Culture & Leisure

Cultural differences you may face in St. Petersburg

"Rude" maybe tourist's impression towards people in St. Petersburg, Russia, but there may be an underlying misunderstanding behind the image. St. Petersburg is always considered a must-visit city in Russia, no matter for international or domestic travellers. Being the second-largest city in Russia, the area consists of canals and world-famous spots such as the Winter Palace, Saint Isaac's Cathedral and Peter and Paul Fortress.  St. Petersburg remains attractive to tourists, but there are some factors pushing international visitors away. Russians rarely speak English. The majority of middle-aged and older people do not understand the language. According to a survey done by Romir research holding, 30% of the Russians can speak English to a certain degree, and only 3% of the interviewees claimed to be a fluent speaker. The low English speaking rate leads to a rough time for those visitors who do not speak Russian. No one can answer their questions if they face obstacles during their journey, resulting in an unpleasant travel experience. Хао Yu-Fei, a 20-years-old tourist from China, believed that language is the problem travellers face. As English is not widely-used among Russians, they cannot communicate fluently with the tourists.  "When locals answer questions with simple English and do everything in a rush, travellers get an impression that Russians are impolite and rude. We understand that being straightforward may be a characteristic of Russian, but some people might have hard feelings towards that," Xao said. Xao also noticed that no matter what ethnicity people appear to be, Russians always intend to start the conversation using the Russian language. "In Russia, many people with an Asian face can speak Russain. The locals are used to it, thus feel natural to communicate in the Russian language with foreigners." Tourists may feel insecure when facing an unfamiliar language during travelling. …


Copenhagen's rising rainbow economy

The rainbow flag, a symbol of gay pride, is common as one strolls down the streets of Copenhagen. Businesses proudly display rainbow stickers on their windows as a show of support for Copenhagen's diverse community.   Copenhagen is widely regarded as one of the most LGBT+ friendly cities in the world. But some say it is just a colorful facade for clever marketing strategies that focus on making a profit. Over The Rainbow Rainbow marketing, rainbow capitalism or the rainbow economy, refer to companies which brand their products with rainbow flags and colors.  This is especially noticeable throughout the city during Copenhagen Pride. The annual event held in this August draws over 300,000 people to the streets to celebrate the diversity of Denmark’s capital city.     Thomas Rasmussen, Head of Communications for Copenhagen Pride, though says the increasing popularity of rainbow marketing may harm businesses and brands because they might be perceived as "attempting to make a profit by catering to the LGBT+ community. There hasn't been any official claim of how big Denmark's rainbow economy market could be, however, the huge profits potential of such a business model can be seen from the American LGBT+ community. According to the latest data from the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, America's LGBT+ community holds an estimated buying power of $917 billion annually. "It is of great importance that the marketing directed at the LGBT+ community is backed by action and real change," Mr. Rasmussen said. Different Orientations, Different Views For some LGBT+ community members, such “supports” from the businesses which only can be seen in the pride season might not be genuine enough. "Showing real support is not how you brand yourself one day or a month, but it's about how you run your business and all of the other days of the year. I think that's what really counts," said Sami Kleit, 27, an openly gay student from …


Mainland students at Hong Kong universities dissatisfied with suspension of on-campus teaching due to novel coronavirus

Hong Kong universities suspend on-campus classes until 2nd March, sparking worries of poor online teaching quality, graduation delay and financial loss among mainland students. Online teaching measures including Zoom, Moodle and WhatsApp will be applied during the suspension. Make-up classes, examinations and approval of graduation lists will be duly deferred. “The suspension sucks! Now I’m just wasting my tuition!” raged Xu Zheng, a mainland senior at Hong Kong Baptist University majoring in advertising and branding. Twelve mainland students at the University drafted a “Joint Declaration of Mainland Students at Hong Kong Baptist University,” worrying about financial and academic loss caused by another suspension on the heels of the 6-month political upheaval last year. The Declaration received 1079 effective supporting signatures by 19:30 1st Feb before it was submitted to the University. The Declaration demands graduation support, focus on teaching quality and tuition compensation, expanded qualification for full tuition refund and subsidy for the living of non-locals. The drafters claimed that flaws of online teaching such as inaccessibility of on-campus equipment would discount the outcomes of the tuition paid. About half of 1305 respondents felt “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with the quality of online teaching due to political turmoil last November, according to a survey conducted by Association of Mainland and Hong Kong Youth, HKBU. About half prefer extension of semester to online teaching. According to official websites of Hong Kong universities, yearly tuition for non-local students is about 100,000 HK$ more than that for local students. Based on a Mingpao survey, 28.6% to 46.0% of Hong Kong university entrants were from Mainland China in the academic year 2018/19. “We talked with the mainland student organization and they said some students would be misrepresented if they were to publish a declaration, so we came up with this joint letter asking for …


New port regulations around the world

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Eurus Yiu、Mereen SantiradEdited by: Nicole Ko、Moon Lam
  • 2020-02-07

Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced today (February 3) that four ports, including Lo Wu, Lok Ma Chau, Huanggang and Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal, would be closed from 0:00 tomorrow to reduce the flow of people. WHO declared an outbreak of the new coronavirus as a "Global health emergency", but it did not recommend any restrictions on travelling to China or on trading with it. Despite this, some countries are offering travel restrictions, to prevent the epidemic from heating up or out of control. According to the data of the National Health Commision by the end of February 2, China has identified 17205 confirmed cases, 21558 suspected cases, including 15 cases from Hong Kong. Number of deaths has climbed to 361. The virus does not only spread in the mainland, but also in 23 other countries with 283 cases confirmed. Hong Kong 9 out of 13 ports in Hong Kong will be suspended at midnight. Three ports including the airport, Shenzhen Bay Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge will be opened and Kai Tak cruise terminal. The United States On January 30, the new coronavirus has been listed as a US public health emergency, imposing travel restrictions and issuing a mandatory quarantine. Foreign travellers from China in the past two weeks (except for immediate family members of US citizens and permanent residents) are banned from entering the US. In addition, US citizens who have stayed in Hubei province within the past 14 days need to be screened, and subject to mandatory quarantine for 14 days. Citizens who depart from other chinese cities and return to the US will be diverted to eight designated airports for health screening procedures. Australia Effected from February 1, all persons travelling to Australia from mainland China are required to be quarantined for 14 days (except Australian citizens, Australian …


Working holiday scams

Working holidays are a popular way for young people from Hong Kong to spend time living abroad, but some are scammed because they weren't well prepared. Living in a concrete jungle like Hong Kong that's notorious for its expensive real estate, many young people may want to explore other countries by going on a working holiday. These vacations typically involve short term employment in lower paying jobs, such as working on a farm.  A working holiday allows participants to stay in a country for a longer period, ranging from a year to three years, depending on local regulations. Temporary jobs such as strawberry farming or helping out in a winery are popular.  According to the statistics from the Hong Kong government's Labour Department, 44,731 working holiday visas were granted between 2014 and  2018, and Australia has been the most popular among the 14 countries participating in the working holiday scheme. But there have been complaints of holiday makers being scammed because they are unfamiliar with the labour laws.  Garcia Fung, a 35 years-old backpacker, warned of the working holiday traps. "For instance, you may be underpaid by your employers, employers asking employees to transfer money before arrival, or some might even find that don’t have a job because it does not exist," he said. Mr. Fung went to Germany for a working holiday when he was 29.  He had a limited choice of jobs because he did not speak German. He started his first job after staying in Germany for six months. During his stay, he had a job as a box packer. Mr. Fung was paid €2 for each box. However, he realised something was unusual after packing a couple of boxes when he was instructed to pack bags of white powder. When he asked  what the powder was, …


Social worker hopeful looking at future of ethnic group

Among the South Asians lingering outside Chungking Mansions, social worker Jeffrey Andrews is the only one not handing out coupons to a curry house, or persuading passers-by to stay at the guest houses. Mr. Andrews works with those in need inside a building notorious for its unhygienic and dangerous environment. With his dark skin and short curly hair, Mr. Andrews blends into the Chungking crowd. As the  smiling 34-year-old made his way through the twists and turns of the building, nearly everyone recognised him. Shop owners greeted him and more dark skinned peers shook his hands with gratitude. "There are over a hundred countries represented here. It's like a big family," said Mr. Andrews, who is ethnically Indian, while waiting for the lift up to his office.The doors opened on the sixteenth floor and there was extra flight of stairs to his office. Mr. Andrews has been serving ethnic minorities and refugees at Christian Action, a charitable organisation that serves the city's disadvantaged and abandoned, for ten years. He is the first registered ethnic minority social worker in Hong Kong. Discrimination against people of colour is not uncommon in Hong Kong. They are often perceived as dangerous, undereducated, and poor. The Equal Opportunities commission handled 132 complaints related to race discrimination in 2018. Mr. Andrews is deeply passionate about promoting and educating people about ethnic minorities, which make up 8% of the city's population, according to the Census and Statistics Department. "It is unfair to focus on the identity of South Asians when one of us does something bad. It has been tiring having to defend our name and do publicity work to keep up the reputation," said the frustrated Mr. Andrews after the Jimmy Sham incident. Mr Sham, an activist,  was reportedly attacked by men of South Asian descent …


University student dies after falling from a high place near police operations

A 22-year-old student from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has died this morning. The student, Chow Tsz-lok, who fell from a high place five days ago in Tseung Kwan O and had multiple surgeries was eventually declared dead this morning. This is widely perceived as the first death in direct relation to the anti-government protests in Hong Kong, which has entered its fifth month with no sign of stopping. HKUST students marched from the campus piazza to the the school president’s residence after a memorial session at 1 PM. "Demand for Wei Shyy to condemn police violence," the students chanted as they marched. Mr. Shyy's front porch was then vandalised and filled with protest posters, while a few other restaurants on campus that have relations with the pro-Beijing company Maxim's have also been targeted and graffitied with slogans. At 6 PM in the evening, another memorial section with a higher turnout was held at the atrium of HKUST. Reverend Chu Yiu-ming sang "Amazing Grace" with a mini choir and prayed for the deceased student who has been Christian since a young age. "Although he is gone, his faith and courage will live on and shine a light into everyone’s heart," said Reverend Chu in a moving speech as many amongst the crowd shed tears. The night of mourning concluded peacefully as students sang along to a quiet piano version of "Glory to Hong Kong" and laid down piles of white flowers under candlelight. However, the death of Chow is seen by many as a sign that the conflicts will continue to escalate.

Women's football in Hong Kong: still a long way to go

  • 2019-11-06

She works and studies by day, but at night, she puts on a new identity. Unlike the professional male players, as a female soccer player, Ma Chak Shun, 23, trains with her soccer team after sundown. Ms. Ma is involved with the Hong Kong women's national football team and a local club named Happy Valley Athletic Association Women. Yet, Ms.Ma is still not considered a professional player. “Males can play professional soccer, they can earn money by playing soccer. But females can't," she said. The trend of more females joined the sport in recent years is apparent. According to Legislative Council document, as of the interim review in 2018, there are 3,140 women in Hong Kong involved in various women's soccer programs held by Hong Kong Football Association, which increased by more than 70% compared with last year.  As the group is getting bigger, local female players say they still have to face diverse difficulties in their career because they are on the way seeking for the same rights and treatment same as male players. No professional soccer means no salary. Male players' team participating in Hong Kong Premier League can make money with their training expenses paid and salary monthly. There is no professional league for women's soccer in Hong Kong, so female players will not get paid. Most of them treat soccer as a hobby and have other full-time jobs.  "We can just seek it for fun, for leisure and for our dream," said Chan Tsz Ching, a student soccer player in Hong Kong Baptist University. HKBU provides funding for all University sports teams, and they also have sponsors to cover the expenses of overseas training or matches. Clubs out of school are not as lucky as school teams. Hong Kong Football Association sponsors Hong Kong team but not clubs, …

A plate goes down your gullet to fight plastic waste

  • 2019-11-06

Made of wheat, taste like tree skin and hard to chew — it may not be the finest option if you are looking for appealing and delectable food to satisfy your appetite, nor is this the most ornamental tableware to plate up your meals. But for people who want to avoid single-use plastic crockery, an edible plate might be the perfect alternative to curb plastic waste. Paper plates normally take five years to decompose while plastic ones take at least 500 years, but an edible plate would disappear in 30 days if it is not eaten up. A Polish technology company, Biotrem, curated the eco-friendly plates with natural wheat bran by heating and compressing the wheat into solid dishes — a process that requires no fossil fuel at all. The plates can hold cold or warm food with a temperature up to 350°F, and are microwavable and ovenproof. GreenBB, a local social enterprise has been importing edible plates from Poland since they first found the organisation in 2018.  "Some environmental groups merely ask people to behave in certain ways to benefit the environment, but we would like to take a further step by motivating and inspiring people to protect the environment using creative ways," said Jayford Wong, founder of the enterprise. The group, which includes 20 young people, organises experimental activities like green parties and workshops with schools and NGOs in a bid to raise eco-consciousness in the city which produces the most plastic waste in the Asia-Pacific region, with a per person plastic disposal rate at around 400g every day.   "Our participants like the plates very much, not because of the taste but the fact that they are fully biodegradable. The plates will disappear from the Earth whether they like to finish them up or not," said Mr. Wong, who said he had …


Issuing telescopic batons to off-duty police officers sparks concern

Throughout the course of the Hong Kong protests, police have been accused of using brutality tactics against protesters. What started out as a peaceful march towards the extradition bill gradually became a greater fight for democracy and investigation against police violence. A typical weekend of protests usually involves riot police with guns, batons and shields. Protesters may turn to using bricks, long sticks, metal pole and petrol bombs as weapons. Due to the escalation of protesters' violence and in the interest of operational efficiency, a new legislation that allows telescopic batons to be issued to off-duty officers from September 11 onwards has caused another ripple in this turbulent society. Chen, a 20-year-old university student who works part-time in the catering business, said he is "quite afraid" upon hearing the news.  The young man, who did not wish to disclose his full identity due to fears of authorities finding out, has shown strong doubt towards the decision made by the police force. "I will not define myself as a protester because I didn't join the protest very often. I have only participated in two rallies. However, I still feel scared," he said. Mr. Chen's occupation requires him to work till night and he only reaches back home around midnight. At the night of protest, he often sees police officers patrolling around the bus stop located somewhere in New Territories searching for protesters.  "Although I have not been checked by those officers ever, I still want to protect myself from being arrested, I will always leave some signs that I just left from my work place, in case riot police checks on me," he added. Chief Superintendent John Tse Chun-chung of the Police Public Relations Branch announced at a press conference on September 10 that numbers of telescopic batons will be specially …