Outside looking in

lea sicat reyesZEPHYR

Certainly, no culture is perfect.  However, we can learn a thing or two when we distance ourselves from what’s familiar, when we find ourselves outside looking in.  This is one of the reasons why I love traveling.  It puts things in perspective.

Just last week, I had the opportunity to travel with my fellow teachers to Hong Kong.  I was a little wary at first.  We had an unfortunate experience the first time we visited so I wasn’t too excited to go back.  Boy was I proven wrong.  The second time was undoubtedly the proverbial charm.

Again, I have to reiterate, no culture is perfect.  There are things that we are positively known for and there are certain areas that we can improve on.  For this article, I would like to share some positive insights and observations that we can learn from the people of Hong Kong.

Do not tarry.  If there is one thing that they get annoyed about, it is being slow.  Everyone is on the go.  You have to be ready with what to order.  Once you’re done eating, clean up after yourself and move along.  This way, you a. don’t become a cause of delay; and b. you can continue on with other tasks lined up for the day.

Be responsible.  I appreciated how they maintained cleanliness without being told.  I didn’t see anyone throw trash around or spit anywhere.  Even their public toilets are in pristine condition.  To think, no one is waiting by the door collecting a cleaning fee.

Be patient.  Another thing that fascinated me was that people were willing to wait in long lines for food, to use the public toilet, and so on.  In due time, it will be their turn so they are patient enough to wait.  No one cuts in line.  If someone does make the mistake of inserting or muscling his or her way to get ahead, there will be hell to pay.

Say what you need to say.  This took a little adjustment especially since our own culture is fond of euphemisms.  We’re so personal, too personal, that being frank or being confrontational is frowned upon.  Making libak (backbiting), however, is a common practice among Filipinos.  Since we can’t tell it to the person’s face, we would rather stab him or her in the back.  Not in Hong Kong.  If they get annoyed or mad, they will not be shy to let you know.  Such brutal honesty, in a way, is refreshing.  The funny thing is after a supposed altercation based on Filipino standards, they can switch to hospitable mode just like that.  Walang personalan, I guess, is their thing.

Be practical.  Everything seems to be practical out there.  Their processes are not redundant.  The way they arrange things on a micro level (e.g. hotel room) and macro (e.g. Hong Kong International Airport) reflects their sheer pragmatism.  Being efficient seems to be a shared motto and I definitely appreciated that as well.

Work.  I saw first-hand how they valued work.  In the area that I was in, no one sat in street corners sitting idly by.  Everyone was going somewhere.  The fast food joint where we had our breakfast employed senior citizens and persons with disabilities.  The value they place in independence, in earning their own keep is truly admirable.

While I remain blessed to be a Filipino, we can surely learn a thing or two from our brothers and sisters in Hong Kong.  If we want to experience long-lasting positive change in our country at least in our lifetime, the change has to start with us.