The mask of shame


In Hong Kong, especially since the SARS crisis of 2003 when many people died from a mysterious contagious illness, it is considered extremely shocking and degenerate to act in any way that potentially increases the risk of infecting someone else with your germs. One symptom of this is that people infected with even a mild cold will wear what is essentially a surgical face mask, in other places normally only seen in operating theatres, in order to ostensibly prevent others from catching the illness. I suspect it’s probably also to mark oneself out so that everyone will know that a disease-carrier is nearby…

I’ve never seen someone non-Chinese wear this mask, so I was very excited and proud to be given one at the doctor’s today. I made sure I wore it prominently on the walk home, chest puffed out like a sick peacock. No-one gave me a second glance, but maybe they were just jealous… Breathing in my own germs, though, was a distinctly disgusting experience. That’ll teach me to get a cold!


Another example of heightened sensitivity to hygiene is that public lifts and doors proudly display how often they are sanitised, including in the example here where apparently someone comes by every 30 minutes… I don’t know how anyone can verify these claims. I saw this, of all places, at the Visa Office of the Commissioner’s Office of China’s Foreign Ministry etc etc… I don’t think I’ll ever see anything like it on the Mainland. At least I hope so, otherwise there will be more to worry about than etiquette…


2 thoughts on “The mask of shame


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