It’s a wonder to me that every Hong Kong citizen isn’t obese. Eyeing the streetscape before me, it rapidly becomes obvious that the people of Hong Kong really like to eat. They also really like to shop. Restaurants and clothing stores – two necessary and inextricably linked services (more food, larger clothes) – vie for number one spot on the ubiquity scale.
Yet, these same citizens don’t appear to be rushing out to buy ever-growing sizes as their girth increases. Most people seem to be slim, fit, and in Central Hong Kong or its mainland twin city, Kowloon, many appear to be dressed in the latest chic from London, Paris and Rome fashion houses.
The answer lies in the contradictions which make up Hong Kong culture. While they watch the West and emulate what they see as trendsetters, at base they are Chinese with all the values of this traditional culture. They may be scarfing down the occasional burger at McDonald’s, but they aren’t supersizing them. Restaurants serve generous portions but these are meant to be shared with several people – food simply isn’t a singular activity. Continue reading →
Cultural adaptation can take many forms and for consultants working in different cultures, being aware of cultural norms – and taboos – can be invaluable. Feng Shui is one example.
In the centre of Hong Kong, on arguably some of the most expensive real estate in the world, stands a small, 10-storey parking garage. The only other low building in the vicinity is the old colonial governor’s mansion. This handsome building, fronted by a large, busy open square, remains untouched, a testimony to history.
When I comment on the curiosity of this diminutive garage in the midst of a forest of skyscrapers, my guide, Denny Ip, laughs, “That garage is never more than half full, and mostly with the cars of foreigners. Few Chinese will park there.” And this in a city where parking is at a premium! Continue reading →
A Chinese woman strokes my face with a delicate finger and says something. I glance curiously at my guide. “She says she thinks you are beautiful,” says Hong, our guide. We smile and I say, “Xie xie,” thank you. But a moment later the connection is lost as the crowds of people, all anxious to see the Forbidden City, push us apart.
There are two roads by which to approach China, a vast country with a dauntingly large population. One could stay aloof from the teeming throng surging along the avenues and pressing around everywhere one goes. Or one can embrace the experience of simply being in a country where being alone for long is not an option. Continue reading →