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Lesson Transcript

Matt: Welcome back to CantoneseClass101, the All About series! I'm Matt!
Nicole: 大家好 (daai6 gaa1 hou2), I'm Nicole.
Matt: Today we're going to tell you more about life in Hong Kong.
Nicole: And life in 廣東 (gwong2 dung1) “Guangdong” as well.
Matt: Right, the two major regions where Cantonese people reside. So, how's life in Hong Kong,
Nicole: In brief, you're unlikely to be bored while living in Hong Kong and if you are, then
there's no real excuse for it.
Matt: The variety and pace of this vibrant and ever-changing city should keep the most demanding people satisfied.
Nicole: If there was ever a city where East truly meets West, Hong Kong truely has to be it.
Matt: Yes, Everything you could want can be found in Hong Kong, from cinemas to theme parks, numerous restaurants serving food from the world, and the world's finest hotels.
Nicole: Right. But, a short distance from the high-rise, architectural masterpieces of this densely populated city, you'll find that forty percent of the HKSAR is parkland.
Matt: Even Hong Kong Island itself has a number of walking trails. There's plenty to amuse those keen on getting close to nature and greenery.
Nicole: That's what I love about Hong Kong. In Guangdong, which is a province neighboring Hong Kong, things are so much different.
Matt: Right. The constructions never seem to end. They are trying to tear down every inch of the place for real estate development.
Nicole: I know. It'll soon becoming an urban desert.
Matt: Compared to Hong Kong, Guangdong’s closer to the mainland lifestyle since it's in the mainland and follows the mainland policy.
Nicole: Also, it has fewer expats. But the expatriate community in Hong Kong can be rather insular and close knit. That's not a criticism by the way, just an observation.
Matt: It's usually the case that largely British and American community, many working in the financial sector, they tend to socialize in the highly Westernized districts of Lan Kwai Fong and Wan Chai, the two major entertainment areas on Hong Kong Island.
Nicole: Many large multinationals choose Hong Kong as the base for their Asian headquarters, and as such, there are a fair number of affluent expats living in the expensive mid-level area above Central district.
Matt: Central is where you'll find Lan Kwai Fong, the traditional expat hangout.
Nicole: Even though it's a small and compact area, it is host to a large variety of restaurants, trendy bars, and nightclubs, all huddled into this compact and popular expat haunt.
Matt: Drinks are fairly pricy with even your basic beer costing fifty HK dollars or even more.
Nicole: In spite of having quite an upmarket feel to the place, it's relatively relaxed in terms of dress code.
Matt: Then a short taxi ride will take you to the other expat hangout on Hong Kong Island, Wan Chai.
Nicole: That's right. Wan Chai is a major commercial district and our discussion doesn't do it justice.
Matt: Regarding nightlife, Wan Chai is an example of the seedier side of Hong Kong.
Nicole: I agree.
Matt: Home to a handful of discos, many of which are open until the sun comes up, you'll never be short of female company, be it Thai, Filipino, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and women of many other nationalities working in the sex industry. They are only too happy to let you buy them an overpriced drink, for which they will earn a commission from the bar.
Nicole: In case you're curious, the women are allowed free entry to the clubs as the management knows very well that they will attract male clients - good for business.
Matt: Also, you will find a strip of go-go bars along the main road near the MTR station.
Nicole: If you're into that scene, be prepared for a hefty bar bill. You have been warned!
Matt: Crazy as it sounds, it's still exciting.
Nicole: So crazy!
Matt: Now how about the other not-so-crazy region?
Nicole: Yes, Guangdong, Sun Yat-sen's hometown.
Matt: It's definitely the capital of Cantonese culture and history.
Nicole: Right, you can see all the Cantonese history and architecture there, for instance the old cool 大屋 (daai6 uk1).
Matt: Which are the old high ceiling big houses that were the main housing for Cantonese for hundreds of years.
Nicole: And Guangdong also has some very beautiful parks like Yat-sen Park.
Matt: And the food in Guangdong is truly delicious.
Nicole: Another really historical city in Guangdong Province is 佛山 (fat3 saan1).
Matt: Oh yes, I've never been but everyone says it's amazing, especially with all the Kung Fu masters there.
Nicole: Yep. You seen the movie Yip Man, right, featuring the Wing Chun Kung Fu master. The whole story is set in that city.
Matt: Isn’t it the home of Southern Monastery? Where the monks practise one of the two major styles of Kung Fu?
Nicole: Because life in Cantonese cities isn't always easy.
Matt: Yes, one thing you should know about life in Cantonese cities is that a lot of them are very polluted.
Nicole: Yes, the skies will often be very hazy.
Matt: Blue skies can be a rare sight.
Nicole: Another thing is that, of course, life in Hong Kong is super crowded and super busy.
Matt: Yes, well, you guys love that! You even have your own word for it?
Nicole: 熱鬧 (jit6 naau6). That's true - Cantonese people love 熱鬧 which basically means…
Matt: "Crowded, noisy, insane…," in a generally good way!
Nicole: Yes, it's true. Because then any time of day you can get food and find people out, and it's very lively.
Matt: However, from experience, where there’s crowd there’s conflicts, so be aware that at times in Hong Kong you may encounter noisy street arguments, jostling crowds, and dirty streets.
Nicole: You must just enjoy it all as part of the culture.
Matt: One thing I really appreciate is that, in general, Hong Kong and Guangdong are quite safe.
Nicole: Yes… except for pickpockets.
Matt: Oh, yes, that is true. I lost a few cell phones and iPods that way. However, as far as personal safety goes, I never really felt nervous.
Nicole: That's good.
Matt: Now let's talk about some family life in Cantonese society.
Nicole: OK, with the pace of everything else changing, it definitely puts pressure on families.
Matt: I find, in general, that families in Cantonese society are generally still quite traditional, and the family is a focal point of life.
Nicole: It's true. Most of our holidays center around family gatherings and meals, and filial piety is an important and still a very valid part of Cantonese society. Most people will travel home every holiday, no matter how far it is, to spend it with their family.
Matt: Adult Cantonese children will usually live with their parents, if their parents live in the same city, that is).
Nicole: Yeah, and when they get married and have a child, the parents will help them with cooking and parenting.
Matt: That’s right, so even though Hong Kong is modernizing very quickly, traditional family values are still very strong.
Nicole: But now the marrying age in cities is getting older, though often our parents will still nag us about getting married and having kids.
Matt: A big part of it is that people are busy in the cities, building their careers, working, etc.
Nicole: Yes, as we mentioned, Hong Kong is changing so quickly, economically as well as socially. And the economy has a big impact on the daily life of people.
Matt: Yes, Hong Kong's economy is now ranked number three in the world. This has had a big impact on society as well.
Nicole: Almost every major multi-national company not only has an office in Hong Kong, they deem Hong Kong as vital to their global corporate strategies.
Matt: The foreign-owned companies are doing a lot of business - companies like Boeing, Nokia, and Volkswagen - but the biggest companies are actually the state-owned companies.
Nicole: Yeah, so this leads to two distinct working cultures.
Matt: A lot of people I know kind of wanted to work for a multinational company, it has a bit of status, but they found in reality that it often meant long hours, politics, and tedious climbing of the corporate ladder.
Nicole: Work culture in state-owned enterprises can sometimes be hard too. Sometimes there are influences left over from the old days. The 老細 (lou2 sai3) “boss” is all-powerful and no one will dare to criticize or make suggestions.
Matt: Yes, and I know that sometimes employees are at the beck and call of their bosses, no matter if it's the weekend or evenings, an employee must be ready to serve his 老細 (lou2 sai3) “boss” at all times. It's pretty difficult.
Nicole: I guess that's why a lot of Cantonese start their own companies. We all like to be the 老細 (lou2 sai3).
Matt: Yes, that’s right, and Hong Kong has a business culture all its own!
Nicole: Yeah, in Cantonese business, relationships are everything…relatives, friends, former classmates…all will cooperate with people they know.
Matt: The Cantonese have a word for this, which means "relationships" or "who you know." So just the fact that they made a word for it, shows how important it really is.
Nicole: Yes, 關係 (gwaan1 hai6). In Hong Kong, the success of your business can be dependant to a large degree on the power or scope of your 關係 (gwaan1 hai6). It's not what you know, it's who you know.
Matt: Plus another big difference is how deals are done. A business meeting is really different than it would be in the West. A deal is made only after much eating, drinking, and camaraderie, rather than in a boardroom in the Western culture.
Nicole: Yes, maybe even some KTV singing and drunkenness.
Matt: Well, it seems like a fun way to do business.
Nicole: It might not be so good for your liver though.
Matt: Okay. So today we've really just touched on a few aspects of the Cantonese society. That was our glimpse into the Canton region of today.
Nicole: We hope you know us a little better now.
Matt: Yes, and get to know more on the next All About series at CantoneseClass101.com.
Nicole: See you next time.
Matt: Bye!