Tuesday, January 6, 2009

How do you say FRUSTRATING in Cantonese?

I know I tend to be very "happy happy joy joy" on this blog, but it's not all roses and rainbows over here. We encounter the usual annoyances that come with living in a foreign land. Here are a few that really get me:

Walking Chaos -- Everyone in the US knows that you're supposed to walk on the right, passing left shoulders with those walking towards you. I remember learning this in the first grade when I was the door holder. (Someone else got the line leader position, dammit!) This is especially important in New York where the sidewalks are the city's highways and in order for traffic to move efficiently, people follow the system. Everyone except for the gawking tourists in Times Square, but that's for another blog entry...

Well, here in Hong Kong, which is smaller in size and larger in population, there is NO system. People walk on both sides, not looking up from their phones, about to bump into you if YOU (not them) don't get out of their way. Whenever I head into Central, I mentally prepare for a version of human bumper cars. At first I thought that maybe they walked like they drive -- on the left side. Nope. My only guess is that because HK is filled with people from all different places (those who walk and drive on the left, those who do it on the right), everyone does their own thing and chaos has ensued.

Credit Cards. What are Credit Cards? -- I'd estimate 25% of Hong Kong accepts credit cards. Of that, 5% accept American Express. Pause and ponder two things: how many places you use a credit card and what you would do if you couldn't use it in 3/4 of them. (Maria Garutti, you should consider transferring to HK; there's HUGE potential for new sales here!) I don't know what Hong Kong has against credit cards, but I do know what a pain in the ass it's been to only have an Amex card, which no one accepts. You have to have enough cash on hand for everything -- even doctor's appointments, which you don't know the final amount so just have to bring a huge wad of cash and hope it covers everything.

After a month of trying to get by on a useless credit card (sorry, Maria) I decided to get a Visa card. Today, I walk into my HSBC branch and ask to sign up for a card. The guy isn't sure which application, if any, to give me because I am not employed (there was another "occupation: housewife" incident). He finally settles on issuing Vin (a current Visa cardholder) a second card, which I can use. Fine, whatever, just give me the damn card. Then he says I need to get the application signed by Vin because -- direct quote here -- "you are under your husband's control." Now, I know there's a language barrier here and he clearly means no disrespect, but I'm tired of feeling like Vin's child who has to run and get his permission for anything. I used to be a self-sufficient person who had bills and phones, leases and 401Ks in her own name. What happened???

CON(fusion) -- The name of our grocery store is Fusion and one creative blogger (not me) dedicated an entire section on the local Disco Bay blog to it called CONfusion. This collective hate comes from many things I'm sure I've yet to experience first-hand, but one I have encountered is the random closing of the check-out lane. Here's how it works: You wait in a very long line to check out. You get closer and begin pulling the items out of your cart and putting them on the conveyor belt. After the person in front of you finishes paying and you've laid all your items on the belt, the check-out lady looks at you and says, "closed". She could've told you this when you were standing in line...or when you were putting your first item on the belt. But no, she didn't feel the need. So you have to take all your items off the belt, put them back in your cart and go get in another long line, all the while you're praying that it doesn't happen twice in one trip.

Those are the big ones...for now. I'm sure there will be a "How do you say FRUSTRATION in Mandarin?" posting soon enough.


  1. wow! i remember someone telling me that expat wives live on another planet.....now i see how "frustrating" their lives are....

    1. You apparently enjoy reading about our "frustrating" lives...