Apr 05, 2012|
It’s It’s official. I have entered the portion of my life where being part of a club is the measure of my social standing in Hong Kong. I don’t know how this happened: one day I was a junior investment banker, spending my days (and most nights) on Excel and popping to Prive on Saturdays to meet girls with a rudimentary command of the English language. Now, it’s shaking hands with men in suits and laughing too loudly at jokes. Father time, it appears, is a cruel master.
For you newbies, the Private Club phenomenon starts when you hit the mid-late-20s. The aging processes you would have in other cities—settle down, dinner parties, drink wine not shots, read newspapers—don’t apply here because Hong Kong is a Disneyland where 40-year-olds can party on Mondays and somehow it’s totally fine. What changes is the social currency one deals with. I was a member of Halo, Volar, and Club 97 when I first came,* which came with some cachet, albeit the same kind of cachet as being a VIP member of Park N’Shop. This meant that I didn’t wait in line and when there were those crazy crowds outside I would muscle my way through, spending just enough time to look back at the crowd and think to myself, wow, I’m better then all of you. Then I would go inside and everybody would ignore me and I’d drink 10 vodka sodas and that was a Saturday.
Today everyone can get into a club because, well, everybody always could eventually, and the exclusivity we crave as young professionals (i.e. douchebags) is gone. So we need a private club to go to—somewhere that will judge us on how white our pants are and how many handshakes we can dispense while looking genuine. Ask any politician: this is no easy task.
The list of the private clubs here us as long as the bathroom queue in the South Stand. For instance, you might consider joining The China Club, The American Club, The Hong Kong Club (sense a theme?), The Shek O Country Club, The Golf Club, The Yacht Club, The Football Club, The Cricket Club, The Crazy Portuguese Club, The Foreign Correspondent’s Club, The Aberdeen Boat Club, The Aberdeen Marina Club, and a lot of ones that sound like bad 90s movies like The Pacific Club, The Dynasty Club, and the Ladies Recreational Club. Holy clubs, Batman!
And all of these clubs have specific guidelines, rules, waiting lists (which can go to 20+ years), and cost lots of money. And, get this, they’re totally worth it. Why? I have no idea—I just want to be in one. So that makes it worth it to me. True, they have good facilities, and true, you can make cool friends, but really, you want to be in a club so you can tell people you’re in the club. Replace “Oh, I’m a Member at Play” with “Oh, I’m a Member at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club” and bam! you’ve just impressed the white guy in a suit across from you with the tie that’s way too short.** But you have to make sure to casually drop it into a conversation like going to the FCC is just what you normally do. Try starting with this sentence: “A really funny thing happened last week when I was at the Aberdeen Boat Club…”
Anyway, my goal is join a bunch of awesome private clubs and sit in their clubhouses and eat spinach dip and tell everyone how the food is good and how it’s so cheap.*** That’s Hong Kong life for you. We don’t enjoy what we do but we enjoy other people watching us do it.
*One of those is a joke.
**Seriously, is it that hard to make the tie hit the belt? And why does every office have one guy that does this? I’m looking at you, upper-stomach-tie-guy.
***This is a comical justification tip people use. They ignore the joining fee and monthly dues and then say “The club is great. It’s so cheap."