Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Wedding

Today is Royal Wedding Bank Holiday.  HRH Prince William of Wales marries his partner Catherine Middleton.  The whole of Britain (minus the republicans and religious fundamentalist groups) and the Commonwealth cheers.  A lot more were watching as the event was broadcastered to many more countries.  We've not had a proper British royal wedding for a long time.  The last time we had one was that Prince Charles to Camilla Parker-Bowles, which was a pretty low key event. However, so were that for Princess Anne's second marriage and that of Prince Edward.  It was a big deal, because there has not been a Royal wedding backed by popular public celebrations to this scale for a a very long time.  The last time there was anything to this scale was the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer.

Prince William has grown up to be a very grounded and well respected figure in his own right.  He is well liked and he represents the hope for the future of the British Monarchy.  Both he and his brother Prince Harry represent a a modern look for the Royal family.  Things have not always gone well and they have not had the smoothest childhoods, but they pulled through.  The reputation of the Royal family took a tumble.  The old fashioned ways of the establishment persisted, even though the Royal family has changed a lot since Queen Elizabeth came to the throne.  This was not the main factor, but the way the public view the House of Windsor, when they took sides with Diana, Princess of Wales.  Prince William's marriage will make the Monarchy, hopefully popular again.  The Will and Kate brand will do a lot for Britain. 

A lot of people in Hong Kong would no doubt be watching.  Despite being no longer a British Colony and not even a member of the British Commonwealth.  Hong Kongers still follows British events with interests.  The wedding and the events of the day were broadcasted live and of course Hong Kongers would be watching with great interest.  This is about a handsome prince marrying a very pretty girl (who is not of royal or noble descent).  This is of course just like in a fairy tale and the sort material Disney features are made of.  It was a good show, nobody does military marches, pomp and circumstances like Britain.  Royal weddings in other European countries are nowhere this grand.  Prince William is not the heir to the throne the event is not a state occasion, but due the his popularity, it was pretty much so, unofficially.  Hong Kongers love sentimentalism and add the glamour, this is right up their street.  There was a lot of comparisons between his wedding and that of his father to his mother...

This is where it gets annoying, as Hong Kongers and Asians (actually many uninformed, liberals and no-brainers) will at this point take sides.  Princess Di, ever so beautiful and charming, could do no wrong.  The perpetual princess of hearts to many people.   Prince Charles will always  be the villain.  Whenever this topic is raised by Hong Kongers or other Asians, I feel I have to run.  I doubt they want my opinion on the matter.  I respect the late Princess Diana and all she has done that is good.  However, I have lived through the highs and lows of the matter.  I've read and heard it all in the press.  The British public have moved on, Mohamed Al-Fayed hasn't been heard in public for a while.  If I was asked, my response would be "It takes two to tango, you weren't there or directly involved and it certainly isn't your problem...."   

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother - Part 1

Amy Chua's book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother has been a much talked about and very controversial book. It is certainly the topic of discussion regarding how Chinese people raise their children.  For years, there has not been a book from a Chinese author that has caused such a stir.  The last book was from Jung Chang (張戎), called Wild Swan.  This book like Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club, was about personal journeys of Chinese women, their experiences of the East and the West.  They are a matter of personal taste, but I haven't read Wild Swan, but regarding the Joy Luck Club, I have read the book and watched the film.

When I read in the press about this Tiger Mother book, I was actually quite excited and judging by the title, I kind of guessed what it might be about.  There were a lot of negative reviews and comments in the media.  I myself had my own opinions and prejudices.  I guess many other Chinese or Asians had them also.  I guess parenting is a private affair for Chinese people and it is certainly not something you tend to read about.  If you are Chinese, you'd know about it and the usual mention in stereotypical jokes.  Until now, it has all been an open secret, but now people the world over get a brief look into Chinese parenting ethos.

Amy Chua (蔡美兒) had a list that she enforced on her two daughters that they must not do.  
  • attend a sleepover
  • have a playdate
  • be in a school play
  • complain about not being in a school play
  • watch TV or play computer games
  • choose their own extracurricular activities
  • get any grade less than an A
  • not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin
This list cause a furore with all who had read or heard about the contents.  It was shocking and it was something generally not heard of outside Asian communities.  There are split opinions, some feel her approach is wrong in a liberal and democratic society.  However, there are those who feel Chua hasn't gone far enough.  Many people thought this book was a manual as to how to bring up children, it is not.  You have to read it to understand what Chua wanted to say.

Amy Chua was born to an immigrant Chinese family who were very traditional.  Chua eventually married an American-Jewish man, but it is somewhat odd that she intended to bring up her daughters her own way, the traditional Chinese way.  Yet, the daughters were raised as Jewish.  Being Chinese and Jewish is nothing new (I'll explain another day), but it certainly gave her daughters unique personalities.  The Chinese and Jewish parenting methods differ greatly.  Chinese parents are generally conservative and strict.  Jewish parents are often more open and allow children the space to develop.  But there are no right or wrong here.  If you look at the list of the most influential players on the world stage, there are no shortage of people of Chinese or Jewish backgrounds.

Yes, Chua was very tough with her daughters.  I could imagine growing up with such a mother was very tough.  Imagine being with friends, but generally being different.  In a way, it looked really extreme when compared to the liberal attitudes in the West.  If this was in Asia, then it would be not a big deal.  Chua wanted the best for her daughters, she cared and that is why she went to these great lengths.  Sometimes she went to far.  The relationship with her youngest daughter Lulu was strained at times, because she insisted on fighting fire with fire.  Whilst they were growing up, it was always about living to a strict schedule, e.g.  school, homework and practice their musical instruments.  There was no breathing space and this continued whilst on family holidays.  The daughters will practice before they will be allowed to engage in any sort of leisurely activity.  Often this will mean the practice sessions will over-run and the intended schedule would be ruined as the attraction had closed for the day.  I give credit to her husband.  He's been supportive and had the patience of a saint.  I can see that he didn't always agree with Chua's actions and even he feels at times, his wife had gone too far.

My fist impressions of Chua was that she was self-opinionated, pushy and lacked understanding of the way things when her children were concerned.  I also thought she was quite shallow in that she had little understanding about the arts and she didn't really respect the opinions of people that were quite different from her own.  Chua believed classical music was the path children should pursue.  That classical music was a civilised activity, I agree with this.  However, when she was going through the third piano teacher for her eldest daughter.  I thought she was shallow in dismissing the ideas of this particular teacher.  I say this, because this teacher had a deep way of thinking regarding music, but it was about appreciating arts in society and not academic or status related.  This way of thinking is quite common in Chinese society, where the unconventional artist is not tolerated.  In the West, this sort of thing is a gift.  It is obvious that her family had little appreciation for animals and it wasn't until she had her first dog (her suggestion) that she started to appreciated dogs.  It showed that she has no understanding of animals, when she declared she had plans for her dog.  I guess in her traditional psyche, pets must have a function.  In the West, pets are to be appreciated beyond their practical abilities.  It was odd that she actually wanted second dog and by the end of the book, a third.  I have no idea if they ever did get a third.  

You have to appreciate though Chua.  She did a fine job balancing home and work life.  Her daughters might not have appreciated her efforts back then and readers might have felt she was stretching herself too thinly.  She did it for her daughters.  Not many successful career women could do that.  She might possibly be an inspiration to the stereotypical Chinese Super Woman (女強人).  If only, if only they had the desire to make children as well as money and obtain power and influence. 

End of part 1...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

When my eyes roll back

Anybody of Chinese extraction who has lived in the West would have been asked about the routine stereotypical questions (you know the ones).  There was a recent web article from CNNGo which I found quite interesting and I thought it is a good idea to jot down the five questions I loathe.

1.  "Are Chinese or Japanese?"  This is a question I've heard many times and if I got a £1 for every time I answered this, I'd be rich.  The next question would be "what's the difference between Chinese and Japanese?"  Then it is "can you speak Chinese/Japanese?" followed by "how are they different?" - Yawn...

2.  Do you have a Chinese name?  and How come you have an English name?  I get this a lot when you meet new people.  I bet ignorant Westerners have a field day when it comes to  Chinese names.  I have seen loads of jokes, especially in these Chinglish topic websites.  Yes, they are hilarious aren't they?  Well it is human nature to laugh at things that look funny to you.  After all, there are plenty of English surnames that are equally funny.  Then we have the Chinese person with an English name.  Unless you're family have been in the West for many generations and don't really follow Chinese naming traditions.  Many Chinese people would have been born with a Chinese name.  The English name comes later.  It might have been given when you or you might have found one you like when you were at school.  Have Westerners ever thought that it makes communications easier when you have a name that everybody can pronounce and you don't have to explain yourself.

3.  Do you speak Mandarin or Cantonese?  If you knew where I came from, do you need to ask?

4.  Do you do kung fu?  and can you show me some?  This is actually rather mind-numbing.  The real answer is yes I do kung fu and no I won't show you any.  Any traditional martial artist would not show off their skills and abilities, we're not circus monkeys.  If you're respectful and genuinely interested, then that's different.  Then there is the compulsory Bruce Lee monkey noises.  Real kung fu is no joke and no I won't trivialise my tradition.

5.  The issue of eating cats and dogs.  *sigh* This is very, very tiring, but many Westerners feel it is ok to harp on about it.  I don't eat cats and dogs, I don't believe in this sort of behaviour.

It is quite funny how Westerners love talking about these things to Chinese people.  Just because Chinese people will generally just take it, it doesn't mean we enjoy putting up with it.  If you pose the same sort of nonsense to  members of other ethnic or religious groups, you'd probably be sued and the press will have a field day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dating non-Asians

I have always been into just Asian women, I'm not sure why.  I went to school where the only other Chinese person was my sister.  I went through university and my intention was still to meet Asian women.  I really have to broaden out my experience.  In light of past events, I ought to try a little harder.

On the subject of dating, this song really makes me laugh.

The lyrics are greats:

Verse 1
Tell me was it my xanga? My anime or my manga?
Did I turn you away with all my references to Bleach, Full Metal Alchemist and such?

I know, I stood in line to reserve my Pokemon Pearl
I admit my share of raiding in that Warcraft World
Please give me a chance, am I asking too much?


You are the best thing that's ever happened to me
I love you more than I love rice and kim chee
At times I may be timid, at times I may be shy
But just because I'm not the white guy doesn't mean I'm not the right guy

Verse 2

You like to watch him eat with chopsticks, it's so cute to watch him try
But I've got crazy ninja chopstick skills that'd make a grown man cry!
Is it really wrong to still live at home? (with my mom...)

Not a single soul can match my skills at DDR
You know that I don't drift every time you're in my car
Is it really a crime to keep the plastic on my couch and on my phone?

Chorus 2

I need you more than "fortune" needs "cookie"
You're more important than my computer science degree
At times I may be nerdy, but that don't mean I don't try
Just because I'm not the white guy, doesn't mean I'm not the right guy


You said I was selfish cause I spent all my time on my medical degree
But you know, I was only trying to take care of you and our extended families

Chorus 3

Can't you see, I'd rather have "us" than have a wii
For you I'd get straight A's in school, never once get a single "B"
My arms are not hairy, Korean dramas make me cry
Just because I'm not the white guy doesn't mean I'm not the right guy

© 2007 Christopher Toy

*Otaku is a Japanese word for people who follow a particular interest group with great obsession.  The equivalent in English would be nerd or anorak.  However, when the term came to Taiwan and Hong Kong, the meaning extended to mean people with social phobias.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pin your colours

I have lived in Blighty for many a years and I have noticed that unlike most countries, it is some sort problem if you fly the national flag.  You are free to fly the flag of any country or pseudo-government, but not the Union Flag.  Apparently it offends minority groups and makes members of these groups feel oppressed.  But hang on, you're in Britain, you live here and most likely a British subject.  What is the problem?

If you are in the USA or in France, the national flag is proudly flown the from the mast and nobody questions this.  Its a free country and the national culture, customs and faith are not questioned.  You are free to be as you are.  Even in less free countries like China and Iran, being foreign and believing in what must is not a problem.  If you don't annoy them, they don't annoy you.

It is only in Britain that the very welcoming and liberal natives welcomes foreigners with open arms and let themselves be walked over.  Multi-culturalism has clearly failed, communities don't talk, never mind trust each other.  Clan feuds and backward customs are imported in Britain.  As a Christian country, Christians or being Christian is some sort of problem.  Whilst I am not Christian, I have no issues with Christmas and Easter.  Being Chinese, we are not hindered in celebrating Chinese New Year.  On a contrary, the Brits come out in force to celebrate with us.

Britain is very welcoming and tolerant to people of all races, religions or sexual orientations.  You can practice what you want, so long as it doesn't break any laws.  It is rather upsetting that clan or religious feuds are imported and so the fighting and bickering continues.  Its important to note that where they originate, they most definitely would not have enjoyed the freedom they do in good ol' Blighty.

For the record...

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A clean break

This week I feel very relaxed and considering what I am up against next week, even I am surprised.  I broke up last year after an 18 month long distance relationship.  People say that long distance relationships don't work and   generally it is true.  However, in my case, it is because I found myself with an introverted otaku* girl who has serious personal and social issues.  Facebook can be a great way to connect, but not when you are being stalked.  Some people need to get out more, but I have moved on.  I should probably done it sooner.

So why am I relieved after a year, because I no longer like being stalked and after hearing about her poor behaviour from others.  I feel I have to disconnect.  I didn't do it back then because I respect her enough to give her face and allow the thread of friendship to continue.  All this, despite many factors.  I feel very happy and refreshed.  Now that I am officially single, I am going to start meeting new people.  I am going to try and do things differently.

Friday, April 1, 2011


One the things you get when you go to Hong Kong is that people you meet will ask if if you are BBC?  Well  so what if I am and so what if I'm not.  Is there a problem?  I suppose if you're coming back from overseas, you are going to look different.  The way you dress, your body language and also your lack of Chinese language ability.  You are an obvious target for eager sales staff in shops.  I do find the term BBC rather annoying.  After all, you'd think your fellow Chinese would be a bit more considerate towards their own kind, no not so.  Do Hong Kongers enjoy being called Hongkies by Malaysian Chinese?  Probably not, but what is sauce for the goose, should be sauce for the gander.  If you can dish out, you ought be be sportsmanlike enough to take it back.  You can spot a BBC a mile away, in Blighty as well as back in Hong Kong.  A BBC usually sticks out like a sore thumb.  But let's put the shoe on the other foot.  Put a native Hong Konger in Blighty and the chances are they're like a duck out of water too.  So how would they enjoy being called names? Without a doubt, not at all.

I don't feel I have to explain my background, I am comfortable with who I am.  I rather not be bored and suffer your stupidity and ignorance.  As a matter of fact, I wasn't born in Britain.  Over the years, I've heard every joke and insult about Chinese people.  To the point, it no longer bothers me, actually I find some of them rather funny.  What is funny is the term we Cantonese give to white people Gwailo is suppose to be a derogatory term.  However, white people in Hong Kong have accepted this tag and embraced it as their identity.  This is much the same as how white people accept the Japanese term gaijin (foreigner, outside person).  So my advice to all BBC's is to embrace the term, even if you don't like it in the beginning.  If you like it enough, the negative tones will go.

I am well aware of the intra-Hong Kong prejudice and discrimination that goes on.  There is always one group against another.  Before becoming a British colony, it was the Hakka Vs the local Punti's Vs the boat dwelling Tanka.  Now we all live in apartment blocks, we speak the same and dress the same, who really knows your background.  That spirit of discrimination hasn't gone, its now Catholics Vs Protestants, who themselves have issues with Buddhists and Taoists.  Then we move onto the prejudice and discrimination towards the Filipinos, Thais and Indonesians.  Pound for pound, BBC's get it easy.

A lot of BBC's are second or third generation descendants of the local Hong Kong clans that have moved abroad to scratch a living.  After all, there were few prospects in farming left in Hong Kong.  If you could earn a living abroad you did.  Then you sent money home, which helped your family, your clan and the local economy.  A lot of Hong Kongers really don't understand how or why we moved abroad.  The subject is often missing in the history of Hong Kong, possibly because people don't know how to tell it.  The clans of Hong Kong have been in the region for a long time.  Some have been there for centuries.  Hong Kong is the land our ancestors, overseas Chinese have every right to feel at home there.  On the other hand, a lot of Hong Kongers you see are descendants people who came to Hong Kong to seek refuge from the problems during the waning years of the Qing Dynasty, the Republic era, the Japanese invasion and later the Communists.  A number of them  weren't even from Canton Province.  So who are they to talk.  However, I'm not going to go there.  I believe Chinese people of any description should unite, help each other and live in peace.

BBC's might not be too clued up on Hong Kong culture, but that doesn't make them stupid.  A number of them are graduates and have employable skills.  The talent that Hong Kong might actually need.  Hong Kong might be a modern city, but in many ways, they are still quite behind with the times.  If locals still ask if you are BBC, the best way forward is stand up and positively say YES!!!