- Katherine Qiao
Description: A reflection on my 2017 study abroad trip to Hong Kong. Excerpt:
I’m Canadian-born Asian. My blood is 100% of Chinese heritage. I have an “Asian face”, a skin tone not quite so peach-colored. But I’m not Asian, not in the same way, that is, that my grandpa, cousins, and parents are. My parents immigrated from Shanghai before I was born, and I grew up mostly in the US. Raised in a Chinese household, but living in American culture the minute I step outside, I’m half-immersed between cultures. I eat Chinese cuisine, but have only a distant awareness of the dishes’ cultural history (if I even remember their names). I learned Mandarin, English, and Shanghainese, Shanghai’s local dialect, but English is still my first language, Chinese skills trailing behind. I have only a vacationer’s memory of the Shanghai city bustle, not enough to call it home.
From a bird’s eye view, the streets of my hometown in Michigan, are almost vacant of people. Trains of cars and trucks snake down roads amongst uniform, rectangular sectors of buildings and plazas. UM’s Ann Arbor campus paths are similar, although with more backpacks traveling in pairs of two and three, and winding, haphazard roads instead of uniform. The number of pedestrians slightly overwhelm that of vehicles, and so few hold guilt for jaywalking. The drivers just learn to deal with stopping every so often for a cheeky college kid to scamper across.
In comparison, coming to Hong Kong for my summer internship was arriving to a zoo of utter chaos.
It was madness, the sheer number of people that shoved past me, as if they were in a frantic race for their lives, just to swipe their Octopus cards through the metro station scanners first. All to save a mere seven seconds of time. This time-stingy logic is the same for elevators and the like; on Day 2 of my internship, my supervisor scolded me (playfully) for not acting like a true Hong Kong local since I patiently waited for everyone else to get off first. I wasn’t used to this “lack” of politeness. Instead of loading up on pleasantries like America does, Hong Kong’s culture prioritizes on efficiency and minding your own business.