Subway is always a fascinating place. People from all walks of life just squeeze themselves inside a small box of compartment, then fleeing that little box like a swarm of bees. But subways in Hong Kong are particularly fascinating. You can get to see how little interaction between the huge army of passengers is. From teenagers, commuters to the elderly, everyone is always looking down and doing something on their own. Hello individualism.
The Smartphone Craze
Hong Kong people’s hands are always busy. You would see more than half of the people are playing with their smartphone (with fruity brand name) in the subway. They text with their friends, play games, browse the latest Youtube videos and check their Facebook, Weibo and Twitter etc. Even close friends sitting next to each other inside the metro would use text messages to communicate rather than talking. Even some elderly people would use their phone to read news rather than carrying a printed newspaper. Even couples who can’t help cuddling in public would stick around with their phone (see the picture below). Is it a new way of communication?
The Real Sleepers?
I know what you want to say. Hong Kong people only sleep 6.6 hours a day on average (source here), of course they need to make most use of their time in the MTR and sleep as much as possible. But sleeping for a few minutes and waking up after doesn’t sound like a good way to sleep. In fact, even if Hong Kongers are not sleepy, they still pretend that they are sleeping as they’re afraid of confronting with the people sitting across from them. They are scared of eye contacts with strangers.
The Sitting Rules
When Hong Kong people pick a seat, there is an unspoken rule that you never sit next to a person if there are more than 1 vacant seat. You always keep some distance with others by leaving a blank seat in the middle between you and other passengers. After sitting down, everyone tries hard not to touch each other’s shoulders or arms. In a word, Hong Kongers just don’t want to be close to strangers. They need space for themselves.
It is really sad that Hong Kong people seem not willing to talk to strangers, trying to avoid eye-contacts and keeping distance with others. The reason might be that they are too conscious about their own property (a.k.a. money), they want to protect it but also try to show off at the same time, so the least costly way to playing with their new smartphone while pretending to sleep and keeping space from others.
Of course, there are real sleepers and people who don’t want to touch you because they’re ill. But from what I see, the majority of Hong Kong citizens seem to be extremely self-protected and cold in this sense. Sometimes, when it’s out of the metro, they can be extremely warm and talkative. One example is that, despite the rareness of talking to strangers on the streets, you would find that Hong Kong people are very eager to remind you to keep an eye on your personal belongings when the zip of your purse is open. I got reminded at least once in a month by random people on the street.
Maybe it’s the closed boxes of train compartments that create this new form of anti-social behaviors, or maybe, Hong Kong people are just individualism advocates. Or I would say, they are individualist of their own property.