Hong Kong, world’s rudest city?

This video reminded me why rudeness seems to be everyone’s No. 1 complaint about HK. The contrast with Taipei is astonishing. Here, people hold doors open for you, wait for you to get on the elevator (as opposed to pounding the door close button when you’re just a few seconds away), stop for pedestrians and are generally happy to stop and help total strangers. I miss HK’s hustle and bustle. I don’t miss being pushed, being insulted or being ignored.

The Discussion: 31 Comments

HEY, hey, hey … that’s my colleague Lisa Leung in that video!!! She’s in the office next to mine. 🙂

Okay, people are generally rude here, but at least they don’t jump the queue as often as in the Mainland. And they rarely spit too.

June 21, 2006 @ 4:29 am | Comment

I just love it: the Big Apple wins out.

June 21, 2006 @ 5:03 am | Comment

Personally, I think it’s presumptuous of her to expect people to hold the door for her. She’s not the Queen of England. And her point is kind of lost when at the tail end of the clip there’s a smiling guy visible for about half a second trying to open the door for her.

June 21, 2006 @ 7:10 am | Comment

Every word she says is true. I love HK. But often people wouldn’t even think of looking behind to see if someone else was about to come through the door. Very different here in Taipei.

June 21, 2006 @ 7:31 am | Comment

Guess what? New York is polite!

No, really.

June 21, 2006 @ 11:51 am | Comment

yeah, same source.

June 21, 2006 @ 6:36 pm | Comment

thats triple n’ nuts! my trip to hong kong left a big impression on me! the people were so much more polite than shanghai. If HK is the worlds city, than on what planet does shanghai exist?

June 21, 2006 @ 7:24 pm | Comment

The whole thing is ethnocentric claptrap anyway. Is politeness a transcendent human universal? Or what? I remember when my father in law came to visit our house and my Dad politely asked him if h wanted something to drink. Being Chinese, my FIL wanted to say so, but had to politely say no. Of course my father, being American, took him at his word. My Dad was soooo impolite in not asking him again, like any polite person would. Well, Chinese person….. Americans rudely address each other by their first names, too, instead of by titles as is properly polite. They serve the ladies first, rudely, instead of the men, in violation of the natural order of things.

I’ve been treated with excrutiating politeness here. You just have to learn to recognize that certain actions do not appear to fall under the politeness/impoliteness rubric, and that, even more importantly, foreigners are treated much better than locals. Last year I fell down navigating a slippery sidewalk and several people stopped to help me. This year my wife fell down on a slippery ramp and not a soul helped her.

I guess if you adopt some standard X as the Universal Politeness Standard then of course most cities will fail. But universalizing your particular socio-cultural politeness standards isn’t a fair move. Of course NY won — isn’t that the place where Readers Digest gets its politeness standards from?


June 21, 2006 @ 7:41 pm | Comment

It’s nice to find a critical thinker on this site, Mr. Turton.

Mr. Peking Duck still has a lot to learn about China, it’s territories and it’s culture.

June 21, 2006 @ 10:38 pm | Comment

everybody know New York is the world’s rudest city. why don’t you losers come back to your country instead of barking to my great homeland? fuck you!

June 21, 2006 @ 10:42 pm | Comment

I don’t find HK people rude. But they aren’t warm and friendly either. The whole city is a bit too busy and too tense for me. What struck me most when I was there last time was that people just didn’t smile. When I smiled at them, instead of smiling back (as most people will do), many of them would just stare at me as if I was mad. Why?

Singapore, on the other hand, is a friendly place in my book.

June 22, 2006 @ 1:16 am | Comment

I think it’s wise to point out the difference between politeness and hospitality. In China, I find the people to be shockingly inconsiderate of one another and quite brusque in normally friendly settings like restaurants. Been to a bank lately? Absolutely miserable- you feel like the civil servants and employees are trying to make your life as difficult as possible.

Then again, the Chinese I find are far more hospitable than their Western counterparts. I would imagine the Chinese would consider the manner in which we treat our houseguets to be unspeakably rude, though I don’t really know for sure.

June 22, 2006 @ 2:30 am | Comment

I think it’s wise to point out the difference between politeness and hospitality.

But that’s the whole point — in the US the model for treating other people is The Good Neighbor, under which hospitality is extended to the society at large. In China the rubric for treating others is The Family Member and strangers are Not Family whereas guests receive hospitality because they are Honorary Family for the Duration of the Stay. The distinction you make applies more to Chinese culture than to US culture.

Consider driving. In the US the polite driver doesn’t bull his way into traffic. In Chinese society the polite driver lets others bull their way in front of him. Key difference — in Chinese culture when someone imposes on you, it is polite to give way, whereas in US culture it is impolite to impose. Who is right? I do know which one produces a more pleasant driving environment, but I don’t know of any transcendent value I can consult to demonstrate that Readers Digest has a grip on the Universal and Transcendent Concept of Politeness.


June 22, 2006 @ 7:26 pm | Comment

…and it should be added that Reader’s Digest has longstanding links to the CIA, so this is clearly all a NeoCon plot!

June 22, 2006 @ 7:31 pm | Comment

Mr. Peking Duck still has a lot to learn about China, it’s territories and it’s culture.

I agree. That’s why I’m here. I do know, howrver, after living in HK for two years, that I get pushed and shoved more over there than any other city, and see many, many daily acts of discourtesy. This is based on personal observation, not on any academic understanding of the region. I know what I see. It’s still one of my favorite cities; I don;t really mind the rudeness, as it’s something you get used to.

The point about hospitality is absolutely correct, and the same applies to Beijing, where the people are among the most gracious hosts on the planet. Knowing this helps round out the picture, but doesn’t take away from the main point of the video: people in HK often treat strangers with rudeness.

June 22, 2006 @ 9:46 pm | Comment

It’s all relative. The general points about rudeness is Hong Kong are valid, but I can also think of innumerable counter-examples, e.g., the time my elderly mother came to visit me and went off on her own for an intrepid exploration of the New Territories. She got lost several times, and from the MTR staff to perfect strangers, she got nothing but courtesy, assistance and solicitude.

June 23, 2006 @ 3:02 am | Comment

It’s all relative. The general points about rudeness is Hong Kong are valid, but I can also think of innumerable counter-examples, e.g., the time my elderly mother came to visit me and went off on her own for an intrepid exploration of the New Territories. She got lost several times, and from the MTR staff to perfect strangers, she got nothing but courtesy, assistance and solicitude.

June 23, 2006 @ 3:03 am | Comment

Agreed. I found them wonderful when it came to directions. Once you engage them on a one-to-one level, no problem. But when you are just another body in a sea of bodies fighting for a seat or to get into an elevator or to cross the street, you’re just another body to push or ignore. I think 80 percent of this perception would be erased if they simply said, “Excuse me” or “Sorry.” Just a hint that other people matter would make a huge difference.

June 23, 2006 @ 5:05 am | Comment

And a smile would be nice too.

June 23, 2006 @ 5:23 am | Comment

Hong Kong is one of the rudest city in world. New York doesn’t even come close, and I lived and been to both cities so my observations don’t lie.

The thing is that Hong Kongers can be better people, but they prefer to be petty, ungracious prosimians. Furthermore, they like to use intimidation tactics, etc. to get what they want. Just pathetic.

And you can forget about customer service. Hong Kong is centuries from even coming close to the standard of the Japanese in this area.

Mainland China isn’t even like this. I consider them to be country bumpkins and don’t know better in most respects, which is easily forgivable once they realize their faults. On the contrary, Hong Kongers do know better but they prefer to act in a demeanor that is below that of bottom feeders…utterly unforgiveable.

As for Lisa Leung trying to explain how Hong Kongers are under stress, and we should try to understand their predicament. Total BS! Well, guess what? I have had bad days but I have never acted like assholes or bitches like the Hong Kongers. If we take her explaination as is, then that means almost every individual in Hong Kong, at every hour, is having a bad day. Why? Because almost all Hong Kongers act like assholes and bitches everyday at every hour.

June 23, 2006 @ 6:55 pm | Comment

Though I only lived in HK for about 4 months (not) working on a book, my feelings are this:

As the post above commented, once it’s one-on-one, I find the HK’ers I met to be very hospitable.

On the street it is like everyone is in their own cocoon or sphere. They seem oblivious to any interaction that randomly transpires with another person or group.
Richard’s point is a good one. A simple comment when bumping into someone, or perhaps even a quick “eye apology” would do wonders for the perception of HK being a “rude” city.

June 23, 2006 @ 9:42 pm | Comment

Living in Shanghai, I always find Hk a refreshing break from mainland rudeness.

June 24, 2006 @ 5:29 am | Comment

Justifying whether a place is rude or not is a never-ending debate. It is a very personal and cultural topic, so let�s not getting into that. However, I am extremely frustrated at CNN and the way they handle the situation based on the facts I have been exposed to so far. By the way, I�m originally from HK.

On 6/20 morning, I went back to my office to start my normal business day � get a cup of coffee and read the news from CNN.com. I saw this video called �Hong Kong: King of rude�. I felt so ashamed and angry � �King of rude� it seems. I knew it couldn�t be true, so I wrote an email to CNN to justify that their video was providing wrong information based on my own knowledge. Then I thought more carefully � I couldn�t believe there�s a person from Hong Kong who agreed to become a plausible source of this video to support Hong Kong is the King of rude. Therefore, I sent an email to Lisa Leung to inquire what really happened.

On 6/21 morning, I checked my email � nothing from CNN, and an email back from Lisa. She gave me some facts � Hong Kong was the 25th of that survey, and she had no idea that CNN would use this name for the video. I did my Google research, and found that the survey was conducted by Readers Digest over 35 cities. The ranking was based on the politeness, so HK is the 10th rudest place out of those 35 places. How does it make Hong Kong be the �King of rude�? This is simply CNN�s foolish decision. I wrote an email asking them to write a letter of apology or at least change the name of the video � no response of course (at least I tried). On the other hand, you can still search for �Hong Kong: King of rude� from CNN�s video archive. Although the direct link from their website to this video has been removed, this video will come out if anyone uses �Hong Kong� as the keyword in their video search.

CNN is giving a non-factual image of Hong Kong to people who are unfamiliar with it. They lure references to support a partial of the scenario and make up the rest of the story. I believe this is what we need to put our focus on.

June 26, 2006 @ 12:09 pm | Comment

King of rude or not. HK is fucking rude period. Besides rude, they are inconsiderate, selfish, petty, ungrateful, arrogant and unpleasant.

And get this, protocol, etiquette and manners are not expected of each other in Hong Kong. So most people don’t bother. HKers usually won’t thank you for holding the door or picking up something that they’ve dropped and giving it back to them.

I did an experiment once. Every time I held the door open for someone, I found that about 90% of the time no one would say thank you. And everytime this happened, I would ask “Don’t I get I a thank you for holding the door open for you?” Then I’d usually get one of two responses. Either they would ignore me and walk away, or they would rudely reply, “Nobody asked you to hold the door open.”

Infact, if you are polite, friendly, courteous and helpful to a stranger for no reason, they will think that you want something from them. All this is usually true if you local. However if you’re western, you’re more likely to experience rudeness to a lesser degree. You might get a bit more courtesy than usual and you will more likely be acknowledged for an act of good will to a stranger.

June 27, 2006 @ 5:17 am | Comment

Judging a person being rude or not is a very cultural and personal thing. I do not think what the Westerners believe should be applied to everywhere in the world. On the other hand, how do westerners handle Asian style courtesy?

For instance, Westerners expect people to hold the door for them. So do they expect everybody to be available and attentive and be the doormen? I think it’s an insult to expect me to be your doorman.

I am living in Boston, and let me tell you what I see in my daily life.
1) I would never put my head on a chair in the cinema, because I see people putting their feet (with shoes on) on the seat in front of them.
2) There are two dents on my car because there were shopping carts rolling around in the parking lot.
3) Asians spit? Is it hard to imagine a Western kid with his pants covering only half of his butt spitting too?
4) Tailgating, switch lanes without giving signals, poor parking skills so that the car takes up two spots… aren’t these considered as rude behaviors?

Chinese people have a naming convention for everybody on every branch of a family tree, and we expect people to use them appropriately. When I first came to the US, I was expecting the same thing. While I was discussing this cultural shock with other people here, they didn’t seem to care and told me to get over it. Why? Because they were not exposed to such things and “people here usually just call other by their given names”.

Why Westerners are often excused for not following Asian courtesy rules, and then Asians are often accused of being rude? NO!!! Pressure in our lives is not the reason. It is because Westerners fail to discover their own internal problems and start picking on other people. Once they find something, they would use their influences in the world to broadcast it. And this is the rudest thing on Earth!

June 27, 2006 @ 11:37 am | Comment

For those individuals who are trying to make a desperate attempt to refute the Reader’s Digest article, do a search on Google regarding Hong Kong and the rudeness associated with the city. You will not like what you read…then again, the truth hurts.

I’m just telling it like it is…oh wait, telling the truth is also rude isn’t it?

June 27, 2006 @ 5:05 pm | Comment

Cindy, you ought to read the message boards I have in HK, in wihch hnkies tell each other how rude honkies are. They know it and it’s no secret. There are some basic, general, universal defintiotion of rudeness, and I’m not talking about anything subtle like Asian courtesy rules. I’m talking about shutting an elevator door in the face of someone a few feet away. Of bumping hard into someone and not saying a word. The video is not talking about subtle cultural differences, only fundamental human decency.

June 27, 2006 @ 6:12 pm | Comment

Good point Richard. And why do HKers lack fundamental human decency? Well Lisa Leung from the video says it’s because of HK’s crowdedness, daily stress, and competition. I don’t really buy that to a certain degree as there are cities, like Tokyo for example, that possess more fundamental human decency and are equally crowded, stressful and competitive if not more.

HKers’ lack of fundamental human decency is due to their impatience. Impatience that can be traced back in the history of Hong Kong. Many Chinese fled to Hong Kong to escape the cultural revolution. People were in fear and uncertain of their daily survival. They could be captured and persecuted at any time. Finding food and shelter was also a difficulty. This fear for their survival was subconciously inherited by preceeding generations, and the impatience we now see in HKers is a symptom of that fear.

That’s why HK locals tolerate, perhaps even permit a fellow HKer to be rude and impatience while he is fearing for his survival (i.e. on the job working)

It’s not easy to tolerate a lack of human decency especially if you didn’t grow up here. Most locals who grew up here just see it as the norm because they haven’t another place to compare it to.

Hopefully, understanding why this lack of human decency exists makes it more tolerable for all of us.

June 27, 2006 @ 8:45 pm | Comment

Thank you all for supporting my point where Western people fail to see their internal issues. The two dents on my car is a non-debatable proof of why Westerners are not that great either. I never said HKers are not rude, I never judged who’s rude or not. My point is that we HKers should not be labeled as the rudest people in the World.

Closing the door in front of another person may cause a delay of maybe 2 mins; people switching lanes in front of me without giving signals MAY COST MY LIFE. Who’s going to expose this problem to the whole world? Why don’t they conduct a survey to see who has the cleanest subway system in the world? Why are these little bad things in Asian places often got projected and amplified to the whole world? Telling the truth is not rude. However, this situation is like I go tell everybody that you have an oozing giant bright red bump on your forehead (which is in fact a zit only), as if I never have or seen a zit before.

HKers are rude, maybe because of pressure in life. What I experience in my daily life just comes out so casually – people want to be relaxed and put their foot on the headrest in front of them in a cinema; people casually just leave their shopping cart around after putting their stuff into their cars and go; “O oopsie I forgot to give signal”

I want to correct my focus here. I don’t want to say whether Readers Digest’s survey is accurate or not. Western rules shouldn’t be used to judge Asian people’s courtesy level because Eastern rules never got accepted in the Western world. My point is that CNN USA, as a popular public media organization, has crowned Hong Kong as “King of rude” based on zero fact.

We have all the information here to show that CNN is not right here, how come nobody cares about the quality of information we receive from these public media? How come human beings only read what they want to believe in? Is this one of those so called “lack of human decency”? 😉

June 28, 2006 @ 9:11 am | Comment

Cindy is shrill. 🙂 Cindy, everyone knows HK is the King of Rude. Get off your high horse.

June 28, 2006 @ 5:17 pm | Comment

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