A mini Weekend in Hong Kong!

Dear readers,

Here is a massive post about Hong Kong, when it comes to both pictures and text! Also, at the end of the post, I am discussing a racist advertisement I saw, which is made by MTR, the international and very well established company.

At the end of our CNY break, five of the exchange students decided to go to Hong Kong for a mini weekend, two days and one night, that is. We went on Friday and came home late Saturday. It was an exciting thing to do because for me, I knew that there were several places I wanted to visit when going there (it did not pan out as I had imagined though, hehe) and that Hong Kong differs a lot from Macau, which would make anyone curious I would think.

Here is the HK-gang! From the left: Colombe, Lamine, Izabella, Alexander, and Isabela. What a good group of people!

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We had decided to live in an Airbnb apartment because we thought it would be nice to see the inside of one of these massive buildings. Also, the price would be slightly cheaper than a stay at an okay hotel. When we were trying to find our way to the apartment, I managed to snap some pictures of our surroundings. I like how the buildings are a mix between old and new, concrete and plants, streets full of stores and some which had none.

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Finally, we found the place and this is what it looked like on the street outside. There were several stores who sold dried products from the sea, including shrimps, squids and fish. The smell was sometimes revolting and I was trying really hard not to make faces. I really do not want to be considered this privileged Westerner who cannot stand the simple smell of their snacks, or whatever it is used for. At least I can try to stay neutral even though I just want to run away from the smells that hit me on the street.

Speaking of smells, Hong Kong is a constant mix of sewage smell and nice smells. There was not many in between-s. When we were in the city the smell of garbage/sewage was hitting you in the face, and sometimes you would walk up a street which was more open, and the smell would almost smell like sweets.

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After we had left our bags at the apartment, we started walking around the city, trying to find stores we wanted to visit. These pictures are not in a certain order, because I cannot remember exactly when or were I took them. Just so you know!

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Look at this beautiful city! I loves how modern it was, but still had classic elements of the Chinese culture, baked within it all.

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In the right corner of this picture, you can see the city tram, which has two stories! I have never seen that before. We were such tourists when it passed us, and we all took pictures of it, haha. Then we see all the high buildings. This is how people live. In tiny apartments high up in the sky. It must be so difficult for people to cram up in these apartments, just to be able to live in the city. I am just speculating, but if you are not rich, than you have no choice?

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When we were walking down a road which was right next to the water that separates the island of Hong Kong, we took a lot of selfies (and locals were “secretly” taking pictures of us, but we saw them), here is one! Such a great company I was privileged to have. The man in the background who is sitting in the background was fishing with only a fishing line and some bait. He was a nice man to talk to!

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After that, we went to the statue of Bruce Lee! They had other statues of actors, but it seemed most people were interested in this gentleman’s statue than any others. What a privilege to see how Eastern culture is flourishing in the world, and not only what we in the West see as acceptable culture, or actors for that matter. Seeing that in this world, we have so many different places where people look up to different actors, characters and movies.

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I would like to dedicate this picture to my brothers. Hi!

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Being tourists in the metro, yep!

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We went to this place, i Square, which is in the right part of the picture. It was an enormous mall with several floors and a lot of stores. We were looking for stationery, haha.

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Here is a group selfie of us in the elevator inside of i Square. I love the facial expressions of everyone! Haha!

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We met these cute stone figures on our way to our next destination: Victoria Peak!

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This picture reminds me of my cat Max, haha. Sometimes he yawns when you take pictures of him and it looks a bit like this.

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When we were on our way up to the trams that would take us to the Peak, we caught this beautiful sunset!

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Such a beautiful place, I am so in love with Hong Kong.

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So, when we arrived to the tram which would bring us up to the peak, the line was hundreds of meters long. It would take us several hours before we would get a chance to get up there, and the sun was already on its way down. We were not so sure if this was something we wanted to do, although we had been really excited about it. The solution we took was a bit out of my comforts zone (in a good way) and led us to immediately be able to go up the mountain to the peak. We payed 300 HKD (in other words, an extremely overpaid taxi trip) that would take us up without any waiting. And so it did. We crammed up in the five-seat car (six people) and started praying that nothing bad would happen. Well, at least I did. After no more than ten minutes, we had reached our destination…. And this is what we saw. Basically nothing more than some nice sky but about everything had started becoming part of the great blackness provided by the mountain.

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After being extremely disappointed about this non-existing view and the great amount of money we spent, we were contemplating going down the mountain again. But then we decided to give it another shot and tried to see where we could walk around the Peak, in order to see if there is another overlook that we had missed. We walked around for a while and then found the golden doors which took us to this. There were so many people who were struggling to get closest to the wall for the best picture or selfie. We managed to fight people off and stand our grounds in order to take as many pictures as we could. Magnificent view and place. R, we are going here as well.

Here is a group selfie of three exchange students who pushed their way through to the wall in order to take this picture. It was almost impossible to get pictures without strangers in the background or next to you.

Our adventure continued the following day. After some lunch (with the most expensive water I have ever had…) we decided to go to the Ferris Wheel we had spotted the day before. It turned out to be a fun park and of course we felt that we had to explore it!

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When we had finally got on the Ferris Wheel, the view was pretty darn great. And the colors. Oh my. It reminded us a bit about “London Eye” because we sat in bean shaped bubbles which took us high up in the sky.

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Surrounding the fun park were these buildings. I love the mixture! To the left is the ocean, but I did not manage to include that view in the picture.

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Luckily, I was able to snap pictures the other way as well! This is the magnificent view that surrounded us. A quick ferry trip over the water, and you go to the other island (I am so bad with remembering what everything is called…) where we found great shopping malls and high end brands. A lot of them.

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Speaking of ferries, this is what it looks when we have gotten on one “to experience taking the ferry” instead of the MTR. It was great because the fun park and the ferry station were located right next to each other, which had us deciding on plans on the spot. I liked that.

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The ferry provided us with what Hong Kong does best, sky scrapes and breathtaking views wherever you turn your head. Naturally, this was not an exception.

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Okay, so let us talk a bit about the not-so-nice things one might stumble upon in Hong Kong. I found two things that I want to share with you.

So, apparently this is an ad for Acro Yoga. I do not know about you guys, but I have not seen many people who practice this Yoga style, in bed while apparently in the mood to cuddle, and with an insanely photoshopped female body on top. Maybe it is my female Western eyes, but I just cannot get over how little responsibility advertising agencies take when it comes to representing the female body in advertisement. I refuse to believe that there would be some type of demand of these offensive pictures? Who knows. There were other examples of advertisement in Hong Kong which made me raise my eyebrows. But this just got me, the whole “oh let us practice some Acro moves while we are still in bed, and let us do it in such a way that you look like you have a non-human body because that really contributes to empower women”. Shame on these companies!

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But this just has to be the worst thing I have seen in a long time. Especially since it is a big, international company that is behind the advertisement.

Let us start with the counter arguments (those are always fun!):

Maybe there is a cultural difference in how we connote these types of pictures. That is, when we look beyond what we actually see in the picture, what do we reference certain things to? What do we draw connections to? What, in our own lives, do we come to think of when we look at a picture? Maybe Chinese people connote this in a completely different way than me as a Swedish person would. That is an important point to make, because I simply cannot judge the world and what I see thousands of miles away from home and expect that it should be seen without differences.

Also, some might look closely at this picture and say “but hey, they are just saying, don’t rush into the train, let others exit first, how is that a bad thing? Those guys are just worried that someone will run into them and maybe they are scared of getting hurt? We all know how it feels when stressed people lack the ability to wait for their turn before attacking a metro.”

Now, let us critically view this (disgusting) picture and see why these counter arguments are easily refuted.

First of all, the cultural difference may apply in situations where the focus is put upon just that, cultural differences that are clear cut and can be agreed upon by both parties, for example, a Western cultural trait vs. a Asian could be eating with a fork and knife or eating with chopsticks; this is a neutral, cultural difference that is agreed by both parts. However, by projecting a person with an afro with a certain act or behavior, this company is basing their commercial on a racist foundation, and let me tell you why that is. Typically, when a person is attributed with certain behaviors based on how they look, they are subjected to stereotypes created by others about themselves.

For example, one common idea that is flourishing in society as we speak is how white people claim that Muslims are dangerous and potentially terrorists. Who is Muslim? Brown people. Where do they come from? The Middle East. Ergo: white people fear people from the Middle East. Although it is easily proven that the largest groups of Muslims are actually from the area in which I am living at the moment, this would not matter to people who have this idea in their head. Because for them, they have already been convinced that their perception of their world is the truth, thus there is no interest in any other realities, since they have already gotten one they are pleased with, which generally would validate their racist behavior. They have generalized a large group of people who are part of different minorities within their countries, who differ in religious beliefs and how they view life on a general basis.

There is no room for an individual approach with this way of seeing the world, instead, by portraying someone who looks a certain way, in this case a company, they are generalizing people with afros (in majority black people (also shown by the color of the hair and texture), but again, this is my connotation) with not being able to follow the societal act of waiting for their turn to enter the MTR. Now, you might say that I am exaggerating but I certainly believe that they have done a poor choice when choosing how they would portray their idea.

Secondly, black people are often portrayed as loud, noisy, law breaking and with a bit of “what goes around comes around” attitude targeted against them. Just look at the “Black Lives Matter” movement and look at what (white) people have to say about it. It goes without saying that it is deeply troubling to have a world were non-whites are targeted as less adjustable to the norms in society.

So, in other words, when MTR, this internationally known company, chooses to create an ad as the one discussed, what are they adding to the debate? They are, from my perspective, adding to the socially accepted behavior toward black people which in other words are “look, the ad confirms my perception of them [black people], they can’t behave like they are supposed to, like we do”.

Let us be completely honest. Where I live right now, the vast majority are Asian people. I would guess that most of them are Chinese. Since there is an obvious advantage within one ethnic group, one would assume that the majority of them share the same cultural and societal values. Would it not have been more obvious for MTR to represent a Chinese, or even an Asian person, instead of a person with an afro which in this context is a minority group, because it would go hand in hand with most people who actually live here?

To me it seems as if they have targeted a minority by saying “you are not like us, you do not know how to act, therefore we will tell you how to do so”, especially as they have placed five almost identical >men< with disgusted facial expressions who are literally showing their disapproving body language towards the >female< running towards them.

In all honesty, seeing how people act around my friends who are black here, makes me furious. Not only are they exoticising them by wanting to take pictures with them all the time (even trying to secretly take pictures sometimes) and approaching them in ways I would never have accepted if it were me who had been the target group, they also have a tendency of glaring at them when they think no one can see them, in such a disrespectful way. I swear I wish I could speak Chinese so I could tell them what they need to hear.

There are examples of racist commercials who have been aired on Chinese television which is exactly what this advertisement has done. It has targeted black people as less wanted and bad, in comparison to the Chinese people. When a society acts like this towards a certain group of people, it is nourishing racism to the younger generations who will think this is acceptable behavior and pass it on to others. That is not a society I want to be part of, which is why my reaction is not a delicate and finespun one.

Anyway, I would love to hear anyone who would like to enlighten me if there is a cultural idea about black people here that I seem to have missed. Either way, racism is never okay in any shape or form, no matter how refined it is. Especially when companies are responsible of it.

Love,

Izabella

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