Whilst ‘going native’ isn’t a term you’d normally use to reflect on six months in Hong Kong, adapting to the differences in a new environment – wherever it is and however long you are there – is essentially on the way to going native. A very long way it may be but still on the way.
In anticipation of arrival, a year feels like a long time when you’re faced with the unknown- a new city, country, continent even, new people, and no familiarity. But, predictably, the last six months has shot past at light speed.
Half-way there, over half way done. Either way, six out of twelve months completed. I’m not sure that I have any ground-breaking revelations, epiphanies or insights that characterise my stay so far. But I do know that chicken feet, herbal tea to solve any ailment, and noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner, are more than normal now.
It’s an innate ability to normalise things that seem odd at first. Some more able to than others, understandably not everyone can adapt to the questionable meat and public throat clearing… nonetheless as we stabilise our surroundings, certain things you’d never capture on a two week tourist-site binge begin to surface.
So in light of being in Hong Kong for six months there are a few things that have either fascinated, unnerved or interested me:
[Each part to be continued in the coming weeks… also in a bid to make my writing less sporadic]
I) Food is a way of life.
Hong Kong is often referred to as a cuisine lovers’ destination. From the rickety street hawkers – that were the centre of the recent New Year ‘fishball protest’, an uncharacteristically violent protest-come-riot focusing on localism and the hardship faced by the cities original street sellers – that sell an obscure combination of Hong Kong ‘delicacies’. In quotations due to the definition of delicacy: highlighting the point exactly. Not to forget the Dim Sum and fine dining in abundance.
II) Cultural Identity Crisis?
Hong Kong is clearly a modern country, with diversity, evident social classes, institutions, a booming economy, etc.… It identifies with so many ‘western’ sensibilities yet many seem adamant that it is in no way western – that I am western and they are not. And too, the young especially seem to want to be far away from the Mainland Chinese stereotype. So where is Hong Kong on the East to West spectrum?
III) Poverty – Relatively hidden but by no means is it non-existent.
There are three marginalised groups to look at in particular, the Filipino domestic workers – who are never able to claim citizenship unlike other nationalities, and who are subject to awful pay and no level of respect. Secondly, the 1/3 of elderly people living below the poverty line. The elderly of Hong Kong are stuck in the middle of the opposing views of family obligation and welfare, resulting in abject poverty that forces them to manual labour. Lastly, the McRefugees – dubbed this by locals and media as hoards of homeless, poor and isolated individuals gather in the cities 24 hour McDonalds throughout the night, every night.