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The Umbrella Etiquette Manifesto


By Mark Tjhung

I dread summer. Don’t get me wrong, I love an afternoon lazing on a junk. And a fine balmy evening on a rooftop with a cocktail. And even that relief of blasting air-con as you step off the muggy street. But the rising humidity comes with the most ominous of promises: the umbrellas are coming.

Umbrellas are the single worst thing about a Hong Kong summer. Try and get out of Quarry Bay station in Amber-level rain and you’ll see them wreaking their full havoc: stress, frustration, anger, occasional physical violence.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. If only we could all agree on some rules to collectively get through the summer without any umbrella eye-gouging injuries.

Here’s an attempt. Introducing The Umbrella Etiquette Manifesto, a list of rules that could make all our lives better when the rain inevitably hits.

Hong Kong, we can do this.

1. Seeing is important
One of the keys to walking with an umbrella – or just walking – is being able to see where you’re going. That means if your umbrella is impeding your vision, particularly of people around you, you may walk straight into a fellow pedestrian. To avoid such collisions, raise your umbrella above eye level. Now you can see.

2. Your umbrella is not a weapon
Or, more correctly, it is. It’s just not very nice if you use it as one. Weaponised umbrellas appear in two common scenarios: as a result of No 1 (above, fixed) or as some kind of payback. Even if you’re getting really frustrated with other walkers, that umbrella barge won’t make you feel any better and will probably come back to bite you throughout the summer. Karma, etc.

3. There are short people, tall people, all sorts of people
Many seem to forget this amid a downpour. But being aware of oncoming and passing pedestrians, and keeping your umbrella above them, is a fundamental part of good umbrella etiquette. You won’t get wet in the process; rain falls from above.

4. Please keep moving
The umbrella jam entering/exiting a building or station is one of the most anger-inducing things you can encounter. It would all be over quicker if everyone kept moving. So prepare your umbrella early, accelerate on entry or exit, and try to keep the entrance clear. Also, life hack: choose fast-opening/closing umbrellas.

5. Shake it off
Where should your excess umbrella water go? On another person, right? Wrong. Please don’t.

6. If it’s not raining…
You don’t need that umbrella up. You really don’t. Seemingly straightforward, yet surprisingly poorly practised. Exception to the rule: umbrella as parasol.

7. Plastic covers
Dripping umbrellas are annoying and slippery marble floors can be dangerous, but plastic covers aren’t particularly environmentally friendly. So next time you go for one, at least ask yourself if it’s really necessary. Another thought: reuse them. Win-win.

8. Umbrella stealing
There’s a common misconception that umbrellas are communal property. ‘No one will notice if I just sneak off with this bright Hello Kitty number,’ you might think. But imagine the sadness (and wetness) of that umbrella owner when they’re left without as Black Rain approaches. Umbrella stealing is not a victimless crime.

Have more suggestions for the Umbrella Etiquette Manifesto? Get in touch at!

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