Sunday, July 6, 2008

"Stay safe and have fun"

It's a rainy Sunday in Hong Kong. I went out for brunch (ricotta pancakes with strawberries and mango-pineapple juice) with my roommate, but am planning to stay in for the rest of the day. Brunch at the Peak Cafe was delicious, though I am definitely eating more Western food than I expected.

Being jetlagged has been good for my running. I woke up at 7 a.m. both days this weekend and went for loooong runs, as a result of getting lost a desire to explore. I found a great 5-mile route on Bowen Rd., with overlooks of the city and tons of other runners.

Yesterday, I hopped on a bus and went to Repulse Bay Beach. It was not repulsive at all! Haha-- bad joke. Hong Kong consists of over 200 islands, so there are lots of beaches for me to discover. I was very amused by announcements that came over loudspeakers in Cantonese and in English. One announcement encouraged people to check that their large umbrellas were firmly planted in the beach so they would not blow away and hurt people. Another gave instructions on safe swimming (e.g., stretch, don't rely on flotation devices, wait to swim after eating). It ended with "stay safe and have fun."

The announcements made me think about the idea of "careful cultures." I think the U.S. is often thought of as having excessive rules and procedures, due to a fear of litigation. Hong Kong and China seem to have a similar style; I am noticing that there often seem to be elaborate instructions and directions on how things should be done.

In contrast, I was thinking back on my 2001 Europe trip with Kate. In Interlaken, Switzerland, we went canyoning (think shallow canyon river, wet suits, big jumps and zip lines). I don't think the Aussies who ran the operation even had us sign a waiver of our right to sue if we got injured. As we drove up the mountain, without safety belts sitting on the floor in the back of a big van, the guides told us about a group that died the previous year when a storm came and the canyon was suddenly flooded. I asked if they worried about being sued. The guide said something like, "It's not like in America. Here, you assume the risk when you do something stupid."

So I guess my idea of a careful culture is one in which risk does not rest solely with the individual. So it's in the interest of those in power to issue lots of directives to help people protect themselves. It could be fun to put a bunch of countries on a "careful culture" spectrum. Which I would do if I were into that. Instead, I'll just show you a photo of HK dollars. I love the Monopoly money that other countries use.


Kate said...

Canyoning---the tears are welling up just thinking about it!

This blog coincides nicely with my return to work -- something to do during the day...just kidding, sort of.

David B. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David B. said...

Great observation re: "careful cultures" -- and not-so-careful cultures. The Philippines belongs in the latter category, at least if judged by the tort system. When bad things happen to Filipinos, they rarely sue (and find the notion of such suits generally laughable). The injury or bad consequence is generally viewed as either (1) the fault of the person injured or (2) part of life. It's typically not seen as something that could have been prevented by the exercise of due care.

(Yes, this is a big generalization, but it's based on what my Filipino lawyer cousins tell me.)

lindatop said...

I went hiking a few years ago in Dominica, where our route was characterized by the hotel as "average difficulty." We were VERY surprised to find steep, muddy drops, a narrow, winding path at the unprotected edge of a sheer cliff, and a waist-deep river crossing in which we literally lurched through the rushing water, clinging to rocks to prevent being swept downstream. We kept saying, "We are not in Kansas anymore."