What on earth does ‘ho-ho-ho-ho’ mean in Cantonese…?

Or: my dramatic departure.

Picture the following scene: I am standing at the reception in Mei Ho House hostel in Hong Kong, having just checked out of my room and returned the key card. The wonderful young receptionist has urged me to leave early for the airport. Not because she wants to get rid of me, I hope, but in order for me to be on the safe side. You never know these days… Then she kindly agrees to call me a taxi to the airport.

First she dials the number of the company, then waiting, silence. Hm. What if all the telephone lines are busy? What if there is major disruption of public transport again, so that taxis are in extreme demand? What if…

But then she starts to talk in that low voice of hers, in Cantonese, of course. I am relaxing again, still curious though as to what she will find out and tell me. She talks and talks, why so long? And then, all of a sudden, there is this peculiar sound that she makes. ˋHo-ho-ho´. A short pause. Then again: ˋHo-ho-ho´. And then: ˋHo-ho-ho-ho´. What? Four times even? As if three times wasn’t bad enough already? Please, not four times! On the outside, I am the cool German dude, of course. But deep down inside of me, I am beginning to panic.

Because, you see, she didn’t quite sound like Father Christmas (or that American guy who works for Coca-Cola). It was more – to my Indo-European ears at least – an expression of surprise and wonder, amazement, disbelief, empathy, pity. Yes, exactly, pity – for ME! Because I wouldn’t get to the airport within the next five hours and subsequently miss my plane! Aaaargh!

But just as I am beginning to, well, you know, sh.. my pants, she hangs up and looks at me. WHAT? WHAT? PLEASE TELL ME THE TRUTH! She says nothing, smiles softly, looks down at her desk, writes something down, looks up again, still smiling, hands me a note:

Phew! Lost in interpretation…

Published by Sebastian

Geographer, naturalist and photographer (www.schroeder-esch.de). Based in Germany, but always keen to travel and explore

7 thoughts on “What on earth does ‘ho-ho-ho-ho’ mean in Cantonese…?

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