Fake ABCs

So my friend Kayo found out last week that she was treated nicer in Hong Kong when she speaks in English than in Mandarin, as the latter seems to be seen as the imperialistic language by the locals (post). The discomfort with the increasing Chinese influence of our city, along with the locals’ nostalgia of our colonial past, not only leads to bitterness towards Mandarin speakers but also perpetuates the white supremacy that has been prevalent in Hong Kong.

A common phenomenon in the recent years caused by the locals’ discomfort of their Eastern self under Western influences is the “Fake American-Born Chinese” (Fake ABC) style.
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(Image source: Plastic Thing)

As depicted by popular local illustrator Plastic Thing, Fake ABCs have a certain fashion style (flip-over hairstyle which may hurt your cervical vertebrae and A&F/Hollister outfit), as well as a special way to talk.

Apart from the unnecessary tongue-rolling, frequent use of “Oh my god” and “like” in the speech as well as inaccurate Cantonese pronunciation (a gesture by the Fake ABCs attempting to show people that they suck in Canto) are common features of the way Fake ABCs speak. Some of them seem to think that babbling in Chinese naturally implies fluency in English. However, languages are not mutually exclusive of one another, and one’s incompetence in a language doesn’t necessarily mean competence in the other.

In the post-colonial Hong Kong there lingers a sense of loss in cultural identity, some deal with it by embracing only one particular culture and inevitably dismissing the others – and Chinese culture is often the compromised one. And as some of the locals try to look and sound Western by negating our cultural roots, they found themselves stuck in the stagnant swamp of identity confusion – not western enough to be real ABCs, yet reluctant to be called Chinese or local.

Just as our languages are not mutually exclusive, nor should our cultures be. In fact, the beauty of the Hong Kong culture lies within the interwoven web of multicultural influences, and for sure one can be comfortably westernized without forsaking the origin.

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One comment

  1. Reblogged this on Whimsical Weltschmerz and commented:
    Here’s an HK local’s response to Kayo’s post. The only thing I’ll add about this ABC thing, as an American, is that people who identify with this label “ABC,” are confused about what the word American means. An American, as per the 14th Amendment, is someone born in the United States. Is the president of the US an “American Born Kenyan” because his father was Kenyan? Are he and I “American Born Europeans” because we have European ancestry? No. He’s American. As am I. The 14th Amendment does not make an exception for people with Chinese ancestry. I know people who call themselves Chinese Americans, and I know people who call themselves ABCs (I had only met Chinese Americans before I came to HK). I believe the self-described ABC does not understand American culture, and it’s worth noting that they often talk like an MTV clone (don’t they know that nobody actually talks like that?) and generally subscribe to the lowest, basest, most corporatized and least sophisticated aspects of American culture. Why anyone would want to imitate this is beyond me. Yet they do.

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