According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, a dissatisfied consumer tells 9-15 people about their experience, while a happy customer will brag to an average of only five people. In reality we all expect technology to work and only really take note of the products we buy and services we use, when something goes wrong.
Luckily for the developers of this week’s “App of the week” they stumbled upon a customer who cannot stop talking about them, and for all the right reasons. Ever since the Hong Kong Taxi app was show to me by a friend (thanks Francesca), I must have shared it with at least a couple of dozen people, not to mention posted about it on online forums.
You can say a lot about Hong Kong’s taxis: they are red, cheap, fast, dangerous at times, available almost always (except when it rains and between 4 and 5pm when they change shifts), often smell of cigarettes etc. etc. etc. The fact, however, is that we almost all rely on them to get us around the city. The level of English spoken by the drivers is usually very low, but after all we only need them to understand the street names or landmarks. On various occasions, however, this has proven to be difficult and, like many, I have had to rely on my phone’s internet connection to have an online map handy. Once I learned that the Chinese street names sound nothing like the English ones, I finally realised the source of my (and the driver’s) frustration.
Maintaining the dual language street names is one way of commemorating the British period in Hong Kong, as almost all the English names can draw their roots to the Colonial period. Hollywood road, for example, was the name of Governor John Francis Davis’ family home in England and the road was named before California’s Hollywood was even settled.
While offering a glimpse of times and governors gone by, this dual-naming system can also prove to be incredibly frustrating when the taxi driver sitting in front of you has no idea where Hollywood Road is (yes, it has happened to me). How was I to know that for him, the street is called HOR-LEI-WU-DOU. That is one of the easiest ones. There are others that sound nothing like their English name – such as Arbuthnot Road (a-bat-lok-dou) or Percival Street which is bo-si-fu-gaai.
Luckily this week’s app provides the solution and the days of finding your destination on a map and pointing it to the driver, who hopefully has his reading glasses with him, are over. The Hong Kong Taxi app is a very well designed and developed app that every Hong Kong, non-Canto speaking visitor or resident should, scratch that, must have.
Available for Apple or Android phones, it is officially called the “Hong Kong Taxi Translator” and is developed by a company called Triple Happiness. My favourite aspect of the app is that is works off line and only accesses the internet if you decide to use the integrated Google map. There are over 1000 streets, buildings, points of interest, hotels etc. and so far, I have only had a handful of instances in which I searched for streets that were not listed.
Once the street is found, the app will not only give the Cantonese version, which you can show the driver, it also gives you the phonetic pronunciation. I always try to say the name in Cantonese to drivers and have found them to react very positively to the fact I made an attempt to learn the local street name. You can also save favourite streets for future reference in a handy folder.
Overall this is one of the most useful tools I have come by which truly does make life in Honkers just that little bit easier.