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Norway-hedge-close-up Norway, Soup, Hedgerows and Cantonese  - PenAndWok.comI don’t really know how it happened, but I have a title now. The title is marketing manager. Yes, that’s right! I manage.

I manage the marketing of leaves and twigs, as well as roots. I am a plant marketing manager!

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The plants are yews, hornbeams, thuja, beeches and, and... and more! Whose English names I know not! Oh yes, privet hedge, the type you see in charming English murder mysteries. Totally unsuitable for most of Norway, but they want it anyway. Thank you, Inspector Morse.  

This summer from April has been crazy, just managing, managing, managing from morning till night, or longer. It’s fun, but has really taken a toll on my work to make Cantonese a world language.

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A few weeks ago I went to Norway to interview some plants and their owners, making one film about blood beech and one about privet. Yaooo! It was fun. It turned into a road trip with benefits, trawling around country roads with excellent driver and friend Cecilie Maske, and visiting places I’ve only read about in books.

The highlight of the road trip was finally meeting my student ah-Tong (Soup) possibly the only Cantonese enthusiast in his village. Soup is an unusual guy; deeply philosophical, plays in three bands on top of working as a truck driver, has 3 children and loves Cantopop, especially George Lam!

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We went to a Chinese restaurant in a nearby town where the owner happened to be from Hong Kong, a good friend of Soup’s and possibly the one to set him on the road to Canto. Whatever it was - welcome to the fold, Soup! One more of us, one fewer of them.

That trip reminded me of another road trip in Norway with the same Cecilie Maske, grooving around the fjords and trying to find Chinese restaurants that weren’t too... Norwegian. I don’t ask for much - only chopsticks.

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In Åndalsnes, I finally saw a promising place, astonishingly called ‘China House’. The waiter howled with laughter when I talked to him in Cantonese, asking me where I was from.

“Hong Kong.”


“Why not?”

“You can’t be.”

Then came the ‘you can use chopsticks’ and ‘you can ask for Tsingtao’ applause, culminating in a thundering crescendo of incredulous howling when I asked if they had anything on the menu containing lotus root.

The waiter spoke fluent-ish Norwegian badly, and when I pretended to be amazed, he scoffed that he had been living there for 20 years.

“Right, so why is it strange that I can speak Cantonese, drink Tsingtao and use chopsticks?”

“That’s different.”

“Why is it different?” I said with an evil smirk, having had exactly the same conversation in mainland China only about 32,000 times. 

“Because... they are Chinese things” he explained, as if I were a 10-month-old infant of unusually limited intelligence.

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But anything is better than the ridiculous notion that wearing, eating or enjoying something from a different place in the world than oneself is somehow “cultural appropriation”.

No! It’s cultural admiration. Or - it’s just something interesting, fun, amazing that happens to be started by some people somewhere else. Like Cantonese.

Learning Cantonese is NOT cultural appropriation, it’s the most fun and interesting thing you can undertake in your lifetime.

Perhaps you don’t have time to take lessons from me right away, but why not start with Cantonese 101, Cantonese the Movie, more than one hour of everything you need in basic Cantonese.

Then you can go to Hong Kong and spend your entire holiday in quarantine!

Today's Cantonese: 湯  Tong - soup, boiling water