NY vs. HK (I): Am I Becoming Chinese?

I’ve been back in NYC for about 5 days now, and I begin to notice the changes as I step right back into my old home, my old lover, old New York.

I didn’t really feel anxious to come back.  In fact, I felt a little disrupted to jump straight out of what was a whirlwind of the past few weeks in HK straight into NY so quickly, but when I came home, it was like nothing had changed.  Rather than feeling emotional or impassioned, liked in the movies with people running with tears streaming into the arms of loved ones after a long trip, I just felt contented and happy.   It was all very natural.

It snowed my first day back, and while it took me a day or two to acclimate to cold weather again, and to dig out a more appropriate wardrobe, it felt right to feel the cold briskly caressing my cheeks as I walked outside.  It’s December for goodness sakes, and in spite of the holiday music playing in the MTR stations in HK, I don’t feel Christmas is anywhere near without some cold.

So overall, a natural transition back home, and yet, there were a few things I noticed already that I found distasteful after living in Asia for the past three months.

Water.  I already was in awe as I saw myself preferring warm/hot water over cold water while in HK.  I’d always known about this practice, as my grandma cannot drink tap or cold water, but I never thought I’d actually prefer it myself! The Chinese think it’s better because your body is already a certain temperature, and the cold water just disrupts it too much.  It was not til I came back home to NY did I start to realize that now not only do I like the warm water, but I can’t handle cold water.  I just refused to touch the ice cold water at my dinner on Sunday — it looked frighteningly cold with condensation beading all around the glass!

Presenting Cards with Courtesy.  In HK, when someone gives you his or her business card, it is presented with two hands a slight bow as a sign of deference and respect.  You similarly receive it with two outstretched hands.  People do this with more than just business cards.  Cashiers may hand receipts this way, you should accept handouts from your teacher this way, it essentially applies to any situation where you are being handed something, or handing something to someone and want to show respect.  I was at a meeting with my sister, and the person we were meeting with, who was standing, very casually whipped out one card and extended it to my sister, then flung the second card over the long desk towards me.  I was incredibly shocked.

I remembered thinking the two handed card exchange very odd, and never thought I’d really practice it, but eventually, as I continued to immerse myself further and further into the local culture, began to do it regularly too.  So while I know no disrespect was intended by the fellow who flung his card at me, but I just couldn’t help feeling it! Amazing.

So with these two anecdotes, I see myself …becoming Chinese?


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