Being home

Coming back home has been….difficult.

I’ve changed. My family has stayed the same.

I’ve seen and done new things. They’ve been doing…the same routine. Living the same life.

I’ve actually looked forward to, and at the same time, dreaded this moment. The moment when my diary entries of my London to Hong Kong journey’s ended; when I can no longer just copy out what I’ve scribbled in my journal; when I actually have to think of what to write again; when I am free to write in “real time”.

I’ve since accumulated many thoughts, many ideas, and have had them saved as drafts. I suppose it’s time to dig them out.

A lot has happened since I’ve returned home. I don’t even know where to start.

I spent the beginning of June adjusting back to living at home again, and compulsively making comparisons between Hong Kong and London.

In case you’re interested: Buses in Hong Kong are definitely better than those in London. Actually, public transportation is just generally much better here. Clean, efficient, and on time. No nonsense about some station shutting down due to lack of staff.

On the other hand, attitudes in customer service here definitely takes some getting used to.

It’s not bad actually. A lot of it is very good, but I find it very annoying for certain reasons.

You walk into a shop/restaurant here, and no matter what they are doing, it is highly likely that everyone of the salespersons will yell out a forcibly enthused WELCOME TO XXXX! In Japanese restaurants, they would yell out in Japanese.

As you are shown your seat, each waiter you walk pass will repeat the same rehearsed welcome. Some while looking at you, some while busily bent over wiping down a table, some while balancing armfuls of dishes between seats and tables.

If in a clothing store, they will tag behind you around the shop, standing close as you browse, offering unsolicited advice and answers to questions I didn’t ask. Alternative colours, quality of the fabric, price, or how good they think it is.

It puts me off and I usually end up hurrying out of the place, and of course, to a chorus of THANK YOU AND PLEASE COME AGAIN!

In Hong Kong, and Asia in general, I sense that the overall attitude is that salespersons and waiters and waitresses are there to serve us. As the word suggests, they are of a lower-tier. We expect constant attention and instant help. I might be wrong, correct me if you think otherwise.

I miss the relaxed and casual service you get in the UK, where shoppers and salespersons treat each other more like equals; they are people you can chat with and have an actual conversation with; they are like your peers; they could be your brother or sister, or a distant cousin – you treat them with respect and they treat you the same.

They let you do your own thing, while paying discreet attention from a non-intrusive distance. They offer (what seem like more) genuine smiles and more spontaneous, unrehearsed welcomes. “Hey ya, how’s it going?” A glance and a hi! and they go away.

It’s an attitude. It’s a culture. I miss that.


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