Disparaging views do not reflect reality of expatriate lifestyles

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 June, 2015, 4:55pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 June, 2015, 4:55pm

I refer to Jason Wordie's last two Then & Now columns.

I have met him on a few occasions and am a fan of his column. His work is generally well-researched and supported with references to books on the subject, or other sources.

The first column on "third culture kids" ("The exbrat curse", June 14) is a subject that many are acquainted with. I arrived in Hong Kong in 1960 and was wholly educated here.

The problem with this article is the cynical and spiteful tone. He talks of "more pitiful bi-products', "expat brats" and "their parents' underlying prejudices and unthinkingly patronising attitudes". This is not the language of an objective historian, but someone with an axe to grind. In his article ("Caliban and the mirror", June 21) replying to critics of his first column, he cites "a numerically significant minority" who fit the description in his column.

Where are these cases documented and what are the significant numbers? While I have met an insignificant number of third culture kids who behave like this, I know literally hundreds who do not.

There is no doubt we enjoyed a lot of privilege under the colonial system.

In school we had over 60 nationalities, including Chinese, there was an illusion of equality that belied the fact that Hong Kong was a place of racial and social inequality, and hardship for many. Many of us observed this and it forged a social conscience in me.

During the period referred to, the bulk of my friends' parents were here for the long haul. We were the offspring of policemen, civil servants, Sikh prison officers, marine engineers, businessmen, and a relatively small number of single-contract expats; regardless, we remain friends.

My "revolving-door cavalcade of transient 'helpers'" consisted of "Ah May", our amah for nearly 20 years. She was expected to discipline me - her weapon of choice being a flip flop or feather duster - and I loved her like my own mother. This deep affection was common then and still is today, regardless of nationalities.

Wordie's comment in his second column that we are uncomfortable when the mirror is held up to us is nonsense. We are uncomfortable when we and our parents are insulted based on nothing but personal opinion and conjecture.

This is offensive, an opinion unsupported by sources or data, and forged in negative language.

David McKirdy, Sai Kung