Is Hong Kong a land of arrogant people?


Ramon Tulfo must have had a nightmare experience when he was in Hong Kong. Even before reading his column at the Philippine Daily Inquirer entitled “HK people most arrogant in the world“, one could probably guess that all he saw in the city were unfriendly, disrespectful locals – whether a restaurant waiter, immigration official or street sweeper. Living in Hong Kong for the past nine years, I also experience rude locals once in a while. But I won’t go too far as to categorize Hong Kong people as the most arrogant people in the world, as Tulfo would describe them during his stay in the city.

Lack of Smile

If Thailand is the “land of smiles”, Hong Kong could be the “lack of smiles”. Such an attitude is so contagious that I sometimes tend to forget wearing a smile in the middle of a crowd. I experienced a big contrast when I visited Thailand and Singapore. I noticed that Thais and Singaporeans have higher tendency to greet and smile and I realized it exposed what I don’t see a lot among Hong Kong people. But can I equate lack of smile as sign of arrogance? Not sure about that.

Rude Awakening

During my second year in Hong Kong, I was walking around Mong Kok’s flea market on a fine afternoon. The crowd was relatively thin and most of them are tourists. While I couldn’t help but notice a glance at a stall evokes a persuasive litany of promotion by the storekeeper, my attempt to bargain for an item changed her attitude and her smile turned into smirk. Her response to my subsequent price enquiries became less accommodating and eventually I was asked to leave her shop premises. I understood, as she might have missed her daily sales quota or lost money through constant haggling by customers. But because I never experienced it elsewhere, it was the first time I realize that the (would be) customer is not always right.

I think Mr Tulfo’s commentary was in line with how the Philippine government responded to the Manila hostage crisis. He accused the government of kowtowing too much to the demands of China — one of them is the handing over of the inquiry report to Chinese government before the Filipino people. And from that stance, it appears that the Filipino pride was trampled upon needlessly by the “arrogance” of Hong Kong people, the victims of the hostage tragedy. Maybe there is miscommunication or misunderstanding that stems from difference in culture, government protocol or ways of doing things. Let’s not solve a problem with another problem. 

There are several things I hate about Hong Kong, but I won’t stereotype its people as arrogant. If many of us Filipinos are sensitive to whatever people say (see statements of Teri Hatcher, Alec Baldwin, Claire Danes, Chip Tsao, etc) should we be surprised now if Hong Kong people react angrily to a sweeping statement like this? What about asking ourselves? Are we sensitive enough to the grief of others or also display our own way of being arrogant?