Monthly Archives: December 2012

CDotD: Photosynthesis has Feelings Too!

I have previously written about ridiculous names in Hong Kong. and while crazy names can occupy too many posts (e.g., I did not write about the travel agent whose name is “Evil”), but today I heard one that just overtook me —

Turns out Chlorophyll, whom I mention in my previous post on Hong Kong names, has a sister named PHOTOSYNTHESIS!

How can that be?

It turns out – these were not names that were self-chosen, but rather decided by their botanist father! Needless to say – crazy!

CDotD: Body Check Required to Work in China

A colleague from our Shanghai office rolled into town to complete his visa application to work in China, and was lamenting at how exhausting the procedure was.  I jokingly suggested that China needed bloodwork before they could let him through – and it turned out that was no joke! He actually DID need to provide blood for testing to complete his application for a work permit.  The purpose of it was primarily to ensure that he did not have AIDS.

But not only did he have to have his blood tested, but he also had to hook up to an EKG and get an ultrasound.  What they were testing, I have no idea.

I suppose I could see a reason to bar a person with AIDS from entering the country, but what about someone who was just not in good health? Why did they need to do all those other tests? And what could they discover from an ultrasound (of a male) that might be suspect??

Frequent Farewells

Like New York, people from far and wide come to Hong Kong to work, go to school, or otherwise pursue their dreams, but unlike in New York, many of these visitors to Hong Kong don’t end up staying for too long.  Many of Hong Kong’s expats are quite transitory, and many don’t come with any thoughts to relocate, as do many of New York’s newcomers.

So because of this, farewell parties are often all too frequent, and it makes living in Hong Kong somewhat sad, as you say goodbye to good friends more often than you’d like.

I went through the painful exercise of counting the number of Hong Kong contacts in my phone — 80.  Of that 80 I know for certain that 19 have left Hong Kong (about 25%).  There are 13 I cannot account for since I have not been in touch with them in a long time.   I would think that of the 80 phone numbers I’ve inputted in my phone over the last 3 years, a 25% attrition rate (potentially higher), is pretty high!

Last night I attended farewell drinks for three friends, and I have to admit they will be sorely missed.  One of the three took the OLQE prep course with me and helped me to get my eventual job with him at his firm.  He was always the most pleasant person to be around, very smart and helpful when it came to the law, and always making efforts to create a happy environment wherever he was.

In Hong Kong, you more readily see how much people make up life’s worth (at least for me), since you usually learn such lessons only in the absence of such people.

Thomas – you’re going to be sorely sorely missed!

A Polite Practice

Now that I’ve practiced in Hong Kong for more than a year, I think I can adequately compare and contrast the practice here from that in NY.  One big difference I’ve noticed is that the practice is far more polite and “nice”. 

A big part of the NY legal practice is writing what one of my former partners called the “nastygram.”  Sometimes the nastygram is used to tell someone to stop infringing/breaching/otherwise affecting your client’s rights.  Sometimes it is just lawyer to lawyer correspondence in a dispute already taking place.  Either way, it is inherently designed to be “not nice” to make your point and hopefully get what you want.

I noticed a lot of the letters I would draft were being edited by my boss to take the nasty out of what I thought was meant to be a nastygram. In fact, the NY practice is so riddled with “nastiness,” that is not uncommon to include little snipes here and there in the motion papers (e.g., “the plaintiff is completely misguided in its interpretation of A vs. B…”) too.

But in Hong Kong I have found things to be quite the opposite.  Lawyers really do treat each other with much more respect and kindness, and avoid jabs at the other’s intelligence, even when it is so painfully called for. 

Even more “polite” — barristers will address opposing counsel as “my learned friend,” and tehcnically, solicitors ought to address each other as “my friend”. 

I even had this happen to me one time while doing a 3 minute hearing before the magistrate, where my very obnoxious and stubborn opponent – who LOST in my application – addressed me as his “learned friend” (I want to say I am learned, but I am no barrister”) before the judge.  I admit it just reeked of sarcasm because he was entirely disagreeable to me – but “friend” I was in the courthouse that day.

I’m not trying to say that NY lawyers are always rude and jerky to each other, and it is definitely not the norm.  Rather, you do see rude and jerky behavior here and there, whereas in Hong Kong, it is more like almost never! I’m also not trying to say that HK lawyers aren’t jerks either – but at least in the practice, the tone is rather courteous and professional – even if not always heartfelt!

Overall, I find the rude jabs and snipes do make the job less enjoyable and injects anger into my day – so the “niceness” in HK certainly helps me to enjoy my practice a lot more.

Cantonese in Canton

I always feel bad when non-Chinese speakers complain about Cantonese being an ugly language.  I really think any language can sound ugly, depending on who is speaking – and if the only Cantonese you tend to be exposed to is coming out of the mouths of less educated screaming types, shouting produce vendors, or shouting waiters (are we seeing a pattern here?) I can see why you would think it ugly.  Unfortunately, I rarely can persuade people who have made up their mind to hate Cantonese.

I recently learned that not only is the Cantonese spoken in Guangdong province (Canton) less “hard” versus the Hong Kongese, but it apparently has some variations I never heard of it!

The word “其实” (pardon the simplified characters – I don’t have a character writing pen on my computer yet) is pronounced (not using any official form of romantization here – just my own phoneticization) “kay suht” in HK Cantonese, but apparently in Guangzhou you might instead here “cha suht”! I never knew, since the only pronunciation I’ve ever come to known is the former. 

What’s interesting to me is that it is a tad more reminiscent of the Mandarin pronounciation, qishi (for non-pinyin readers, the q sounds like a ch).

I wonder what other differences in pronunciation there is between HK Cantonese and Canton Cantonese!