Three random thoughts by a Hong Kong millennial.
The etiquette of food sharing is tricky to master in Hong Kong. We grew up sharing our food at the dinner table, and even dining at Western restaurants with my family, we tend to share our main courses. It’s genius, really. You get a bit of pasta, a bit of steak, a bit of fish.
But things become a little more complicated when you grow up and dine with friends or people that you don’t know that well. At a Chinese restaurant, you can order a ton and share, but not really in Western restaurants, where you only order one or two plates per person. When that’s the case, you can’t just shout, “I hate codfish, don’t order it la,” or “I WANT LAMB” when someone’s already said they don’t eat lamb. So you’re stuck with three main courses of compromise at a high-end restaurant.
And sometimes you just don’t want to share. Yet there will always be that one person who insists on sharing. Even when you’re at a noodle shop. You suggest everyone order for themselves once, but what can you do when it’s still unheeded the second time? You succumb to the group. You eat half a bowl of lo mein when you only want soup noodles.
Food sharing is so drilled into us that even if we’re not sharing our food, we will try each other’s food. It’s great, because I want to sample other dishes too, but then there will always be that one person who takes a giant portion from MY plate or shoves their chopsticks into your rice WITHOUT asking.
I have no solution to this except to think to myself, “yoga breathing, yoga breathing, yoga breathing.”
I was at the Butcher’s Club Southside Long Lunch last weekend, manning The Loop’s booth. The food was amazing, the music superb, but despite how many times I’ve been in environments with a mostly expat demographic, I still get a culture shock.
For the record, I’m a local: born in Hong Kong, and I studied at a local school and uni. I was pretty ignorant about the returnees/expat community until I plunged into it with my first job several years ago, where I worked mostly with expats and English-speaking Hongkongers.
Among the many tiny cultural shocks — like how during my first few months at the office, I received more compliments than I’ve ever had in the first 20 years of my life — the thing that never fails to amaze me is that all these people, from countries like the USA and Britain that I fantasize so much about, chose Hong Kong as their home. I, on the other hand, hold bitter thoughts about life in Hong Kong on a daily basis.
And okay, I get that most expats have some sort of “privilege,” with an overseas education and excellent English valued very highly here, and thus can enjoy a life that many “locals” have no access to. I’ve had friends say that expats can afford to idealize the city because they don’t have to deal with its bad side, but this, to be honest, also applies to many affluent Hongkongers.
People who choose life in Hong Kong express an enthusiasm for the city that always startles me. “The MTR is so efficient! Taxi drivers are really interesting,” says no local ever. And being around such enthusiasm has wired me to look at the city as part-traveller.
When you’re abroad, it’s easy to marvel at things like a park bench or a bus ride, but habit puts out your curiosity to what’s around you, especially when you’re tired, or rushing to finish a deadline. It’s so much more fun now that I’ve learned to wonder at things like the street food vendor’s genius offal-cutting skills and the complexity of the minibus network in Hong Kong.
This SCMP article sums it up pretty well. In it, Puja Kapai, an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong who specializes in human rights, says: “By using women to attract male customers, ladies night essentially commodifies women and uses them as tools to sell products.”
BUT, she continues: “If the EOC was going to throw its weight against something, I wish it were something deeper in nature. We seem to have been using our anti-discrimination laws to not support the powerless, but an already privileged group in society.”