A foreign friend once asked me why Hong Kong minibus drivers are always so irritable and aggressive? Why was it that when old people took a little bit more time to get on or off the bus the drivers would tell them off. Why would they swear at other drivers through the window when competing for road space?
And why would they grumble to themselves when caught in traffic or stuck behind someone driving slowly?
I answered that just like the bourgeoisie say, Hong Kong minibus drivers are a local attraction. If you are taking a minibus as a tourist there is no need to look at the Hong Kong streetscape through the window, all you need to do is watch the driver.
The Hong Kong minibus industry captures and illustrates vividly the definition of the Cantonese expression ‘Wan Sek’, putting bread on the table. No, they’re not mentally ill nor clinically manic. It’s only that a Hong Kong man in their forties, with a wife and kids at home, if for some reason or other they find themselves sitting on the driver’s seat of a minibus, hand on the steering wheel, once that becomes their full time career, just like a person sitting on the imperial throne, you have to expect that their personality with change.
I explained to my foreign friend the origins of the Hong Kong minibus: in May 1967, there were left-wing riots in Hong Kong. People didn’t feel safe. Bus drivers joined communist-led unions, they were always on strike, and transport in the city was always paralysed. At that time, the so-called ‘British Hong Kong’ had a rich experience of ruling Malaysia and, in order to stabilise the situation, they issued a license that allowed people to drive a 9-seat minibus for a short period of time, in order to let the citizens get along with their normal life.
I recommend to my foreign friend: when you come to Hong Kong,
you should ride a minibus to have a real sense of local experience, particularly when you ride at the back. 叫喊「燈位有落」時，聲浪要高，嗓門要大，不要害羞，坐幾回，你就適應了香港，而忘記了你原來的瑞士或芬蘭國籍。
Although, up to this day, I wonder: in Hong Kong, there are 30,000 Japanese people. How can they ride a minibus?
Although I’m not that much into the minibus myself, I’m a big advocate of it – no – Chinese and Hong Kong transportation systems should be protected by UNESCO as cultural heritage.