I am an Australian expatriate living in Hong Kong. I am not sure what image that conjures up in your mind. Am I a travelling hedonist in a state of arrested development? Am I a social misfit who has travelled to Asia and found himself suddenly imbued with hitherto undiscovered levels of charm and charisma? Am I a greedy businessman, living in a gated community, designing my next yacht and planning an early retirement?
I am, in fact, none of these things. I am simply someone who knows better than you about your own country.
Australia is a great country in its own cute little way, but if we are to successfully transition into the Asian Century, there are quite a few lessons we could learn from our oriental neighbours.
Eight is an auspicious number for the Chinese, so I have prepared for you a lucky list of eight things that Australia could learn from Hong Kong.
What good is wealth if nobody knows you have it? Hong Kong is home to the most billionaires per capita in the world, and there is no mistaking it. Ferraris, Porsches, Louis Vuitton bags and maids with poodles are all common here. It is abominable that some wealthy Australians choose to hide their money behind ironic second-hand clothes and knackered bicycles. By surrounding yourself with outrageously expensive products, people will immediately understand how good you are, so you won’t have to brag about your seven investment properties in conversation. It saves a lot of work in the long run.
The word, ‘Moreover’
The British have left their indelible footprint in Hong Kong, as was their wont. Post-colonial hangovers differ from country to country, but I am happy to report that such words as ‘moreover’, ‘furthermore’ and ‘seldom’ have never fallen out of popular usage. Moreover, it is not unusual to see elderly, affluent-looking gentlemen roaming the streets of the downtown Central business district donning a bow tie while smoking a pipe. Ask yourself, Australia: when was the last time you smoked a pipe? Furthermore, do you even own a bow tie? You really are a bunch of philistines.
I know that it is unAustralian to be happy with the state of public transport. But. Can you imagine how convenient it would be if trains came on time and people used them? It would be safer, cheaper and better for the environment. I know you probably enjoy being stuck in traffic, but think about how nice it would be to tweet on the way to work without endangering the lives of others for once. As a country, we would also be more educated because everyone would be reading free public transport newspapers every single day. Imagine a world where there is no chance of falling behind on your Lohannery or Kardashiism.
While Australia recently suffered some bad press due to an old-fashioned racist attack on a bus, it still lags behind when it comes to real, institutionalised racism. Consider the plight of domestic helpers in Hong Kong, who are flown in from The Philippines or Indonesia to work six days a week, often from 6 a.m. until midnight, for a family in Hong Kong. They are paid a minimum wage of $3,920 HKD (roughly $490 AUD) per month, which is far less than their Hong Kong counterparts. If fired, they have just two weeks to find a new job or be deported.
To be fair, many people here don’t think racism is a bad thing. In Hong Kong, ‘The Help’ can be seen as a cautionary tale of what happens when a country loses its direction and stands up to racism. What Australia needs is a couple of discriminatory laws, allowing the exploitation of our Pacific neighbours for our own convenience. Then, we could continue down the merry road of massive houses and dual-income families without the inconvenience of having to raise children or cook dinner.
In Hong Kong, kindergarten starts at the age of two and lasts for four years. By the time they finally reach primary school, students have a world-weary look, and by God, they can line up and take orders and recite facts. They are also encouraged, no, invited, to think creatively within a specific framework for the 5-day post-exam period each term. As a general rule, if your child does not have bags under their eyes by the age of four, you’re not doing it right. I say, get rid of the playgrounds and multiple intelligence wankery and get down to the business of brain stuffing from Day 1. It’s cramtastic.
A Focus on Food
The general rule is this: the cheaper and crappier it appears, the better the food will be. In the best restaurants, little attention is paid to aesthetics or customer service. Taste is king, and reputations are made on flavour alone. There are no cool hairstyles, no fancy menus and no people watching. It’s just bloody good food plonked in front of you on a plastic table, with toilet paper instead of napkins. Australia, your dim sum is ready.
I am specifically referring to space and words here. As one of the most densely populated countries (or Special Administrative Regions, as it were) in the world, Hongkongers are forced to cut superfluity from their lives mercilessly; this extends to their use of language. A “Good morning” will not be received with the same languid, banal friendliness that you sometimes find in Australia. In fact, communication is optional. In this way, Hongkongers are able to be far more efficient than their lumbering Australian counterparts. So, cut the chatter, Australia, and get to the point.
Note: conserving land, culture and historical buildings is optional.
Hatred of the Chinese
Admittedly, this could fall under the ‘Proper Racism’ category, but as 94% of Hongkongers (yes, that is the proper derivation – check it) are ethnically Chinese, it doesn’t quite count. There is a strong belief among many that Mainland Chinese are dirty, rude and uncultured, whereas Hongkongers (I’m telling you, it’s correct) are civil, diligent and clever. There is an overwhelming fear that the Chinese are taking over Hong Kong and this is, indeed, a terrible thing. The rest of the world, take note. Educate yourself to ensure that you hate the right type of Chinese.
So there you have it. If you would like to take the great leap forward into the Asian Century, there now exists an 8-step plan to do so.
Moreover, the change begins with you.