“agnès b., brand of shame” (updated with the aftermath)

On March 31st 2012, a new shopping mall called “Popcorn” was opened in Tseung Kwan O. There is a French cafe by the French chain agnès b called agnès b. café l.p.g, which also has branches in high class shopping malls like IFC. A netizen found that menus inside are only in English and simplified Chinese.

拉菲爾法比奧: Simplified Chinese has Invaded Tseung Kwan O. Hurray!

The menu of agnès b. café in the newly opened shopping mall “Popcorn” is only in simplified Chinese and English. There is no traditional Chinese. Hongkonger, continue to get Mainlandised.
I will upload pictures when I get home.

The picture he uploaded

Sandwich in Cantonese is “三文治” (“three literal” literally, Cantonese: ʃam mɐn tʃi; Mandarin: san uən tʂ‘ʅ) and “三明治” (“three bright” literally, Mandarin: san miŋ tʂ‘ʅ; Cantonese: ʃam miŋ tʃi), the Mandarin usage, is used in here. I was told that the transliteration was based on maritime English “sammich”. “三文” (three literal) was taken from the idea of “Trinity”(三一) to make the loanword more meaningful and elegant. From the viewpoint of Cantonese phonology, the pronunciation of “三明治” is more difficult than that of “三文治”  because there is a faint glottal stop in 明 during fast speech. (*Thanks Robert Charles Lee for info) Butter is called “牛油” in Cantonese while Mainland Mandarin “黃油” is used in here.

"牛油" can be seen in "Chinese(*Cantonese)-English Common Speech" which was published in 1860.
*As you can see that "乜咑" (Cantonese pronunciation: mɐt ta) is used to approximate the pronunciation of "butter"

Another member posted a picture of agnès b. café’s wall menu and circled Mandarin Chinese usages.

Salad in Hong Kong Cantonese is “沙律” (Cantonese :ʃa løt; Mandarin: ʂa ly) while “色拉” (Mandarin: sɤ la; Cantonese: ʃik lai), the Mainland Chinese name,  is used in the menu.

The photo uploader said satirically that he didn’t know what “色拉” was.

拉菲爾法比奧: Today, when I first saw “色拉”, it was so f**king familiar that I almost didn’t know how to order food.

Get a rough knowledge of Tsueng Kwan O before reading netizens’ comments.

Location of Tseung Kwan O - It is neither a tourist area nor next to Shenzhen.

The “A” bubble is where “Popcorn” is located,”P” means “public housing” and “S” means “government subsidised housing”. Tsueng Kwan O (the bay of Commander, literally) is a relatively young “new town“. The two “P” sites on top are the oldest public housings in there, which were built in the end of 1980s. Hence, this region has more residents who were born in the 1980s. It was once seen as a grassroots area. After 2000s, more and more private housing were built in the South of Tseung Kwan O.

Northern Tseung Kwan O is composed of public housings that were built in the late 80s and early 90s.

"P" site on the upper left hand corner

Southern Tseung Kwan O is composed of public housings that were built after 1997 and “luxurious” apartments.

Buildings in pink, blue and purple are public housings. "Luxurious" apartments are on the left.
"The Wings", luxurious apartments on top of the shopping mall "Popcorn".

The following is an episode of Education TV that was watched by people who were born in the late 1970s and 1980s. The title of the song is “Ever Changing Hong Kong”.

flaneurhk: 1988, P.4 (*P stands for Primary School) Social Studies

First Seminar, Episode 13, The Face of Hong Kong

It was last aired in Nov 1994. In 1995, social studies and health education were merged to become general studies. This episode is composed of several rewritten Cantopop songs that portrait Hong Kong, her economy and urban life. The way of expression was ahead of time and many older teachers couldn’t accept it. It can’t be denied that this is the collective memory for Hongkonger who are now in their 20s and 30s. This must be one of the top episodes that gives everyone a deep impression.

unclemau: Cherish British Hong Kong.

Tour of the “Popcorn” by Unwire.hk

The reason why expensive shops appear in a shopping mall which is surrounded by public and government subsidised housings is…

3 new hotels

Netizens’ comments

含家散: That shopping mall doesn’t want “public housing boys” like us. (*People who live in public housing always refer themselves as “屋邨仔/妹” (public housing boys/girls).

好笑到含撚呀: Popcorn is for Mainlanders.

啍!: You think this is for Hongkonger? It is for Mainlanders. It is normal to use simplified Chinese. Hong Kong businessmen have no dignity.

採蜥淘象: Enthusiastically celebrate that the people of Tsueng Kwan O are successfully liberated. (*He posted with simplified Chinese character.)

哈: They obviously think that you poor thugs can’t afford to eat in there.

靈靈發: They completely ignore the existence of Hongkonger.

The above photos are being shared crazily on Facebook. A Sai Kung (*Tseung Kwan O is part of Sai Kung District) based politician, Gary Fan, observed in there and posted more photos of the cafe.

Chocolate in Cantonese is 朱古力 (Cantonese: tʃy ku lik; Mandarin: ʂu ku li) and 巧克力 (Mandarin: tɕ‘iau k‘ɤ li; Cantonese: hau hak lik), the Mainland usage, is used in here. Iced beverage is usually written as “凍飲” or “冷飲” in Hong Kong usage while Mainland Chinese usage “冰飲” is used.

Gary Fan: Against agnès b.café in the newly opened Tseung Kwan O shopping mall “Popcorn”. It only has English and simplified Chinese menu. Discriminate Hongkonger! For Hong Kong customers, boycotting is the best way to against it. I call for everyone to boycott agnès b. café!

Gary Fan even protested in there yesterday.

I need traditional Chinese menu

Respect Hongkonger

Scholar Wan Chin: agnès b. café uses simplified Chinese in residential area, which is humiliating the dignity of Hong Kong culture. Everyone please don’t tolerate. Take action to defend the dignity of Hong Kong. We all have been humiliated enough. It’s time to act now. Fellow Hongkongers, let’s shout, “agnès b., brand of shame!”

Comments from Facebook

Wong: Deanie Ip said Hong Kong these days was just a large shopping mall for others. You think these stores are for Hongkonger? Of course they serve Mainland Chinese first.

Li: These foreign brands use Mainland Chinese characters and phrases to please Mainland Chinese tourists and don’t respect local culture. I won’t buy from these brands because this is the home field of Hongkonger.

Tang: To be frank, I think that Hong Kong has been under invasion all these years. First, resource invasion. Second, cultural invasion. Third, political invasion.

Ranger: Doing business in Hong Kong and using menus that Hongkongers don’t understand. What’s the intention? Go back to China to open stores.

Yiu: I hate these people the most. Why do they have to yield to Mainlanders? Every place has her own language! Don’t need to yield to them! Are you with me??

Lo: Mainlander will treat Tseung Kwan O as their own place and regard Hongkonger as foreigners. Strong country will kick us out and we can’t enter.

Ela: Just last Friday a friend went to Domani (tel 2111 1197), an Italian restaurant in Pacific Place, Admiralty, and the Taiwanese manager, after a chat with a snobbish Filipino(?) receptionist, went up to my friend and told her something about the reservation but refused to speak in Cantonese. Pointing at a Chinese flag he told my friend in Mandarin ‘HK is in China’. These foreigners come here for work and then tell us what to do and what language to do it in! My friend immediately brought this to the attention of the Italian manager Stefano (stefano@domani.hk) and complained to Pacific Place as well. Any advice on how to pursue this?

agnès b café just apologised and promised to change the menu back to traditional Chinese before netizens carry out further actions.

However, the apology is not well received.

Eric: Even a cafe from France has to be the running dog of the Communist Party. Pathetic.

Janet: No one expects them to write in 8 languages. However, if you open stores in other places, you should respect local culture. Isn’t it a common sense? Hongkongers can answer what is “色拉” (“colour pull” literally)? What colour are they trying to pull?

Chris: Don’t French always defend their language culture snobbishly? Why do you humiliate others’ language cultures? Which one are you serving, Hongkonger or Mainlander? If the answer is Mainlander, f**king go to China. Don’t f**king go to Hong Kong.

Netizens received the letter of apology from agnès b after sending complaint emails.

Some even sent complaint letters to the French Embassy.

From Sharp Daily,

The Home Field of Hongkonger
agnès b
Use Simplified Chinese

On April 3rd, agnès b café changed the menu to traditional Chinese and Cantonese usage.

Similar incidents
On Jan 10th 2012, a photo of a government poster that is in simplified Chinese was shared on the internet and stirred anger among netizens. Apple/Sharp Daily reported it and later the poster was taken down.

On Jan 24th 2012, a Citi Bank’s simplified Chinese advertisement was painted with “大69”, which means “Mainland dog”.

Wen Yunchao, the winner of French Republic’s Human Rights Prize 2010 and now lives in Hong Kong, criticises Hongkonger for not accepting simplified Chinese.

The heart of Hongkonger is so fragile that they can’t accept the unintentional use of Simplified Chinese.

He continues to criticise Hongkonger on Google+

low self-esteem syndrome

Hongkongers’ replies.

King Wolffy: It is just that simple. When in Rome, do as the Roman do. Using traditional Chinese is a “basic civility” when one comes to Hong Kong. Using both traditional and simplified Chinese is OK too.

Astrophel Lim: It is so funny. If you only use Japanese to do business in China, will Mainland Chinese get angry? Mainland Chinese is like that. They don’t respect their culture and switched to use “handicapped” character. However, they rush to say that not using “handicapped and evil character” is low self-esteem. The lowness of Mainland Chinese culture makes one speechless.

Slacker Ki: I also don’t understand why Mainland Chinese love saying that Hongkonger view themselves as higher class. To be honest, I don’t think I am high class. It is just Mainland Chinese lower than low.

Astrophel Lim: It matches the national situation of China. They will say others are wrong no matter what.

Gary Fan’s latest political declaration

Block Double Negatives (Anchor baby)

Against Mainland Chinese Self-Drive Tour to Hong Kong

Protect Traditional Chinese

I am Hongkonger

Title: Under the Hand of Enemy

Picture 1: Today, “Defend Traditional Chinese Character”

Picture 2. Five years later, “Defend Cantonese Language”, with sign written in Simplified Chinese character

Picture 3: Ten years later, “Defend Cantonese Culture”, with sign written in simplified Chinese character and Mandarin pinyin

Picture 4: Fifteen years later,
Mother: Son, what have you learn today? (in Cantonese and the speech bubble is in traditional Chinese)
Son: Mom, what are you talking about? (in Mandarin and the speech bubble is in simplified Chinese)

The success inspires netizens to complain others companies that use simplified Chinese. On April 7th, a photo of someone flipping the bird to the simplified Chinese banner of Hong Kong-style fast food chain, 美心 Maxim’s (they also use Mandarin pinyin “Meixin” as well) was shared on the internet and the uploader urged other netizens to send complaint emails to the chain.

畫松: [shared picture] Maxim’s solicits customers with Simplified Chinese, betraying the core value of Hongkonger.

The picture was downloaded from the internet. I hope the photographer would not mind. In here, I hope everyone can send an email and this would be reported by newspapers.

則卷千兵䘙: Now, many big companies, chain stores and restaurants use simplified Chinese to solicit customers and this is raping one of the core values of Hongkonger. In recent years, these kinds of scum companies just want to profit from a specific kind of foreign customer. They don’t want to serve Hongkonger at all. They should just give up Hong Kong market and directly do business in the original place of this specific kind of foreign customer.
Maxim’s (Meixin)
Pacific Coffee
agnès b (They had made same mistakes before. Even though they have changed the menu, I still advise you to boycott them.)

35 thoughts on ““agnès b., brand of shame” (updated with the aftermath)

    1. Yes, because Chinese who abused million low paid workers + Illegal use of money + selling mass produced fake products, including tainted milk, poison food and water are the Kings and Queens . Disgusting CCP communist Chinese people.

      From now on I will disrespect and insult Chinese in most extreme way. My dad is Hong Konger and my mother is Dutch/British. I used to Identify myself as Hong Kong Chinese. I’m sick of them destroying traditional Chinese writing and culture. I’m also sick of hearing their disgusting Mandarin language which was imposed by the Manchus on them like slaves, China has no shame.

  1. How can they manage to do something like this? Can it really be possible that not one Hong Konger involved in the construction or administration of this cafe noticed the Mainland-style Chinese and simplified characters and raised the issue? I think not.

    This is not just a ‘mistake’, it can only be a deliberate attempt to favour Mainland customers over Hong Kongers.

    1. Have you guys ever considered that Singaporean Chinese and Malaysian Chinese study Simplified Chinese, and have difficulties understand Traditional Chinese characters? I think the debating point about cafes using Simplified Chinese as a discriminatory act against Hongkongers is questionable. In my opinion, the marketing strategy of these cafes is to cater to all who read Chinese.

  2. Is this the only Agnes B Cafe that provides menus without traditional Chinese characters? We need to boycott Agnes B altogether.

  3. Next people will be complaining that Filipino cafes here only have Tagalog menus… And were you aware that coffee and cake isn’t even a traditional Hong Kong dish?? Boycott these foreign invaders! Get a grip people!

  4. I’m pretty sure 三文治 is also what we Cantonese or Hong Kongers call sandwich… not 三明治 which I think/believe is more Mandarin/Mainland…

  5. Also, Agnes B should also promise to use CANTONESE terminology, or Hong Kong Cantonese terminology, and not Mandarin/Mainland terminology.

    Eradicate Simplified and Mandarin terminology from Hong Kong!

  6. i think its funny how you guys bitch and moan over this kind of thing. The same thing happens in China-towns in the west. The whole area is in traditional Chinese. The shop signs etc. We had to pass laws to have the signs in both traditional Chinese and English. While i do sympathize with HK folks you guys do sound like some whiny spoiled kids.

  7. what pissed me off more is in mainland china, english road (and other) signs are in English characteres but NOT english…basically mandarin pronounciation of simplified characters…

  8. What I’d most be interested in is WHY they put the menu in Simp. Chinese. I know how corporate decisions get made sometimes … and it’s often thoughtless, but rarely malevolent. I imagine a scenario where someone said, “Let’s be practical – most Hong Kongers nowadays *can* read simplified characters but the mainlanders get confused by traditional, so, let’s just make it simpler.” Or was it someone using a mainland contractor to produce the signboards? Or did they get them mass-produced for 45 restaurants in the mainland plus one in HK and it was cheaper just to do them all in simp. Chinese? Or are there a lot of mainland immigrants (not tourists) permanently residing in that area?

    Or, did someone in the company really, deliberately, say, “We want to ensure only mainlanders, who are better than Hong Kongers, come to our shop. So we will deliberately exclude them with our Simplified Chinese menus.”

  9. Of course, don’t even start with English signage in non-English-speaking-majority countries. You can go visit engrish.com if you want to talk about that.

  10. 香港人,你们以为你们是谁?


    1. Hongkongers are allowed to appreciate and maintain Traditional Chinese characters, nothing wrong with that yet.
      Hongkongers still have their rights in some ways (seem to be getting lesser though). Agnes b. should have displayed both Traditional & Simplified Chinese along with English on their menu since there are more influx of Mainland tourists visiting Hong Kong nowadays.

  11. 樓上那句「不喜欢中国可以离开」正好解釋為何中共高官9成以上子女拿綠咭、中產紛紛來港生子,你以為他們想「呆著」?走得不夠快而已

  12. 怕是不敢走或者走不掉或者就算走了以后在新的地方也混不下去然后又要折返回来吧。。。

  13. @puffy mary



    1. 「香港仅仅是中国的一区而已」 但法律、執政、教育和自由度都完全不一樣,所以鄧小平提出一國兩制,寶貝,「 请记住这一点,并请永远记住」,因為這是偉大的鄧小平同志的話。「难不成你还想搞分裂???看你也没这胆!!」



    2. 「香港仅仅是中国的一区而已」但法律、政制、民生和自由度都獨特,所以偉大的領導人鄧小平才提出一國兩制和五十年不變的遠大方案,「请记住这一点,并请永远记住」。寶貝,回歸才十五年就想推倒領導人的思想,「都是你这智商,这地方真没啥希望」。



    3. 有著數時甚麼都是中國人, 沒好處時就劃清界線, 好像田亮, 討好處就說香港是中國一部份, 所以沒問題都是一家人, 連 jeremy lin 都是中國人, 梁振英未上任, 山東已有兩條村打架認親訊認戚, 擺明抽水, 沒法討好處時, 就說你們香港人我們中國人。 香港1842年已存在, 當時中共的中國在哪?

  14. You know what, traditional characters are a big pain in the ass to learn and write. Stuff them, lets see more simplified characters in HK, Singapore manages quite well with them. Before the mainland introduced simplified chars in China illiteracy was 85 percent, now it is only a few percent. Anyone who says it is easier to learn those traditional nests of spaghetti is just full of hubris. If we had simplified chars here our kids would probably have a far easier time at school learning them, they are under enouph pressure. Language is just a communication tool so chill out and go do some traditional calligraphy if you are feeling the pressure from over the fence. You have your rights look after them.

    1. read this. And read it well.

      It might seem difficult for a 4 year-old or a foreigner to start, but in the traditional one there are rules that remembering one word you can figure out the related words. Thus the more words you learn, the easier the learning will be:

      長(growing)髮 (hair) 髯 (beard) , even a foreigner can figure our it’s the hair on the human body that keeps growing. but in Simplified version:
      长发髯 <– there is no clue at all and you have to remember 3 new words in different writing style.

      As said, it's your freedom to school your children in whatever ways. But speaking about pragmatic, the logical one works better in all aspect. Not to mention if your next generation might head for sophisticated study of culture or even Chinese Medicine (which is very useful, and the fact that even Mainland student need to learn Traditional Chinese for their study).


      英文有詞根,中文亦有部件。聲字多達17畫。但我們並非需要死記那17畫,而是可以將他分為三個部件:声殳耳,每個部件不超過七畫,記憶上並不困難。同樣的,髒字多達23畫。 但他的兩個組成部分「骨」「葬」都是常用字,不能不會。因此學起來也不會有負擔 。相反,如果是一個比較少用到的部件,就算是十畫以下,也容易寫錯。如簡體字的尧,上面會錯寫成戈。




  15. Dawei:

    You’re totally right! I can’t think of ANY other changes that have taken place between 1956 and now in mainland China that might affect the literacy rate. Nothing’s really changed in that country in the last 50 years.

    With Hong Kong being the only place in the world still using traditional characters, the sooner we get rid of them the better! Things have gotten much better in Taiwan since they switched. When was that again?

  16. how funny you pinpoint Singapore as an example, their official National Language language is Malay. English Tamil, Cantonese and Mandarin are the supporting one. If you read Chinese, read these and think with critical thinking what is REAL GOOD culture and tradition:

    勸君莫吃猪内脏,内脏(臟)肯定都肮脏(髒) ;


  17. Lifesimplyis,

    Well I do read Chinese but not that well, which makes my point. Learning traditional characters is a big pain in the ass. You have to start at age 3 to 4 or you are sunk. Anyway your argument is a straw man. If they used traditional characters I am sure their level of Chinese would be even worse, Tang poetry aside.

    One could argue that simplification has taken some of the nuisances out of the language on account of a number of words that sound the same with different characters being folded into one character. You can also say that the art in the characters has been bastardized and so on but really being practical a simple structured language does not mean it is dumb and stupid and without character or culture, it is all in how it is used. As to tradition that is a two way street, foot binding anyone?

    As I said if you bileave in traditional characters go for it, no one is stopping you. I don’t and would rather see my son learn simplified in school than what he is going to have to go though.



  18. I learned Traditional Chinese till P5 and had to stop because I couldn’t catch up anymore (coming from non-Chinese background) but I still appreciate the beauty and complexity of the characters e.g. ideogrammatic compounds etc. Wouldn’t mind taking it up again for two reasons: 1. I like the challenge, I can handle it
    better now than when I was in primary. 2. I love the old Hong Kong cultural heritage (call me ‘old school’) 😛

    Simplified Chinese is being intergraded in Hong Kong schools; Traditional Chinese may eventually be restricted in the coming years. Changes are coming to Hong Kong faster than it is supposed to, in regards to laws, cultural and political freedoms.

    1. Well no surprised, 267 years of Manchu rule had made Chinese into barbarian. Afterall, Mandarin was influenced and imposed on Chinese as slaves. Than you have Mao Zedong killing like 70 million of Chinese in 1949-1976 during the cultural revolution.

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