After a trip in the US, I have the chance to be traveling in Hong Kong now... So here are some thoughts to complement y "Marseil in America" series:
Hong Kong like everywhere (almost) in Asia always gives you the feeling of a crowd. And Hong Kong still have strong British influences that can be seen in the way people form queues. For instance, people stand in an orderly line on the pavement at a bus stop, and get in the bus in order, something you would never see in mainland China. Also Hong Kong is all about efficiency, so if there is a need to cope with crowds, usually there is enough staff to take care of the crowd. So three are not so many lines actually.
I saw a few lines in front of restaurants, but, I checked, the places were actually full. Not like Vegas, where they keep you wanting to be seated even if the restaurant is empty.
EVen if Hong Kong is primarily a city, there is till some natue here. It is quite tame nature, though, that gives you the feeling a British park. I've been to a couple places in the New Territories, where you can see some forest, hike around, but always on a good, well signposted footpath, with a few warnings to make sure any risk is taken care of.
As I was dependent on public transport, I wa s not abel to go to very remote areas if they exist.
No mandatory tipping here. Prices are posted with tax and service included, but when you get a restaurant bill, the service is itemized, and is 10%. No one expects you to leave a tip, and no one would risk loosing face in asking for a tip. On the other hand, if you leave a few coins, no complaints are heard.
. Elderly people
I've not seen any elderly person working here. You get the feeling everything is managed by energetic youth!
. Culture vs. war
Cultural offer is limited here. There are some good museums. And the very popular and very extensive Hong Kong International Film Festival is happening now. They have a greta, very international, very open program as you may see here:http://www.hkiff.org/eng/main.html
Hong Kong is not getting into a war with anyone. PRC army stationed in Hong Kong is totally invisible. The police is visible, but a lot less noisy and demonstrative than in the US.
AUtomobile traffic is limited in Hong Kong, thanks to a very good and efficient public transportation system. Public transport here includes subways, trains, buses, minibuses, ferries, tramways, escalators, and probably more. They run efficiently, and the public transportation payment system, Octopus, is the world reference.
Maybe I'll get back to you with more thoughts. Feel free to ask questions too.
But it's hard to generalize. Even here in America there is tremendous diversity- from tiny towns in the boondocks to huge megalopolises like New York or Los Angeles. And for that matter- look how different even NY and LA are from each other. So imagine if you only visited one place in the US how misleading it would be.
I'm shocked, but actually not surprised, at how the American posters on this board lack openness on the world.
My posts on the US, attracted some comments. My post on Hong Kong just attracts one two-line comment from Nat, basically to dismiss what I was writing with: "But it's hard to generalize." just to be explicit, I never wanted to generalize, just to give the readers of this board some thoughts and impressions.
At the same time the 100th or 1000th post about religion in the US attracts lots comments, repeating what has already been said and repeated for ever.
Yeah, but do they drive on the left or on the right (generally speaking)?
On a more serious note, I once worked briefly (he was an auditor) with a man from Singapore, I believe it was. He had gone to school in the US but was only working here for a while on an exchange basis with his employer, who I think may have been Arthur Anderson at the time.
Singapore is, or was, a lot like Hong Kong in some ways. I had asked him where he traveled for vacations and he mentioned Hong Kong. I wonder if it is still an attractive destination for vacationers around the Far East?
Indeed, Hong Kong is still an attractive destination for everyone in Asia. nowadays, the most numerous (by far) visitors come from mainland CHina. Depending ion their status, they either run to buy perfumes, baby milk powder, medicine, etc... as Hong Kong products are the originals whereas counterfeited products about in mainland CHina. Or they form lines in front of Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes, Gucci, Fendi, etc....
Hongkongers recognize the income from these mainlanders, but at the same time are often pissed off by these wealthy uneducated peasants.
There are still many visitors from SIngapore too. To go into comparisons, I'd say Singapore is greener, with parks, tree lined avenues etc. but at the same time more boring, as the government still has strong moral positions. You feel the city density more in Hong Kong than in Singapore, but everyone recognizes Hong Kong is a better place to have fun in restaurants, bars, dices, etc.... Along with this goes more prostitution, drugs, etc.
I didn't mean for my remarks to be a rejection of what you said Marseil, only to note that each country has a variety of characters. But I can not deny your comment that we Americans are too self-centric- and too hung up on certain topics.
I was planning to post some questions regarding Hong Kong, but I admittedly don't know a lot about the place and wanted to give it more thought and at least some chance that I could pose semi-intelligent questions (still working on it).
The topics I post a lot about are those that I think I might be able to discuss and debate based on my current state of knowledge. Also, they are things that affect my life here in Ohio/USA and thus impact me. It is not that I don't have interest in other countries/cultures -- I do. But, what goes on in other countries, or even just outside of Western countries (since US and Europe are culturally more similar), does not affect me or my loved ones as much as something that occurs closer to home.
Actually, my first question would be: Do people in sub-Saharan Africa, or in southeast Asia, think or talk much about what occurs in the US? For example, do they care if a Democrat or Republican wins the Presidency? Do they care if U.S. adopts the universal health coverage plan currently being debated by our Supreme Court? Do they hold opinions as to whether U.S. should continue to build the wall along our border with Mexico, to discourage illegal immigrants? Do people in Hong Kong converse amongst themselves on these topics? I am curious.
> The topics I post a lot about are those that I think I might be able to discuss and debate based on my current state of knowledge. Also, they are things that affect my life here in Ohio/USA and thus impact me. It is not that I don't have interest in other countries/cultures -- I do. But, what goes on in other countries, or even just outside of Western countries (since US and Europe are culturally more similar), does not affect me or my loved ones as much as something that occurs closer to home.
Maybe decisions made in Ohio have a more direct impact on you. But in this globalized world, every decision, everywhere gets a global impact. CHina is such a power hat the way Chinese politics are conducted has a permanent impact on our life. Also Hong Kong is a major financial hub, so financial decisions made in Hong Kong will have a global impact.
Besides impact, I'm curious, maybe that's why I keep on reading this forum and others. Only recently have I realized (but not totally admitted) that I will never be able to know everything about everything. ANd I'm desperate about it! SO I can't understand not being curious.
> US and Europe are culturally more similar
I believe the gap between US and EUrope has been widening along the most recent years. Especially the Bush Jr era triggered lots of opposition in Europe. Also the religiosity of Americans, and the pervasion of religion in every aspect of life makes a high difference between Europe and the US. This leads to a subject often pointed here: in the US, no one is surprised at violence, killings, weapons etc. but people are shocked when the see a tiny part of a nipple for a fraction of a second. In Europe, we don't have weapons, many people are pacifists, but go to nude beaches, and suntan nude in city parks in Northern Europe.
> Actually, my first question would be: Do people in sub-Saharan Africa, or in southeast Asia, think or talk much about what occurs in the US? For example, do they care if a Democrat or Republican wins the Presidency? Do they care if U.S. adopts the universal health coverage plan currently being debated by our Supreme Court? Do they hold opinions as to whether U.S. should continue to build the wall along our border with Mexico, to discourage illegal immigrants? Do people in Hong Kong converse amongst themselves on these topics? I am curious.
I've got no idea what people in sub Saharan Africa think and do, as I've seldom been there. I've a lot more interest in South East Asia. I think people are shocked when they see the international politics of the US. The Bush Jr era, especially the war in Iraq, has been disastrous to American image.
In Europe, people are shocked there is no mandatory health insurance in the US, and can't understand how a modern nation can exist without it. I think all countries that have a global health care system cannot imagine living without it. Besides Europe, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, etc. are recognized for their universal health coverage.
When we see how extremist the Republican candidates you have are, I think most people on the planet are concerned if they are elected. This would mean more wars, more corruption in terms of links between major companies, and wealth holders and government decisions, more aggressiveness on all matters leading to a globally more unstable world.
I believe there is a lot more resentment against the wall built by the Israelis and their colonization policy that against the US - Mexico wall.
People in Hong Kong are well informed by "the South China Morning POst", and a to more free press, both on paper and on television, radio, etc. Of course, their #1 concern is decisions made in Beijing. ANd local subjects. But I believe they are quite open to the major issues in this world.
I think that generally, the smaller the country where you are, the higher the interest you have in the rest of the world.
I must be living in the wrong country because I find myself more in agreement with you than stereotypical American attitudes.
But I've always been a misfit- although born in the southern US and lived here all my life, I'm nothing like the stereotypical southerner. I don't like guns or hunting or fishing or farming or any of the characteristics associated with southerners. I guess the only reason I live here is I don't like cold weather and my family ties are here.
And I certainly agree that George Bush was a disaster for America. He was a fluke in the first place since Al Gore actually got more votes, and were it not for Ralph Nader siphoning off Gore votes and our crazy electoral voting system Bush would have never been elected. Then to make things worse, 9/11 happen right afterwards giving Bush an excuse to put his disastrous policies into action.
"I think that generally, the smaller the country where you are, the higher the interest you have in the rest of the world."
I think that is very true. I think one thing may be gradually changing -- Americans' view of themselves as world leaders that others follow/emulate -- but a residual of that feeling we Americans grew up with remains. Americans do tend to think of our country as a big deal, such that what is thought about or done in other countries, is less a big deal to us.
Obviously, Nat will agree with much of your comments critical of Republicans and policies thereof. It may surprise you to hear that I am also critical of some of the same things. The difference with me is: a) I don't see Republicans as really much different than Democrats. They both have their strengths and their deficits. For every negative thing one could say about one Party, something negative could be said about the other. But Nat and maybe some others only see the faults one way . . as if it matters most whose fault anything is. b) Nothing against other countries or the way they do things, but I LIKE and WANT Americans to make our own choices and do things our own way. It doesn't bother me when US does things differently from other countries, or that people in those other countries question the wisdom of decisions in US.
For example, many of us Americans look at the difficulties in EU countries now and think, "How much worse off would US be if we had the expensive socialized medicine and other benefits of some European countries?", and then we are glad we don't have that. But if Europeans like and want such benefits, more power to you.
Why does everyone have to think and do the same? What about our love affair with "Diversity"?
True, Europeans pay more taxes, but we pay just as much (or more) in other ways so is there really a difference?
We Americans have been programmed to hate the word "tax" so a guy who has no problem paying $500 a month to a profit-making insurance company would scream bloody murder if that payment was to the government for the same service. Does that make sense?
And really he would pay less because the government doesn't have to pay stock holders or million-dollars executives or build big fancy buildings.
True, the top guys in major companies get huge salaries, bonuses and other perks, but rank-and-file (and higher) govt workers make some darn good money for what they do and have generous insurance and pension packages (I know, I am one). And while I don't begrudge any person, public or private sector, getting nice compensation, I think the public section does have more fat in terms of all the layers and layers and layers of bureaucratic job classifications to do the same jobs that the private sector would do with fewer people and less expenditures.
I would fault the private sector in terms of being top-heavy in wages and benefits -- since the average private sector worker has had to accept lower pay and benefits in order to compete gobaslly, then I think top managers should have to do the same: compete with compensation of foreign managers and receive less money, benefits, less stock options, less pension, no golden parachutes. Of, course, that won't happen unless controls are put on the top of Capitalism like there are already controls at the bottom.
I don't mind passing my taxes so long as the money isn't wasted and is used responsibly. But that isn't happening now in U.S., and there isn't any objective reason to believe that higher tax revenues would be used any more wisely.
"An analysis of the United States National Health Care Act by Physicians for a National Health Program estimated the savings at $350 billion per year in 2008. Others have estimated a 40% savings due to elimination of insurance company overhead costs." -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-payer_health_care
And read the many references in the footnotes.
Whats more a non-profit government system is far fairer- paying claims according to administrative law while profit-insurance companies do everything they can to avoid paying claims in order to maximize profits.
Estimates from "Physicians for a National Health Program" will maximize the claimed savings of a govt-controlled one-payer system, because that is what that organization advocates. No different from estimates by other entities with an overt interest in an outcome.
My experience with Medicare Part D (Federal prescription drug plan) shows me that the worst combination may be govt and private sector trying to work together. You sign up with the Feds and they deduct the premium (at least in my experience, though I know people who choose a specific plan with higher premiums can choose to pay a higher premium out-of-pocket). Then the private insurer processes claims, decides what is covered or not and then issues payment. I've sat on the phone with Medicare, going over the list of people's meds. to see if all are covered . . but when a plan is selected, it is not unusual for the insurance to send a letter stated "this drug is not covered in our formulary." Then, one can either switch to another drug in the same class or pay the additional expense for the original drug. Every month, the insurer sends an explantion of benefits . . and every year another big packet explaining everything about that plan. Compared to before, post-Medicare Part D I see much more paperwork and spend much more time handling everything. If there is a cost savings, I suppose it is because Medicare was simply paying for everything before, while now the private companies give claims more scrutiny and more rejections. How is this different from strictly having a private prescription drug plan? The main difference I see is that we now have to deal with two entities at a time, govt Medicare and the private insurance company, rather than one. This whole thing is very confusing to most people I know.
So, if we have a single-payer govt-run health care system, what do we get? More complication rather than less, as with Medicare Part D? I think we also get rationing and more demials of service, as we cannot afford to fund every procedure the same for everyone. Think of it: Right now, if one either has the money or good private insurance, they can get any procedure that want or need. Those without money and/or who have a govt-run health plan such as Medicaid (or even Medicare) give more denials and find fewer providers who want to provide service due to lesser reimbursement.
The wealthy will always be able to afford their own health care. It will be the Middle Class that will be most adversely affected -- they will receive less-quality health care services than they do now, and the poor may receive more. When we are "all in the same boat", the guy who needs frequent health services because he is alcoholic, drug addict or otherwise does not take care of himself, and who may choose not to work and support himself, has exactly the same entitlement to govt-provided health care as the person who does not do these negative things and who works and tries to stand on his own feet. Also, the more services US provides to its citizens, the greater inducements for more illegals to enter our country and avail themselves of them. Right now, we are educating children of illegals in our tax-supported schools, accomdating at increased expense for people who don't speak English, and provide various other social services. Do we REALLY want to add universal health care (and, yes, this is is what this single-payer business is about), to the list of inducements to people who run across our borders? For those who claim that illegals won't access such services -- give me a break! States are ALREADY granting driver's licenses and other forms of ID to illegals. People are ALREADY pushing to add illegals to our Social Security system. There is NO WAY that illegals will be deprived of health coverage if it is passed. I hope Americans are not that crazy, but I think we probably are.
As for the claimed public support for govt-provided universal health coverage, we all know that the way questions are posed to people greatly influences their responses.
Bob, the problems with our current system is a result of it being a mesh of two different systems tying to work together. A single-payer system is much more efficient. This is not theory or speculation- it is proved by the fact that every country that has a single-payer system HAS lower healthcare costs than us!
When one looks at the things that increase risks for significant health problems, obesity (not smoking) tops the list. And who has a higher rate of obesity, children and adults, than other Western countries? You guessed it -- USA. Americans also tend to be more sedentary, which puts the double whammy on the obese individual's health. And our higher infant mortality rate? I'm guessing here, but I think it is less likely to be due to lack of available prenatal care so much as it is due to the unhealthy habits of mothers passing their problems to their babies in-utero. The fast food diets, obseity, diabetes and the substance abuse issues rampant in America also affect expecting mothers. I think available medical care is a plus in US -- our own people's lifestyle choices have a lot to do with our poorer health, mediocre longevity and higher health care costs. (That, and Americans' insistence -- promoted by our medical industries -- upon reaching for prescription drugs to deal with life and minor health issues rather than some more natural remedies).
A lot of speculating there Bob. You can speculate all you like- but common sense tells me that when insurance company executives make fabulous salaries and insurance companies own many of the biggest skyscrapers in the country that a hell of a lot of money that they take in is being diverted from healthcare.
and assets than the US Federal govt? I'm not denying that insurance companies and execs have made off like bandits . . that is widely reported to be true. But I also believe that these rich individuals and companies have a lot in common with our big-time politicians . . . you wash my back and I'll wash yours. Pols need huge money donations to keep getting re-elected, as well as to live the lifestyle of their wealthy counterparts in the private sector. I think we (the tax-paying public) get fleeced both by our elected officials and by corporate execs.
I don't think it is wild speculation to state that the health of a country's citizenry has a big impact upon its utilization of all sorts of health care services. And, the number of people in the pool to be covered (including illegal aliens and their current and future off-spring) will also affect the total cost. Speaking of common sense, I think both of those points of mine qualify.
Sure, you have valid points Bob, but back during the healthcare bill debate I read that the administrative cost per person for Medicare is a fraction of what it is for for-profit private companies. Just think of all the expenses profit-companies have that the government doesn't. Medicare doesn't pay stock holders or for advertising or for lobbyists- the insurance companies spent millions on that last year!
And add to this the cost doctors and hospitals have dealing with dozens of different insurance companies- each with their own forms and procedures. It's a paperwork nightmare. With a single payer system all this is gone- you have one simple procedure that handles everything. In fact Obama was talking about setting up a computerized system that would eliminate all paperwork.
For example, dating. How would you contrast dating in Europe (or US) with dating in Hong Kong. In the West there is a premium on youth, or at least looking youthful, but I hear that many countries in Asia value success/wealth, even the wisdom of age, over youth/appearance. Did you find that to be true (I realize that your experiences as a gay man would likely be different from mine as a hetero . . but yet you might have a keener seense of straight socializing more than I would about gay socializing).
I understand that there is much wealth in HK. But they do have poor, working class, middle class too, correct? What is the relationship of various classes of people to each other . . they live appart, don't socialize together, or do they?
Finally, immigration. Does Hong Kong have much inter-group tension? . . animosity? Is there a clash of cultures there or more harmony than you might find in the West?