An American Abroad

Hong Kong 2010: Signs of the Times

I have a habit of photographing signs when I travel. I find that they often communicate far more than their text conveys. So continuing with my series of the photos I took from an October 2010 trip to Hong Kong, here are some signs I saw there, together with my comments.

This one reminds me of the toilet wars between China and Hong Kong. Some Chinese people (especially those who until recently lived in rural areas and now live in cities – which is to say tens of millions of folks) have no problem with allowing their children to pee and poop on sidewalks and streets. Hong Kongers find this utterly uncivilized. A couple years ago, fistfights between mainlanders and Hong Kongers broke out over this practice. The mainlanders then thought they were being condescended to by the Hong Kongers, and briefly attempted to boycott HK.

Actually, Hong Kong has a fair number of well-maintained public toilets. Here’s one.

Signs that suggest delusions of grandeur and commercial religiosity often make me chuckle.

So do badly-translated signs. In fact, there are entire blogs dedicated to this genre. I try not to be too critical here; Chinese people do a lot better with English than Americans do with Chinese.

Then there are the signs that convey a public service message, like these.

Signs like these are essential for visitors from places where we drive on the right as God intended. I myself had several near-accidents stepping into roadways when I’d looked the wrong way out of habit.

Signs are an important part of the Hong Kong street scene. They help give the city its distinctive flavor. Here are some classics.

This one amused me. Where, I wondered, is the school for Bad Kids?

I was surprised to find this elegant old sign at the entrance to a mosque. Frankly, I was surprised to find a mosque in Hong Kong at all. But it certainly reflects the city’s deep-rooted cosmopolitan character.

After all these official and fancy signs, it was somehow reassuring to see something about as down-home as it gets.

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