Thursday, August 21, 2008


A sign at Hong Kong International Airport
that gives visitors a really good idea
how fast paced Hong Kong life generally is!


Back in the summer of 2000, my mother and I paid a visit to Hong Kong after not doing so for several years. Unused to Hong Kong's ways (and its particular style of English), my mother found herself being perplexed by a sign at the airport and asked me, "What is a relax train?" Whereby I, who had figured it out a few moments prior to her making the query, laughingly informed her that the sign actually was urging passengers to "relax[ -- i.e., chill out -- for the] train [was] coming" soon!"

In 2008, the signage near the train now more clearly reads "RELAX -- Train comes every 2 minutes". And Hong Kong does indeed remain a famously fast-paced city. So much so that almost every time I leave it, I tend to find the places I visit from there -- be it Taipei (as was the case last December) or Malaysia (most recently this past week) -- to be excruciatingly slow-paced.

With regards to Malaysia in particular: One of the Cantonese phrases I learnt from my two years of living and working in Kuala Lumpur -- which, for all of its being the capital of Malaysia, has the Cantonese as its largest ethnic/linguistic group -- was "mm sai kan cheong". But as I've found upon moving to Hong Kong, that which effectively translates into English as "no need to get uptight" (i.e., "take it easy") just doesn't have much use here. Indeed, try saying it to a Hong Konger and more often than not, you'll get an uncomprehending look -- and no, it's not just because I have a lousy (i.e., English accented) Cantonese accent either! ;D


Willow said...

I'd like to get on a relax train some time. lol.

Somehow, I'm thinking a common reply to the "mm sai gan cheong" in HK would be something like "up yours" but more delicately put. lol

YTSL said...

Hi Willow --

Teehee re your wanting to get on a relax train some time. As for the Hong Konger response to "mm sai kan cheong": I actually think it would be major disbelief before the more aggressive reaction you're imagining! ;D