Posts Tagged 'SAR'

This One’s for the Hong Kong Ladies

The BBC published an article on 21st February 2013, telling how single women in mainland China, aged 27 and above are considered ‘the leftover women’ – insinuating they are too old to get married and start a family, and in another, subtler, sense that ‘there’s something wrong with them’. The article interestingly interviewed a radio host called Huang Yuanyuan who is about to turn 29, and asks her opinions on this.

The classic “Family vs Career” balance (or imbalance?) is raised as a bigger issue in China and the East than it is in the West. Several factors adopted from the West such as the emancipation of women, gender equality and independent living are becoming increasingly popular in China, but with obvious conflict with the traditional role of women that the majority still adhere to.

We know that China sees time in a different light to the West – dynasties are small epochs of different rulers in Eastern eyes, while in the West we like to categorise our historical periods. Tudor men wore codpieces, Caeser wore robes, and the Georgians wore big fancy white wigs. And that is that. This cannot be more different in China. When asked by Kissinger in 1949, what he thought about the French Revolution, the new PRC Premier Zhou Enlai answered ‘It is too early to tell’. The remarkable reply Enlai gave the impression that the West forgets stuff and changes far too often in history. This was more than a literary bitch-slap: it demonstrated the cool nature of Chinese tradition – they are still living with the same values they had centuries ago, because it is seen to be perfect and self-satisfying, with no need to change.

Therefore one of the biggest concepts in Chinese tradition – family – comes into conflict with these Western ideals.

Being a “sheng nu” or ‘leftover woman’ is a concept I can’t say for sure exists in Hong Kong. 156 years of British rule brought with it 156 years of changing ideas, mirroring the changes in society that the mother country. Hong Kong was seen widely as a beacon of difference in the middle of Asia. Some saw it as better in terms of economics, some as a political haven (as a base for the underground Chinese Communists in the early 21st Century), while others simply as a Western outpost, displaying all things different to China and Asia.

Yet Hong Kongers, were and are, always Chinese. I’ve been here for 7 months now and seen the very, very Chinese traditions that still take place. Hong Kong has one of the highest amounts of public holidays (17) because of its recognition of both Western and Eastern traditions. And family is one of these traditions.

I teach 18 to 21 year olds and like every young man in this age group, still at college, they have problems with the girls. One complains that Hong Kong girls his age are too “Buy my things!” and “I’ll have to ask Daddy first”, while others jsut aren’t interested in finding a boyfriend. Another of the lads put them into 2 categories ‘BOYS BOYS BOYS!” or “WORK WORK WORK!”, which clearly shows they are taking sides in this balance. I have students who have realised what they need to do in a competitive job market very early on – they are always keen to add another certificate into their file, or another student body position to their CV. Then I see students who have no interest in my English activities that we run; sitting outside watching the basketball players, giggling and dressed more in a Japanese/quirky style.

Talks with colleagues have led me to believe that a popular option is for young women to get a job, secure a few promotions before being financially stable, whilst dating and living at home. Then when marriage bells are ringing, move into a flat with her new husband. This is of course a generalisation, as everyone had choices. But with Hong Kong’s limited space, and highly competitive labour market, you can see why this is popular.

All in all, I’d say the Hong Kong equivalent of these ‘Leftover women’ doesn’t actually exist. Everyone here is on the same path, wanting similar end results. Most students I talk to say they would like to visit – not emigrate to – Europe or the USA before coming back to Hong Kong. The property market is an industry with eye-popping amounts of HK$ being circulated in it every day. Land is bought, built on and people live there – a big cycle of space to live. Most young people are waiting to find that special someone, and move out of their parents’ place. Single living in an apartment would be a financial self-slap.

Whatever is happening ‘north of the border’ is hard to see in Hong Kong. Their freedoms, equality and Basic Law are the keystones to Hong Kongers’ happiness in the face of the communist regime in mainland China. I’d say most are proud of their differences, with this example particularly.

Original article by the BBC (21-02-2013):


The Noon Day Gun, Hong Kong

This is one of the most interesting colonial relics that continues to thrive in Hong Kong today. As rare as it is for a 22 year old male to be up and out of the apartment by 11:30am, I found myself at the Noon Day Gun one day.

It’s one of those traditions that comes from some weird and quirky routine that evolved into a tradition. The Jardine and Matheson company which has been on Hong Kong soil since the 1840s, bought this first plot of land at East Point on Hong Kong island – the first of auctioned land to be bought. It was custom for the detachment of guards deployed there to provide a gun salute whenever the head of Jardines (called the Taipan) arrived or left Hong Kong by boat.

The story goes that a senior Naval Officer arrived in Hong Kong, hadn’t heard of the practice and arrogantly banned it without knowing it was one of those quirky routines of eccentric British Imperialism. The decision was reversed by, presumably, someone in love with the romantic side of colonialism and as a punishment, Jardines was ordered to fire The Noonday Gun as a time signal for Hong Kong for perpetuity.

Therefore, it continues to this day, showing how the multi-national company keeps their word and fulfils this eccentric obligation.

Apparently the practice ceased during the Japanese occupation from December 1941. During the 3 years and 8 months of Japanese-occupied Hong Kong, the original cannon went missing. Yet after the liberation, the Royal Navy presented Jardines with a six-pound gun as a replacement – the practice was restarted in August 1947, with it also firing every New Year’s Eve too. That gun was replaced in 1961 after too many noise complaints, and replaced with the 3-pound gun that is there today. I can vouch for its loudness though – that thing is a lot more bloody louder than it seems!

It’s worth it to take 20-30 minutes out of your tour of Hong Kong to go and check out this quirky practice. There’s only usually a small crowd that gathers – mostly tourists, and you can check out the actual guy embankment for 30 minutes after the Jardine’s representative has fired it at noon.


The Jardines Representative emerges from a small outpost at 11:55, checks his watch frequently before marching over to and ringing the bell before firing the gun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Noon Day Hun flanked by disused cannons  for decoration.

How to get there:

According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, alight the MTR at the Causeway Bay Station, Exit D1. Walk along Lockhart Road to Cannon Street. Then walk along Jaffe Road to the World Trade Centre. (Basically walk to the harbor front). You access the Noon Day Gun through a tunnel next to the hotel – it would be easy just to ask one of the concierges or security outside the hotel – the tunnel is hard to find, down an alleyway and under the hotel. In the tunnel you pass 2 long green pipes called ‘Sea Water Supply’ and ‘Sea Water Return’ to the hotel. Don’t worry, I’m sure the security are used to tourists asking by now!

The UntouchableLad

The past couple weeks have been pretty eventful. Work’s been slowly getting busier with kids getting back into the swing of things after post-Christmas exams. We had a big English Ambassador Day Camp at Ma On Shan on Saturday 2nd February – bit out in the sticks but since everywhere is so well-connected it was only about half a hour away from our gaff.

These kids are those with high level English, love to get involved and leave with photos, phone numbers and Facebook requests with/for all us gweilo PCs. I led one of the activities with Nicole where they had to work as a team to make shapes and act out scenarios while being creative. They had drama performances, we played footy at lunch, other team-building and English speaking games etc, so was a great day. Here’s a video from Chatteris, and a photo of me, my colleague Holly and 4 of our students from KT who came to the Day Camp.



On Sunday I spent the day with Nat, at the Museum of Costal Defence. Sounds like the worst possible thing to do at any time, never mind on a Sunday afternoon, but was pretty interesting. The guns and cannons there were mint. Boys and Toys. And it was funny to see the usual Hong Kong thing of having a hundred security guards stationed every couple of yards, in case it all kicks off. You’d think you were at a Millwall home game or at an Athens austerity measures protest with the amount of ‘security’. Having so many people doing the job that 2 or 3 could easily do is weird, but I suppose it gives some people employment and looks impressive on the front (how things look and presentation being another big HK feature).


On Tuesday Nat and I went to see Cloud Atlas at the cinema, which was pretty good. And got to check out the Olympic City shopping mall place where it is – reminded me a lot of Trafford Centre but smaller. In fact you could probably believe you were at the Trafford Centre with H&M, Marks and Spencer and The Body Shop all next to each other there. Anyway, the film was decent and cheaper than other cinemas at only $65 a ticket.


On Wednesday Adrian and I went to Happy Valley, and met up with a few of the other CNETs there and saw Steph C for her birthday. I bet around $160 in total and got a winner and a 3rd place. My fav, The UntouchableLad didn’t live up to his name though and only came in 4th. Odds were so low on the ones I won on, I got hilariously pathetic $9 profit from one and $4 on the other (we’re talking 80p and 30p). But like my Granddad, I was appreciating the game and fun of it, not there to make millions. Although millions would have been nice….



One last thing, it’s getting hotter and more humid here already. There’s been a few days the jacket’s come off – the EAT Day Camp particularly. Not the sweltering paradise I arrived to in August but when I see the snow and ice at home, it is one good thing to enjoy here. Gloves and scarf were a bad investment.

Happy Valley and The Peak

Work’s been similarly not really interesting this week as the kids are still on exam leave. We’ve been spending most of the time preparing for the next few events we have. Outside of work, we’ve been busy as usual though.

On Wednesday night we went to Happy Valley Racecourse for a cheeky flutter or two. Really great atmosphere there, lots of Westerners and a really easy way to bet on the horses. Minimum bet is $20 and I had 3 different bets, no winners. But was a great night anyhow.



On Saturday, Aids, Tony, Flintoff, Tommy and I got a takeaway Dim Sum from a Michelin Starred place near our house, which cost a whopping $606 in total. It came in a box the size of a hoover, and they gave us 12 sets of chopsticks, thinking it would serve 12 of us, not 5. Was an absolute feast and well worth it. Later on Saturday we had a football match in Kennedy Town so Dim Sum-ed up we headed down there. Chatteris FC played really well and linked up in the best way I’ve seen yet this season, but we still got hammered despite scoring 4 goals ourselves, with 2 assists from yours truly.

On Sunday, Nat and I headed down to check out Kowloon Park in Tsim Sha Tsui. It was decent there, a little maze, fountains, plants – the usual. Few old men sat painting the landscape which was good to see, and loads of the Filipino maids who meet up and hang out together on Sundays. We got the Star Ferry over to the island after that, and headed up Victoria Peak, which we hadn’t done for about 4 months. Great views up there again, so much to look at, one of my favourite views in this place. And one that I’ll ever get bored of I reckon…



Last week before Christmas

On Tuesday, we had the Pantomime in Kwun Tong. Got to say, after 10 practises and hours of graft, it came together perfectly. Was really chuffed with how it went, must have been funny to watch and can’t wait to see the video. Below is a photo of the whole Chatteris gang there. Classic ‘To the Pub!’ pose…


On Wednesday we had a chilled day at work again, played some piano that had been left in the CILL and watched Emperor’s New Groove. And got paid for this. Life is sweet. Thursday was similar but this time with Indiana Jones. Life is still sweet. Thursday and Friday were again, chilled and pretty similar to the previous days but we went out for a curry on Friday with the staff and left at 15:00 to start the holidays! We went to a bar near our place called ‘Oasis’. They NEED one of these in Manchester, was a great place to have a chill and a drink…
Then we went round to Molly, Jade, Jayde and Aaron’s flat for drinks with the rest of the CNETs who were still in Hong Kong, then called at Jack and Rich’s place after. Was a great night for seeing people and have some drinks. Saturday was out last day before heading to the Philippines on Sunday, so we spent it buying last minute things ready for our holiday away for Christmas. Merry Christmas to everyone wherever you are!

Christmas in Hong Kong

Feeling slightly gutted I won’t be at home this Christmas. You appreciate the repetition of tradition more when you’re out of the loop, watching it happen without you. Family parties, nights out in Manchester with mates and of course the build up to the big day. I won’t be spending Christmas in Hong Kong this year either: lucky me will be on a beach in the Philippines. But I’ve noticed a lot of things about how they celebrate Christmas here:

The Weather – Because it is much warmer here than the UK/USA (although feels much cooler because of the months of sweltering weather…) I think we miss out on the Christmas feeling when we’re walking around the streets, or in town or at work. I remember shopping in Manchester for Christmas stuff with the house-mates in first year of Uni and (naturally) it started raining so we headed to Starbucks, then Weatherspoons to warm up and get something to drink/eat. As bad as the weather is at home, I guess it really puts you in the mood for Christmas. Especially if it snows. Seeing Heidelberg full on snow a week before Christmas, last year in 2011,  did give you a great Christmas feeling. That’s one thing I’ve noticed is a big gap this year. Not that I’m complaining, I sitting typing here with the door open and just a t-shirt on.


Weather on December 20th 2012, Kwun Tong, Kowloon.

Decorations – The shopping centres, houses, places of work and streets are all decorated. There’s big lights on some of the skyscrappers on the island and in Tsim Sha Tsui too. If anything, they go overboard with the lights and statues in public places, and they’re really random too – like cartoon characters or carousels or something, rarely Santa or Snowmen or the Nativity. Here are some pictures of the shopping centre near our work, aPM, which had a Carousel, Cello Players and a big throne for kids (and big kids) to have their picture on:



There is also lots of flowers. Wreaths and mistletoe are popular and surprisingly so are Poinsettias. They’re everywhere! In public, places of work and loads lining walkways. I never knew the name until a few weeks ago. Normally it’s the red plant Mum and Nan always have at Christmas but it’s sprung up everywhere here:


Some also see it as a way to really demonstrate their artistic skills or how good they are at design, like this Christmas ‘can’ tree I saw:


The Day – Lots of the students we talk to spend their Christmas like they would a Saturday. They say they will meet up with friends, go shopping or hang out somewhere. Much more about friends than family. The teachers we have asked seem to spend it like a Sunday – Church, family and go out for a walk/hike somewhere. To complaints that there are not too many places around Hong Kong to go hiking, they should think outside the box for a bit because there are loads! Anyway, this really seems like a typical Sunday agenda – especially coming from a town on the edge of the Pennines, where there are so many places to go for a family walk on a Sunday. Maybe it’s just the Chinese culture which is so popular here – they have other festivals for family time, seeing grandparents, eating big meals. Maybe Christmas is just an added day to do these things if they want – not many huge traditions surrounding the actual day. I don’t want to generalise, but this is the vibe I’ve got off people I’ve talked to so far.

Presents – one of the most popular parts of Crimbo at home is the same here but nowhere near the scale we are used to. Maybe one or two gifts is common, while at the staff Christmas Party, everyone got a small gift from the Head of the Language Centre too. I think it really depends on whether people see themselves as more Hong Kong/Christian or more Chinese/Buddhist/don’t care. I’ve come across people at work who won’t speak a word of English to me and get so excited over Mid-Autumn Festival or Chinese New Year who have been acting like Scrooge the past couple of weeks, while some are wearing Christmas ties/earrings and have plans over the holidays. Again, don’t want to generalise, but interesting to see how different kinds of people celebrate (or don’t) the day here. Anyhow, the streets are piled with Christmas gifts in Sham Shui Po near our flat:

IMG_0882At work – Because Christmas was our monthly theme this month, we’ve had lots of fun activities for the students. In workshops, we made paper snowflakes, coloured Christmas cards and made ornaments for the tree (not baubles here, but ‘ornaments’. Cheers, America). We had a huge Christmas party with Christmas songs (had to explain the importance in the UK of a Christmas No 1 Single), Christmas Bingo and Lyric Filling. We also made Marshmellow Snowmen, like Frosty here. Again, it is weird to see 19/20 year olds loving colouring in a card or cutting out paper. Like I’ve said before, you’re best to forget Fifa, beer and pizza for this guys, and instead have a good game of scrabble and do arts and crafts. Cultural exchange at it’s best.


New Year’s Eve – We’ve seen this on the TV at 4pm on NYE back in Britain, when it is midnight in Hong Kong. They do in style, to say the least. Not as much as Chinese New Year, which I hear is mental! But still a big graft and excellent result. Luckily, cheers to Ian for this, we’ll be on a Junk Boat in the middle of Victoria Harbour to watch the fireworks. This picture was from 2012. Honestly cannot wait.


Anyway, that’s what I’ve noticed about the Christmas Holidays here. I’ve had a great 4 months here already and wish everyone here are Merry (& Messy) Christmas wherever they are. Also major thanks to people who’ve sent me stuff over – Mum and Dad for the German Stollen, Christmas pudding, advent calendar and presents, Grandma, Nan and Grandad, Auntie Margaret, my bro Tommy, Amy Wareing, Erin too for their cards. Weird how I can send 3 cards to the UK from here for the same price as 1 card can be sent here. Hope everyone at home really enjoys the holidays.

Final shout out to the anonymous students who designed his Christmas Tree Ornament like this. You’ll Never Walk Alone, mate….

IMG_0933 IMG_0934

It’s kicking off…

I found an interesting short clip on BBC about Hong Kong identity. It was published, funnily enough, on my 22nd birthday in 2012 – the day we rented one of the old British-style trams for a Tram Party.

The on-going, sporadic displays of the British colonial flag at anti-China, anti-Beijing-influence protests is mentioned, as is the weird, subconscious feeling of fear that China will come out in force in 2047 and completely take over the city. Starting to get more and more information on this feeling, and what predictions there are for 2047, especially after this year’s protests against the National and Moral Education programme. That will have to wait for a while and a huge blog post, but for now, this video offers a nice reminder of the SAR’s unique identity – not British, not Chinese but Hong Kong.