Face Off: Are Hong Kong teenagers ‘lying flat’?

Shruti KaurKim Szeto
  • Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a showdown that does not necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint
  • This week, they debate whether the city’s youth have taken a different approach to life that revolves less around work
Shruti KaurKim Szeto |

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The idea of lying flat revolves around doing the bare minimum to get by. Photo: Lau Ka-kuen

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For: Shruti Kaur, 16, YMCA of Hong Kong Christian College

“Our entire life we chase after the wrong things because we think having more money and buying more stuff will make us more happy. But it doesn’t. You know why a billionaire has 100 Ferraris? Because 99 weren’t enough.”

This quote comes from a book I read recently called Bad Choices Make Good Stories: Finding Happiness in Los Angeles by Oliver Markus Malloy. At first, I couldn’t quite understand it, but now, looking at our society, I think I can connect the dots.

Some people in Hong Kong believe that money brings comfort and happiness because you can fulfil all your materialistic desires such as buying a diamond ring or a luxury car.

Why would HK teens want to lie flat?

But we really need to step back for a moment and ask ourselves: wouldn’t owning these things tempt us to go after more? What would we do with all that wealth if we are not happy?

Many teenagers in Hong Kong today are lying flat because they want to experience a holistic lifestyle rather than bury themselves in a mountain of textbooks and knowledge.

The idea of “lying flat”, or tang ping in Chinese, basically means taking a break from relentless work.

Some people in Hong Kong turn to the idea of lying flat because it prioritises other interests over work. Photo: Shutterstock

Apart from this, there is another worrying aspect: a lack of opportunities for young people.

Many teenagers these days are interested in non-academic careers such as sports, music, art and cuisine.

But their parents strongly believe that they should pursue a career that paves the way for a well-paid job and prosperous future.

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For example, Hong Kong lags behind developed countries in sports because teenagers are discouraged from cultivating their talents.

A lack of motivation and a desire for a slower-paced lifestyle are two major reasons “lying flat” is becoming popular among teenagers in the city.

Although it may have some negative consequences, we cannot ignore that it helps teenagers enjoy a stress-free environment.

As the saying goes: “Happiness is where the heart is.”

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Against: Kim Szeto, 17, HKFYG Lee Shau Kee College

“Have you done your homework?”. “Have you finished your revision?” Parents ask us these questions on a daily basis.

However, we have never been asked: “Have you been lying flat?”

This is because Hong Kong students are very hard-working and the idea of lying flat does not even exist, as far as we are concerned.

Hong Kong students work very hard, and this is reflected in their achievements. Photo: Shutterstock

It is a fact that what is meant by hard work today is different to what it was many years ago.

Back in the good old days, people had to work their fingers to the bone from a young age just so they could make ends meet.

During that time, teenagers had to work in factories or do other jobs, working from morning till night for a very small salary. It is understandable that the older generation thought that the definition of life is non-stop work because it was the only way they could feed their family.

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But nowadays, things are very different.

Teenagers can choose jobs in a variety of industries, including sales and food service. By working for a few hours a day, they can earn some pocket money and gain more independence and experience.

They can also learn valuable professional skills to build a foundation for their career.

The advancement of science and technology has helped them, too.

Technology has completely changed the way people work. Photo: Shutterstock

With machines and gadgets invading all aspects of life, many people do not need to do labour-intensive work any more. They can gain fame by becoming esports players or YouTubers.

Their work may look effortless, but that does not mean they are less hard-working.

Pro-gamers are trained just like professional athletes. They practise seven to nine hours a day. This schedule is simple and can be modified to suit their needs.

When is it healthy to avoid things that stress you out, and when is it not?

A number of YouTubers are a one-man-band, sourcing sponsors, writing scripts, recording videos and editing. Are they lying down? Are they any less hard-working? I don’t think so.

You may disagree with the career choices made by Generation Z, but they reap what they sow.

Lying flat is only another aspect of the ever-changing definition of hard work.

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