The Ground Floor

This week I'm staying at a suburban hotel in Hong Kong that seems to be a favorite for peasant tour groups from southern China who've crossed the border to spend their hard-earned yuan at Disneyland.

The gleaming towers of this city are a far cry from the villages of rural Guangdong or Guangxi (I'm guessing that's where they are from based on the accents I hear) so riding up and down the elevator to my room on the 21st floor has been quite the cross-cultural experience.

Hong Kong uses the British system of labeling street level as "ground floor", not "the first floor" as we would label it in the States (and China). Our first floor is their ground floor, and our second floor is their first floor. It can be confusing.

This morning as I was going down to breakfast, I ended up on the elevator with a dozen or excited peasant tourists who were talking very loudly about where they should get off.  When the elevator reached the ground floor (as indicated by the letter G lit up on the display) the door open and they all just stood there. Someone made a move, but was grabbed by the others and told not to get off because we were on the 6th floor (the letter G did look like a 6).

I was at the back of the elevator and wanted to get off so decided to take control of the situation and in the loudest voice I could muster declared to them in Chinese that this was where they needed to get off.  "G in Hong Kong is like 1 in China.  Please get off now."  With one accord they all turned around and said "wah!!" (which in this context meant "Oh my! A foreigner who speaks") then spilled off the elevator into the lobby to continue their journey to see Mickey Mouse. . 

Obviously they hadn't gotten the memo.  And even if they had, who would have actually believed that one is two anyway?