25 November 2009

I Heart NY - Part 2 我愛紐約-下卷

New York is not America. It is what America wants to be, minus the 45.5% income tax rate and the 15% gratuity at restaurants.



In much the same way, Hong Kong is not China but what China should be, minus the air pollution and corporatocracy. But Hong Kong and New York have a few more things in common. For starters, worker bees in both cities pay exorbitant rent to live in a tiny apartment with barred windows looking right into someone else’s home. Everyone takes public transport and many never bother to get a driver’s license. Single women lament the scarcity of eligible men and rush to tie the knot before they hit their sell-by date, while men cling to their bachelorhood like koalas to a eucalyptus tree. Above all, both cities take great pride in their gutsy, razor-sharp and sleep-deprived citizens who, in trying to improve their own lives every day, create a better tomorrow for everyone else...

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Read the rest of this article in HONG KONG State of Mind, published by Blacksmith Books, available at major bookstores in in Hong Kong, on Amazon and at Blacksmith Books.



22 comments:

  1. NEW YORK IS THE BEST!!! compared to Hong Kong wanna be! You really cannot compare HK with NYC...

    R.C.

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  2. Really nice article
    Having been to both the cities, I can relate to what you have to say.
    The exterior materialness of HK is so clearly evident as people first see you watch before your face.

    Amit
    blog2glory.blogspot.com

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  3. That's an interesting observation indeed! There have to be more Rolexes and Mercedeses per capita here than anywhere else in the world.

    Cheers,

    Jason

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  4. Hello Jason,

    Your article was posted around this busy holiday season, people are busy socialising. So the feedback comes in slowly, I guess. =)

    I think when we compare Hong Kong and New York as financial centres, then New York is unchallenged at the top in US and London in Europe while Hong Kong is trying very hard to maintain its position in Asia.

    However, Hong Kong also plays many different roles to New York. Hong Kong WAS the eastern Hollywood and had its significant influence to the Chinese or even Asian population on their movie and TV entertainment from the late 1960s to 1980s. For that, I think you should compare Hong Kong with Hollywood.

    I saw clips of a documentary last couple of days on TV, it was talking about how many people got swallow by L.A. while chasing their dreams to be actors or actresses.

    Have you notice nowadays, teens don't work in McDonalds, 7-11 or OK convienent stores anymore. Instead, we are greeted by middle age women who don't speak Cantonese well, who may be also struggling their daily lives to live in the city.

    I guess each day, many people go to New York also to look for their dreams. In Hong Kong, there were and still are a lot of mainland Chinese chasing their dreams here. I am not talking about those rich ones who can afford the luxuary apartments. I am referring to those ones who are struggling. That is the similarity of New York and Hong Kong. Both cities still portrait some kind of attraction to some people who think they can find fame and fortune in these cities EASILY.

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  5. Nice paralell comparison between HK and New York. Having lived in HK for more than 3 years now, I can understand how shallow HK society and people can be (as you mentioned... our successes are often measured by our rolexes, etc). I couldn't agree with you more. Seems like there is an inexplicit social pressure to wear a watch that is made in switzerland, or drive a nice imported European car. To me this is an early clear sign of an emerging market trying to "emerge" into a more stabile mature market. Perhaps give HK another 10 years to be less shallow and be more "mature" like NY.

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  6. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Phil.

    You made an interesting point: while talent from all over the world converge in New York, the best and the brightest from China do tend to come to Hong Kong. I often wonder why incredibly successful musicians like Lang Lang and Olympic athletes would bother getting Hong Kong residency under our government's poorly named "Quality Migrant" immigration program. But I suppose Hong Kong does have its appeal relative to the Mainland.

    Jason

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  7. I hope you are right, Anonymous, that our materialism is a matter of immaturity rather than an innate part of our identity.

    Jason

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  8. The "HK is not China and NY is not US" bit is very good. But I would like to see more comparison between New York and Hong Kong.

    Kelvin

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  9. I'd say, Hong Kong is what China SHOULD want to be.

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  10. I disagree. I don't think China wants to be like Hong Kong. Personally, HK is just a place for a person to work and focus on amassing wealth. This place has no culture. Most HK people has this ego that somehow they are better than the Chinese, and therefore, China wants to be like HK. This is dislusional on the HK people's part.

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  11. Hi Anonymous,

    I was hoping someone would make the comment you made!

    Indeed, I was careful with my choice of words. I said New York is what America WANTS to be, while Hong Kong is what China SHOULD be. The word "should" makes it a "normative" statement reflecting my personal opinion. And I based this
    opinion upon for instance that there is no freedom of expression in China and that the country is mired in corruption at every level of government.

    I did NOT, however, say that Hong Kong is what China WANTS to be -- which is what you think I wrote. Whether Chinese people want to be like Hong Kongers would have been a "positive" statement". That is, it would have been a statement of fact that can be either verified or refuted.

    I hope this responds to your point.

    Jason

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  12. Brilliant piece (as expected)!!! And awfully hilarious (I ran the risk of having people from all corners of the office (including my boss) running to check me out just now as I bursted out laughing over the initial lines).

    Another heart-felt piece. Shame to say that I've never been to NYC, and have never been a big fan of things American, but I... See More do admire the way the aftermath of 911 incident has been handled, and I respect the folks' ability in dealing with difficulties, past and present.

    Don't think life ever has been, nor ever will be, easy and uncomplicated for people in big cities. But it's our choice, and up to ourselves to fight for what we cherish and what gives us peace of mind, right? Speaking of which, dying to visit the bokshops (especially the second hand bookshops) in NYC and London.

    Christine

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  13. Thanks, Christine. I figured my female readers would appreciate the bit about gender dynamics in big cities.

    Jason

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  14. Jason - you have just proven my point. You mention your use of the word "SHOULD" reflects your own personal opinion - an opinion of a HK person. But why do you think HK is what China should want to be? I agree that in certain situtations (i.e freedom of speech), China should want to be like HK OR ANY OTHER major freedom countries in the world for that matter. Your statement just once again insinuates that somehow HK is a better place and China should want to be like them. I guess I have a problem with HK people's mindset that somehow HK is a place where countries should be modeled after while in fact HK has its own equal amount of social and political issues at hand(universal suffrage?). I appreciate your insight and it's been very interesting to see things from a HK person's point of view. Keep up the great column!

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  15. Hi Anonymous,

    I assume you are the same "Anonymous" as the one who left comment #10. It would be easier if readers could end their comment with their initials or just pick a random letter from the alphabet.

    First and foremost, thank you for reading and supporting my column.

    You are correct: I do believe that Hong Kong is a better place than any Chinese city, town or village. I will even go so far as to call China altogether "unlivable," simply because I cannot imagine living in a place where I can't Facebook or watch videos on You-Tube, or where I need to look over my shoulders whenever I utter the words "June 4" or "Falun Gong". Above all, I wouldn't be able to "keep up" with my column if I were to live there. I love China and all things Chinese, but I just can't stand the system.

    Hong Kong has its many flaws. In fact I devote my entire column pointing out those flaws. Many things I see on the evening news or hear on the streets sadden and often anger me. But it is still a livable place. So in those respects, Hong Kong is indeed "better than China". And I say that with neither hesitation nor reservation.

    Jason

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  16. Hi Jason,
    I liked you article on the comparison between the two cities, NY and HK. Those two cities are very much worshipers of late Captialism and have all the social ills that come along with that like class oppression, sexism, racism, and corruption. The women of both cites have a very low birthrate as well and tend to marry later or not at all. For me one big difference between the two cities is crime rates. HK comparibly is quite safe and NYC is a place you can get really jacked if you go down the wrong street. I always watch my back when I am in NY whereas I feel pretty safe in HK.
    New Yorkers have come to the politically correct credo that racism is not publically allowed whereas HKers have not qualms of saying the most racist things about Indians or Filipinos. How many times can my Indian students be called " Black Bean Sh*t" in cantonese to their face? I am horrified!
    Another difference is the diversity of the two towns. NYC has a "Chinatown" and HK has a "Caucasian- town" AKA Discovery Bay where different groups are marked because of race. In HK the abuse of Filipina domestic workers is breathtaking and those same nanny roles are performed by Latinas in NYC.
    thanks for your article- it made me think

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  17. Hi Jenny,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

    As you rightly pointed out, racism in Hong Kong, particularly toward South Asians, Mainlanders and above all migrant workers from the Philippines, is both overt and unchecked. I have written quite extensively over this issue. Check out my previous postings titled "Why Must All Our Mini-buses Be Yellow," "Laws of Nature" and "My Pet Peeves" and let me know what you think.

    Cheers,

    Jason

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  18. hi first time visit...
    good article..
    been to NY city few times..
    strongly agree with your views..
    esp the materialism in HK..

    however..i would strongly disagree with "Single women lament the scarcity of eligible men and rush to tie the knot before they hit their sell-by date"..
    haha...definitely i am not the one ^^

    Happy New Year!!!

    Polly

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  19. Thanks, Polly. The single women bit is actually quite true. All of my single female friends share that sentiment. You should consider yourself lucky!

    Happy new year!

    Jason

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  20. Enjoying your blog. It is interesting to read about HK/NY subjects from your “sort of an insider expat” point of view.

    HOWEVER, I have to totally disagreed with you on NY is what America wants to be ………You need to get out of the metro cities and enjoy what America has to offer. In the same token, China should never be what HK is either. Self originated from HK, I grew up and still live in the States. I enjoy visiting NY but would never want to live there for good. There are SO much more to America AND China beside concrete! Put on a backpack, get some real hiking shoes then explore your COUNTRIES. Blog next time from a mountain top rather than a café.

    Al

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  21. Jason,

    I love your comparison of HK and NY. I've grown up in both places and even though HK has a few advantages over NY(like good transportation, cleaniness and efficiency) NY will always trump HK cause its people have the confidence. Hong Kong people like a lot of Asian cultures admire and look up to the west whether we need to or not. We don't have the confidence to do our own thing and we'll always be lagging behind in that regard. Hong Kong people work SO much and ask for so little in return, partly because we don't know better and partly because we don't have the confidence to ask for more.

    WC

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  22. Thanks, WC. I am glad to hear from someone who has first-hand experience living in both cities!

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