90°F 90% humidity = unbearable feeling of constantly living in a sauna or breathing through a rag. A short walk to the nearest MTR subway station gives me the pleasant feeling of bathing in my own perspiration.
The Cultural Desert
Journalist Keyes Beech, who was a foreign correspondent in Asia for five decades and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1951 for his reporting on the Korean War, wrote in “Not Without the Americans,”
For creature comforts, Hong Kong is unsurpassed, but Hong Kong is culturally barren. Living there is something like living inside a cash register.
To be fair, HK is a young city with less than 200 years of history, and we should be careful in how we define “culture,” whether it be of the high-brow, elitist, avant-garde or the low, vulgar, and proletarian. But the fact remains that many expats do not seek or expect much from the Big Lychee beyond cuisine and material goods. In 1996, a survey of tourists by the Hong Kong Tourism Board suggested many tourists thought there was a dearth of cultural opportunities in HK. Even Chinese mainlanders, whose traditional culture has been decimated in the last hundred years, regard their southern, upstart cousins with cultural disdain.
Hong Kong is painfully aware of this perception (it may be just that – perception), and the government and people have taken steps to remedy the situation. Attitudes toward historical preservation are shifting towards renovating old buildings instead of flat out demolition, and preliminary plans have been made for a West Kowloon Cultural District.
The Language Barrier
There’s plenty of expats to talk to, but I’m unable to communicate on any meaningful level with the vast majority of the population, from the hotel staff who tidy my room everyday to the Henan lady at the Stanley Street cha chaan teng.