19 April 2019
Hong Kong's local trains have been the scene of some noisy quarrels between locals and mainlanders. Photo: Bloomberg
Hong Kong's local trains have been the scene of some noisy quarrels between locals and mainlanders. Photo: Bloomberg

‘Miss Thick Toast’: The dos and don’ts on HK trains

Scathing online criticism over the behavior of an immigrant woman from mainland China on a commuter train in Hong Kong earlier this month reminds us not only about the ever-present threat from cyber bullies, it also serves as a warning as to the dos and don’ts while in a rail carriage.

More than 518,000 people have so far viewed a YouTube video, in which the lady — said to have moved to Hong Kong from Chaozhou in Guangdong province — is seen shouting at another passenger who criticized her for eating on the train.

With her thick rural accent, the immigrant is seen protesting loudly at being ticked off for eating on the go, asking her interlocutor questions such as why she was being “so nosy” and if that person thought she was Leung Chun-ying, the city’s chief executive.  

Unfortunately, her strong accent led to the phrase “so nosy” being pronounced as “thick toast”, while “Leung Chun-ying” came across as “onion rings” — setting the stage for much mirth and derision in online forums later among Hongkongers, and causing the woman to be nicknamed “Miss Thick Toast”.

After being criticized by netizens for her rude manners and faulty accent for more than a week, the woman finally fought back in an interview with Eastweek magazine on Tuesday. She said she was devastated after the video was brought to her attention and that she had even considered committing suicide.

She said she had consumed on the train a half-eaten egg tart that she had given her son, stressing that she did not know that eating was not allowed on local trains. She said she moved to Hong Kong nine years ago and is now bringing up two kids with social security help after getting divorced from a heavy gambler.

Following her story, there is some sympathy for her plight and many people are wondering if it is right to jump to quick conclusions and slam the immigrants for all sorts of things. 

Meanwhile, the case has served as a reminder as to what can and cannot be done on the MTR trains.

According to Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway by-laws, eating and drinking are not allowed inside the paid-areas of subways and on trains.

In normal practice, babies and kids are exempt from being challenged for eating, as long as the parents ensure that the seats are not dirtied. Authorities may also look the other way if people eat near the bakery and snack shops inside the stations as the shops contribute good rental income for the MTR.

Except all these cases, those guilty of violating the no-eating and drinking rule can be fined up to HK$2,000, which should surely dampen the appetite of anyone wanting a quick snack. 

And remember, foul language is barred within the MTR stations and on the trains. The maximum fine is HK$5,000. 

When riding an escalator, it is a wise idea not to stay glued to your mobile device screens. The warning might seem strange but it is really deemed necessary as authorities fear you might crash into others if are too busy looking up social networks and playing online games.

Meanwhile, although not every MTR station provides public toilets, it is not a reason for any one to take a leak on the floor. Passengers can ask station workers to take them to a staff toilet in case of emergency. It is another matter, though, that the MTR has never publicly promoted that service. 

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EJ Insight reporter

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