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Asia CommentTaipan

How bragging rights have changed

China Covid lockdown_alamy_16May22

A lot has changed since the pandemic, including what some of my banker friends now consider bragging rights

During my heady investment banking days in Hong Kong, I could brag about a lot of things.

Landing a big client, dating the prettiest girl, chugging down the largest number of pints of beer in five minutes, the number of Rolex watches I had, the number of countries I had visited in a year, and my vast whisky and wine collection (which has admittedly dwindled somewhat since I began drinking from home instead of at the Captain’s Bar during the worst of Covid).

The young’uns of these days are a different lot, though. I have heard some of them arguing about who had managed to go for a longer run during the day. Others have been comparing how often they had hit the gym or yoga class.

But a new kind of bragging right hit me last week: the number of days some of the chaps had spent in quarantine.

Yes, indeed, some of these bankers are trying to one-up others based on the number of days they spent isolated and were put through daily Covid tests before being released into society.

Hong Kong, of course, became infamous for its three-week quarantine regime, before it was reduced to one week recently. Mainland China still mandates at least 14 days in quarantine — or more, depending on which province you are travelling to.

One investment banking head in Hong Kong said he had done 63 days of quarantine in the city last year, owing to urgent business travel he couldn’t avoid. (He was, unfortunately, not among the lucky ones eligible for a quarantine exemption.)

A head of loans looked crestfallen at that, having done only 21 days after one round of travel.

But the chap who took the cake was another senior banker, who had spent 70 days in quarantine in 2021: three weeks three times in Hong Kong, and one week in Singapore. His trick had been to spend a couple of months on the road, before hunkering down for his Hong Kong quarantines.

It made me wonder: would I want to put myself through three weeks of quarantine unless I could avoid it?

My mental calculation means I would need 21 bottles of wine — one for each day — and at least a couple of fine whisky bottles to survive the experience.

Would it be worth it? Probably not. But at least I would have bragging rights for staying drunk and hungover for three weeks straight. That would be something.

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