Monday, 27 April 2015

Interview with Kay from Hong Kong

This is the sixth day of World Week on the blog, after interruptions the last three days due to me having a life. Previously, I've talked about stupid misconceptions people have about Ireland and interviewed people from Canada and Zimbabwe Australia and, most recently, America.  I'm now interviewing Kay, who's from Hong Kong. 

What countries have you lived in?

I was born in Hong Kong and I lived there most of my life. My mum always lived in Hong Kong but my dad moved there like 30 years ago or so, from England, for work opportunities as Hong Kong's economy was thriving at the time. That's where the two awesome people met and then there was me! 
I lived there for 11 years, going to kindergarten for 2 years, and then primary school for 6 years.

Why did you move?

My dad has a Master's degree in an English university. Basically, he's well prepared in terms of my education. He has every intention since I was very young to send me to a university in England. In case you don't know, universities in England are restricted by law to charge only 9,000 pounds per year for tuition fees to EU students, while the international fees normally soar above 23,000 pounds. My dad sent me to Ireland so I could qualify as an EU students, and hence pay cheaper tuition fees. My dad also went to the same school I'm in and he got a decent education here, so I was sent to follow in his footsteps. Literally got shipped off to a boarding school thousands of miles away from my parents.

How often do you visit Hong Kong?

Since my parents still live there, I do like to see them every now and then. The usual is twice a year, Christmas and Summer. Plane tickets are expensive for such long journeys, so I can't fly over every weekend, not to mention the flight from London to Hong Kong can be about 13 hours!

What do you like about Hong Kong?

Many things really. Its full of people so everyone is always busy. It's pretty hard to get bored. Towns/cities are all back to back, and everything is nearby. The MTR is the underground train system, kind of like the tube in London. It's disgustingly cheap, and super fast and efficient too, trains come every 3 minutes among the spiderweb of railway lines. Estates are full of people because of high-rise buildings and apartments all in one estate, so you get so many neighbours. The weather is fantastic all the time, warm I mean. Summer temperatures soar to 40 degrees, while winter temperatures will only get as low as 5 degrees or so. The exotic cuisine is amazing and Hong Kong has many restaurantes for different Asian Cuisines, as well as western cuisines too. Oh, there's also not VAT on general supermarket goods, nor any electronics tax. So, cost of living is very cheap and electronics, like phones and tablets, come very cheap.

What do you dislike about Hong Kong?

Many things again. To contradict nearly everything I have said: Its full of people. Like, there's SO MANY PEOPLE. Over 7 million, all squeezed into the space of a little bit over the area of the Dublin County! Streets get packed and motorways are everywhere. Typical over populated developing world problems really. If you're uncomfortable around many people and loud noises, it can get scary. Buildings are everywhere, and its hard to find a bit of natural nature in Hong Kong. Grass hardly naturally exists and there's not much countryside to Hong Kong. Accommodation and residences have extreme price tags on them due to the value of space in Hong Kong being so high. Living there is near impossible now. The weather in the summer. Oh my god. HUMIDITY. Huge problem. Everyone all squished together on streets in the blazing sun. The air gets so humid, it's impossible to dry yourself. Outdoors you will sweat from slowly walking within 5 minutes, and you cant exactly dry the sweat off you. Also, it annoys me that there's such a lack of vegetarian meals there. There's no land for grazing, so dairy products have huge prices but meat gets shipped in from different countries for cheap prices. 

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

I haven't looked that far into my future really. I'm moving to England for university in August/September and I'll be there for 4 years doing my course. After that? I haven't a clue.

What would you change about Hong Kong?

I don't exactly have the power and I'm awful at Economics (don't even do in school) and Politics and stuff but the price of apartments are about 100 times as expensive as they should be, taking into account the one-room-sized apartments. I can't do much about the weather but winds can be nice to counter the humidity and heat in the summer. Weird question, not sure how I can answer it really.

What are the differences and similarities between HK and Ireland?

Population density. Enough said.

Scenery too. Ireland has green, and fields and space. Hong Kong doesn't.

Climate too. Heating doesn't exist in Hong Kong. You won't survive long there without air conditioning.

Tell me something I don't know about Hong Kong.

Not sure how much you know about it but I'll list a few things.
Hong Kong is TECHNICALLY a city of China. But from my view, its basically a country of its own. Hong Kong has its own currency (Hong Kong Dollar), laws, government etc. But if you are from Hong Kong, you are Chinese, NOT HongKongian or HongKongese or whatever.

Chinese is predominantly spoken in Hong Kong. There are two main dialects (written the same, but pronounced COMPLETELY different) of Chinese used in China: the much less spoken Cantonese, and the more more popular Mandarin (or Putonghua). Oddly enough, Cantonese is the main language of Hong Kong and I've picked it up solely from being outside and my mother trying to teach me. Mandarin, is taught in schools in Hong Kong (like how Irish is taught in Ireland) as it is used nearly all over China over Cantonese. Mandarin, however, is extremely rarely spoken in Hong Kong, usually just by mainlanders who travel to Hong Kong. There is a small but decent fraction of people in Hong Kong that are fluent English speakers, but nearly every Cantonese speaker in Hong Kong can understand basic English. There are English signs and stuff since Hong Kong used to be a British Colony.

School system is complicated, following English systems. 2 years of Kindergarten, then 6 years of primary. Everyone finishes that at a young age of 11. Secondary school starts, at age 11. It's called year 7 over there, counting onwards after primary. This is why I was only 11 going into Irish first year. Ireland has 6 years of secondary school, with an optional fourth year in many cases. In Hong Kong, like England, there are 6 years of mandatory secondary school (year 7 to 12), with a seventh year referred to as "college" I believe, or year 13. Then they go onward to University at 18 ish. 
Basically, Irish system starts a year later, while Hong Kong starts a year earlier, but adds on an extra year 13 at the end, so everyone is about 18 or 19 going to Uni. 

BUT I am different, and had to switch mid system. So I started early and I have to do a year 13, plopping me in University at a young age of 17.

Do you consider yourself Chinese, Irish or a mixture of both?

My nationality is all over the place. I have an Irish passport. I have a Hong Kong Identity Card. I have a Chinese ID card. But I consider myself a mixture of Irish and Chinese.

Have you experienced racism in Ireland?

Of course! It's bound to happen. I'm Asian therefore expected to be good at school. I'm not gonna bother going through Asian stereotypes ugh. Basically, I have a crazy high standard to cope with in school and I hate it.

Words I hate: Chink, HongKongian, HongKongese.

What do you like about Ireland?

Diversity is nice. Being in Europe, so many different cultures run into each other! Germans, French, Spanish etc. Hong Kong is just full of Chinese people. 

Ireland is also open. Fresh air, greenery, scenery, fields, farming. It's peaceful. Calming. A nice break. And the standard of the education is lower than that of England and Hong Kong, so I avoided the hard stuff of that in Hong Kong (A levels or IB).

Thanks, Kay!

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