I must be more of an English stereotype than I thought, because I’m going to talk about the weather. Clearly our reputation as a nation goes before us, for I was talking to my Mandarin teacher (Yes, you heard. A Brit, learning a foreign language!) about the weather (in English, of course), and she remarked,
‘It’s always raining in the UK though, isn’t it?’
I commended such an astute remark, as the grey skies outside our 17th floor window threatened to turn an even more morose shade of black. My mood however, was far from this. I enjoy the rain in Hong Kong, a climate where you can comfortably (a relative term) wear shorts all year round (running trouser count: 3 days worn in 6 weeks). It douses the humidity, makes the air more breathable. As I sit here looking out to clear blue skies, I read about floods currently flashing their way across the UK and I can see eyes rolling. But Hong Kong gets more than its fair share.
In comparison to the UK, where we all know that infrastructure & people can only function efficiently within the range of 15-20°C before the nation collectively has a ‘Falling down’ moment, Hong Kong operates in a much different climate. I described the concept of dwindling daylight hours in the UK winter & SAD to my teacher, a bemused expression crossed her face, very much like this. I used this to defend our constant need to drink and why we are so miserable for 5 months of the year (can’t explain the other 7). I saw the moment the veil was lifted, and the UK’s reputation crumbled in her eyes. Then I explained Cider. Rock bottom.
I have traded one nation with a proclivity for precipitation for another, how very intelligent. Actually, Hong Kong pisses on the UK (apologies for the cheap but aposite vernacular), when it comes to rainfall. The annual average being 2.5 times higher! Avoiding rain in Hong Kong is like dodging a swarm of water pistol armed bees, whilst locked in a phone box. Public weather alerts include regular typhoon warnings and ‘Black rain’, when rainfall is predicted to be 70mm or more an hour!
Practical points to consider when experiencing inclement weather in Hong Kong:
- Although almost all English men in a warm climate think it is their non-denominational deity’s given right to wear flip flops (sandals, if you like to be creepy) at ALL times, occasionally this is impractical. Hong Kong is very dirty. All those open shoe wearers who have been caught in the rain know water easily swills and brims over the edge and under your feet. In Hong Kong rain only washes the streets slightly cleaner. It is still filthy, and always will be. Even when rain stops, the flip flop remains stoically clammy a good while after, the podiatric equivalent of that white gummy drool that collects in the corner one’s mouth. Unpleasant.
- Wellingtons are de rigeur storm chic for women. I walked into a lift to see a smartly dressed businesswoman wearing a black and white dress, prada bag, nice pair of heels? No, nice glossy pair of wellies (black, but of course). None of these ankle boots or pair to ‘change into’ either, full knee highs all day long. It amused me to see such nonchalance in the face of adversity, I would even say most revel in the opportunity. Wellies are the Wet-iquette.
- An Umbrella is not only essential, but a necessary defence mechanism. Here, I make two generalisations. I make no apology. People in Hong Kong tend to be shorter and tend to be less self aware in public (nb). Consequently, if you are of average Caucasian height, you will encounter a hell of a lot of umbrellas. A nylon swarm of blunt razors, death comes with a thousand cuts, at approximately neck height. John Snow is never without sword or shield and neither should you be. Even with this protection, traffic junctions constitute the ultimate Mexican stand-off, you’re not going to pass without sustaining some damage. You just have to take it on the chin, or neck or . . . . .
This post was brought to you be the Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong. I dread to think what would happen if I should run into any bellicose member whilst out in a downpour!
nb. People’s walking speed still completely perplexes me, in the same way it perplexes me that the English are so very terrible at games they have invented.