「香港身份計劃 (HKIDP) 」由方禮倫創辦，是私人資助項目，旨在記錄、歸檔和探討各種關於香港身份的活動。譯文由 Sally 提供，英文原文在譯文之下。
In this extract from a longer essay, Evan asks us to consider the way our own “Western” stereotype shapes Hong Kong’s international community.
Evan Fowler is the founder of the Hong Kong Identity Project (HKIDP), a privately funded initiative to document, archive and explore the Hong Kong identity. The Chinese translation is provided by Sally.
最近，我去了一個小型的社交聚會，在場的都是些年輕的專業人士，他們互相認識,具備相若的優越背景，譬如是從小就在外國人圈子中長大，如今仍自豪在香港紮根的本地人。有人向一個剛從倫敦來港，看起來接近 30 歲的人問了以上那條問題。我本來並不太著意他們的對話。想不到，他卻沉入了思索，沒有立刻作答，這反而驅使了我的好奇心。
At a small social gathering of young professionals, a man in his late twenties who had recently relocated from London was asked whether he liked Hong Kong. The people gathered all knew each other and came from similar, and privileged, backgrounds; local people who were raised among an expatriate crowd to be at once international and yet also proudly rooted in Hong Kong. At the time the question was asked I was, let’s just say, not fully engaged by the level of conversation. However, having half heard the question, I found myself drawn with increasing interest by the unusually long pause the question elicited.
“I like it here”, he eventually answered. Then came a sweetener, before an unusual and important qualification.
“Hong Kong is a great city. I do like it,” then, and again after a noticeable pause, “but it isn’t really comparable with London.”
The reaction from those people present varied. One man just scoffed at his impertinence. Others looked away, considering any real conversation over. That some people had taken this young man’s honesty as offensive was unmistakable. Others, who had been among the most eager to engage now let their eyes wander, as if recognising a lost cause.
I have always considered it a great shame that so many people, when confronted with an opposing or contrary position, will instinctively withdraw into their comfort zone. If education is to teach us anything, and the assembled crowd could certainly boast of having received the finest on offer, it is to question our own positions, and to understand a test not as a challenge to oppose but to welcome. It is on scrutiny that the strength of a position ought to be based.
“What is it about Hong Kong that you least like?”, I asked.
His reply surprised me. “I really can’t stand the drinking culture.”
You could almost hear jaws drop. Someone asked what was undoubtedly on everyone’s mind: “You’re from London, and you think the drinking culture here is bad?”
“It’s the expectation”, he replied.
He went on to described a level of expectation he felt both at work and within social circles in Hong Kong to drink, socialise and to indulge in other “recreational habits”. Whilst he was a banker, what he described did not just play to the stereotype of his chosen profession. Far more pertinent to understanding our city was that the expectation derived from the strong social, racial and professional stereotypes that he claimed exists here to far a greater degree than in London. It was, he described, the “expectations of being a gweilo”.
Growing up in this city I know only too well this expectation. Labelled a Western “gwei jai” by both the local Chinese and international community, the presumption has always been that I and my siblings must fit this city’s own stereotype of what it means to be a “Westerner”. It is an identification that has nothing to do with my nature or actions, but how others perceived what I must be. It is a peculiar type of racism driven not by what society perceives you as being, but by what you are not. The gweilo is not Chinese.
This prejudice exists even within my own family. A few years ago at a family dinner I was sat beside my cousin and her husband when he attempted to strike up a conversation with my sister. “How many boyfriends do you have?” he asked. A little upset at the implication, my sister replied she had only one, her fiancé who was also present at the table. “Come on, you must have lots of boyfriends every weekend,” he pestered. He then turned to me to ask if I would be going to Lan Kwai Fong that evening. When I told him that I do not enjoy going to Lan Kwai Fong, and that it was not really my scene, I was greeted with a pause and that knowing smirk that seemed to say “I know your game.” That I do not play such games nor wish to was beyond his expectation of the “gweilo” side of his own family.
I do not like beer nor coffee, and have never felt the urge to try let alone use illegal drugs. I have never enjoyed binge drinking nor late nights out. I am faithful to my partner and find it extremely awkward being around flirtatious people. I do not enjoy watching football, nor do I consciously buy brand-name goods nor have any particular respect for people who do. And whilst I never judge those who find enjoyment in such pursuits, living in Hong Kong I find myself constantly presumed and judged as though I do.
I have witnessed friends and family feel obliged to act against their nature to fit this stereotype. Unaccepted by Hong Kong’s local Chinese community, they feel forced to frame a social identity within a relatively small “international” community that is, though far more varied diverse than often understood, perceived by both society and those of influence in our city as being homogenous. Dominated by the voices of a minority who do fit the stereotype, the choice can often seem to be between accepting, at least to a degree, the stereotype and social exclusion from not being placed.
There have been and will continue to be those who will say that I am being unfairly critical. They will point to the many “positive” perception that this Western stereotype carries, and that those so identified have more to gain from the association. But such arguments totally miss the point. If I am to receive preferential treatment it should be because of who I am as a person, not because of what I am perceived to be. The fallacy of such “advantages” is that they are built on a misconception.
If my attraction is based not on who I am but for the stereotype I am perceived to fit, the attraction will not survive reality. It will not engage me for who I am, and will not offer any meaningful reward for either party. Not only this, but the continuation of such stereotyping will encourage people to be dishonest about themselves, to play to this stereotype when they perceive a short term advantage.
Given this pressure to conform, I am very glad to be both autistic and an introvert. I do see the expectation, but I do not feel it in the same way and to the same degree as many of my peers. It is not that these pressures are unique to Hong Kong, but they are acute given both our colonial history and our more recent return to a nation eager to stoke the fires of racial stereotyping. If we are to build a truly diverse and international city, addressing this level of stereotyping would only be beneficial.
So what my young friend said did not come as a surprise. What surprised me was that he would have the courage to say it. Perhaps by being Eurasian he shared my sense that this Western stereotype and the pressure to conform represented a deeper hurt: that we were unconsciously not only being denied the right to define ourselves and be respected for who we are, but implicit was also a rejection of our Chinese identity and the deep affiliation we have for what is also our familial culture.
“London is home because I am, and am understood, as a Londoner,” he said. “I can be myself, and people will accept me for who I am.”
As a Hong Kong Eurasian, I look forward to the day when I too can make such a statement about my home.