Every country has its cultural quirks. Some traditions may sound ridiculous and unreasonable. However, when in Rome, do as the Romans do!
FUN QUIZ! How much do you know about Hong Kong culture and superstitions?
1. You meet a really nice local at CityU. His birthday is coming up. Which of the following gifts should you avoid?
2. You are invited to a family dinner at your local friend's house. Where should you put your chopsticks when they are not in use?
3. You are going to the beach on Sunday. You want to wear a flower to spice up your look. Which colour should you avoid?
4. Which of the following is an unlucky number?
5. When you are taking an escalator and you are going to stand still; which side should you stand on?
6. Which period is usually considered unlucky in Hong Kong?
A. March to April
B. August to September
C. November to December
Answers: 1)A 2)A 3)B 4)C 5)A 6)B
Superstition is not the enemy of reason!
1) In Chinese, giving someone a clock (送鐘＝送終) = attending his or her funeral.
2) This is what we do when visiting someone’s grave. The rice is for the dead.
3) In ancient China, the offspring of the dead were required to wear a white flower on their heads during and after the funeral. Nowadays, although only a few families still adopt this tradition, placing a white flower on your head symbolises cursing your parents to die.
4) In Chinese, 8 sounds like “becoming wealthy”, whereas 4 sounds like “death” (死).
5) We tend to stand on the right side when taking an escalator. The left side is for people who decide to walk the stairs.
6) In Chinese mythology, the gates of hell open once a year during the seventh month of the lunar calendar, which is usually in August and September. During this period, Hong Kongers tend to tread very carefully around ancient beliefs to avoid offending the roaming spirits. Traditionally, they avoid getting married, relocating, changing jobs, making investments or travelling.
What we’re thinking, if you put on a white flower or stick your chopsticks in the middle of a bowl of rice:
No worries. Most of us understand that you might be a newcomer and so are not familiar with our culture. Just be careful when you meet new friends, especially the elderly who are usually more concerned about manners and tradition. Apologise if they tell you what you did is not appropriate. When you see people staring at you strangely (and can’t figure out why), just randomly ask a local if there’s anything wrong. And never do that again! You may also take the opportunity to introduce us to your own culture. This can be an excellent topic of conversation with your friends.