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Posts Tagged ‘Hong Kong’

Political Brain-Washing? Really?

I’m a liberal, and I am definitely not a fan of political propaganda drawn up by the sometimes out-of-touch administration and its mothership.  Yet when some critics claimed that the latest talks of civic education planned to be rolled out in our primary and secondary schools are  “brain-washing tools” , I can’t help to think that the teachers perhaps need to develop better and more sophisticated rebuttals than that.

No I’m not that naive to think that the administration isn’t planning to spoon-feed our young generation of the glorious prosperity of our state, ever.  Every policy and every cent spent has an agenda, so the motive is definitely there.  Though I believe whoever finding the way to “brain-wash” our generations Y & Z through a few hours of public school curriculum deserves a Nobel price.

 

Today’s youth is rebellious in nature, and it is not necessarily a bad thing.  We have to embrace it no matter we like it or not.  They are independent thinkers, though some may argue the logic of their thinking.  One thing for sure, they will not take in any knowledge or thoughts as granted.  So what are the chances of having them brain-washed by the most transparent form of patriotic education?  Just look at the student riots everywhere from London to France to Seoul.  These countries have a much longer standing as sovereign states, and they are still struggling of social unity across the classes.  So what is Hong Kong afraid of being a territory known for our indifference in our nationality?

Come on, except the occasional declarations on immigration forms abroad, how often do Hong Kong people acknowledge our nationalities?  We distance ourselves from mainland China because we cannot condone the many backwards policies and practices in the country, but we want their cash and the related business and job opportunities.  We make an effort to explain to our foreign friends that we are from Hong Kong and it’s used to be a British colony, but we know it’s political incorrect to express any reminiscing sentiments over the colonization period.  We know we are led by the supposedly independent Hong Kong government, though it is so lame-ducked and out-of-touch with the general public that it’s just unfashionable to even be sympathetic with the unimaginable duty it shoulders.  So what’s left of us?  A bunch of incredibly materialistic citizens who will flock to wherever that brings us instant gratification.  In more cases than not, to Hong Kong, that means CASH.

That’s why if you think our youngest generation has not caught on with the trend, you are just kidding yourselves.  Instead of brain-washing through civic education curriculum, just dangle a big fat deck of $500 notes in front of them.  That will do the trick.

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I think it was year 1990 or 1991 when I was in the United World College attending a media summit organized by the school faculty and students.   A few prominent speakers, including some movers and shakers of the media industry, were invited to address the students about the role of the media and its impact in the political world.  I don’t remember who the speaker (some American journalist) was now, but she was talking about her views on news productions around the world.  “You know what’s the worst news reporting production I have seen so far,” she shared in the middle of her speech.  “It was the Hong Kong TV news programs.”  There was laughter and gasps.  My schoolmates immediately turned to me giggling.  Being one of the only two Hong Kong students in the school, suddenly I felt that I was singled out.  Should I say something?  Should I defend something – anything?  The speaker didn’t need to be a genius to realize that a poor Hong Kong ambassador was in the hall, and she reiterated: “I’m serious.  The newscasters were babbling on and on at a piece that needs not much explaining.”

Maybe I didn’t quite get it at the time, since I hardly had much else to reference to, having only been away from my home town for less than a year.  But I get it now, big time.   Some 20 years later, I am still amazed and amused by where we are today with our news productions.

First a disclaimer.  I know nothing much about the industry, and my frame of reference since then has been largely related to that of the States.  But I think I am still entitled to share my views as a TV audience, and one attempting to seek up-to-date information from the local programs.  By the way, there aren’t that many choices to begin with.

I am a complete believer in news reporters’ and the station’s impartiality in any news stories, but do they all have to be so stone-faced and robotic?  Those of us who are also in the “people business” understand that we as the messengers play a huge part in getting our messages across.  How we say it and how we deliver it is an art by itself.  Yet throughout the few decades of TV news programs I have seen, it seems that there is a cardinal rule in their training programs that no news reporters or anchors should ever shed a single hint of emotion and intonation, whatsoever.  Hey, don’t get that mixed up with adding an opinion, as I know they aren’t talk show hosts and they are not supposed to.  I am talking about adding the right pause, phrasing, and emphasis to the key points, conclusions and transitions.  Sometimes subtle body language and hand gestures may be appropriate.  Though no, all I see is complete stiffness from beginning to end.  Maybe this is requested and demanded by the viewers?  I’m not sure, and I’m not one of them.

I like news anchors who have credibility and professionalism, and it takes them years on the field to gain that hard-earned reputation.  I don’t want them to turn into another extreme like some of the TV news programs in Taiwan, where the programs are much closer to entertainment than anything else, just so they could push up ratings in a relatively much more competitive media market than Hong Kong.  Despite the authoritative figure, I like to see some personalities being presented from time to time.  That brings an element of relatability, trust and connection with the audience.  I understand it can be hard to do here because the local presenters are not as high paid, their career prospect not as secure and promising, and hence it will be much tougher for them to build a distinct brand for themselves.

That’s what I would like to see changed, at least progressively.  It starts from the top at the leadership level, and goes down to where news stories are reported.  The news transcripts do not need to repeat everything we are already seeing on TV.  Come on, we are watching news with news feeds.  The news stories can stand to be a bit more original and non-repetitive.  Interviewing parents and school kids every year on September 1 when the new school year starts is not newsworthy material, similar to shooting at the flower market every Valentine’s Day, or dim sum restaurants on Mother’s Day.  Asking passing by citizens on the streets what they think of the recent public bus fare hike can only lead to one uniform answer.  Every time, I feel that 20 to 30 minutes of my life is robbed.  I don’t dislike the events themselves, I am just longing for a few more original questions or angles on them.

We need some pioneers and some daring moves to push everyone out of their comfort zones once in a while, even if they are of the TV viewers.  I want to envision myself jumping out of my auditorium chair some day, defending the next coming critique if I am fortunate enough to get stuck representing Hong Kong again. 

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CNNGo.com put up an article of “Life after dark:  10 things best done around midnight in Hong Kong“.   How appropriate.  One of the biggest reasons I still consider Hong Kong my most favorite place of abode is its ultimate accessibility.  Where else in the world could you find convenience stores, eateries, massage centers and karaoke boxes around the clock?  And you don’t even need to get on taxis if you don’t want to.  There are affordable enough buses and mini-vans to almost every corner of the territory, 24 hours a day.  I admit it, I am just spoiled, and I hope my fellow Hong Kongers could realize that they are amongst the luckiest ones on earth in terms of convenience and indulgence.  Of course, the price to pay is light, noise and crowdiness pollution.  There is just no way to escape it.

Alright, let’s see what 10 things CNNGo has in mind for us to do here past midnight.

  1. Go squid fishing.  Well, I think the only time I ever did that was over 15 years ago, and I think you don’t need to wait till midnight to do that.  You can rent your own junk or join one of those packaged tours with fellow passengers you don’t know.  I only remember that I was so excited to catch my first squid that I yanked it a bit too hard and found myself and my friends splashed by black ink all over our clothes.  Actually, I also remember that the squid didn’t taste that good afterwards.  I blame it on the primitive cooking techniques on the boat.  My point is, unless you are under 20 years old, don’t do it.
  2. Visit the “gwo laan”.  Gwo laan is the Chinese name for the wholesale fruit market in Yau Ma Tei.  I did that about 2 years ago around midnight and it was exciting to see fresh fruits arriving in boxes fresh from their source, and many of them come from Japan and the United States.  The fruits are fresh, and the prices are much cheaper than retail without the mark-ups.  The only draw back is that you have to buy in boxes, so be prepared to share it with your friends and family afterwards before they go bad.  Last but not least, have someone drive you.  It wasn’t much fun for me to carry a heavy box of Japanese peaches on the overnight bus that day.
  3. Take a red minibus to MongKok.  Or, I should say, take one from MongKok to anywhere in Hong Kong.  MongKok is like the center of nightlife in Hong Kong, and it is ready to transport people to everywhere else after you take everything out of it.  You will see every layer of Hong Kong population you can imagine on the minibuses and around the waiting lines.  Teenagers, working class, suits, drunks, you name it.  Plus you will get the most exhilarating ride you can ever imagine.  7 minutes will get from MongKok to the New territories.  It’s much more exciting than any roller coaster ride since the latter is definitely more safety proven than the former.  Take it at your own risk, please.
  4. Get lost on Cheung Chau.  Hmmm, this is something I never did at the wee hours at night since the last ferry back to the island departs around 11:00pm (or not? I don’t really know).  Cheung Chau to me is a bit too commercial within the many outlying islands of Hong Kong.  Though if you get to stay overnight there, the severely haunted holiday houses near the beach will surely make any scary movies ridiculously amateurish.
  5. Watch a rooftop movie.  Oh sorry, I don’t even know this existed to be honest.  In Hong Kong’s humidity, I think only tourists will find this enjoyable.
  6. Hang out at the beach.  Actually this is really a romantic thing, especially if you have a car, since it won’t be much fun to be stranded without return transportation.  But come on, it’s still only less than 30 minutes away from city center.  Where else can you find beaches that accessible on earth?  It’s a good place to chat, enjoy the silence and hear the soothing waves.  It can be a bit scary to stare at the dark waters, but isn’t it incredibly sweet to hold on to your companion’s hands to begin with? 
  7. Eat at an all-night dai pai dong.  This is also an amazing experience, but I will advise you to let your partner know of this ahead of time rather than swinging it out of nowhere.  As long as expectations are managed, the experience is down to earth, casual and oh-so-much-fun.  If your partner has his or her clubbing attire on, the scene can be a little ridiculous.  However if this is the contrast you are looking for, who cares?
  8. Get middle-of-the-night dim sum.  Well a lot of our midnight activities center around food, and I can’t find anything more applaudable  than the recent around the clock dim sum phenomenon.  There is nothing more satisfying than having freshly steamed dumplings, cheung-fan and beef balls when you have too much to drink.  I prefer that to the oily pizza slices, kebabs and hot dogs, any day.
  9. Walk with the ghosts.  Again I didn’t know there is such a tour of Wanchai’s ghostly neighborhood, until now.  A tour guide will “explain the abundance of ghosts stems from Wanchai’s long history and high rate of casualties.”  Hmm, I also believe this is really designed for tourists.  In densely populated Hong Kong, everywhere is a ghostly neighborhood.  Come on.
  10. Go for a bike ride.  Alright, at least there is some suggestion that is not food oriented.   I have a feeling however that this is also popular for someone aged under 25.  This is a subtle hint that I am nowhere qualified.

So, how many of the above have you done around midnight in this city?

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Aside from sit-down restaurants, the most patronized F&B outlet in town for me is Starbucks or Pacific Coffee.  No I don’t really go for the caffeine kick or the taste of freshly ground coffee beans, and quite frankly I don’t find the quality of these coffee chains any appealing either.  I visit their outlets when I need a place to rest my feet, stay sober from the crazy pedestrians on the world’s most crowded streets, and to kill time in between appointments around the city.  In Hong Kong where a 500 square feet jewellery store in Causeway Bay was reportedly rented for HK$1.4 million per month, or the new to-be-opened Apple store is spending US$20 million on fit-out in Central’s IFC mall, a HK$33 venti cappuccino feels like a bargain for a 2-hour refuge in the midst of all that madness.

 

There is a lot to be studied under the Starbucks logo.  Economists use Starbucks’ pricing of different sized drinks to explain costing theories.  Psychologists will tell you how that each order can be customized provides the one final shred of perceived control that each patron gets to salvage in today’s helpless world.  Nutritionists question the high calorie content of its Frappucinos (and plenty more), though Starbucks fearlessly rolled out its Trenta-sized iced products that are 30% larger than Venti.  At 916 mL, the Trenta is actually larger than the average capacity of the adult human stomach (900mL).

So what are The Top 10 Things You don’t Want To Hear From A Guy At Starbucks?  Here is David Letterman’s answer.

10.”We ran out of coffee filters, so I’m using one of my old undershirts.”

9.”Try our triple cappuccino — It’s a legal alternative to crack.”

8.”Let me make sure that’s not too hot.”
 
7.”You know, I licked every one of these stirrers.”
 
6.”One Decaf Venti Skim Latte — 39 US dollars.”
 
5.”Sugar with that?”
 
4.”Grande Caramel Macchaito? Talk English!”
 
3.”If I catch any of you people going into a Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee, I’ll break your legs!”
 
2.”Some whipped cream for you… and some whipped cream for me.”
 
1.”After work, I’m gonna pick up a hooker-uccino.”

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I was totally stressed out the other night – but in a good way.  I was relaxing at home after midnight when a good friend of mine informed me of some unbelievably good deals on Cathay Pacific Airways that are only valid for a week.  Seeing that this is a fantastic opportunity to see the world, I jumped on the chance and booked a trip to Paris this May. 

The story doesn’t end here.  There are still so many other attractive destinations that I would like to go or revisit, namely Seoul, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Moscow, Phuket, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Johannesburg, Shanghai, London and New York.  I had been flipping through my calendar, browsing hotel deals, texting my friends, checking seat availability, for a good 3 hours.  I haven’t yet made any confirmed decisions yet, and that planning will continue tomorrow and the few days ahead, provided, of course, that there are still seats available for the dates I am picking.

So this afternoon I was visiting a friend on Kowloon side.  Walking on the busy Nathan Road I could actually hear two separate conversations of people passing by chatting about the exact same online promotion.  Talk about Hong Kong people’s obsessive compulsion to get out of the territory, with every chance we get.  Why is that the case?

  • the fact that we work 14 hour days and still finding it hard to sleep at nights due to immense stress from work
  • we are living in shoebox-sized apartments that we can hardly see the sky
  • we have forgotten about how clean air smells like
  • we find ourselves pressed like sardines in shopping mall elevators even on supposedly relaxing Sundays
  • we cannot get our foot into any electronics stores because every one of the 38 available sales reps were mobbed by our mainland Chinese neighbors
  • tons of rude, impolite, inconsiderate and selfish pedestrians on the streets and on practically all forms of transportation, and most of them are locals
  • news programs are flooded by retarded policies and tactics of the government, and increasingly violent protests spearheaded by our post-80s and 90s
  • another excuse to take 15,000 digital pictures of yourself with exactly the same pose and gesture, in front of landmarks of the world but with hardly any real appreciation of its history or importance
  • one more excuse to take 3,000 more pictures of all the foreign food you are going to eat beginning with the in-flight meals
  • way cooler to check-in at impressive foreign landmarks on FaceBook rather than Central MTR station in Hong Kong
  • experience how checking work e-mails, twittering, and FaceBooking abroad is like
  • witness how devalued the Hong Kong dollar is
  • feel the victory and accomplishment of successfully grabbing the few Hong Kong Chinese newspapers on return flights from abroad
  • another chance to wear NorthFace down jackets together with oddly colored crocs and huge alien-like sunglasses
  • read as many Hong Kong tabloid magazines as possible while laying by the hotel pools
  • a chance to continue being selfish and rude to unsuspecting service people overseas

Alright this may be way too much ranting in one post, but what’s the point of repeating the same old routine or even bad habits when you have a week of vacation time to unwind?  Let’s relax, let our guards down, take a few steps backwards, and be positive and appreciative in our travel adventures.  Take a deep breath, soak in the nature and culture, and teach your children a lesson or two about civility and consideration.  Amen.

 

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With the $6,000 Hong Kong government is giving to its people in the latest revision of the financial budget, aside from the inevitably disgruntled debates over eligibility and disbursement, the talk of the town these few days is focused on how we will dispose of this US$770 equivalent new-found cash.

Kid not, every other commercial establishment in town is hungrily eyeing this disposable income in the otherwise slower commercial season of March and April.  I am prepared, and it won’t make any difference even if I’m not, to be bombarded by hundreds of marketing programs and sales calls in the mailboxes, on the streets, in the malls, and on the internet.

I am interested to find out how Hong Kong people are planning to utilize this $6,000, in a city where consumption is the population’s number one pastime.  I posted a poll on my Facebook page, and I surveyed a few discussion forums in town on the internet to give you a summary of what our neighbors have come up with.  Of course, for those who are very much in need of this sum to manage their daily food and shelter expenses, they wouldn’t have the time and energy to take part in these surveys, and so their plans of consumption are always implied even if not stated below.

  • the brand new iPad 2 or the upcoming iPhone 5 (what are the chances of such convenient coincidence, with Apple launching iPad 2 the day after our handout announcement?  I have to take my hat off to Steve Jobs, once again, even if it was none of his intention whatsoever)
  • save it (no it’s not lame, since we practically spend so much on a daily basis without any need of excuses, anyway)
  • a vacation to Thailand, or Europe with savings (Hong Kong’s favorite pastime: getting the hell out of the city even for just a few days)
  • pay back credit card debts
  • take a break off my part-time job
  • grab my sister’s share of her $6,000 as well (siblings’ greed should never be underestimated)
  • pick up an English language course to stay competitive (admirable, if only it’s that easy)
  • put it all in the stock market
  • pay for a call girl
  • collect everyone’s share and buy back the Western Cross Harbour Tunnel (now that’s what I call innovative thinking!)
  • pay for condolence flowers for the government house
  • buy $6,000 worth of bananas and throw them at the two Mr. Tsangs and call it the “Long Hair Effect” (Donald Tsang as our Chief Executive and John Tsang our Financial Secretary)
  • a trip to Macau’s casinos
  • wait in line for Justin Bieber’s concert in May

Since the value of the dollar is different for everyone, I do not dare to draw any conclusions.  One thing I know, is that when I turned on the news yesterday and watched the unmistakably joyous face on the old lady who collects cardboard boxes for a living at $8 a day,  a portion of my share should go to the charity to help those who need much, much more than $6,000.

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“Post-80s” (generation born after 1980) or “post-90s” continues to be a popular topic in the media lately.  According to a local paper, many corporations are seeing post-80s employees as one of their top human resource challenges these days.  Apparently there are now training courses organized for managerial staff to understand and interact properly with our next generation of workforce. 

The human resource consulting firm being interviewed reports the top 9 characteristics of post-80s workforce:

  • Poor concentration
  • Poor reading skills
  • Impatient
  • Difficult to communicate
  • Overly confident
  • Poor punctuality
  • Poor personal conduct
  • Irresponsible and poor accountability
  • Overly temperamental

Though I am sure there is a bunch of people who are guilty with such characteristics, it’s also time for employers to start adapting their managerial style according to the times.  Many younger recruits are not used to listening to orders because of their unique ways of being brought up.  Family sizes are smaller, there are fewer siblings, and many of them are used to being pampered by all material and financial means.  The new generation is often confident in their own ways, and they are raised to question authority at all times.  Managers who still stick with announcing orders without rationalization are only asking for trouble.  A new managerial style has to be adapted, and the first step to do is to learn how to embrace the new generation of workforce.

What are the new rules?  I am no expert, but off the top of my head I can come up with a few.

  • Don’t be condescending.  Attitude is important, and it should be a two-way street.  Assuming rightaway the post-80s is a group of whining needy kids will only add to the tension.  Don’t talk down to them, and don’t use phrases like “You know how lucky you guys are?  Back in the days, I wished that someone would have spent the time to teach me like I am doing for you right now!”
  • Get rid of the “Because I told you!”  The new generation needs to be convinced through lots of questions and answers.  Their new thinking may spark new solutions which is well worth the added time invested. 
  • Be patient.   Like raising kids, sometimes you have to let them make their own mistakes.  I know it is definitely costly for corporations to allow their staff to make mistakes, but think about it, his other departmental colleagues or external clients are of his generation as well.  What we view as mistakes now may be a norm in the new era.
  • Focus on results rather than the process.  Since the process is going to be challenged anyway, why not allow them to make up some rules themselves?  However, the new rules still have to be socially accepted by others, meaning no one can skip work claiming they are “working from home”.
  • Nurturing.  I know, the workplace is meant for business, but if we understand the social reality of the new generation, managers nowadays also need to be the psychological coach of new recruits.  There is no guarantee that the new joiners will prove to be a valuable asset to the company, but not spending the time to teach them responsibility and accountability, for example, will only lead to disastrous results.  Set the expectation low, and there is no harm to overly communicate. 
  • Positive reinforcement.  When staff feels that they are being rewarded or acknowledged of an accomplishment, the motivation is often so strong that a momentum will be created.  Don’t be stingy with the compliments, be humble and take advantage of their creative juices and unorthodox thinking.

All in all, bitching alone will never bring any solution.  We should all face the reality and ask ourselves what is something we can do to bridge the gap.  After all, who says the negative qualities are possessed only by the post-80s?  Aren’t you equally mad at that other colleague of yours who have been around forever and unwilling to accept any new ideas?

Let’s make sure we do not turn into those we used to despise, period.

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There was an interview of a 26 year-old Mr. Leung on a local newspaper two days ago that has created a heated sensation in the city.  Mr. Leung has a graduate degree from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, though his qualifications haven’t brought him any luck in the job front for the past two years.  On the news video, you can see Mr. Leung describing himself as a victim who is oppressed by society and discriminated by employers because of his lack of work experience and overqualified CV. 

The news story failed to draw sympathies from anyone, except today’s paper posted a follow-up story about a local restaurant offering Mr. Leung a position waiting tables.  Leung’s response was: “I am having three or four offers now and I would like to think about it for a few days before responding.”

Well, nothing wrong with that, but not after painting a sob story in front of millions of onlookers in the city.

My verdict?  It will be a few more years before Mr. Leung finds a stable job, I’m sad to say.

  • Attitude.  With tens of thousands of fresh graduates coming out every year with similar background, why Mr. Leung thinks jobs would be handed to him on a silver platter is beyond me.  He thinks his qualifications are being looked down upon by the employers.  I will be too, and it’s not about the certificate he is holding.  I am just questioning how he got to graduate in the first place with such poor critical thinking skills.
  • Presence.  Unmanaged hair, poor posture, stunted speech, lack of eye contact… are just a few physical traits anyone can witness from the news video.  Again, this has nothing to do with him being a grad school graduate.  Mr. Leung claimed that McDonald’s rejected him because he was overqualified, though I bet no fast food chain would have hired someone with an obvious challenge in human interaction.
  • Rationale.  Without reflecting on himself, Leung believes his pain and ordeal is inflicted by the Hong Kong government.  He claims that Hong Kong’s spoon-fed education system creates graduates with less than adequate socializing skills.  That is just a slap on the face to all the other teenagers.  If Mr. Leung has so successfully completed his studies with flying colors, what will he say to the hard-working kids who cannot even afford the tuition to complete their studies in the first place? 
  • Tactic.  I cannot imagine a grad school graduate attacking the job market with a total loss of focus.  Interviewing for 200 jobs?  It’s not how eager or how many posts one would go for that proves dertermination.  It’s about building a compelling case in front of the employers how our distinctive qualifications, personality and mindset can bring to the posts.  There should be at least a drawn path of application.  Leung might have done it, but from the short abrupt answers he provided for the employment agency representative, I am hardly convinced.

This, is scarier than the horror movie I watched last night.

The Cantonese video coverage of the story can be found here.  Part 1   Part 2

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Taiwan is famous for its book scene.  I seldom see Hong Kong people holding a book in subways, buses, coffee houses or restaurants anymore.  Instead, we fiddle with our blackberries, smart phones, PSPs and NDS whenever we go.  Even if you think the launch of Kindle and iPad will re-ignite our passion of reading electronically, I often see people reading online newspapers, magazines and comic books instead.  Well, to be fair I do think having the proper infrastructure does play a big part in cultivating the reading phenomenon in Taiwan.  The city is filled with gynormous-sized book stores that open way into the night.  The stores are cozily decorated, quiet and artfully displayed.  There is plenty of seating, and flipping through every page of the book for hours in a row is not frowned upon.  The stores look more like libraries instead of commercial sales points in Hong Kong.  The latter, is definitely not an enjoyable experience.  No wonder Hong Kong people do not find reading pleasurable.

You can tell a city’s culture pretty much by the bestselling books on display.  Yesterday night when I did my last round of bookstore surfing after a soothing day of hot springs and comfort food, I paid attention to the bestsellers’ rack.  The titles (translated from Chinese) include:

  • The Anatomical Chart of Homes
  • Tokyo Design Life 100+
  • The 14 Economic Wars that China will Face
  • The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe
  • Simplexity: Why Simple Things Become Complex (And How Complex Things Can Be Made Simple)
  • The Goldman Sachs Conspiracy
  • The Secret Laws of Management
  • Getting Organized in the Google Era
  • Living Life Out of Relaxation

…to name a few…

I am quite impressed.   Most titles I come across center around self-improvement, emotional quotient and living well-balanced and full lives.  Bravo.

So what are some of Hong Kong’s bestselling Chinese titles?

  • Land and The Ruling Class in Hong Kong
  • Taipei Travel Guide 2010-2011 Updated Edition (surprise…surprise!)
  • My Retarded Way of Raising My Baby (comic book I believe…and excuse me for my literal translation)
  • Tokyo Travel Guide 2011-12 Eat, Play, Buy Ultimate Edition
  • Learning English with Regina
  • Out of Control Hong Kong’s Kids

…and I am skipping 258 titles of “How to Get Rich”, “Investing in Property”, “Stock Market 101”, “How to Read Just Enough to B** S*** Your Way through Wine Appreciation”, “How to Get Your Kids into the City’s Hottest Kindergartens”, “Year of the Rabbit Fortune Telling”…

This is the fast food reading culture of Hong Kong.  We are all too goal-oriented, as if there has to be a definitive purpose to pick up a book and read.  It’s good that we like to be informed and knowledgeable at all times, but reading 698 pages of Eat+Play+Buy travel guides is not going to do yourself too much good when you find yourself exhausted running around a foreign city like a maniac.  The how-to guides are necessary evils but should be tamed down a notch.  I seldom hear people make good money from reading those get-rich guides either.  If we can all just pick up a handful of titles that are intriguing enough to our minds, I am confident this mental exercise we do will benefit us a whole lot more, and that may very well include living a positive life, maintaining healthy relationships and ultimately, building an emotional wealth that no money can buy.

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You see them staring at you on 5-storey high billboards.  You see their dashing smiles and authoritative poses on the city’s buses.  You see them on full-page newspaper ads where they are pictured with hundreds of students holding up their straight-A report cards.  Yes, they are the city’s star tutors, though they dress and behave like your TV and movie idols.  This, is a multi-billion dollar industry.

When I grew up there were a few tutor schools where we got ourselves enrolled to brush up for upcoming public exams.  Those were usually a few sessions only for each subject and the fees as I recall were nothing like what students today are paying.  The star tutors today have evolved to almost replace the normal daytime schools that students go to.  Their curriculum is tailor-made to survive public examinations, and hence the star tutors spend a considerable amount of time researching the latest examination trends and marking schemes.  Many of them possess enough star qualities to lure aspiring students.  They are well-groomed, articulate, and hardly much older than the kids themselves, making them extremely relatable and approachable – comparing to the day school teachers.  They hire assistants to help them prepare fancy notes and even run errands because their tutoring schedules are so hectic from running around several tutor centers in the city, usually on a daily basis.  They hire image consultants together with professional make-up artists, photographers and designers to make sure they are marketable in this lucrative business. 

I am not here to criticize whether these star tutors have twisted the idea of education, or whether it is unethical to make money out of young kids.  In fact, this is a common trend of fast food mentality of Hong Kong where everyone focus on only the results rather than the means.  The blame is with everyone.  I just see this as a classic example why training and teaching techniques need to be evolved according to times.  Everyone can find subject literature in books and over the internet, and they need no one to simply read to them and repeat case studies from textbooks. 

Students want to hear relatable material so that it helps with digesting and understanding the subject at hand.  In my field of strategic procurement training, we always make use of real life case studies to illustrate the theories we advocate.    Public sector case studies are often popular due to their wide coverage over TV and newspapers.   On the other hand, the trainees also don’t want to be preached  like young school kids.  They want to feel that they are also contributing to the class and hence we are often moderators instead of trainers.   I like the idea that the star tutors are organizing social activities to help bond with the students.  I know, you may argue that they are in fact sucking up to their paying customers, but if the students do not feel that the classes are enjoyable and effective, there are tons of other tutors out there.

I dream of the day that there will be similarly inspired tutor centers some day where we can offer consulting advice to working procurement professionals, whether it is in terms of career progression advice or anonymous yet real life work issues.  As the next generation of public-exam-tutors, will there also be star tutors for new career professionals?  Come to think of it, the “rules at work” are even less scripted and way more challenging.

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