Thursday, 12 September 2013

Two Solitudes Need Bridging

We are hearing more anecdotal stories of young Hong Kong people who refuse or hate to work in China.

Recently we heard from a professor in biomedical engineering that as part of their program, students need to complete an internship. The vast majority refuse to intern in factories across the border producing medical equipment even though the professor believes this is a career path with a good potential.

He told us one of the factory owners called him to say his student complained about the living conditions and working in the factory, so the prof went up to Dongguan to see for himself.

When he inspected the factory and the dormitory, the prof thought everything was fine, just the student was just complaining too much.

Last night we heard a similar story, but this time it was a full-time employee of a marketing company also in Dongguan. His family lives in Tuen Mun so every morning he would be picked up in a car with dual license plates that drove him across the border to work and in the evenings take him back home.

As the only son he seems to be extremely spoiled and refused to live in Dongguan even though it would not be as much of a waste of time commuting. His reasoning to his fiancee was that Dongguan was dangerous.

Dangerous? For a guy?

I explained to his fiancee that I had lived in Beijing by myself for three years and know less Chinese than her but survived.

She herself had only been to the Chinese capital once -- when she was very young when she went with her family and stayed at her grandfather's friend's place. It turns out her grandfather had lived there for a time, studying French.

Then she recounted the first and only time she was there, they visited the Forbidden City, but the washrooms there were horrific, as the toilets were flushed only periodically by washroom attendants with buckets of water.

Seems like that experience scarred for life and never wanted to go back there.

And it seems like many other Hong Kong Chinese young people want nothing to do with the mainland. They are in total denial.

But the fact is Hong Kong is a part of China and it is vital for them to understand the country because let's face it, the city's biggest customer is China. The vast majority of our tourists are from there, we are doing more and more business with mainland companies and by 2047 we will be fully integrated into China whether we like it or not.

Which is why I urge everyone to go to China for a year to look around, and to see with their own eyes how the people live and work and understand their mindset.

For example, why do their children urinate in the MTR? Because those, particularly from rural areas, don't use diapers and they just literally go wherever they are. They were not brought up to believe this was wrong or there was another way to do it.

We are judging them with western values. Yes urinating in public is a hygiene issue, but that is what they have done for generations and never thought anything of it.

I am not a "panda hugger", but advocate understanding and the best way to do that is to go see the real China, beyond the striking skyscrapers and massive highways, sleek subways and Ferraris, and meet the real people. See where they live and work, understand why they are the way they are because of the politics and culture of the place.

From living in China for a year, Hong Kong people will have a greater appreciation for where they live, but also hopefully accept mainlanders for who they are and try to not only better cater to their needs, but also try to subtly educate them into becoming more refined and more responsible citizens not only in China, but the world.

Does that sound naive? It may sound grandiose, but really, it's as they saying goes: "Walk a mile in someone else's shoes before you try to judge their journey".

1 comment:

  1. I guess you haven't heard the phrase "When in Rome, do what the Romans do."

    You are VISITING Hong Kong and staying as a guest in Hong should respect the rules of the host. I don't see mainlanders urinating and defecating everywhere during my travels, this things seems to apply to mainlanders in Hong Kong.

    You are painting incredibily rosy picture of the mainland and very naive. You are becoming a panda hugger. You don't see the Cultural Revolution theme coming back to Hong Kong and heavy press and speech restrictions in the mainland.