My feelings for Hong Kong
Hong Kong Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
The hustle and bustle of downtown Hong Kong hides a big lie. You would think that with all the people, all the communities and all the outside activities would mean a friendly and inclusive society. But no - the young of Hong Kong in particular are stressed, lonely, pressured, obsessed, scared, and generally unhappy.
I am lucky, as a person dealing with students I get to speak to many of them and in particular I had the pleasure of talking with a young lady - Rachel - about life in Hong Kong as a young person. Rachel is the quinessential young professional of Hong Kong. She works hard, dresses smartly, studies in her spare time - studied overseas, is mindful of her family, expects to marry before she is 30 (much earlier I suspect), lives with her parents (until she gets married) and has little time for anything else.
Now don't get me wrong - the Hong Kong people are outwardly smiling, polite, and doing well. Life has never been so good - wealth abounds, unemployment is low and everyone has a better standard of life than their parents did, but this has come at a cost.
First is the environment - it is a shambles. I have been coming to Hong Kong for years and have seen it deteriorate over that time. I understand that this is not fully the fault of the people of Hong Kong and much to do with the rise of Shenzhen and Guangzhou across the border in China - but the people of Hong Kong are far from blameless. The 24/7 nature of business and shopping in Hong Kong mean a massive pull on the power grid - and power supply is coal and oil produced. The lights never go off - the shops never seem to close - everyone drives a car (in a city with such good public transport this is madness) even if it is a Mercedes.
Second is the pressure to succeed. One only has to pick up a paper to see what is considered success. The papers treat businessmen as superstars. They are on every front page - every magazine cover. If you are not a millionaire businessman then you are not news. In all the time I have been here not one artist or writer has been lionized by the press - money, money, money...that is all one hears or reads about. The students I speak to don't want to be archaeologists, explorers, journalists, zoologists, environmental scientists - no - they want to be economists (even though they don't like maths), they want to go into "business" even though they don't know what sort, they want to study finance, banking, investment - they want to be rich. And to do so they must go to a famous university - that way power and wealth is assured.
The pressure to succeed means that the people spend all their time working or studying. They have no time to make friends. Rachel thought I was amazing because I have visitied so many countries, that I find it easy to make friends (she was stunned that I would strike up conversations with strangers and that I would travel alone) but when I suggested that she could also do that she laughed - "it is not possible - I have no time and no one to travel with". And yet she was no fool - she could see the joy in my life - despite the fact I drive a small cheap car - do not own a house - do not earn many thousands of dollars - but this was beyond her, she could not do this as it was against her culture.
It is a puzzler - the Hong Kong people are obsessed with the west - many will deny this but one needs only look at the ads in their shops - they all show glamouous images of young and attractive Europeans - rolex watches are the things to have - burberry, versace, george, rolls royce, and so, so many other major western brands dominate the shopping scape. Chinese products are there but they are not as succesful - hopefully this will change. Images of Asian men and women - with bleached skin - abound. There is no celebration of the Asian image. So why will they not adopt some of the western culture that they seem to aspire to?
And for a culture that finds it hard to make friends with each other who are they talking to? Everywhere you go - and I do mean everywhere - you will see the people of Hong Kong, all of them, with their phone in their hand, speaking, texting, reading - they must be talking to someone - why will they not turn the blasted things off and speak to the person next to them?
I feel real sadness here in Hong Kong - it is at one time a fascinating city, vibrant and colourful but there is an emptyness here - a souless headlong rush for wealth - material wealth , whilst the spiritual and cultural dissappear and are ignored - no wonder the environment here is suffering - there is no money in it.
I think the cityscape itself depicts the Hong Kong people well. On the face it is glittering - aping the west - being more western than the west in many cases- but behind the facade - as in the backstreets - we see cramped conditions, dirty buildings and sad people. I suspect that is the young of Hong Kong - on the face successful, smart, with it - in their minds unhappy, lonely and saddened.