Saturday, June 20, 2009

Basic Lubin

I have been in Hong Kong for over a week, and feel a bit like Alan Partridge in the episode "Basic Alan", where he's bored out of his mind in a Travel-Lodge that's equidistant between Norwich and London. My life has been reduced to a repetitive series of routines. At least I get to go home tomorrow.

The people who work at Subway, where I eat most nights, could have been in Alan Partridge (if he ever went to Hong Kong). They seem fascinated by my lovelife and comment on it in a way which would be unheard of in frosty Britain.

Subway Woman: Oh you have wedding ring on. You marry?
Me: Yes
Subway Woman: To Chinese girl?
Me: No
Subway Woman: To Phillipino girl?
Me: No
Subway Woman: English?
Me: Yes

I wanted to say "Actually love I'm married to a 6 foot tall man" but didn't have the nerve or energy.

The next day, there was a teenage girl in front of me, who let me go first as she couldn't make her mind up. The people behind the counter charged her for my meal, and then informed us that they thought we were "together". "We were just saying, that she seemed a bit young for you..." the Subway Woman told me as she took my change. That's the problem with being in a country where you don't have the first language. They could be saying anything about you. And as I've suspected, sometimes they are.

I walked to the cinema to see if there was anything playing (there wasn't). On the way I passed endless fashion billboards showing perfect depictions of young, haughty, blonde, pale-skinned Caucasians, looking down on the Chinese people below, as if saying "Even if you wear these clothes, you'll never look like us, suckers!" I hate fashion at the best of times, because even the models themselves don't look like the pictures on the billboards once they've been airbrushed and had their proportions altered. But it seems an especially cruel trick to play on a whole ethnic group - so that you don't have the slightest chance of resembling a corporate idea of "beauty" and "glamour".

The "West is Best" message comes out in all sorts of odd ways. I looked at a few local gay websites while I was here and kept seeing adverts like this: "GAM seeks GWM only". Here G=Gay, M=Man, A=Asian and W=White. I also saw a few from westerners who specified "Sorry, but I don't like Chinese guys". Now I've never in my life seen an advert from an Asian guy who said he didn't like white guys, and I don't remember seeing any from white guys who don't want white guys either. And I keep bumping into white-Asian pairs of people (both gay and straight) while I'm here - where in almost all cases, the Asian person is younger and better looking than the white person. I think there's a lot of things wrong with the UK, but to be marginalised in the advertising and romantic domains in your own country... well that's pretty fucked up.

1 comment:

Andy said...

Reminds me of our recent trip to Malaysia and an advert in the local paper for some Loreal product or other. The face staring back was familiar and yet not. Turned out to be Eva Longoria, except she had been asian-ised, airbrush and altered to have Malaysian eyes! Was quite un-settling and surely obviously patronising to any Malaysians after all they watch Desperate Houswives and can see that isnt what she really looks like.