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Kung Hei Fat Choy!

I've been a little sick the last couple of days, which meant I couldn't do anything to celebrate Chinese New Year! It's been almost exactly one year since Tim and I left Hong Kong, and technically this is our second Chinese New Year to miss out on. I'll be honest and say that even though I lived in Hong Kong (and ergo, China) I did very little to actually celebrate.

Well, that's not true. I generally celebrated by going to a bar and getting drunk, but that's not really a special cultural experience so let's ignore that, shall we? To be completely honest, Chinese New Year to me was a chance to get time off work and get red envelopes full of money given to me by parents and people I worked for. All in all, a very good holiday. A+, Chinese New Year.

But I guess now that I don't have the opportunity to celebrate, I miss it. Go figure. So allow me one post to lament what I miss about Hong Kong, will you? I'll pretend it's because I want to celebrate the year of the dragon.

Dragon Boat Head in Mui Wo, Lantau
What I Miss About Hong Kong....

Genki Sushi: No joke. The loss of this sushi chain gets mentioned by Tim or myself at least once a week. They had a conveyer belt of fresh sushi and you just picked out what you wanted. I always got edamame, tuna nigiri and cucumber rolls.

Genki Sushi : Source

 Public Transportation: I think I'm getting into the swing of this driving everywhere thing, but I really miss the incredible public transport in Hong Kong. In order to get to work at one point, I took a bus, a ferry boat, walked 10 minutes and then took the subway - all in under an hour. The area I lived didn't even allow cars - which yes, made golf carts worth over $125,000 US!

Family and Friends: Ok, now I feel guilty that this isn't at the top of the list, but if any of you are reading this - you beat Genki, I promise! Of course I miss seeing family members each week and friends all the time.

My little brother Robert and I on the Peak in HK


The Beach: Again, I have to admit that I didn't actually go to the beach all that much, but I walked past it every day. Where my parents live (and Tim's mom) as well as where I lived for most of my time in Hong Kong is a place called Discovery Bay, and it is truly gorgeous:


Source

And just to balance it all out so none of you jump the next plane to paradise, here's what I won't miss:

Class System: Now, I'm not foolish enough to believe that there is no class system in America. But in Hong Kong it is very obvious and at times, I honestly felt "western guilt". Many of the Filipino and Indonesian "domestic helpers" are treated worst, making lower than minimum wage and sending most of it home to their families. Then there are huge segments of the Chinese population with low incomes, although many have incredibly high ones as well. There are also plenty of Billionaires from around the world. But Westerners? You find me one that is broke in Hong Kong. People who live there for a long time almost seem to accept these classifications as fact, and I hated that.

Pollution: An hour from mainland China, so when the wind blows the wrong way, the city is polluted heavily and it is really disgusting. Every day when you check the weather in Hong Kong, you check the air quality level too to see if hiking outside is even a possibility. Tim has asthma and that just made it worse for him.

Source

Unfriendliness: No, not everyone who live in Hong Kong is unfriendly. Far from it. But being such a huge, densely populated city makes it hard to be friendly unless you are directly introduced to someone.

So there you go. In case you were thinking about moving to Hong Kong, this should help. (You're so welcome, random reader who searched for this on Google! Every one else, thanks for humoring me.)

I'm thinking that since it's still Chinese New Year all week I'll have to buckle down and make some traditional foods that Tim and I enjoy - maybe some dimsum or char sui fan (barbecued pork and rice)!

Do you have any favorite Chinese foods? Anyone love going for dim sum?
Even though I lived in Hong Kong, I'll be the first to admit my knowledge is limited when it comes to Chinese food. I often stuck with the same few items. I do love dim sum though, and would do crazy picking out everything!

Warning: serious question. Do you think there is a noticeable class system where you live, or anywhere you have visited? How does it affect you? 
I hope this doesn't come off as incredibly privileged, but I want to address it. Almost everywhere that I have lived in my life, I (or really, my family) has been in the "upper social strata" I guess you could say. This is most noticeable when living in places like South Africa and of course Hong Kong. It has always bothered me that the other people with similar incomes/standings in these places are, well...white. I think the race issue is so much MORE noticeable away from the Westernized world. Thoughts?

Comments

  1. I love Chinese new year. When I was living closer to my kung fu school, I did the lion dance at lots of places around the D.C. and would have to stuff all of those red envelopes down my shirt. Haha, like a stripper, but sweatier I assume.

    We have a class system here. There are people who work on the base (the rocket scientist type) and the indigenous population (hicks). There is a huge education and financial gap between the two.

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    Replies
    1. I think it's really fun that you mark it. I have, honestly, never paid it any attention.

      I agree on your observations and in fact, learned about this in college when studying Latin America. Plain and simple, in all cultures, the living standard/class ranking goes up with the lightness of skin. Totally wrong, but reality.

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    2. Have you ever been to a pole dancing class? Stripping is hard work. I think they might get equally as sweaty.

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  2. A sushi conveyer belt sounds amazing.

    I definitely think there is an entrenched class system in America we just pretend that it doesn't exist and that everyone can pull themselves up by the bootstraps because this is a land of opportunity and plenty.

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  3. I actually really enjoyed this post. I'm trying to remember if you posted why your and Tim's families lived in Hong Kong.

    I love Chinese food, but, unfortunately, a lot (other than sushi) has a lot of sodium in it, so I can't really have it very often.

    There's definitely a class system here. I live in a really wealthy town in CT, so there's a huge income gap. There are the $10 Million vacation homes on the water and then five miles north, the "normal" homes.

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  4. I would love to visit a sushi place with that conveyor belt system. We've seen it on those shops on the travel channel and PBS travel shows. Amazing.

    My fear of ever traveling to Asia is my Celiac---how does one live/dine in an area with soy sauce and gluten in so many things? Never mind that soy and peanut oil don't sit right with the hubs and me.

    Class systems, I think every american city has this. . you have the poor man's neighborhood and you have the poor poor man's neighborhood and then you have the houses where you wonder how anyone can afford to even live there. Dh and I chose to live in the working man's neighbhorhood in our town. It's historically looked down upon. In exchange, we bought a house that's just the right size for the two of us, has a HUGE yard and good neighbors, a place where we see people out at night, kids still play in the streets and a place that is still looked down upon by the city for being "on the wrong side of the tracks". Nevermind that we have business owners who live in our neighborhood, who live there because they're like Warren Buffet "it's paid for, why move?".

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    1. I used to have a friend in HK who had Celiac Disease and it was certainly tough, especially to avoid soy sauce. It is hard to eat in ethnic restaurants and know exactly what you are getting, so that would be a challenge! Even rice wrappers and noodles often contain a little bit of wheat as well.

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  5. My favorite chinese food is crab rangoon but not very health friendly though I have found a recipe or a few that calls for baking instead of frying so I hope to try them out soon.

    eh class systems. Until I went to my daughters school for a presentation I didn't realize um well how low class people could be. Now there is a difference between being just low class and not having money. They don't go hand and hand which a lot of people seem to think. eh. I like that I have nice neighbors, we are all middle class so no significant class distinction in our area but if I tell people where I live I get a huh? and then remind them it's near a prison and the eyes roll and it's different to talk to me. eh.

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  6. I think that there is a little bit of a class difference based on which school you go to, which city you live in, how you dress, what you drive etc in our area but it isn't that big of a deal. I tend to judge people more on how they act than anything. I really dislike bums and lazy people.

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  7. Thank you for the post. I enjoyed hearing about your favorite things about Hong Kong. It must have been tough to move so far away from your family and your friends.

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  8. I completely agree with your comments on social class and how in many other areas of the world they're white. It sucks that that is still even the case ....for the majority anyway.

    I don't notice too much class separation here. Most people are white too, so that's usually annoying.

    I am always rooting for the underdog. There are lots of families and people that are homeless in Toronto, I think we should do more to help them. I always think about the lesser folks when it gets cold out. I want to start a coat charity that gives Canada goose jackets to every homeless person in a cold climate - ok sorry, I'll stop ranting.

    I loved your take on Hong Kong. Sounds like most largely populated areas. That Bay is Gorgeous!!!

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  9. I haven't had Chinese in forever!! I love your recap, seriously - some of the things we hear about China on a regular basis fit into the second category (what you DONT miss), but there are beautiful parts and traditions that should not be forgotten.

    Is dim sum hard to make? If I were to go out and order some here in Boston, what kind would you recommend (I have heard horror stories of "westerners" not knowing what they are ordering and really getting a surprise!)

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    Replies
    1. To be honest, I know very little about MAKING Dim Sum - only eating it! This guide is great to help you know what you're eating: http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/dining/dim-sum-guide.html

      My absolute favorites are har gau (steamed shrimp dumplings), cha siu bao (barbecue porn buns) and siu mai (open faced dumplings with shrimp and/or pork). The only think that I think would be really scary is the chicken feet. No thank you!

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  10. Ohhhhhh how I love your list and that Genki Sushi is first on your list!!!! Of course family is #1, but wowzers, I am already missing my Genki!!

    I mentioned you in my post today!! I hope you stop by and join in on the fun:)

    http://www.jennsadventures.com/2012/01/11-random-things.html

    xoox's

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  11. I didn't know you lived in Hong Kong and your families too. How long were you all there?

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  12. I loved China. Granted I only spent 17 days there, with 3 of them in Hong Kong. I have a wonky stomach so I ate a lot of Pringles and bottled water while I was there. So sad...

    We were there to adopt our daughter so we were taken only to nice places and treated very well though it was clear that there was a huge disparity between classes.

    I have lived places with not only huge financial divides, but racial ones as well. Not fun. Very thankfully we now live in a small but diverse community where, for the most part, race and money aren't issues.

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  13. We just moved to Hawaii (per military orders) and they have Genki Sushi! It's embarrassing how much my husband and I have gone since we arrived here.

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    Replies
    1. I'm so very jealous! When I lived in Hawaii I had never tried Genki Sushi but now I regret all the years I lived there and never ate it!

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  14. Very interesting post! It's fun to see what other cultures are like. :)

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  15. So incredibly interesting. I love, love, love learning about different cultures and find it so intriguing. I live in a little bubble here in ut.

    About class systems my work is one of the worst. Not necessarily class systems but titals and heirarchy crap. I hate it. People are people....it doesn't matter if your a Doctor or a housekeeper. We are all the dang same. Sorry for the rant just something that really irritates the crapola out of me.

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  16. Great post! You need to tell us why your families live there and why you and Tim decided to move here! And is it for good or temporary?

    My favorite food is sushi!

    And I do think there is a fairly obvious class system here and I think there is a classification of race that overlaps it. It's really unfortunate, in my opinion.

    Hope you are feeling better!

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  17. Fun post! Sounds amazing to have the chance to live in Hong Kong. When I hear others talking about the places they've been and how different it is, I am just reminded of how big our world really is.

    My favorite Chinese food is Honey Walnut Shrimp. OH MY GOSH! Delicious. I also like any and every noddle dish.

    I live in Southern California and to some people there is a class system. To me there is a definite one. It makes anyone feel lower class when you have Hollywood and Beverly Hills right around the corner.

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  18. interesting points about the class system. i do think it is somewhat noticeable in society but the whole set-up i have noticed from working in a prison is totally interesting to me. there is definitely "ranks" in the prison ranging from the inmates to the warden and it causes a ton of tension...mostly amongst staff!

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  19. MMMMHMMM. I moved to Louisiana - specifically, New Orleans - about a decade ago and we have two class systems! In Louisiana in general, there is a sharp racism that is almost the norm - much as people deny it. In New Orleans it gets even more complex, once you throw in Krewes and Old Money and People Who Live on St Charles Ave. Every time I open the newspaper and read about the debutantes who are coming out that season I get weirded out.

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  20. Fun post... I hadn't realized the air pollution was so bad.

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  21. I am so jealous that you lived in Hong Kong! Its on my bucket list of places to go. Did you grow up there? LOVE! I honestly haven't noticed a class system here. Maybe its cause I am just not paying attention either? Or maybe its different being in the military? No idea!

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  22. I can't get the picture of a conveyer belt restaurant. Wait - check this out . . . America is the land of the fatties (I'm one so I can use that word) - imagine a conveyer belt restaurant with American food . . . . oh yeah, we could be rich!!!!!

    Nexst, I too used to live by the beach but rarely went - but miss it incredibly- more because I passed it everyday! The beauty you see when you drive past is missing in my current life.

    I love lo mein - like I love love love it! I seriously love it!

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  23. I've never lived outside of Utah, so my "cultural experience" is limited (understatement of the century). Right now we live in a rural town with approximately 10 black people (maybe less), the majority is whites, but there are several latino families. Most of the "upper class" is made up of white people and I don't know of any latino families that would be considered to be in that category. More than anything, I notice the social stigma with the latinos and people are annoyed at them for literally NO REASON. It's frustrating. We're all just working hard to get by and provide for our families- why don't people see that? Let's help each other along, you know?

    That is so neat that you lived there. I would love to hear more about it. Why is your family there? How did you meet Tim there? Why was his family there? It sounds like your family traveled a lot with jobs- was it for government? Church?

    Wow- now I really AM sounding like a stalker. I just think it's interesting. coming from a person that has never moved out of state, I find it fascinating that you lived on another CONTINENT.

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  24. thank u for this post! well, not just because the Chinese new year rocks!! (my dad's half chinese...hehe) but also for bringing up such an important issue as classes and people that feel entitled to treat others poorly. it's interesting to hear about how it was in other parts of the world, and here i think it is present but worse/better depending where u go. i think everyone should work in customer service at one point in their life because u'd be stunned at how horrible people can treat u when they think u are 'nobodies' or just there to serve them...it's a little reminder that when roles are reversed to be kind!

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  25. wow, very informative...especially for someone like me, who has only lived in Texas, MY ENTIRE LIFE.
    I do, however, LOVE ME SOME SUSHI!!!!

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  26. you are possibly the only person in my life that would appreciate this article, so here it is: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/usa/china/2012-01/23/content_14490669.htm

    my favorite part:
    "Hu arrived at the old style Qianmen shopping street, south of the Tiananmen Square, waving hands to the passersby, who were surprised by Hu's appearance and then responded with jubilancy."

    that is the kind of response i want on the streets all the time: confusion, and then jubilancy.

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  27. Very cool that you lived in Hong Kong! I am Chinese and my father's side of the family is from Hong Kong. Many of them left when Hong Kong went back to China and haven't been back ever since. My dad still speaks wistfully about his homeland and all of the good food, and he enjoys telling people that the literal translation of Hong Kong means "fragrant harbor."

    I totally hear you on the class system, though. Whenever I visited, it was hard for me to adapt to the fact that having "servants" is actually a very common practice out there. In short, it is one of many, many cultural differences that are even more acutely prevalent for me as a Chinese-American!

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  28. I miss Genki Sushi and all its equivalents! We have such chain sushi places in Singapore and it is cheap, good, fast, and delicious!!

    I enjoy this post a lot, especially you talking about the class system. I do agree with you :) Anyway, like the way you approached the topic and I thought it was honest, but sensitive. Good job again!

    I haven't celebrated Chinese New Year in 10 or 11 years. I was going to make steam boat/hot pot but the boyfriend is working so hard and round the clock with barely enough time to eat a sandwich, let alone a sit-down meal. So, we didn't do much celebrating. I ate a can of longans though. You know, since it is the year of the dragon, I ate some "dragon eyes."

    P.S.: You are tagged in my latest post.

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  29. My husband would be so jealous of you! He loves Asia and wants to travel there someday. And we LOVE dim sum. So good. I want to learn how to make it at home.

    Also, I tagged you for 11 Random Things :)

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  30. aw. this post makes me miss hk. I am hoping to go back there this summer! I remember the beach but remembered not going in? .... weird. haha

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  31. It's so cool that you've had the opportunity to live in all those places. I can identify with being homesick!

    The class system here disgusts me, particularly in education. I teach at what is considered a "bad" or "poor" school, and it's 99% black (literally I think we have 4 or 5 white students) and the "good" schools that get all the resources and high test scores are the opposite. People who think schools have been desegregated need to check out a few in Baltimore (and other cities, I assume).

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  32. a conveyer belt with sushi?!?! OMG! That sounds like the most wonderful thing!!! :)

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  33. I have a genki sushi by my house! I LOVE it!! $16 for all you can eat!
    Its so neat to hear how many places youve lived. Happy Chinese new yeR

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  34. Sorry you didn't get to celebrate the holiday as you would have liked. I really appreciate this post. I love travel, and learning about different cultures is so interesting to me. It's pitiful how little I know about China!

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  35. I hate that you guys aren't in Hong Kong celebrating with your family. I honestly don't know that much about Chinese New Year or Hong Kong so I learned a lot from this post!

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  36. I worked for an Asian financial research center for years (in the US), but have never actually been there. (It's on my life list of travel...) I really enjoyed reading this post!

    Fav Chinese food: Moon cakes! (but that's a holiday treat). Every day favorite: the turnip cakes served at dim sum.

    Happy Year of the Dragon!

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