Never far from the madding crowd

Just as people who have not seen each other for a long time are able to detect physical changes of each other at the moment of reunion, when I came back to Hong Kong after being away for a year, I was able to make observations about the people that I had taken for granted my whole life.

What struck me most was Hong Kong people is that there are such a lot of them. This may sound like truism, but coming back from Prince Edward Island, the population density of which is only about 1/250 of Hong Kong (and the island is already Canada’s most densely populated province!), I couldn’t help notice that I was always among a crowd of people.

Having so many people around is likely to make one feel they are too close for comfort. This may be the case even in the countryside where one is supposed to be able to get away from it all. In two or three hikes I did during the trip, I had to adjust my pace because there had been other hikers close by walking in the same pace as me and the hiking partner(s) I was talking to. I just didn’t like sharing our conversations with strangers or disturbing others with our speech. 

With so many people around, one cannot be bothered with etiquette. In a sparsely populated country like Canada, people do not cross path frequently. And when they do, they are quick to give way or apologise if they do get in the way of each other. Not in Hong Kong. The large number of commuters, most of whom are in a hurry, always strive to get a step ahead of others. It always happens that one commuter cuts across another, just six inches in front, and neither has an issue with it. Just don’t bump into each other or step on each others’ toes.

Not only are most people in a hurry but also they look cheerless or wear a long face. Knowing this birthplace of mine well, I am guessing that for some it may be a sense of self-importance while for others it may be the burden of life or whatever business they have to handle shortly. It is obvious from these people’s faces that this is a city which, for all its affluence, does not have much capacity for happiness. This observation is in line with the findings of the latest Smiling Report released by Better Business World Wide. Based on the investigation of Mystery Shopping Providers in 69 countries, Hong Kong is fifth from the bottom in terms of smiles offered by service providers in different industries.

They say that money cannot buy you happiness. Just ask the people of Hong Kong.

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