Your Yawn Face

Manners are a funny thing. To some, they seem instinctual. To others (especially in Hong Kong), they don’t even exist. 
Take covering your mouth when you yawn as an example. Apparently, this manner was created in the medieval times in order to prevent the soul from escaping the body (no idea what happened if you opened your mouth to talk or eat).
Later, it became a practical thing. Back when people had horrible dental hygiene (read: none), it was a good way of shielding your friends and loved ones from your personal cloud of rotten breath.
These days, those original reasons may no longer apply, but I can still think of one very good reason to cover your mouth when you yawn.
This is how you look normally:
This is how you look when you yawn:

Now imagine turning a corner and seeing the yawning version of yourself for just a split second, and that’s all you’ll ever see. Great first impression, no?
Besides scaring the shit out of someone (who thinks you’re about to attack), you also resemble a cross between a screaming baboon, shrieking zombie and wild banshee, not to mention that everyone can see right into the depths of your mouth (and anything you left there from lunch).
So, think twice before you go around with your yawn face, ladies and gentlemen, unless that’s how you want to be recognized.

Picking your battles

A couple days ago, an innocent HK lady was attacked on the MTR by a psychotic Mainland woman. After making eye contact, the Mainland woman thought she heard the HK lady cursing her, so she walked up to her, took out her knife (which she normally used for self defense, she said) and started slashing. Even after the knife broke in two, she picked up the blade with her bare hands to continue her attack!

But enough with my boring commentary. Watch this action-packed video (courtesy of Apple Daily) to see how it all went down! This has gotta be one of my favourite things about Hong Kong: serious events (usually gory and violent) turned comical thanks to silly comic strips and in-house animations. I mean, imagine the delight of the team who had to make these visuals overnight!

“OK, who wants to draw the crazy lady?”
“Me me me me meee!”
“Who wants to do the voiceover of the girl getting attacked?”
“Ooo, me me me! I’ve got an amazing shriek!”

The soundtrack to the video is just awesome and I love all the irrelevant details. I mean, maybe I’m missing something but why did they mention that the guy who picked up the knife in the end had just bought a cake (is it an attempt at irony, or simply an ad for Maxim’s!?)?

Anyway, this incident has made me rethink all the battles I usually pick in the MTR. From staring competitions to the ol’ push and shove (and occasional kick), I wonder if it’s just best to put on your coldest stone face and act like no one around you really exists. Hmm…sound familiar? So if you’re still wondering why HK people never make eye contact, you now have your answer!

Fashion is fake

A friend of mine was visiting HK a couple months ago when he noticed some locals wearing thick plastic framed glasses without any lenses. Over a bubbling pot of pork bone soup, he asked me, “What’s the point of wearing glasses with no lenses?!” At the time, I thought it was pretty redonkulous too, but now that I’ve had a few months to think about it, I have to say that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it!

See, the trend of wearing nerdy glasses came to Hong Kong via our lovely neighbors Japan and Korea, where cute girls would strike unbearably cute wide-eyed poses with oversized glasses to become (if possible) even cuter. Soon, many HK girls were seen wearing these glasses all over town, first with fake plastic lenses, but soon without any lenses since they were fake and useless anyway.

At first, I thought it was kind of shallow to wear glasses without real lenses or any at all, and even though I did end up buying a pair with clear lenses (yea so what!?!), I always told people that they were prescripted. For whatever reason, I was embarrassed to admit that I was only wearing them for fashion, to look smarter or simply look a bit different that day.

It turns out that the ‘glasses with no lenses‘ discussion is quite a heated one, where REAL glasses wearers lash out at so-called posers with comments like:

  • Stupid, fake, tacky, totally ridiculous!
  • It’s like we ‘REAL’ glasses wearers are being mocked
  • At least buy glasses with lenses so you can pretend better!
  • I think this is the one fashion trend that serves pretty much no purpose.
  • They’re about as useful as suspenders that aren’t legitimately holding your pants up, or a belt around a dress!

But let me ask you this, is there really a point to ANY fashion trend? That isn’t fake or pretending to be something else? Like, when someone starts wearing a leather biker jacket, do the people who have been wearing leather biker jackets for years say, “OMG, those other people wearing leather now are SO fake! They don’t even ride bikes! They should go back to denim and stop mocking us!”

And what about wearing accessories like earrings, belts or headbands? Do people ever say, “Why are you wearing earrings? They serve no purpose at all! How vain can you get!?!” If everyone thought like that, we’d probably all be ‘too embarrassed’ to decorate ourselves with anything more than plain t-shirts and jeans.

The fact is, everything we wear these days, whether it’s a Nike t-shirt (why not Adidas or Puma?!) or sparkly sequined top (are you trying to blind me?!) serves no real purpose other than fashion. The only difference is that in Hong Kong, there seems to be less rules on what can become a fashion statement (just look at these cast-inspired sandals)! So, to get back to the glasses… please fake yourselves out!!

Being si-man

Something I tend to get called a lot in Hong Kong is ‘斯文‘ (si1 man4), and up till now I still can’t figure out whether that’s a good thing or not.

At first, I took it as a compliment, since it means ‘cultured, refined, elegant and genteel‘ (bwahaha, genteel!!).

For instance, someone once said to me, “You’re so 斯文, seeing you brings a smile to my face,” (no joke) and I have also once heard, “You’re so 斯文, you must not be from around here.”

Today though, someone said it to me with a somewhat negative connotation, as if my si-man-ness was a bad thing. That got me thinking, what is it that makes me so damn 斯文??

  • Is it because I don’t talk at 100 decibels when I’m on the phone?
  • Sit and slouch with my legs wide open?
  • Let out loud croaky burps whenever I feel like it?
  • Push people around in the MTR like human bumper cars?

 If so, I’d happily take 斯文 as a compliment, thankuverymuch!

Me vs. Tea Lady – Round 2

The latest battle between me and the office Tea Lady came about after yet another cockroach decided to rear its ugly face on my desk. This time, a rather large, yellow roach was caught creepy-crawling on my office telephone receiver. But by the time I hollered “ROACH!” at the top of my lungs, that little bastard had disappeared, making me look like a total idiot in front of all my colleagues.

For those who know me, you know that I’m a magnet for cockroaches. Somehow, they always seem to pop up around me, no matter if they’re on the street, outside my door or crawling on my cubicle walls. So, it’s totally not my fault that I have cockroaches on my desk.

However, the Tea Lady thinks otherwise. She had already been commenting a lot about my eating patterns, for one.

“Eating AGAIN?” she’d say every time she saw me take out a snack from the fridge. It didn’t matter if it was a box of blueberries or a small cup of yogurt, I was still a pig to her.

“Make sure it doesn’t spill!” she’d say if she saw me reheating a cup of milk tea in the microwave. *rolls eyes* “Yes, ma’am…”

This morning, she cornered me in the pantry and told me how she had sprayed my cubicle down with insecticide and wiped my desk off with bleach.

“Do you know how much crap fell out of your phone when we turned it upside down?” she exclaimed. “You’re eating too much! So many food particles came out!!”

“What!?” I said back. “What are you talking about? I don’t eat over the phone! Plus I keep everything I have in sealed bags!”

Wanting to prove her point, she grabbed onto my upper arm with a death-grip (I’m SO not kidding, her bony hand closed in on my arm like a cold, mechanical robot’s) and led me to my cubicle.

“Look! All this FOOD fell out of your phone!” she said. I looked down into the waste basket and saw what appeared to be black bits of crap, sort of like coffee grinds.

“What?! That’s not food, that’s probably cockroach eggs!” I shouted at her. “How could you think this is food, geez, I told you, I don’t eat stuff over my phone! Ugh!” At this point, she was still gripping onto my arm so I pushed her hand off me and said, “LET ME GO!”

My arm felt properly bruised and I had to rub it for the rest of the morning to get it feeling normal again. I can’t believe her! Wtf!

What’s yours is mine

One thing about living in Hong Kong is that you’ve got to learn to share. Whether it’s personal space, the (smoggy) air or even food, I’ve come to realize that nothing’s really mine.

See, I’m the type of person who’s never liked to share. Call it a phobia if you will, but it grosses me out. Biting from the same apple? Ew. Sharing a straw? No way. Licking from the same ice cream cone? Hell no! Eating someone’s leftover rice/noodle dish (in all its messy mixed sauce glory)? Excuse me while I puke.

Unfortunately, I’ve encountered a few situations where I’ve had no choice but to share. Like in China for instance, when I’m eating in a group. I usually order a small set meal that comes with rice and 2-3 small dishes that I picked out personally, but there’s always SOMEONE at the table who will stick their chopsticks into my dishes (without asking) and just peck away as if it was public property.

I’m sure this is all normal behaviour in China given that it’s a collectivist society, but my selfish Western self is screaming, “Back off! Get your own dishes!!”

Another time, I had brought a bag of grapes with me for a taxi ride into the city with a colleague. I kindly offered him some, but was appalled when he took possession of the entire bag without once offering it back to me. I managed to pluck a few grapes for myself once or twice during our 15 minute ride, but I couldn’t help thinking, “What the @#$!!! Those are MY freakin’ grapes, and here i am feeling bad for taking them back!”

To be honest, I don’t really mind sharing (as long as it doesn’t involve sharing spit) but I’d be much happier if it was I who offered or them who asked. It’s just a different feeling when you’re suddenly forced to share, especially when the huge box of juicy sliced papaya you were looking forward to ALL afternoon is reduced to 3 mushy pieces after your desk is stormed by colleagues armed with small plastic forks.

Use it or lose it

Before I moved back to Hong Kong, I had always thought things would be much easier here. I mean, coming from the Netherlands where the three most spoken words (in English) must’ve been “That’s not possible“, I had just expected HK to be a place where rules, no matter what, could always be bended.

Fast forward to today. Me and my colleagues are having lunch at a modern Shanghainese restaurant in Wanchai. Our party of five is not yet complete, but we want to order the Set Lunch for 5 consisting of 5 appies and 5 mains. We ask the lady if we can order 2 appies to start with while we wait for the rest of our crew, but she puts on a pained expression and says, “Oh, so, so sorry, our system can’t handle that. Either you order everything at once, or you wait until the rest of your party arrives to place your complete order. There’s no way to just order two appetizers first…”

My colleague pumped up the nice factor and asked again if we could please stagger our orders, since we had no idea what our other colleagues wanted to eat, but the lady frowned once more and explained the system in pain-staking detail again.

I stared at her and thought…What do you mean you can’t? Since when did technology become such a big obstacle for simple everyday matters, especially for something as basic as placing an order in a restaurant? Why can’t you just physically get us what we want, take a mental note (or write it down somewhere non-digitally *GASP*) and then enter everything in your silly system after?

Boggled, we ended up making the whole order at once, but I just couldn’t get over her stupid, stubborn ways. I know we rely on technology a lot these days and it generally does help us work more efficiently, but technology can also cause many people to forget that they have something called a BRAIN.

Can’t we all just get along?

Last night, I contributed to the death of the biggest cockroach I have seen to date. What had he done to deserve such a cruel execution by way of flipping, scraggling and drowning in a never-ending stream of RAID poisonous spray? Nothing, really. He was simply in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

You see, if you’re a giant cockroach who happens to be hanging around on the doorbell outside my apartment, and by the time I actually notice you, you’re a mere 2 inches from my face, I have no choice but to (shriek like a banshee and then) KILL YOU.

Obviously, I didn’t kill the guy myself. After letting out a shrill scream, I backed up slowly, froze for 5 minutes and then threw my house keys against the front door. There was no response, so I called for back-up.

Another 5 minutes passed before C came out of the apartment armed with the almighty poison spray, which he used to blow the roach off the wall, onto the floor and finally onto its back, where it struggled for a good 30 seconds before his hairy brown legs eventually stopped kicking around at odd angles and folded slowly into their final resting place.

Apparently, I had been screaming all the way through because one very annoyed neighbour poked his head out with a WTF!? expression. I explained that there was a giant cockroach, but his facial expression remained the same.

Staring back at the cockroach corpse, I wondered… Why did we just kill a seemingly innocent creature? Is it just because he looks so damn frightening and ugly? It’s not really his fault he looks that way, is it? I know we don’t want roaches inside our apartment, but did we really have to kill it so brutally? Do all cockroaches deserve to die?? If so, why?? Why can’t we all just get along??

Still, I’m kinda glad it’s dead.

Another A**hole

Last week, I was waiting for the lift in my building when I encountered yet another a**hole. They’re everywhere, I’m telling ya!

Anyway, what happened was, the elevator doors opened, a woman came out, and a dorky-looking HK business man stayed inside. I stepped in, asking him whether the lift was going down (as I only needed to go down 1 floor), and he hastily nodded his head while pressing the ‘Close’ button repeatedly.

Within a second, I felt the floor RISING beneath me and realized he was on his way up to the 49TH floor!!?!! WTF!? I looked at him and exclaimed,”I asked if you were going down!!” to which he had no reaction whatsoever except looking down at the ground.

At this point, I started pressing every button in the lift in an effort to try and stop it, but didn’t succeed until I had already reached ’30’. The door opened, I got out, and needed to wait another 5 looong, unnecessary minutes to catch a lift going down again.

What an A**!!!!!! I totally regret not being able to push more buttons from 31-49!!! ARGH!!