Sunday, 12 August 2012

Short-Term Happiness

One of my relatives is a teacher and she recently came back from a nightmare trip taking a class of high school students to New Zealand for two weeks.

The school she teaches at is in Tsing Yi and is not considered a top institution by any means. So you can imagine the kinds of students who go there.

In any event, at a recent dinner she ranted non-stop about the students she had to look after and how they didn't seem to have any care in the world as long as they had money.

When one of her charges lost 600 New Zealand dollars ($488), she asked what happened to it and the student just shrugged and said that they'd put the money in their pocket and then it was gone.

The student's mother immediately wired over 300 New Zealand dollars.

Another had a very expensive camera he borrowed from his father. He put it in his backpack, but then carelessly threw it on the floor. "What about the camera!" my relative exclaimed. "Oh it's OK -- if it's broken we'll get another one back in Hong Kong."

The students had home-stay accommodations, but for some reason many of them were not fed enough by the home-stay parents. As a result, many of them spent a lot of money going out to buy food and towards the end of the trip even asked my relative to borrow money.

She also observed them constantly buying stuff -- anything they liked, they purchased immediately without realizing they had to budget for the rest of the trip. Oh and some had never gone on a plane before or traveled overseas.

As a result many experienced culture shock at the quietness of New Zealand, how bus stops were far from each other and shops were closed soon after dinner time.

When we asked in exasperation what kind of students these were, my relative explained that while their families may be relatively well off, the parents were too busy working to take their kids on holidays, and just gave them money as compensation.

Needless to say she was relieved when she came back home.

Meanwhile my relative's father was listening to all of this and made side comments of how pathetic and useless the next generation was going to be. This is ironic as his other younger daughter has manipulated him so much that he does everything for her, from pouring juice to carry bags for her.

Hopefully he now realizes that he too has had a part in raising a totally dependent child!

Money does not solve all problems and neither does complete dependence.

A number of Hong Kong parents fail to make this distinction, all caught up in making money.

A German expat once remarked to me that Hong Kong did not seem like a happy place. "When I walk around I hardly see people with smiling faces," he observed. "You have to wonder why they are so unhappy."

His comments have stayed with me because it's true. How many happy people have you seen walking along the streets of Hong Kong?

We have to find a happy medium somewhere.

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