We're not that simple

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 June, 2012, 12:00am


Many mainlanders come to Hong Kong to buy genuine things. From jewellery to designer clothes, food and even baby formula; Hong Kong is trusted to deliver the real deal.

I wonder what they make of the increased tendency among Hong Kong companies to use simplified characters instead of 'normal' ones? Won't they, as we do, connect simplified characters with exactly what they are trying to get away from: communism, corruption and crappily made goods?

Last month there was a big brouhaha on Facebook over the agnes b Cafe in Tseung Kwan O, which presumably thought it would attract more customers if it used only simplified characters on its menus - for example, writing the word for 'soup' with seven strokes instead of 12. While I'm all for the right of any company to write anything it wants in its advertising, I couldn't help but think the cafe was blatantly pandering to mainlanders. Agnes b, to its credit, immediately promised to change the menus.

Since then I've noticed companies such as HSBC and Hang Seng Bank using simplified characters to attract what they call 'world' customers. What - the world is now the mainland?

The official writing system in Hong Kong is normal Chinese characters. Simplified characters are ugly and misleading. They don't express the essence of words. Worst of all, they haven't been allowed to evolve naturally but have been forced down people's throats by committee.

Many companies in the mainland use normal characters on signs above their doors, despite it being illegal, as they know people will see them as more attractive and classy.

Let's not second-guess mainlanders' needs; nor stoop to the level they want to get away from in our mad rush to accommodate them.

In 23 years, I have never met a mainlander who couldn't read normal characters.