7 Weeks! Yea, I have been here awhile. [More cultural observations]

  • The toilet seats are always up in the women’s bathrooms. This is really weird for me to get used to because usually that only happens if a man has used the toilet. I always have to be aware of the toilet seat position when I go to the bathroom.
  • Customer service is very different here. When eating out at a restaurant I must wave the waiter over to order my meal. When they bring my food they do not always bring out everyone’s food at once. So I end up waiting a little while for my friends to get their food before I eat. The waiters/waitresses do not come and check on the table and if you want the check you have to wave someone over and ask.
  • Pretty much everyone takes public transportation here. If you drive a car you are pretty fancy with money. Hong Kong people partake in conspicuous consumption. They buy many material items to show that they have money. I hardly ever see someone dressed sloppy or casual.
  • Getting a taxi home late at night is not that easy. Usually taxis line up in a certain area near the bars and clubs. Since my friends and I do not speak Cantonese it can take a while to finally hail a taxi that knows where we want to go/is willing to deal with Americans. (Even if we show the taxi drivers the address in Cantonese they often deny us a ride.) In Macau it was even harder to hail a taxi. We would hail an empty taxi and they would just pass us by. We soon realized that taxis only go to pick up people at hotels and casinos unless you call them. Seems silly to pass someone by who wants a ride but it makes sense to go where the money is, which is the hotels and casinos.
  • In parts of Asia Caucasian people are stared at a bit. On many occasions my friends and I would have people come up and ask to have a photo with us. This happened to me in Mainland China and Macau. It made me feel like a celebrity. In Macau two young Asian girls came giggling up to me and said I was beautiful and asked to take a photo with me.  I definitely didn’t feel beautiful as sweat was dripping down my face from hiking to the top of the hill and my hair was thrown u in a messy bun. After reflecting on these occurrences I have come to the conclusion that many Asians idea of beauty is Caucasian. According to a CNN article published on June 26, 2013 “one in five South Korean women from 19 to 49 have undergone cosmetic surgery.” Compared to one in twenty in the United States. The two most popular procedures are: nose jobs and eyelid lifts which are specially designed to make these features look more Caucasian. Having big, “innocent” eyes with a crease in the lid is the ideal look after the surgery. Even though the compliments and getting photographed with Asian girls is flattering I am just feeding into the oppressive system. To read more about it check this link: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/06/25/health/asian-beauty
  • I remember reading about beauty ideal during the Victorian era when I was in high school. Back then it was the “in thing” to have fair skin. It meant you came from money and didn’t work. Women wore long gloves and carried umbrellas everywhere while outdoors. In Asia the fair skin trend is still very much a part of the culture. Not only does everyone carry umbrellas to stay out of the sun and “protect” their skin, I also have seen women wearing long silky gloves and covered from head to toe in clothes. If that wasn’t interesting enough the beauty stores also sell whitening cream here. Yes, people whiten their skin. Women and young girls want to be as pale as possible. According to some research I did doctors are complaining about women’s vitamin D deficiency. Many of the cosmetic products contain mercury and other harmful ingredients but that rarely stops women from wanting to be fair and “beautiful”.
  • If you want to see a movie in a theater here you must reserve your seat. I think this is actually a great idea because in American many because won’t fill up the whole row of seats because they want a gap (a few seats) in between the person next to them. Americans like their personal space. Things are definitely different here in Asia.
  • Personal space is a luxury here. As you may know Asia is the world’s largest and most populous continent. Even though Asia has a lot of land many people live in the major metropolitan cities where all the jobs are. For example, Hong Kong only has less that 25% of its land developed. The majority of Hong Kong is parks and nature reserves. So when I walk around the city of Hong Kong (Hong Kong Island) I am constantly bumping into people. There is no apologizing when someone pushes, cuts and shoves me to make sure they get to their destination. On the MTR I feel like a sardine. People will want to get onto an MTR train so badly that they will pack the train car full and when I mean full I mean that I am literally touching people’s bodies and smelling their armpits. I have seen the MTR doors almost squash people multiple times because the train is bursting with so many people. It amazes and scares me everyday.
  • I am really glad I did all my clothes shopping in the U.S. before I came here because many stores don’t have my size. When my friend and I go shopping to the Asian stores we can’t really try any of the clothes on. A typical store will sell the sizes 0,1, and 2. It is a new feeling for me to not be the average size. I guess it is a blessing in disguise that they don’t carry my size because I would be tempted to go shopping all the time on my way home from work. (My MTR station exit is in a mall!)
  • I am convinced that Asians don’t really scream on roller coasters. When my friends and I went to Disneyland Hong Kong this past weekend we were definitely the loudest people screaming.
  • When people go out to eat they usually share dishes. It is a cultural thing as well as a great way to save money!
  • Punctuality is a big thing. A group of us were three minutes late to a Chinese cake making class and we were scolded by one of the participants. He asked if we had trouble rolling out of bed when we really just had trouble finding the street the bakery was on. 

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