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.
(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.