Sunday, September 02, 2007

Hong Kong University on local social customs and behaviors

My admissions packet to the University of Hong Kong has some advice to visiting students about the social nuances of Hong Kong. Some of these seem obvious, while others appear to be a thinly-veiled way of saying "don't be an American." Their list, complete with all of their grammatical and typographical errors, and a few editorial comments in italics.

- It is common to call your peer's first name. It is always safe to address the elders and seniors in the social circles with their titles such as Mr. Chan, Dr. Wong, Professor Lee, etc., Love that bonus comma at the end. Otherwise a seemingly sensible point.

- It is best to give your Chinese friends plenty of personal space, particularly if you do not know them well. If you are interacting with the locals, avoid the common western gestures like back slapping, and nudging as most Chinese find them uncomfortable. Okay, westerners, do you know anybody for whom back slapping is a "common gesture." I'd be uncomfortable with back slapping too. Drunken frat boys trying to subtly demonstrate physical superiority in social situations slap backs. I hate back slappers too.

- Do not push ahead of others who are waiting in a queue. Is cutting in line acceptable in any culture? Maybe Russia. People were real jerks there. But even there, I think that it was ostensibly verboten to cut in line, it was just that everyone assumed the rule didn't apply to them.

- It is not polite to ask a newly acquainted person about his or her income or marital status. The first part of this I understand. The second part of this, not so much. Maybe guys here are much more like western women, in that they are self-trained to look at fingers in search of a ring. Still, this rule seems to be overreaching.

- Squatting on the street and spitting or speaking loudly in public area is regarded as "uncivil" acts. Putting your feet on a chair or on a train seat is deemed "very bad manner". Are these technical terms that they are being put in quotation marks? I would like an exhaustive list of things that are deemed to be "very bad manner." Actually, this is useful, as I do often put my feet up on trains and buses, often times onto the lap of my neighbor. Usually this starts a very interesting conversation, you should try it sometime. But only in America, because it wouldn't be okay here. I'd also like clarification on "squatting." Is the very posture of squatting considered to be uncivil, or is it merely the bodily function that one normally associates with squatting? It just isn't clear to me whether I am permitted to squat on the street so long as I refrain from actually defecating. Oh, and speaking loudly...well, if you've ever met me, then I think you can assume I've already performed a few uncivil acts since arriving. That's just not fair to Jews. Jeez, this point is a real landmine for me all over.

- Modesty is highly valued by the Chinese. Display of intense affection, temper or anything "extreme" will very often be frowned upon. I GO TO FUCKING HARVARD, YOU SHITCAKES! God that felt good.

- The concept of "face" (dignity) is very important for the Chinese. Refrain from making criticism and personal remarks on social occasions. I suppose the last point would preclude me from pointing out to them the grammatical and punctuation errors from the preceding list. Brilliant move on their part. Also, it seems that this would largely neutralize the pick-up strategies enshrined in The Game, which largely rely upon the "neg" (the light insult) as a means for romancing beautiful women.

10 comments:

Kim Anh said...

hahahahah.. I laughed out loud to this post. I googled "HKU halls notice" and somehow came across your blog. I read this and laughed.. funny how they used the same exact book as last year. I'm going to HKU end of August 2008 and haven't received my notice for which hall i was admitted to. do you remember when you got your notice? (i know it's like a year ago, but wondering if your remembered.)

Ken Basin said...

I got my notice in late July, around the third week, I think. Then at the very beginning of August I got a different notice that I was not accepted into the Hall they said I was accepted to. Then I sent them a confused email, and a week later, they confirmed I was in all along.

Hoo-ray, HKU.

Kim Anh said...

I just got my acceptance for the hall to RC Lee Hall. Thanks for your help. Since you've been to HKU, which of the halls do you think was the most.. I guess appealing? I noticed that the one you stayed at (Morrison) had crappy beds. Did you get a chance to look at the other halls? And are all the halls strict in having other people in your room after 11PM?

Ken Basin said...

As far as I could tell, all the halls were strict on curfew (you could still have guests in your room if they lived in your hall on a different floor, but even people who lived in a different building in the same complex couldn't come in). Maybe some of them at least had common areas where you could bring people? I know that none of the ones in the Jockey 1 OR Jockey 2 complexes did. We just hung out in the parking lot.

I really can't say that any hall seemed more appealing than any other. It's probably just a matter of which hall has less abjectly terrifying and semi-fascist residents, and that probably varies a bit from year to year.

Kim Anh said...

Wow, you're really quick with your replies. One more question. In that handbook that HKU gives you, it says that Morrison Hall is a short walking distance from the main campus while RC Lee Hall is like a short "bus ride".. How long was the short walking distance?

Ken Basin said...

If I'm in front of the computer anyhow, might as well reply.

Uhh, I think it usually took me about 12 minutes to get to the part of campus I needed to reach. I had a friend who lived in RC Lee, she always took the bus, but I think by foot it was around 20 to 25 minutes from her place.

Kim Anh said...

Okay thanks Ken. Now I will probably have to come up with some excuse as to why I need to switch my hall. I'd rather live closer to the main campus. Busing out everyday sucks. I already bus for an hour to get to university here at home and I'd rather wake up, get out of bed, and walk to class.

Ken Basin said...

Blarg. Good luck.

Jacktastic said...

You're an idiot Ken.

Krithiga Ravi said...

Hey, I liked ur blog n it's quite handy indeed! I also got accepted in r c lee hall, n after readin d comments dat reaching classes wud b hectic m planning on applying 4 lee Shaun kee hall...wats ur opinion for girls?