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November 29, 2004 08:43 PM Travel  |   Link
Side trips and other news

Sorry no new news recently, we've been traveling alot the past week. We'll be posting to hkupdate mailing list shortly. If you're not already on the list, please email me (lchan at this domain). We've been writing more personal notes through the mailing list and write about 2-3 times a month.

Some highlights:
Repulse Bay
Macau Grand Prix

November 21, 2004 08:03 PM Business & Finance  |   Link
Credit Card Society

Hong Kong is very much a cash society. Even with the many credit cards available, many are still lining up at ATMs to get cash. Everywhere I go here in CWB I notice people pay cash.

Today in NY Times, there was an interesting article on the need for credit companies to increase minimum paments and interest rates of consumer credit. The report mentions that consumer debt is pretty high in the US and from a credit risk prevention standpoint, many of the companies are protecting their business because of the high consumer bankruptcies of the 90s.

More on article: Soaring Interest Compounds Credit Card Pain for Millions. (NY Times, Free Reg Required)

I guess consumer credit is not such a big deal in the US when the government is really into deficit spending as well. It's all good for the US economy in some way. However this type of value of spending what you don't have is still not a common thing elsewhere. It's probably a type of American imperialism...let's force our value of consumer debt so that credit businesses can make more money...

I remember even Martin Yan mentioned how as a Chinese-American he prefers cash rather than credit in his financial well-being.

Credit cards or going into debt is not part of the culture here. Everyone works hard and lives pretty much within in their means. One tactic for the credit card company to encourage consumer credit is to offer discounts at restaurants or retailers. You can get anywhere between 15-20% off your meal in many places.

Ten years ago I worked at Robinson-May credit card office, setting up new credit applications, increasing credit limits, and in most cases declining credit purcahses or credit limit increases. I learned how to read credit bureaus and understand credit risk in relation to credit history. It was quite a frustrating experience since we would look at credit history of a client but also use a recent credit bureau report to back up our decision. In lots of cases folks still wanted more credit even after filing bankruptcy, loosing a car or home, or defaulting on other cards. These days if you have no credit history, it's quite difficult to get a good rate for a car or home loan. It's like our society perpetuates the need to have credit to show your worth...

Oh well, recently I've started to appreciate this cash society. If anything I use my credit card as a backup payment option. Even with the rewards systems that many of these cards have, I like not having to see a statement chronically all my purcahses and reminding me to settle my bill. I also like the Octopus card as a great substitute for cards. It's basically a cash card that you can use to pay for parking spaces, public transportation and small purchases at the grocery store and 7-11. Hopfully in the future it can be used for taxis as well.

I'll probably write more about this topic from a cultural standpoint. There's still so much to learn here.

November 20, 2004 06:31 AM Travel  |   Link
You can't get any whiter...really!

Can't anyone get a facial moisturizer here without skin whitening? Living in CWB, I've noticed there's a big fascination with skin care or more specifically skin whitening, make-up, and weight lose.

Weight lose is a also big deal here. If you're bigger than a size 6 you're pretty much considered obese here. It's amazing how skinny many of the women are here. I remember seeing an ad on the bus for someone who was probably a size 6 saying she was sooo fat and then get hooked up to some kind of contraption that got her to a size 0. Imagine my frustration of knowing I've lost over 40 lbs. already and arrive here to hear that I'm still obese from various fitness trainers. Aiya! Of course I know none of the products you smear on your body or ingest will help whiten your skin or help you loose your weight.

If anything some people are pretty vain about staying white and being super skinny. If they were skinny and had lots of muscle tone that's one thing, but most of the folks here are just really skinny. If anything there are no J-Lo or Beyonce shapes here. It's almost like their bodies are in a transitory pre-pubscent state.

In some way I've fallen for it, but there's no getting around it. I still need a moisturizer and I like getting massage oils. It just seems that they try to sell harder by telling you the product will make my skin whiter or the oil will help combat fatty deposits in your legs...or something like that. Gosh with my working out for 2 hours every other day and trying really hard to stay vegetarian, I know I'm doing it the old fashion way...I'm working it off! As for my freckles, I really like them. They set me apart from most folks and they build character :)

Maybe in the US people are really in an unhealthy state and I was desensitized that it was ok to be fat. But here, I've swung the other way. You definitely stand out if you're bigger than say a size 6.

November 16, 2004 07:43 AM Food & Wine  |   Link
She handed me a vegemite sandwich

Not for the faint of heart...and doesn't really go in the "wine" aspect of the "food and wine" category." However just the same it's about food.

I was visiting with some aussie/kiwi friends this evening and had my first experience with Vegemite... Yes I was a Vegemite virgin.

"Curiously familiar," I said with my mouth chewing on the cracker. "I think I like it."

Was I an Aussie in a former life? Why did this Vegemite mixed with margarine on a cracker tast really good? Wow, it's vegetarian friendly...but wait there's more, it's got lots of nutritional value. Could this be, a more nutritional spread to replace my Nutella?

November 11, 2004 05:16 AM Whine  |   Link
Iris Chang, Chinese-American Author Commits Suicide

Official Website of Iris Chang

According to SFGate.com, she died of self-inflicted gunshot. She was an amazing Asian-American writer. Her website contains more information about her background and the books she wrote.

November 08, 2004 06:43 AM Travel  |   Link
What is China?

Interesting article at the Guardian about China's political/social/economic ideology, "One week in the life of the Chinese miracle."

November 07, 2004 05:40 PM Travel  |   Link
As I was walking down the street one day...

So in front of our building there's a major crosswalk that gets you to many buses and trams. Once you get the green light you have a mad rush to get to the other side. It's like the game of Frogger as you try to dodge other peds toting children, pets and handtrucks. I usually walk through the crowds in a quick pace since if you walk to slow you get run over by other peds and if you're holding hands people will walk through. Crossing the street is not a casual affair here, especially in Causeway Bay.

Yesterday I was crossing with Jeff and I happened upon a mother and child holding hands. I didn't notice the child until he was standing right in front of me looking up at me. His mother had just let go of his hand. There was this moment were we were just "shocked" to see each other stopped in the middle of the crosswalk of a busy intersection. After I got to the other side, I just started to laugh. This poor kid is probably 6 years old staring up atsome person not knowing what to do since his mom just let go of his hand while crossing the street.

I think it's very difficult to walk around this part of town with kids because everyone walks with focused purpose of everyone at eye level. It's rare to see children and so anywhere you go you don't expect to see a kid there.

Speaking of height...another reason I think I like this place is I AM the average height. I can easily blend in without having someone who is 6 feet tall walking around. I also feel tall since many of the ceilings of public transportation and hallways are not so tall so I feel taller. The other challenge on the other hand is when I have to meet someone who does not know what I look like and say "I'm asian with medium length black hair." It's not quite helpful here

November 02, 2004 08:19 AM Travel  |   Link
HK High Stress Place to Live

How ironic that we decide to take some time off from living in the US to a more stressful area? According to Reuters, people working in Hong Kong are the most stressed out people in Asia.

I'm not surprised. The people here work crazy long hours. It reminds me of the startup/dotcom boom days a few years ago, but the folks do it here for many many years.

Please pray that they realign their focus and priorities more properly.

Here's a list of the most/least stressful careers based on ulcers.

Here's a list of most/least stressful cities to live.

Travel  |   Link
Voice Over IP

One of the cool aspects of Jeff's work is he still is in close contact with his colleagues through Voice Over IP. His company just setup the system and he is able to connect with them online. It works pretty well.

Also Jeff and I were playing around with Yahoo IM and the voice chat works ok. So any friends and family who want to get a hold of us over phone just initiate a chat room and you can hear our voices. Don't do the Internet Call because that feature actually costs real money. Just create a chat room and invite either of us and we can initiate the voice chat.

Isn't technology just kewl!

PS: Staying up to watch the results tonight :)