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COVID-19, the reawakening to simpler ways

By Wang Yuke | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-10-03 09:55
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Candy Tang spends a day with her children at Repulse Bay in Hong Kong. Tang said the COVID-19 pandemic brought her back closer to her family. [Photo provided to China Daily]

There's a boogeyman loose in the world, and as it spreads fear around the globe, people are finding that things they once considered important don't seem to be so anymore. As COVID-19 claims more and more victims, people are giving up embellishments and vanities that once occupied their attention and are turning to the basics: food, shelter and security.

Take the case of Queenie Gong, a high-power insurance company executive and fashionista. If you wanted to know if sparkle was still the rage, or if fuchsia minis and pink fedora punk tops were in and where the hemline index sat at the moment, Gong was your source. She'd blow HK$30,000 ($3,871) a month on designer clothes.

But that was before COVID-19 turned the world a "little more real".

"The pandemic transformed me," says Gong. "I was shocked to find how vulnerable life is in front of the disease. The luxuries we put on give us only ostensible glamor, satisfying our vanity. But when disease comes our way, glamor becomes nothing."

She's cut her luxury spending a full two-thirds and says these days, she shops for value. "My appetite for fashion has dulled. Now I love 'basic, natural and sustainable', and things that are timeless and comfortable", says Gong. "I've really changed a lot."

Gong's elevated sense of fashion has been replaced by elevated anxiety. Where is all this going? The virus is on her mind constantly. "I have to acknowledge there're too many uncertainties this time around. Nobody knows when this will end. The heartfelt insecurity urges me to reflect on my ways of consumption. 'Is there any point in being pretentious, if I don't have much disposable income?', I ask myself," laments Gong.

Gong has awakened to a new reality, showing her that good health is her best investment.

Next, Linus Yip, another high-power executive. The pandemic changed his life, awakening him to the pleasure of grocery shopping. He decided it wasn't right for the family maid to take all the risk of going to the wet markets to shop. Yip, chief strategist at First Shanghai Securities, posted a picture of himself on WeChat-Tencent's instant messaging app-holding a bag bulging with meat and vegetables.

"It was my first time, as far as I remember, to buy food at the wet market alone. It was fun. I didn't even know grocery shopping was an important part of life, until now. Thank you, my family, for what you've done."

Life was all about work before the pandemic, Yip says. His wife and their maid did all the work in the home. "The only thing I needed to take care of was to be focused on my work.

"Before, I was well-fed. Now, I feed the family," laughs Yip. "The feeling is amazing. The knowledge that I can make contributions to the family other than earning money is so reassuring." COVID-19 made Yip see that work is not everything in life. He's grateful to have the free time that allows him to "return to his family".

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