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March 26, 2015

What’s so weird about Hong Kong? #05
Is it true that the Chinese slurp and burp without shame?

Text Franziska Wellenzohn

Waking up in the morning to hear the sweet little Chinese girl next door belching at the top of her lungs, I realise maybe this is more than just a cliché. Maybe we can blame it on the pork noodle soup she had for breakfast – but is a belch of that volume really necessary?
And what’s more is, this phenomena doesn’t stay within four walls. In the fanciest restaurants, I found myself surrounded by slurping people, in the streets some were disgorging their slimy spit from the depth of their throat and in the subway they were burping into my ear from the seat right behind.
This all sounds quite disgusting, right? Why the obscenity? Are these happenings a conscious effort to be rude? Well, obviously not. Other countries, other customs.   

Need to burp in the elevator? Go ahead.

No local will turn to you with an angry face. In fact, ‘better out than in’, is the motto in Hong Kong. And forget niceties, slurping during a meal is the biggest compliment you can pay your host.
Like with most Westerners these habits, to me are real appetite assassins, and probably ones I will never stop subconsciously making a face at.
However, these cultural differences are not fixed to Hong Kong. In Mainland China they are even stronger and intensified especially in the rural areas.
Appreciating differences is tough. There’s no escaping that. Day in day out we are judging others and especially here it is easy to find yourself critiquing a person’s hygiene standards, or fashion choice. Sometimes you simply wish to have dry shampoo and nail scissors in your bag, or to congratulate the wearer of THAT dress with THOSE leggings for the mismatch of the day. But, it speaks volumes about our own superficiality, something that is hard to overcome. Once you can learn to accept cultural differences and let your judgements slide (or at least remain in your head) you will find yourself having the most magical time with hospitable and friendly people.What’s so weird about Hong Kong? manners hong kongAnd besides, who is it for us to find their habits weird? We too are a big mystery in so many ways. Take the trains for example. In Hong Kong, eating or drinking is completely banned on the MTR, which, no surprise, leads to shiny, clean subway carriages. A stark contrast to the noisy, dirty hovel of many European subways. In Hong Kong, people are silently engrossed to their phone, playing Candy Crush Saga or Bubble Mania. Talking on the phone, they discreetly hide their mouth with their hand. The only loud people you can possibly encounter in Hong Kong’s public transport means will be tourists and exchange students.

Oh, and if you dare to put your feet up on the seat, well, you risk a fine and you might find yourself in a Chinese article about rude Western manners.

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  • ferdinand tessadri · 

    Nice story. It remembers me the day I walked into a subway cab in Hongkong , quite filled with people, and a young girl
    stood up from her place and, with a smile, invited me to sit down. Now, actually I’m not the youngest, but also not every old.
    Here in our beloved South Tyrol unfortunately this never happened.

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