If you’ve ever walked in Hong Kong you’ll probably have noticed the mindbogglingly high density of smartphones in the city. They are everywhere. In the streets, on the MTR, in shopping malls,… Everywhere.
As a result, it will come as no surprise that Hong Kong came second, in 2018, in the global ranking of mobile cellular subscriptions per capita with 270 mobile cellular subscriptions per 100 people.
And that high density of smartphones in a city such as Hong Kong leads to some frustrating issues.
In the first months of 2020 the world was hit by a deadly pandemic: the now infamous Covid-19 pandemic. Wuhan and its surroundings, was the first region to be infected.
As expected, Covid-19 eventually hit the West in early March 2020. Meanwhile, in Wuhan, the epidemic was about to be defeated whilst the situation in the rest of the world rapidly grow out of hand.
With the emergence of the Internet, people around the world have gained access to unprecedented amounts of information. As is often the case, though, give the human being a powerful tool, and he’ll end up using it like a moron.
And that is what happened when Covid-19 started making the headlines of newspapers. Before we even knew what kind of virus caused those first unexplained deaths in China, “theories” emerged all over the Internet.
Yet, in the case of Covid-19, the world leaders’ half-assed handling of the situation has given conspiracy theorists the necessary ammunition they needed to come up with crazy ideas.
When you travel to Hong Kong, your first impression is one of sheer awe. As the airplane circles over the city, you’ll be given plenty of time to admire the city’s skyscrapers. A lot of skyscrapers. Nothing but… skyscrapers.
This unique mix of skyscrapers has given Hong Kong Island one of the most iconic skylines in the world.
Alas, Hong Kong may be beautiful from a distance, it is also far from beautiful.
When I lived in Europe, I used to hear people claim that Europeans were getting increasingly selfish. And I agreed with that statement. When I moved to North America I heard people claim that North Americans were getting increasingly selfish. And I agreed with that statement.
Then I moved to Hong Kong, and not once did I hear anyone mention Hong Kongese selfishness. Does it mean that selfishness does not exist in Hong Kong? Quite the contrary. In Hong Kong, everyone is just too self-absorbed to realize how selfish they are.
As of July 2003, SARS has killed a grand total of 774 people (globally) out of a total of 8,098 cases. The number is… low. Very low. To put this number in perspective, in the 2016-2017 Influenza season, the flu had killed an estimated 38,000 people in the United States alone and infected an estimated total of 29,000,000 Americans.
I like a nice steak… but not in Hong Kong. Meat in Hong Kong is downright scary. See, in Hong Kong, the meat that you are going to eat is often carved on the sidewalk. And I mean that in the most literal sense of the term: on the sidewalk. Come Winter, come Summer.
We all know that smoking is harmful. For yourself, as well as for the people around you.
Yet, in the case of COVID-19 (formerly known as 2019-nCoV), which has been plaguing China since late 2019, and other parts of the world since January 2020, cigarette smoke will help us prove the utter uselessness of surgical masks.
If you’re in the retail industry, you may sometimes encounter situations in which you struggle to find customers for some of your products. What do you do in such cases? Do you launch an advertisement campaign? Do you start a sales campaign? Don’t.
Listen, what if I told you that you could get rid of your stock in a matter of minutes? Better yet, you’d have to re-stock. And even that new stock would get sold in minutes. Still not good enough? What if you could achieve all of the aforementioned whilst… doubling, or even tripling, the price of those goods you struggled to get rid of in the first place?
When I first visited Hong Kong as a tourist, in 2009, I was mesmerised by the cleanliness of the city. Mind you, as the typical tourist, I only visited the tourist attractions of the city which, obviously, were spotless. This cleanliness, I later realised, was mere illusion.
It was all over the internet. On 4 February 2020, over 10,000 Hong Kongers lined up -forming a queue that stretched over 4 kilometers in length- in the hope of acquiring one of the 11,000 boxes of 50 surgical masks put on sale by a company in Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong.
That was on 4 February 2020. The sale was planned for 5 February 2020. Yes, thousands of people spent one entire night waiting on the street to buy surgical masks.
You’ve probably heard about it. It’s all over the news. 2019-nCoV has people scrambling for face masks which are falling in short supply. Be it in the West, or in the East. People are desperate for face masks. And this frantic race for face masks, as it turns out, pushes people to take miscalculated risks regarding their health.
Let’s start at the very beginning: the purchasing of face masks. And right from the get-go, as you line up in front of the stores that carry those masks, you increase the chances of getting infected with 2019-nCoV.
If ever you come across a Hong Kongese child playing in the dirt, put everything you’re doing aside, and watch. Simply watch. Are you going to be late at work? Don’t worry, it’s just a matter of seconds before the show starts. You’re about to witness a thing of beauty: a Hong Kongese parent going ballistic.
Forget about Operation Jericho. Forget about Operation Thunderbolt. This is a Hong Kongese parent. And his child is playing in the dirt. And a Hong Kongese parent whose child is playing in the dirt would put the Navy SEALs to shame. Yes, Hong Kongers are usually slow and inefficient, but when they see their child play in the dirt, they turn into the epitome of efficiency.
Hong Kongers are obsessed with face masks. Since the outbreak of SARS in 2002-2003, which killed 299 people in Hong Kong and 349 people in China, it is not uncommon to see people wearing surgical masks in the streets, in shopping malls, or at work. Although omnipresent since the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), its folkloric value is inversely proportional to its capacity to prevent anyone from being infected with… well, pretty much any infectious disease.
And yet… In Hong Kong, people believe that surgical masks will protect them from the flu, or even from 2019-nCoV. Walk around the streets of Hong Kong without a mask in times of an epidemic like SARS or 2019-nCoV, and traffic on the sidewalk will open up in front of you like the Red See in front of Moses. You will be treated as if you had the plague.
2019-nCoV: Could it Happen in the West?
Let’s answer the question right away: yes, it could happen in the West. Technically, any region in the world could fall prey to an epidemic. And the West is no exception. As a matter of fact, throughout history, the West has been victim to nearly all of the most vicious epidemics in human history.
If Christmas is a secondary celebration in Hong Kong, one festival is of the utmost importance in China (including Hong Kong): Lunar New Year. Or, as Westerners call it, Chinese New Year.
And, if you don’t know how important that day is, don’t count on Hong Kong and its citizens to remind you that Lunar New Year is one of the cornerstones of the Chinese tradition.
As a matter of fact, a foreigner who’d visit Hong Kong around the time of Lunar New Year -or even on Lunar New Year’s Day- wouldn’t realize New Year is coming. Unless someone told him, that is.
However paradoxical it may sound, a strong dictatorship may sometimes be beneficial to the people. The Wuhan coronavirus, which broke out in one of the harshest dictatorships the world has ever known, the People’s Republic of China, is a very good example of this.
As the disease started spreading over China, and outside its borders, only days before the most important festival in the Chinese tradition, the Communist Party of China was faced with a particularly challenging conundrum.
As the world celebrated the New Year of 2020, a new form of coronavirus made its apparition in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, in Central China. Particularly lethal, according to specialists, it quickly claimed its first victims. In only three weeks, seventeen people had died in Mainland China. But the epidemic was only in its early stages. And Lunar New Year, along with the People’s Republic of China’s inept response to the new threat, will dramatically help the spread of the virus now known as the Wuhan coronavirus.
Apartments in Hong Kong are not spacious. That’s a euphemism. In fact, they are tiny. Horrifyingly minuscule. And I’m not talking about the infamous cages stacked in even tinier rooms. No, I’m talking about the average apartment you will find in Hong Kong. At a whopping 484 sq ft, said apartment is -surprise, surprise- the smallest in the world.
Let’s compare the housing situation in Hong Kong with the situation in a comparable city/country. It so happens that such a city exists and is indeed often compared to Hong Kong. That city is none other than Singapore. And the comparison is not exactly flattering.
Hong Kong is the city of paradoxes par excellence. Hosting the most famous global financial institutions, it is known all over the world as Asia’s financial hub. Yet, the wealthy Hong Kong only represents a minuscule fraction of the city; nestled around Central, Southern Hong Kong Island, or West Kowloon (to name a few).
The vast majority of Hong Kongers, the Hong Kongers we choose not to see, the Hong Kongers that didn’t give the city its glorious status in the world, the Hong Kongers that don’t matter, on the other hand, represent -by far- the bulk of the population. Massed mainly in Kowloon and the New Territories, they are Hong Kong’s torn in the flesh. Well, not exactly, in fact. Because, however poor they are, they remain remarkably tame.
And considering their numbers and just how poor they are, this is quite astonishing.
Hong Kong is home to the most efficient subway system in the world, boasting a 99.9% on-time rate.
Now, it is a very happy coincidence that the MTR happens to be the most efficient subway system in the world. Or, perhaps it is no coincidence at all.
Nonetheless, the MTR is a very interesting place to study the behaviour of Hong Kongers in a restraint environment. And, contrary to the I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude that can be observed above ground, in the MTR an I-kinda-give-a-fuck attitude (if it’s in my interest) arises.
If war erupted somewhere, Hong Kongers are probably the last people on Earth I would rely on to save the country. Not that they are particularly weak compared to people elsewhere in the world. As a matter of fact, it has little to do with their physical prowess. But, observing Hong Kongers in the street, in shopping malls, or at work, it is readily obvious that Hong Kongers are not exactly the archetype of resilience.
The sidewalk in Hong Kong is not just a nightmare; it is a nightmare on different levels. Nightmares that are closely interlinked. A kind of “Inception” turned sidewalk, if you like.
Now, when talking about the sidewalk, we’re talking about any pathway in Hong Kong, really. That is, any place where people can walk (including supermarkets, shopping malls, etc.).
You would think that the main reason walking in Hong Kong is such a nightmare derives from the fact Hong Kong is an overcrowded city. If overpopulation certainly plays a role in this nightmare, it is not the main reason that makes walking in Hong Kong such an ordeal.
If Hong Kongers built cars, you would end up with gaping holes in your windscreen; the door handles would feel wobbly; tires would sometimes come off the wheels for no reason… but that wouldn’t be an issue because the transmission axle would be too short to connect the engine to the wheels anyway. And, ifContinue reading “HONG KONG – Craftsmanship? In Hong Kong, We Don’t Need… Craftsmanship”
No need for a lengthy introduction. Let’s get to the point right away: Hong Kongers are lazy. Lazy as fuck. It may not seem so, considering the city is always bustling with activity. And yet, that extra activity is needed precisely because Hong Kongers are lazy. Or perhaps because Hong Kongers don’t give a fuckContinue reading “HONG KONG – Born to Be Lazy”
In Hong Kong, beside the mandatory umbrella, you better carry a jacket and a scarf wherever you go. Yes, in Summer as well. Not so much because of the weather: temperatures easily soar past the 35 degrees centigrade mark in Summer and very rarely drop below 10 degrees in Winter. No, in fact you’ll only rarely need to put on your jacket in the street. That’s what you would do anywhere else in the world. In Hong Kong, however, things are done the other way round: T-shirts are worn in the street; jackets, coats, and scarves are worn at home and at the office. The reason for that rather peculiar dressing routine? The air-conditioner…
Hong Kong is known all over the world primarily as Asia’s main financial hub. And, walking down the streets of Central, it is obvious that finance takes a central place -no pun intended- in Hong Kong’s economy. Bank of China Tower, Bank of China Building, HSBC Main Building, International Finance Centre One and Two, Bank of America Tower,… The list of buildings named after major banks goes on and on. One may think that a city that takes finance so seriously would be home to a state of the art banking system. Well, you’d be surprised.
The art of not-giving-a-fuck may seem like the easiest form of art to master. And yet… Over the last century-and-a-half, two schools of thought, in stark opposition with one another, have developed: a Western school, on the one hand; and a Hong Kong school, on the other hand.