What do tour guides say about you, and your country? Presumably they are locals, so they say lovely things. As a Hong Kong expat, while I am a local, I’m not, well, a local. I’m not Chinese, nor was I born here. And whilst I have lived in Hong Kong for 9 years, I don’t think a HK born person would view me as anything but a transient.
OK, so what? Well, here’s what. I may not be technically Chinese, but I do love Hong Kong, and am taken aback when I hear strange utterances – such as when I was out the other day about to head home after some shopping. Along the way, I saw a tour group. In Hong Kong, that’s not particularly unusual, what was a bit unusual was it was a tour group of westerners, in the bar area of Soho. (ie generally westerners are IN the bars, not looking at them as if they’re at a zoo.)
The local Chinese tour guide was talking quite loudly to the group of maybe 20 people. As I passed by, they were standing outside a pub, and this is what I heard:
“This is where they sell beer and everybody get drunk, mainly Australian’s”
Has this bloke never been to the Hong Kong Rugby 7’s, where you can see every nationality on earth getting as drunk as 40 pirates? Has he not been into any pub in Hong Kong showing Premier League football, to see a full house of inebriated English? Has he never seen South African’s, tequila shooters lining the length of the bar, whenever the Springboks win a rugby match? Has he never watched the Super Bowl with a few dozen Americans and many dozen Budweisers?
Let me clearly state I am not taking the high moral ground. Australians LOVE a drink, and we will undoubtedly be convicted if the World Court ever sentences countries found guilty of being generally drunk and disorderly. But we will not be alone in the dock.
So it got me to thinking about stereotypes. Are they inventions of the media or are they generally true? According to folk-law, every Glaswegian worth his black pudding loves to smash his pint glass into his friends face on a Saturday night; yet I have only ever found Scottish people to be wonderful and charming. All Americans are suppose to be loud and ignorant, yet they had the intelligence and know-how to put a man on the moon (apparently), not to mention they invented the Cotton Gin and saved everyone’s bacon in WW2. If you go to Bali, all you will see are Australian, New Zealand and British, drunk as skunks in flowery shirts, yet just edge out from Kuta, even a few miles, and you will see the same tourists calmly visiting temples and admiring the wonders of Indonesia. Anyone who has been to France will insist that all Parisians are rude, and all the waiters on the Champs-Élysées are snobs…Ok, so some are true.
Every country has its fair share of embarrassing natives. So why not have a laugh when the ‘loud’ American turns up, chuckle when the ‘sheep loving’ New Zealander enters the room, and buy ‘Paddy the Irishman’ a pint of Guinness.
Part of being in the human race is to recognize that people are different – not better or worse, just different. People can, and do, act outrageously when they are out of their normal environment. To turn a normally law-abiding teetotaler into drunken, slobbering letch – simply add beer and rugby.
Instead of getting angry, I try to enjoy the kaleidoscope of cultures on display. Sure, it doesn’t always work, especially when all those annoyingly bolshie Russians, with surgically enhanced wives in tow, turn up at the resort and take over the pool… Oops.