Monday, February 27, 2012

Chinese Creativity... Part 2

On my way to our factory in Shenzhen I recently came across this fellow, who obviously didn't want to drive more than once to deliver his packages.

Click on the image to zoom in

I hope he is not the same guy that shipped my boxes from The Netherlands to Hong Kong last year. (99% of my glassware got broken...Thank you!)

If it's him, I guess he took a corner too fast and tipped over...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How to extend your house in a creative way

During the last week I discovered a new phenomenon going on in my neighborhood.

I'm not sure if it has been going around for longer, but at least I discovered it myself during last week.

Every evening when I come from home I exit the MTR (Metro) and walk for about 10 minutes to get to my apartment building. The road that I take to get home leads me across several highrises which are similar to my own building. In the morning and during the day there are hardly any cars parked there, but when I come home late, the whole road is full of cars.

Normal, would you think, right? Yes, quite normal, as people come home from work. However, I discovered that one out of 5 parked cars have people sitting in them. Normal do you think again? Yes, if you are waiting for someone, you stay in your car, that's obvious, and I never thought something behind that.

However, last week it happened that I had to walk that road for several times in the evening. The first time was when I got home from work. I passed the street, and everything seemed as usual. The first car had a mother and 2 children inside, the second car was empty, the 3rd car again a mother, father and a child. Some cars later I saw again a car with a whole family inside.

The mother was watching a movie on their iPad while the children were playing in the back of the car on their portable game computers. In another car I noticed a father sleeping deeply with the seat in the maximum position, while the children were watching a cartoon in the back. I guessed that they probably had to wait a while before they could pick up the person they were waiting for.

I went home, cooked, and after an hour or two I decided to take a walk outside. After taking the elevator, I entered the (same) street. Walking a bit, I noticed that the street was still full of cars. Nothing special I thought. But when walking further, I discovered that the cars with the waiting people were also still there.

The mother was still using her iPad while the children were in the back, and car whole family was also there, and also the sleeping father with his children. "What is going on here?" I thought.

They can't be homeless I thought, as the cars were pretty empty and clean. So what is it?

I decided to do some more investigation that week to see if this was just incidental or a structural phenomenon. And so I went walking out every evening of that tweek to conduct my investigation, and indeed, it seemed that it was not just an incident. I noticed that some of the same cars were occupied on other evenings as well. Sometimes I saw the same cars with the same families, and sometimes I saw new cars with other people doing the same thing. Even on sunday, I noticed some people, mostly men, sitting in their cars with a drink and a laptop.

And then I figured it out in my mind: These people were just looking for some personal space. You know, the the average apartment in Hong Kong is around 60 square meters and even though that is not much, the biggest problem is that most families share this with themselves, their children, and their parents.

And with just 60 square meters shared by 5 or 6 persons, I understand you are craving for some personal space. Therefore, I understand that those people are being creative; they use their car as an extention to their apartment. The inside of a car is about equal to a Hong Kong bedroom, so it is a useful space if you want to leave your grumpy grandparents, you need to study or just want to spend some time by yourself and your iPhone.

I'm wondering whether this is something that has been going on for years, or that this is a rising trend due to the ever increasing price per square meter, forcing people to live with more people in smaller apartments.

At least it is a creative idea to overcome the typical Hong Kong problem of having no personal space!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Who is next ruler of China?

I expect that the years 2012 and 2013 will become very interesting for the Asian region, as China will appoint a new general secretary for the Communist Party this year, and a new president of the People's Republic next year. (Something that only happens once in a decade).

So who will be the one to be assigned those roles? It is expected to be Xi Jinping, the current Vice President.

With such a major event happening in our near future, I think we all need to have some background information about this potential new leader of one of the most powerful countries in this region.

Xi Jinping was only 15 years old, when in 1969 the supporters of Mao Tse-tung sent him to Liangjiahe, a village the middle of China where he needed work in a farm. His parents were high in the party hierarchy and therefore seen as "suspicious", and measures needed to be taken such as relocation. He worked at a pig's farm for little over 7 years.

During his 7 years in Liangjiahe, Xi worked his way into the graces of the Communist Party, using his intelligence and keeping himself away from privileges. For example, once when he was assigned a larger room than he was entitled, he refused. Safety first, and don't give any room for your enemies.

He is seen as the perfect and therefore unnoticeable Chinese ruler. But nevertheless, his daughter is studying at Harvard and his wife is a very famous folk singer in China.

The L.A. times has posted an interesting article about this man, who is expected to rule China for the coming 10 years.

Read the article here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chinese Creativity...

My friend Scott sent me a picture he recently took with his mobile phone in Shenzhen, China.

On an ordinary day while going to work, he suddenly spotted something weird in the distance. It was a car.. but something strange was going on...

It looked like this car was parked sidewards, with the headlights pointed towards the pavement. But if it is parked like that, how can this car be moving forward? That's impossible!

And besides that, it appeared to be flying as well!

No he wasn't dreaming...

A couple of seconds later, when the flying-sidewards-moving car came closer, he realized what was going on...

(Click on the image to watch full screen)

This guy's car broke down somewhere and appearantly he couldn't get it started again.

So, what do you do as a clever chinese?

Right .. you take a forklift... put it under your car.. and drive it to the next garage!

Thanks Scott for your contribution!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hong Kong Accelerate - The beautiful side of the city

Madison, the founder of the company Spot on Idea recently sent us a link of his new video project.

In his video he shows us the 24 hour non-stop Hong Kong life with its crazy traffic, rushing people and ever ongoing construction work.

Why I am posting this video?

Because the video is shot in such a way that below the surface of this dirty, overcrowded and stressful city, a beautiful pattern will reveal itself. In other words, when you look at Hong Kong from another perspective, you will definitely see the beauty of it all.

This video gives you an impression of how I felt after visiting Hong Kong for the first time.
During that first visit I made up my mind: I'm definitely going to live there and experience it all!

Take a look, and you will see what I mean.
Please watch it full screen(!)

Hong Kong Accelerate from Spot On Idea on Vimeo.

(Ps. this is not a sponsored link.)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Chinese New Year, A period full of traditions

Last week I experienced one of the most important Chinese holidays: Chinese New Year, also called Spring Festival or Lunar New Year.

I heard about the Chinese new year before, and before I experienced it, I thought it should be similar to our western new year, where you spend an evening (and night) with your family and celebrate the start of a fresh new year. You drink champagne, you eat (too) much, and when it is midnight, you congratulate everyone and start watching fireworks. For the rest there are not much traditions involved in the western world as far as I know from my own experience. Yes, maybe you go to your family on January 1st, and you may have some good intentions for the new year, but that's it, right? Nothing really special besides having a good time with your loved ones.

Fireworks in Hong Kong during the Chinese New Year
The Chinese new year however, involves much more than just a night of celebration. Besides being one of the longest holidays throughout the year, it involves a lot of traditions that we are not familiar with in the west.

First of all, every year, the Chinese new year falls on a different date, somewhere between January 21 and February 20. This is because it is based on the Chinese lunar calendar, a calendar whose dates are linked to the phases of the moon. Compared to our "normal" calendar, the Chinese calendar is about 11 days shorter and therefore one extra month is inserted every 3 years to keep the calendar in sync with the seasons.

According to a Chinese legend, the Chinese new year started by a mythical monster that would come on the first day of the new year to eat livestock, but also people and children from the villages. The people thought that if they prepared food for the beast, it would not eat them and their children. Also, the monster was scared of noise and red colours, so therefore the villagers hang red lanterns and red rolls on their windows by the time that the new year was starting, and used fireworks to scare him away.

Nowadays, the people are not afraid of the monster anymore, but you can still see the ancient tradition being applied. Everywhere you go, you will see that people will hang red lanterns near their house. They also put red scrolls of paper on their front door, which usually have Chinese characters like "good health, good fortune, happiness" written on it in big golden letters.

In the week before Chinese new year, most people will clean their house thoroughly, as it is believed that the cleaning will wash away all your bad luck, and you will have a good start in the new year. Also you are supposed to buy new clothes, shoes and cut your hair before the new year starts, as it will give you a good new start as well. (Don't buy any clothes or cut your hair in the first days after the Chinese new year, as it will bring you bad luck!)

When you walk through the street before New Year, you will hear a lot of firecrackers everywhere. Shop owners will light the fireworks before they close down their shop, to make sure they scare the beast and get good luck for the new year. It's really something you will hear for several days, throughout the city. Also families are doing that on their balconies, so watch where you are walking!

On the night of Chinese new year, all the families come together to have a big dinner together or light the fireworks. There are also a lot of firework shows organized by the government, which are usually much more impressive than their western new year counterparts in Asia. (I remember I was quite dissapointed seeing the 2012 New Year fireworks in Hong Kong. It lasted only 5 minutes, while the Chinese New Year fireworks lasted for 20 minutes.)

The new year celebration officially lasts for 15 days, but just the first 3 days are officially a public holiday. During these 15 days, there are a lot of different traditions as well. First of all, someone told me, the old tradition says that you are not supposed to wash your hair during the first 15 days, as to not wash away your luck.

Day one and two of the Chinese new year are usually family days. People will visit relatives to have dinner and wish them a prosperous and healthy new year. Besides that, many people will visit some of the old temples to make a wish for their family or to worship their ancestors. I heard that on the third day you are not supposed to visit your family, as this day is cursed for visiting relatives. According to some old myth, if you will visit your relatives on this day, you will end up having arguments with them, so this day better not to visit with them.

One tradition I personally like is the tradition that involves the so called red pockets. If you are married, you have to give a red pocket to all your friends and family members that are not married, once they say "Kung Hei Fat Choi" (Happy New Year) to you. A red pocket is a small red envelope in which they put a certain amount of money. (Usually between 10 and 100 Hong Kong dollar).

Red Pockets, lucky me!
For people that are not married (like me), this is a very good time of the year, as you are able to gather a reasonable amount of money. Make sure that you do not open the envelope in front of other people, and also you should put the envelopes under your pillow at least one night, to make a good fortune.

You can see that the Chinese new year is quite different from what we western people are used to. I never expected that these days, just in the middle of January, could be so special for a major part of the world's population! Next Chinese new year, when you walk in Chinatown or visit a Chinese restaurant somewhere, wish them happy new year. I'm sure they will appreciate very much!

Kung Hei Fat Choi! (Happy New Year!)
(In Cantonese)