Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Gweilo by Martin Booth

     Before we left Germany two of our sweet friends, Dan and Gina, gave us a book that "any expat in Hong Kong should read".  They predicted that everyone would tell us to read it once we got there, which turned out not to be the case - but we both gave it a go anyways and were glad that we did.

     Gweilo is the Cantonese word for foreigner and not in a bad way but more in just a descriptive way. The book is written from the perspective of an 8-10 year old boy growing up in Hong Kong in the 1950's.  I highly enjoyed this book and it made me like Hong Kong even more.  Not to give too much away for those of you that might read it, the book is a collection of childhood memories told by the boy as an adult.  It starts from his ship ride over from England to all the adventures in between.  Even if you don't live in or haven't visited Hong Kong I still think this is a great read.  The author tells stories so well and with such detail you feel like you were there.

     What I loved most was that he talked about places I have been and places I want to go.  He even described the area called Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) and it sounds exactly as it is today.  He had a keen liking for our current neighborhood, Mongkok, and he helped to paint the picture of what it might have looked like sixty years ago.  I find I walk the streets now with a bit more quest for adventure, but with an even greater appreciation of all the things Hong Kong has to offer.

Gweilo is available on the Kindle at Amazon

     On a side note, I would like to add that being a "Gweilo" in Hong Kong is very different than other Southeast Asian countries I have visited so far (Thailand, Taiwan, Philppines, Vietnam). I think the people of Hong Kong are so used to seeing foreigners that they don't give you a second look or pay that much attention to you. I have found in other countries you get more stares when you look different than the people of the home country. I will say it is nothing like the stares we got in Germany, but more just looking. Some people might expect or appreciate the occasional, "where are you from?" or "what are you doing in Hong Kong?", but you likely won't get that here.  I kind of like just blending into the culture and not having to worry about being stared at; people are doing their thing and I am doing mine. Don't get me wrong Hong Kong people are wonderful and very friendly, but don't be surprised if you just become another person in the crowd.

--Marisa


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