Capturing Hong Kong, by fair memes or foul

A Facebook page features posts taking a wry look at life in the city - from smog to racism, expat wives and Ikea's 'bedroom specialists'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 September, 2013, 5:43am

What goes on in the minds of Hongkongers? What are their gripes, their passions, their preoccupations? If anyone knows, it's the founder and administrator of Hong Kong Memes, a Facebook page that shares posts on all things Hong Kong.

Commentary on politics, random musings, pithy sayings and photos, internet memes are any kind of idea that spreads rapidly from person to person through the web.

Hong Kong Memes captures the details that give colour to this city - strange advertisements, the habits of wealthy expatriate wives, parallel traders, smog, bizarre sightings and even algal blooms - all with a wry touch.

"'Moves here for the Chinese culture; lives in Discovery Bay,' this is one of our favourite posts," said the American teacher behind the site, who identified himself only as Randy. The irony, for anyone new to Hong Kong, is that the bay is a Western enclave far removed from the rest of the city.

Randy has - along with several other long-time expats who choose to remain anonymous - screened thousands of memes that people have submitted since the page began in February.

"Locals don't necessarily see what new arrivals see," says Randy, who proclaims himself the "tallest person you'll probably ever meet in Hong Kong".

A case in point is the picture of an Ikea employee with the title "bedroom specialist" emblazoned across his yellow shirt.

Chinese language posts are off the list, as the administrators, who are all expatriates, can't read the characters.

However, the readers are both expatriates and Hongkongers.

"Relative humidity 100 per cent," reads one post with a picture of two men sitting at a table in a swimming pool.

Then there's the photo of the Si Yuan School of the Precious Blood, complete with what appears to be a machine-gun turret.

"Discover Hong Kong, Discover racism everywhere," plays another meme based on the Tourism Board slogan.

Early last year, around the time when a surge of anti-mainland sentiment saw groups taking out newspaper ads likening tourists from across the border to locusts, a meme that had over 100,000 views was a cartoon of Lego men and the question: "What do you call a person from Hong Kong? Hongkonger, Hongkee or Chinese?" The Lego man who answered "Chinese" was thrown out of a high window.

"There's a very real attitude of: 'Don't ever call us Chinese, we're Hong Kong people, or HK-ers'," said Randy.

Then there is the picture of a minibus beating a sports car on the city's crowded roads.