Monthly Archives: July 2011

CDotD: Your Domestic Helper Has a Degree in Astrophysics.

…or not quite, but your domestic helper, if she’s Filipina (which notably the majority in Hong Kong seem to be), most likely has a college degree apparently!

For those of you who have been to Hong Kong, you will have witnessed the masses of primarily Filipina maids who set forth on Hong Kong’s many interconnecting  walkways, parks, and other public spaces to camp out on their days off, notably Sundays, but also Saturdays.  It looks like a giant sit-in or protest at first glance, but it’s just how the domestic helper community get together, kick back, and enjoy their free time.  They notably have laptops with portable WiFi devices, DVD players, playing cards, manicure sets, and native food (sometimes I wish I had an in so that I could try this amazing home-made and no doubt authentic food!).

The Hong Kong domestic helper microeconomy is huge.  They make up a substantial enough population that there are separate lines for foreigners with a domestic helper visa, and the Hong Kong economy relied heavily on this cheap help (not sure if wages went up wince the HK$28 an hour minimum wage, but for around US$200 a month, you can afford to get someone to come over every day to cook and clean for you, save their one day off).   I believe I wrote about the subject before, and found myself initially put off by this, worrying that domestic helpers got the bad end of the stick, but in fact, they similarly depend on this demand, and in their own homelands of the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, among others, they take back a very good wage for their standards.

My boss told me his maid actually owns 5 homes back in the Philippines, which no doubt come in handy for any of 10+ siblings!

Anyhow, I was browsing some domestic helper ads (not for me) and noticed that nearly all of the ads posted by Filipinas indicated a college level education, versus those of other nationalities, where high school was generally the highest education attained.

I thought this very interesting, and it makes me wonder what is going on in the Philippines that so many college-educated women are actually choosing to clean homes and care for children than pursue jobs that typically require college degrees.  I suppose the domestic helper lifestyle is either THAT lucrative or the economy in the Philippines is THAT poor, or perhaps, just both!



CDotD: Hidden Obscenities Uncovered!

For those of you who either live or visit a foreign country where English is not normally spoken, you’ve probably seen any number of gaffes involving the English language. There’s always funny English that just doesn’t make any sense, and then sadly even funnier, are folks who clearly don’t realize what is written on the t-shirts they wear (or if the old men wearing “I’m Too Sexy” t-shirts are doing it purposefully, then I suppose, good on them!).

We English-speakers see these slips and chuckle to ourselves, but what about when the joke is on us (or government officials)? I learned of one such case from my dear friend Peter’s blog — the mysterious grass-mud horse, which is actually a play on words to combat censorship in China. 

If you have been in Hong Kong long enough, you’ve no doubt come across a G.O.D. store, which is like the HK version of Urban Outitters, but more emphasis on home goods than clothes.  In it you’ll find some kitschy fun items, including hipster-ish t-shirts, and plenty of things that have Hong Kong significance (like a tablecloth with HK highrises printed on it, or a “Kowloon Rugby” t-shirt).

I’d often pass this shop and see t-shirts with the words printed very plainly, “Delay No More,” and thought it was some sort of moody hipster phrase akin to c’est la vie or something.  Only recently was I clued in that it was in fact a play on words to mean something very naughty in Cantonese!!

When a local had explained it to me without saying what it was meant to mean, I paused for a moment and started searching my very limited vocabulary of bad words in Cantonese and came upon it with some quasi-aloud thinking…. I repeated “delay no more, “delay no more,” and then it clicked!


That’s Madame Solicitor to You! I’m Admitted!!

More than a year from start to finish, fighting paperwork and intricacies of a bureacracy I’d never grow accustomed to, I finally got admitted as a solicitor to the High Court of Hong Kong in June!  About a week before my admission date I received a letter via “government service” addressing me as Madame Solicitor — tres fancy! It was exciting.  The letter simply confirmed no objection to my admission from the Department of Justice, and then I had the formality of ticking off whether I’d be swearing or affirming.

On the special day, which was rather bright and breezy, I arrived with legal dress in hand, ready with my mover, who also happened to teach my OLQE prep course, and a small audience consisting of 3 of my colleagues from work.  Once properly robed, I was directed to the jury box, which we were told normally accommodates 7 was jam-packed that day with 13 ready applicants of multiple ages and nationalities.

In front of me was a simple instruction card reminding me to await my movant’s speech, then to head up to the solicitor’s roll, where I would read my affirmation or oath, signature, and then bow to the judge on my way back to my seat.

The High Court judge came dressed in his wig and festive red robes, only worn during celebratory occasions such as this one.  He did an excellent job explaining the ceremony and was pretty witty as well.

Each mover spoke at least 10 minutes about his applicant (in some cases, one mover could move more than one application), where the applicant’s educational and professional background was described, as well as some interesting information about his or her personal history (in one applicant’s case, his penchant for costumes and karaoke skills was brought up!), some words of thanks, and a request that the applicant be admitted, having received no objection and having had his or her papers in order. 

The judge often interjected with witty comments and questions, and ended the whole shebang with a speech of his own, which was time consumingly translated into Cantonese for any non-English speaking audience members.

The judge reminded us of our duties, and was so pleased to see many qualified new solicitors (though he was dismayed not to see any barristers getting admitted — I had no idea they were admitted through the same ceremony).  I was also very impressed with my co-solicitors — some had incredibly impressive qualifications, many being preeminent leaders in their fields!

All in all it was a really meaningful day, much more grand than in New York, though there’s no doubt the First Department in New York is a beautiful court; and obviously way grander than the oath I read and signed before another NJ-admitted lawyer.  There is something to the ceremony that makes me realize what a big thing this is, and I hope that I will get an opportunity to get to know Hong Kong law even more intimately in a future opportunity having gone through all this effort and expense.

Good luck to anyone else laboring to make it through this journey!