Sick as a dog…

There’s days you wake up and think hmm I don’t know if I can  shoulder-barge and body-check my way through this depressingly loud and aggressive, blunt and selfish, unrelenting and uncompromising, dog eat dog internationally famous mega city today…I’m starting to feel inhuman…I think I need to spend the whole day at home. Sounds good until you remember your work requires proof of illness. You can’t exactly roll up the next day and say ‘Hong Kong makes me fucking sick boss’. You’re going to need to do better than that.

Mr Wong visits the doctor after his boss poked him in the eye with a pencil for not producing a sick note earlier in the week. This time he'll be sure to bring a sick note as proof...and leaving nothing to chance - photographic evidence too...this happy snap.


First some background. In Hong Kong, things are very clear and by the book…almost black and white you could say. If your throat’s sore…you must have eaten crispy food. If you drink tea too late in the day…you’ll never get to sleep at night. When the party’s over…we all stand up at the same time and leave. When we’re in public…we act like we’re at home. When we chat on the phone…we yell. When we have a gathering with friends…we all talk at the same time. When it’s Sunday…we play with remote controlled cars and boats. When it’s 30 degrees but it’s cloudy…we wear a gigantic arctic jacket. When our food comes…we take its picture. When we’re running low on toilet paper…we go and buy 64 rolls. When we’re sick…we see a doctor. Grey areas…do…not…compute. And taking a day off work and not producing a doctor’s note would be one huge grey area in the eyes of your employer and your workmates. Was he really sick yesterday, they’ll all whisper. What was he doing? Did he go on some trip? Is he lazy? Does he know that he made our workload 7% more burdensome? Why didn’t he see a doctor? We should see the doctor when we are sick, shouldn’t we? Where did he go? Was he being sneaky? I don’t understand! Why didn’t he see a doctor!! This is very unorthodox behaviour!

MacDonald's bags in the doctor's waiting room. It doesn't get any better than that! Thanks for sharing your coughing, snivelling and the great smells of greasy MacDonald's in soggy brown paper bags. It was a rare treat listening to you eat it too. All that smacking and burping...just what the doctor ordered!


 So it’s almost impossible to take a day off work without the need to produce a medical certificate, a DNA and or blood/ urine and stool sample. It’s not that employers don’t trust you. It’s not that at all. It’s just that they find it easier to believe an authority figure like a doctor…and they don’t trust you. They need proof and logic. They need to be able to put 1 and 1 together and get 2. They must calculate based on logical parameters. 1. You were sick + 1. You saw a doctor = 2. Now you show me the note. Feel sick – see doctor – show note. Sick – doctor – note. Black – white – no grey. 1 + 1 = 2. Having a day off and not showing a medical note would be so far out of the realms of logic to a Hong Kong employer that you would appear an unhinged, deluded nut. You’re already opening yourself up to suspicion, sideways glances, furrowed brows and gravely hushed gossip by taking a day off in the first place. In Hong Kong, the approach is far more advanced than other areas of the world where the sick day is often entrusted to the judgment of workers. The judgment of workers! Bah! What would they know?

Hi. I'm Dr Lam. I sell pills. A lot of pills. That's me on the wall by the way. Am I the cheese or what!?

In more backward parts of the world, lazy workers are allowed ridiculous leeway by crazy employers who allow multiple instances of having a day off work that don’t involve a trip to the doctor to fetch a note. Employers with this kind of hippy mentality are asking for trouble. How could someone who is sick for a day not go to see the doctor on that day? There would be something very, very fishy about that…more fishy than a Sai Kung fish butcher. In Hong Kong when you are sick, you must get up and get outside and get to the doctor. It doesn’t matter at all if you end up having to wait hours to see a doctor or that appointment times seem to be as flexible as everything else in Hong Kong is inflexible…or that in going to the doctor you are ultimately doing everything you set out not to do that day…commuting, lining up, waiting, being pushed, yelled at, listening to people eating MacDonald’s in the waiting room…just generally being assaulted by all those aspects of Hong Kong culture you sought to avoid. Anyway…you got pills coming…and pills make it better.

$300 worth of pills. Doctor's a businessman.

Hong Kong employers frown on the sick day. And I for one understand their attitude completely. What possible reason could you have for taking a day off work in Hong Kong? Your mother died? You have cancer? Your youngest child has bird flu? These trivialities fly in the face of the Hong Kong work ethic. We work hard in Hong Kong. Go and play funerals, chemotherapy and vaccines in your own time. Hong Kong is a business not a playground. Those stories you may have heard of employers phoning sick employees at their home, demanding answers…and in some cases of actually going to an employee’s home to investigate the trustworthiness of their sickness claims…those stories are true. And fair enough too. If employees showed that kind of dedication to get the job done, there’d be no sick days at all.

Ah...ha ha ha...I'll write you a note chief...but you're gonna have to buy some pills. You think I got this bow tie and self important scowl handing out lollipops?

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5 Responses to Sick as a dog…

  1. gowron says:

    But but what if I can’t go get my doctors note, because I jumped off a building and broke my bones not succeeding in freeing myself from this bardo shithole of sweaty urinals?

  2. You’d have a great excuse for missing work….splattered all over concrete…can’t move…may have to take two days off………………a lot of paper work with that though…

  3. gowron says:

    Well now I know why my people invented paper and stamps………. :_(

  4. Hong Konged says:

    Loved this post. I made the mistake of taking a sick day without procuring a doctor’s note (my previous infraction did have a note). BIG MISTAKE. Boy did I get chewed out. Bluntly accused of not even being really sick. Hong Kong, like grade school for adults.

  5. The logic of compulsory doctor visits on the day of illness to prove your condition is very…Hong Kong.

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