The Chinese are utterly unromantic. Even in the westernized-globalised tip toe of Hong Kong, they don’t do romance.
A Chinese woman’s idea of being romanced is not having to cook for her husband one night because he gets home too late from work. The closest she’ll get to a massage is an MTR ride in rush hour. And long windswept walks are out of the question unless you like overpasses and shopping malls. So uninterested are they in romance, that the language doesn’t even have a word for it – they nicked one from the French.*
Now, forgive me for my outspokenness – after all, I’ve only lived here for a year – but I have a theory as to why: it’s because in Hong Kong, they don’t have an Autumn. At least, not visibly.
The masterful John Keats wrote:
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run.
It is enough to bring my cold unfeeling English heart to tears. The utter majesty of it all. The crisp leaves; trees shedding the warmth of summer; the lustrous golds and ochres and deep reds. Long shadows and dying light. The beginnings of log fires, maturing sun. Walking through London parks in late afternoons. The sense of time passing. Of death with the hope of new life.
The beautiful ungraspable melancholy of it all.
But in Hong Kong, everything looks the same. It’s just colder now. And damp.
Sure, some of the leaves have fallen from the trees, but they’re a sort of light, whimpering dirty yellow colour. They just look like they’ve given up on life. There is none of the deliberate beauty of Autumn in England. And there is no sense of time passing. There are just days of grey.
And thus, the lack of romance; the lack of a romantic disposition.
Because I think it’s Autumn that makes me romantic. It’s that melancholy and nostalgia. Those evening walks through long shadows in fields of leaves. Home in time for a cup of tea, building a fire, the smell of outside, curling up in arms and good books, red wine, misty fire crackling, occasional floating words, sleep. All to sleep.
This is my (very English) idea of romance. Maybe it’s culturally specific. But maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s in us all. But it’s Autumn that brings it out.
And maybe that’s the reason a Hong Konger’s idea of romance is a card from Clinton’s bought on the way home from work at the MTR.
*FYI, pedants: I know the English nicked it from the French too. But at least we adapted it and made it our own. The Chinese just say the same word with a Chinese accent.