culture

My first (and hopefully the last) speed dating experience

I used to think speed dating events were for desperate individuals or socially awkward ones – until I realized that it’s too expensive to get into a club for New Year’s Eve countdown.

 (image source)

It was two years ago when my friend Eva* and I decided to be festive and go to countdown together. We wanted somewhere with a heated atmosphere, but entrance fees for most clubs were at least HK$500 per person that night. We thought about going to Times Square, but meh, we didn’t want to stand and wait there for hours. Luckily, Eva came across the advertisement below:

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I never expected to join a dating event, especially at the age of 22. In my opinion, it’s just not that hard to make new friends as long as the person has a brain and can engage in a normal conversation. So I always thought speed dating was for individuals who lack social skills or those with really small social circles. That being said, I tended to think that people who went to speed dating tended to be more genuine than those who pick up girls at clubs or who use dating apps. Nothing wrong with speed dating, but I just didn’t think it was for me.  

But this speed dating countdown party was a good deal: if Eva and I signed up together it would only cost us HK$570 in total (with drinks included), a better deal than anywhere else in LKF on New Year’s Eve. So we signed up for the party, and from mid-Dec onward our conversations were mostly about this speed dating thing. Our guess was that the quality of girls would be higher than that of the guys, and we seriously hoped that people there would be normal, or at least not too weird. At one point I even suggested that we pretend to be a lesbian couple to keep the guys away. Well, but later we realized that some guys may find that hot… 

We were relieved when we arrived at the club. People looked pretty normal there, and yes, the girls were obviously in higher leagues than the guys generally were. At first we just stood up against the wall, sipping on our drinks. When the organizer saw me standing there, arms folded with my resting bitch face on, she came to me and said “open yourself~ open yourself~”. A friendly and pretty lady she was, but at that moment I just wanted to laugh.

Open yourself (image source)

The organizer made the attendees exchange mobile numbers with each other, and each of us had to gather more than ten phone numbers in order to get another drink. I hated the idea but I did give out my number. I forget why I was so dumb that I didn’t fake one though (was probly afraid of the embarrassment if the guy dial the number immediately). A Chinese guy got my number and texted me three days after the party. My guess is that he went through his list of numbers and texted the women who interested him the most, but the result was unsatisfactory so he began to text his second tier. I didn’t reply to his texts. Apart from the fact that he wasn’t my type, he was just too lame.

There were mainly three types of guys at the party:

  1. “The predators” who went straight to the sexy women
  2. “The gentlemen” who politely chatted with anyone near them, but waiting for the chance to approach a more attractive one
  3. “The friends” of the organizer, usually good-looking, basically they just stuck with the people they came to the party with

As far as I remember, Eva and I didn’t even bother to dress up that night. Ruled out by the “predators”, we had a good time chatting with the “gentlemen” and “friends”. Without the need to meet a potential partner, we simply said whatever came up in our minds, i.e. we talked shit. When one of the organizer’s friends told me that he was going to invest in a canned fish business in Indonesia, I did a SWOT analysis for him. The guy was like, “oh you’re in the food industry?”. “No, I was just bluffing.”

The age range of the male attendees was wider than that of the females. Most of the women were in their twenties or thirties, and a few mature looking ones. For the guys, no matter how old they were, all of them went for the hot and young women (especially those in low-cut, bodycon mini dresses). There was a 50-ish woman at the party, well-dressed but received no attention at all. There were older guys in the club, but every guy just went for the hot and young women. I couldn’t help but think about what people often say: guys always prefer young girls. It might not be true all the time, but I still remember that picture of a mature woman standing by the bar, waiting for someone to talk to her.

The party wasn’t that different from other social events that I’ve been to, except that attendees were made to exchange numbers. Later I kept running into one of the guys when I worked in Central: he was just too noticeable with his 5”-tall hairstyle. The lame Chinese guy who texted me showed up at the language school where Eva took her Mandarin lessons, and was her teacher for awhile (nothing happened between them, it was a big class). All of this reminds me of how Hong Kong is such a small place.

So it turns out that speed dating isn’t that much of a scary or embarrassing experience, and I do see the need for such dating events in Hong Kong, given the long working hours and the intense competition for guys. If I were single again in the future and it gets too difficult to meet new people, I might consider this as one of the ways for me to do so. But as I’m very happy with my current relationship and that I’m hoping it will last, I hope that it’s my last and only speed dating experience.

*Much thanks to my friend for letting me write this story. As a token of thanks I let her choose her pseudonym, was expecting something more exciting than Eva though…

[Warning: Vulgarity] The different forms of dick(s)

I must say I’m not totally comfortable about writing this, but since my friend encouraged me to write something that “educates” her about the Hong Kong culture, I guess I should probably comply with her suggestion and talk about one of the facets of our local culture: Cantonese profanity. Fun yeah? (And to make this post look more professional, I’m going to use the Jyutping Cantonese system to denote the pronunciations.)

Cantonese 粗口(/cou1hau2/, noun. “swear words”), as similar to those of other cultures, are often use to express anger and frustration. The five most common vulgar words used in Cantonese are 屌 (/diu2/, verb. “to fuck”), 鳩 (/gau1/, noun. “dick”), 撚 (/lan2/, noun. “dick”), 柒 (/chat5/, noun. “dick”), and 閪 (/hai1/, noun. “the c word”). Yes, among the five vulgar words, three of them denote the male genital but they’re not merely synonyms. Cantonese, or the Chinese language as a whole, is never that simple.

撚 (/lan2/) is often used as a noun, for example: 佢(/keoi5/, pronoun for “his” or “her”) + 條 (/tiu4/, quantifier for stick-like objects) + 撚 (/lan2/) = 佢條撚, which means “his dick”. Or it can be inserted into an adjective. E.g. 好正 (/hou2 zeng3/) means awesome, fantastic, or when used in the context of describing a girl, means “so hot”. When 撚 (/lan2/) is added in between the two characters and changed the phrase to 好撚正 (hou2 lan2 zeng3/), it intensifies the degree of the adjective. Just think about the difference between “She’s hot” and “She’s fucking hot”.

optical illusion

(image source: Imgur)

For 鳩(/gau1/) and 柒(/chat5/), they both imply an erect penis. However, 鳩(/gau1/) means a hard one, while 柒 (/chat5/) denotes a soft one, despite erected.

鳩(/gau1/) can be put after the word 戇(/ngong6/, adjective. “stupid, simple, simple-minded) to describe a naïve, featherheaded person. For the pathetic, erect but soft 柒(/chat5/), we can put the word 笨(/ban6/, adjective. “foolish, stupid, dull”) before it: 笨柒 (/ban6 chat5/). Comparing 戇鳩 (/ngong6 gau1/) and 笨柒 (/ban6 chat5/), the former means that the person is impulsive like an erect dick (when it is not supposed to get hard), while the latter describe a stupid person who is pathetically incapable (just like an erect but soft dick).

As exemplified, even when 撚 (/lan2/), 鳩 (/gau1/), and 柒 (/chat5/) mean the same body part, each of them has distinct meaning – and that’s how precise (and cool) the Chinese language can be. It’s also fun to play with the swear words even when we’re writing or texting, since the pronunciation for 鳩(/gau1/) is very similar to the Cantonese pronunciation of the number 9 (/gau2/, the word 戇鳩 (/ngong6 gau1/) can be written like this: on9. Or if the person is too on9, we can also say: on99. And when Canto speakers apologize to someone when they don’t mean to at all: “… so99y lor”. For 柒(/chat5/), it sounds similar to number 7 in Cantonese (/chat1/). So if we call someone nerdy a 柒頭 (/chat5 tau4/), as 頭 means “head” in Canto, we can simply type “7head”.

And of course, my all-time favorite:

Exact7ly.

 

P.S. We also have a Cantonese equivalent for the word dickhead – 撚樣 (/lan2 joeng6/). Check out this Canto cult movie to have a look of what a 撚樣 looks like: An excerpt from the film The Eternal Evil Of Asia

 

References:

Even Smaller than a Pixel

“Where’re you from?” asked a British guy who tried to chat me up at a cinema during my trip in France.
“Hong Kong.”
“Oh where is it? Japan?”

Let’s blame the British Empire for being once a great colonizer, the number of countries/cities that it once ruled certainly makes it confusing for its people to remember the names and locations of their colonies. Amused, I posted the conversation on Facebook and received several feedbacks from my friends, examples include:

  • “Is Hong Kong so obscure =_=
”
  • “Story of my life in US… I’ll never forget when someone asked me if HK is the capital of Japan…”
  • “Story of my life back then when the colleague in the state saw earthquake in Japan they ask if my family are ok”

Yep, it’s entertaining to learn what others think of Hong Kong, yet as I thought about the incident again, I realized that I shouldn’t have been too astonished by people’s response. It might be surprising that there ARE actually people who think that we are a Japanese city, but isn’t the expectation that a foreigner would know whether Hong Kong is a bit presumptuous?

Maybe it is Hong Kong’s identity as a Special Administration Region that makes us distinguish our city from China and expect our foreign counterparts to know that Hong Kong is this unique place in East Asia that, even if it’s part of China, it functions independently (sometimes) and is its own jurisdiction. Or it might be my pride for my hometown, with perhaps a bit of Hongkong-centrism, that I expect others to have the slightest common sense to know which country Hong Kong’s sovereignty belongs to.

But as our neighboring cities embark on rapid development, Hong Kong is gradually losing its competitive advantage against its neighboring cities. With the heating competition between Hong Kong and Singapore to rank high as a world-class financial center, Guangzhou building a knowledge city to attract both talents and to make living sustainable, and Shanghai continuing its development as a business and financial center, I can’t help but wonder what Hong Kong has been doing since the handover. Oh yes, Hong Kong still maintains its core advantages (sort of), including a fair and equitable common law system, as well as a low and simple tax regime. But are these enough for us to maintain our status as a world-class city?

And money aside, Hong Kong might have once been famous for Wong Kar-wai’s films and Bruce Lee’s kung fu, but what do we have now? Our government can’t even put the West Kowloon Arts hub together and instead, blame their inability and lack of insight on a ridiculous excuse. The gallery scene in China continues to flourish, while the Chinese government develops cultural free-trade zones to encourage art auctions in the country (source). Singapore is also enjoying its art scene bloom as the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth invests S$65 million to revamp museums, cultural institutions. Have a look at their budget 2014, you will feel sad for Hong Kong government’s attitude towards our city’s artistic and cultural prospect. Despite the increasing number of artistic and cultural activities in Hong Kong recently, there’s still great work that our city is yet to do in order to maintain its competitive edge amidst the artistic and cultural development of other Asian cities.

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(Image source: Wikipedia)

We are no longer basking in the afterglow of being a former-British colony, with our counterparts catching up, I will not be too surprised if one day our neighboring cities become more famous than we are. It would lead to a lengthy discussion of whether Hong Kong is still, or will remain, an important figure in the international arena among the emerging powers. But as much as I love my hometown, I’m aware of the great danger that hinders Hong Kong’s further development – the presupposition that Hong Kong is good enough, and will remain so in the future. After all, our beloved city is even smaller than a pixel on the map.

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.