“German is a very ‘spank me’ language,” she tells a Melbourne woman who struggles to pronounce the name of a china maker. “Koenigliche”, the woman spits. Standing next to a handwritten list of tableware and cutlery terminology, Ho trills with delight: “That! You see? You think ‘spank me’ and immediately you succeed”.
Ho speaks with the astonishingly elegant and somewhat British accent of someone whose origin is not from a particular place but from an international lineage. Originally from Hong Kong with a father who worked in oil exploration, Ho grew up in Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States, where she studied at the Phillips Exeter Academy boarding school. In 2007, she graduated from Georgetown University and was working on Wall Street when the stock market crashed. After a brief stint at a microfinance NGO in China, she attended Harvard University Business School, where she “partied until dawn,” she recounted.
Then, following the advice of a wealthy Indonesian friend, she moved to Switzerland to study at the Institut Villa Pierrefeu. “They call it ‘the eternal elite school for young ladies,’” explained Ho, the latest in a dying method of teaching that requires wealthy women to scrutinize napkin folds with an intensity similar to that of Watson and Crick as they studied. the double helix.
Ho credits his mother, who died of cancer in 2007, for his interest in the label. She was an executive in the entertainment industry who threw magnificent Christmas parties and often took her only daughter on her business trips. “When we went to Japan,” Ho recalled, “he said to me, ‘Do you remember Mr. Sato? Go and greet him. By the way, remember that in Japan they don’t say “Mr. Sato”, but “Sato-san”. Besides, he has a daughter your age, so why don’t you ask him when he’s going to go to Hong Kong to play with you?’”
For Ho, good manners are a dialect for socializing. “Wherever I go, I feel like I’m working,” she described. “I’m watching: what are the codes of conduct here? How do people behave?”
When her family moved from Papua New Guinea to England, they forbade her to go barefoot. When she transferred from the Swiss-German International School in Hong Kong to Exeter and encountered roundtable discussions for the first time, she was so intimidated by her American classmates that she didn’t speak for a month, until a teacher told her that his grades would suffer if he didn’t learn to intervene.