One thing I’ll miss going back to Sweden is the Baby-Friendly vibe in Hong Kong. I should say that it is not really what you would call an “accessible” city most of the time, and it can be frustrating to deal with a lot of city planning and architectural obstacles when out with a stroller. In addition the MTR (the metro in Hong Kong) is really pushing those with strollers to take the elevator instead of escalator to prevent accidents on escalators.
What I am referring to is the actual people that make up the city. Not the expats. I’m talking about the people that blend into the background, who make up the fabric of the city. The locals. The people out with push carts, driving buses, and working the hard and unforgiving jobs. The “real people” if you will. Amongst this group of people are some of the most friendly, kind, and fun people in the world, and when you have a baby / toddler with you, they light up with a big smile, they accommodate your annoying stroller, and they don’t seem to mind helping – for example opening a door, giving you a seat on the MTR, and so on. They are kind.
We will be going back to Sweden. I love it there and think it is wonderful. But one thing that I could never wrap my brain around is how unhelpful strangers are to one another there. Just this last trip back, we were trying to exit our apartment building and no fewer than 3 separate people entered when we were trying to exit with a stroller and 2 bags each, and not one held the door open or offered to help. The first winter I was in Sweden, I was on a bus during a snow storm, and a woman entered at the stop of the supermarket with a load of groceries and a baby stroller. Nobody did anything to help her. If anything they looked annoyed that she was taking a bit long. I got up and tried to help her and then she looked at me like I was a crazy person (she most likely thought I was being sexist). Interesting learning lesson about Swedish culture, isn’t it? But if you know people, they will do anything for you – it’s just when you are a stranger that is complicated there.
So imagine what it will be like for the little guy when we go to Sweden. He will say “hi” and “bye bye” to everyone, and wave at the bus drivers as they go by, and they will all ignore him. He will try to charm a restaurant worker, and they’ll be kind but ignore him nonetheless, and he will wonder what is wrong. To be honest it kind of breaks my heart that he will be going from the kindness that he encounters here to the other end of the spectrum, but my hope is that he is still oblivious enough that it will not get to him.
Mark this down as one of the many unexpected treasures I found in this 15 months in Hong Kong – who knew that in one of the bigger cities in the world, there would be so many baby-friendly people?