Nice to eat, meh ?
Almost everyone knows that the service staff at budget eateries in Hong Kong, like the cha chaan teng cafes, tend to be impatient, sometimes downright rude.
Take too long to read the menu ? Grumble grumble
Ask too many questions ? Grumble grumble
Use the wrong "terminology" ? Grumble grumble
Regarding "terminology", this is what I tell all Singaporeans or Malaysians who come to HK : NEVER, EVER SAY "TA POW" WHEN YOU WANT YOUR FOOD TO GO.
Here, "ta pow" means wrapping a dead body in a sheet. The correct term for "takeaway" is "leng chow" or "lor chow", literally "to take away".
In a story that I've heard, a Singaporean lady executive based in HK went to one of those small eateries in Central one day and ordered in her accented Cantonese, "Ta pow one rice please."
Five minutes later, the lady's order was ready but she did not hear her number being called as it was a busy and noisy lunchhour. So the stallowner shouted at the top of his voice : "The Singaporean girl who wants to TA POW her rice, your food is ready !!!"
So, don't forget ah.
When I go to these places for a meal, I tend to phrase and repeat the order in my mind so that I won't get it wrong and kena grumbling. My skin very thin one, you see.
So yesterday I was at the takeout section of a Chinese restaurant near the office to buy a lunchbox. For HK$30 (S$6.40) I could get a set lunchbox which included rice, a choice of two BBQ/roast meats, a dim sum item and a soya bean milk.
In my mind, I rehearsed my order: "Char siew and soy sauce chicken rice, curry cuttlefish".
In the end, I was so excited I said, "Char siew and cuttlefish rice."
The retort by the server, meat cleaver in hand, was swift and sharp, "Char siew and cuttlefish rice ? Nice to eat meh ?"