Monday, September 24, 2012

The Nerve

I try to be a gentleman. I really do.
And I try to be culturally sensitive. But sometimes, it just doesn't pan out the way that I'd like it to.
As one of my Scottish friends put it: "On an individual level, Hong Kongers are great. As a group, they're complete jerks."
Now that I've been here for a few weeks, I'm starting to notice some distinct cultural differences between America and Hong Kong. And most of them boil down to courtesy. Now, I know. Americans don't exactly have the best reputation for being courteous, socially aware, mindful of manners or otherwise selfless. And there's a quite real possibility that I'm just feeling entitled, but hear me out.
Hong Kong denizens don't conceptualize other people once they're out and about. I used to say it about older Chinese women back in SF, and it applies here: "It's their world, you're just living in it." And it's true- it's their city, I'm just living in it.

 I'm just getting so sick and tired of having to bob and weave through a crowd to avoid laying out a girl half my size, when she's got her head buried in her smart phone and is barreling straight towards my solar plexus.
In San Francisco, we may rush. We may even shove. But if we do so, we do it with intent. Here, people seem to be unaware of their surroundings. They're consumed by their phones, more so than I've seen in any cultural group. That, or they're walking at a snails pace in the most crowded areas of the city, drifting ever so slightly from side to side, like a Nascar driver on sedatives. Some days, it reminds me that I need to slow down. To enjoy life. But I take long strides, even at a casual saunter, which has led me to flat-tire approximately half of the population. That, I can help. But I can't help when people are coming straight at me, staring deeply into their technology.

So I've stopped dodging. I'm 6'5". 200 lbs. I am the larger object. Things will move for me. The crowd will part.
That being said, it's incredibly difficult to will yourself not to dodge out of the path of people. I don't actually run into people, either. I just sort of... graze past them.
I just want the world to know, that by this small, physical act, I am rebelling.

There are other ways to demonstrate defiance. I'm trying to hold doors open for people more. I hold the elevator for people. Maybe I'm just trying to be contrary to whatever the norm is, but it makes me feel good. Because I'm tired of having doors closed on me. I'm tired of having to pry open the elevator, because I was three steps behind a local who found it exceptionally pressing to take the life one floor above ground level and shut me out. I'm tired of having umbrellas swung straight at my ocular cavities.

Viva la opening doors. Viva la shoulder checks. Viva la revolucion.
(It's not correct, and neither am I)

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