In the States, goodbye parties are a real affair. Everyone goes out for dinner, toasts are made, and you slowly progress from bar to apartment where everyone hugs and says things like “I’ll miss you man” and “it just won’t be the same without you.” This is followed up by brunch the next day where you all talk about what a good guy Paul was and how it sucks that he’s not around anymore. In Hong Kong, on the other hand, goodbye parties are every Friday and feature drinks at the club followed by a hangover the next day (you’ve woken up after brunch) and the thought, “man I’m really going to miss Paul. Wait, is his name Paul? I’m not sure because I met him with that guy who looks like a horse. Wait, is that guy Paul? Is Paul horse guy and I’ve just been calling horse guy Josh? Oh no!” Such is the reality of living in a transitory city marked by people who come for short stays: my office transferred me to Asia for a year, I came to try out banking, eight-month contract, whatevs. The pulse of Hong Kong is one of constant, consistent change as old buildings are torn down and the metropolis slowly spreads like an ice cube melting. People come and people go in astonishing numbers. And, given this fact (and it is a fact) about the city, here is my question: When you know you’re not going to be here for long, is there any reason to build solid, meaningful, or lasting relationships? Now, conventional wisdom says “yes”—people need other people and social relationships form the basis for our humanity. They connect us to each other, to society and to the world at large, and help us develop ourselves. Would you rather spend your life drinking with a bunch of randoms who don’t care about you and wouldn’t be there if you needed them or would you rather cultivate a close group of friends who love and cherish you and who will help you grow and mature as a human being? The answer seems obvious but for many people in Hong Kong, it’s the former— the randoms win. They’re more fun. Instead of crying when they leave, you get to party with Paul the horse faced guy and his friend! And, unless you’re in a serious relationship or happened to find a group of people who “get” you, why try? Don’t you have better things to do? When it comes down to it, Hong Kong is all about consumption. The most non-work reading most people do is the price tag on bags. There’s heaps of outdoorsy stuff, which is good for the body, but other than that what we do here is consume. Food, drink, clothes, and parties. Or sparties if you’re Sarah Fung. And in a consumer society, isn’t it more fun with other consumers? Other people who get tables and bottles and dance badly to the same Rhianna song? Maybe not. Or maybe so. But given this I’d like to hear the argument for making close friends and cultivating relationships because I’m not sure what it is. People here spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about themselves: My work. My party. My projects. Now, Of course it will be great for HK to become more communitarian (among the English-speaking crowd) but will it ever happen? And, more so, is it worth trying? We’ll probably be gone in a few years time and Hong Kong will just keep chugging along as usual. Let me know if you have thoughts on this. I’d love to know. Maybe you’ll make some good points and I will do and we’ll strike a chord and become friends. Or maybe I’ll just see you at Volar and wave “hi” and go back to my drink.