THESIS STATEMENT: Being a culture rich in diversity, the Cantonese cultural and traditional practices are built around and attributed to a lot of unspoken customs that most foreigners ought to be mindful about.
Growing up, the struggle to hail a taxi on the busy streets or getting a comfy chauffeured ride across town did not merit any great concerns as struggling to find space in a packed subway car or bus. As a Hong Kong native, I have continually learned to hold this tradition as a cultural norm that is followed by every other Hong Kong resident. Being almost the most common means of transport in Hong Kong, the mass transit railway is treated as one of the major culture brewing places where anyone can learn the most basic Cantonese cultural norms. Being a culture rich in diversity, the Cantonese cultural and traditional practices are built around and attributed to a lot of unspoken customs that most foreigners ought to be mindful about.
Firstly, growing up in Hong Kong has greatly taught me on the essence of personal space right from a very early stage of life. For instance, when caught in a packed bus or train, unlike other places like the United States, in Hong Kong people are accustomed to claiming their own spaces regardless of their age or status. The common trend by the western people; to act in a casual way in tight space scenarios does not merit a lot of concern in Hong Kong. Owing to the fact that Hong Kong is an overly populated but small town, claiming ones spot especially in a crowded place is almost mandatory but always goes unspoken. Well, renowned example scenarios that are common among my fellow Hong Kongers is claiming a seat on a bus even when there is a pushy elderly person behind you and arguing the same position. The fact that you got to the position before the old or expectant mother guarantees you the right to sit (Hung).
Having been born and raised in Hong Kong, my friends and I began catching the train to school as early as in junior high school. Being poked with peoples elbows or being squeezed against another person became almost a tradition for most of us. Though unknowingly, the society around us made us believe that gently pushing your way through crowded places is an unspoken culture in Hong Kong. This is a norm that is highly endorsed by many Hong Kongers as a means of communication and a less aggressive mode of survival for everybody. Nevertheless, as this is usually an unspoken custom, you occasionally find that this would be somewhat offensive to a foreigner.
Additionally, being a city whose population is a little bit higher than usual, growing up, I almost found it offensive to have people pushing you from one corner to another simply because you werent strong enough to push back; and about their usual hustle and bustles. Eventually, I learned to appreciate the fact we are all in this together. The many instances where you were poked with elbows and caught between crowded people eventually became almost a really cool thing to do. Moreover, for any foreigners, especially people from America this may seem offensive and annoying (eDeplomat). On the other hand, for other Hong Kong residents and I, the experiences gradually teach you to be more friendly and forgiving to other fellow Hong Kongers.
Despite being brought up in this Every man for himself kind of culture, being a Hong Konger comes along with various etiquettes and unspoken calls for respect. As a little boy, I learned how to greet people with respect ensuring that every handshake was as light as expected. It is a Hong Kong culture to greet people with a very light handshake and ensuring that you observe the culture of lowering your eyes as a sign of respect. Unlike in the western culture where people shake hands and initiate a conversation almost instantaneously, in Hong Kong, we are expected to lower the eyes after a handshake while awaiting introduction (Yan).
Moreover, as a child in Hong Kong, I was expected to observe the culture to stand close to the elder when being addressed. Additionally, when the person speaking to you is in authority, it is expected of you to stand really in a proximity with the person addressing you and therefore it is easy for foreigners to experience some sort of culture shock. In high school, students who were American natives often experienced some Hong Kong culture shock, before they could realize that friendly greetings were entirely different with small talks. Additionally, my family instilled in me that it was important to show all sorts of respect for people older than I was.
There are major conflicts between the Hong Kong Culture and several other traditions in the Middle East when it comes to having a normal social life. The fact that various cultural norms and traditions are unspoken, we are all expected to follow different norms despite being a visitor. Unlike in America, in Hong Kong, people are likely to judge you and possibly give you a mean stare if you shouted a greeting to a person across the road on the metro. Striking up conversations with strangers is always seen as unusual in our culture. It almost goes without saying that a cashier in a supermarket in Hong Kong will not strike any kind of conversation with you since he or she is accustomed to that. Many at times, visitors find it mean and unwelcoming and possibly get offended. Several of years back, a friend of mine who was an African native accompanied me to a restaurant in Hong Kong for lunch. Soon after finishing up our lunch, my friend was offended since the waiters, and the cashiers did not show some gratitude or at least say Thank you after paying off. For us natives, this is obvious, and it goes without saying.
In conclusion, you will realize that the Hong Kong culture and tradition is a rather sophisticated but at the same time an easier one to blend in. Regardless of the fact that people feel obligated to follow and live according to the unspoken cultural norms and traditions, I find it easy for visitors to blend in our culture. For instance, for foreigners, it is always safe to avoid obstructive, rowdy behavior in public. Showing too much affection in public is not very acceptable in the Hong Kong tradition, and therefore, people around expect every other person to observe the unwritten rules. Family and friends too are an essential part of ones society.
Hung, Louise. "I've Learned About Life in Hong Kong from Riding the Subway." Matador Network. N.p., 15 Nov. 2015. Web. 25 Aug. 2016.
Yan, Cathy. "Cultural Customs to Follow in Hong Kong Hong Kong WSJ.com." N.p., 24 Aug. 2016. Web. 25 Aug. 2016.
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