Delicate Learning

One of the hardest things about living in a new culture is trying to wrap my brain around the new culture without building stereotypes about it at the same time. When I have more than a few encounters at the bank that show (warning: American entitlement ahead) stunningly low levels of customer service, or interest in problem solving on my behalf (as the paying customer!), I start to think things like, “Hong Kong has terrible customer service and doesn’t know how to problem solve. Americans would get this taken care of by now!”

Well, that’s obviously ridiculous, white girl. But it’s also true that my version of good customer service in Hong Kong is not a high priority, and that there is a difference in a social norm between what I think is acceptable and the culture here. SO TRICKY. Because what I’m trying to do is learn more about the world and not be more narrow, even though the discrepancies in my expectations and the reality I’m in are e-nor-mous.

Gender roles have been an especially hot spot for me here in Hong Kong, per usual. When the official government visa paperwork lists single women as “spinsters” I know this concern has not been fabricated in my liberal west coast head. That’s why this little film has me so inspired. It doesn’t matter what country I live in, or what culture I can relate to best, when women are valued based on their relationships to men…it’s a big ass problem. No matter what. And there are people working to change the wrongs of the world to RIGHTS across every culture. I can totally wrap my brain around that kind of hope.


3 thoughts on “Delicate Learning

  1. Tiffany

    Where do I begin??? At first, I only read your words -and even with those, I had a hard time deciding where to start and what to write. How to respond? *** and then I watched the video clip and I’m seething and crying and raging. And something softer. Something with sympathy for how difficult change is – especially when we’re talking about change that is hundreds of years deep, buried in the hearts and minds and bound by contexts that we cannot quite fathom. Thank God for all the work that has been done for us American women who live in our 30’s today. Yes, much – SO MUCH – has been done to pave the way for us… and there is still much to do for even us. But women everywhere — there is so much work to be done. And it is not. ever. easy.

    as for the customer service and (sometimes separately) the banks here – aya!!! could it be any more difficult?? And those lines are not black/white either, are they? BC while you get 20 “no’s” before you ever hear a yes… you also can get your groceries delivered to your doorstep same-day and free of charge. This place is kinda crazy, huh? And I feel we are so lucky to live here to gently pull back the layers that you’d never see with just a quick traveling visit.

    love your blog, babe. keep writing. lots.

  2. gretchen

    I wrestle with this all the time! the more time I spend here, I find myself attributing it less to culture and more with individuals (there are poor customer service people and misogynists everywhere? That being said, there are days where I get lazy and attribute it to a larger group…
    As for the banks, I’m constantly astounded that in a city that is known for its banking, I’ve never found banking so difficult! One of my favorite sayings I’ve heard about Hong Kong is “Jetsons on the outside, Flintstones on the inside” (for those of my generation who might know that reference!) Just discovered your blog, and can’t wait to read more!!!

    1. Holly

      I LOVE the Jetsons and Flintstones comparison. I wish someone had told me that before I moved here instead of gushing about glitzy it would all be! I was expecting Beverly Hills. đŸ™‚

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