door and must have held it for himself, I let go of it. I turned my head on hearing a squeak only to see that the dude was now squashed between the doors as it had never dawned on him that he was supposed to hold the door himself and not expect me to hold it for him while he walks through. Anyway, on that day it became clear to me that holding the door open for the person behind you was definitely not what people there did and thus it better be avoided.
8) Almost anything is food in HK- saliva of birds to hooves of cows, chicken feet to pig skin, and yeah, let’s not forget the duck tongues and dried sea-horses. HK is a paradise for experimental foodies. It can almost be ranked as one of the extreme sports. Well, it takes more than just the urge to try new food to eat cubes of beef blood in your noodles.
These and many more experiences turned my visit as colourful as the night sky of HK itself. After a month and a day when I was on the plane, on my way back to B’ham and I looked down at the City of lights, I knew that was leaving behind a part of me there…