Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

No chicken feet please!

Written by: on June 18, 2015

Hong Kong has been a cultural fault-line for centuries — first, as a colonial space wrested from the Qing empire by the British and second, as a prize won back by the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In this shaky geopolitical terrain, Hong Kong found its firm cultural ground and became a translation space where Chinese-ness was interpreted for ‘Westerners’ and Western-ness was translated for Chinese.” [1]

When I first visited Hong Kong about six years ago, I did not know what to expect. Being a firmly Asian city-state with British influence, I was intrigued to see how Hong Kong differed to Mainland China. My first impression after leaving the airport was that I wasn’t sure whether I had even left the UK. We were driving on the left with the same green road signs as back home. From the English language, British electric sockets, to their red double decker buses and Madame Tussaudes Wax Museum, I could clearly identify the marks of British culture. It felt like Britain, yet it wasn’t. Neither was it China. It was an amalgamation of two very different and distinct cultures just as Louie’s statement claims.

This question of Hong Kong’s unique identity and culture is the basis of discussion in the essays that make up Hong Kong Culture by Louie. Approaching the dialogue through the lens of word and image, each of the authors seeks to contribute a voice for the city through their various expressions of Culture. Through this book, I was intrigued to learn:

  • About the weak political structure that exists in Hong Kong (in part the result of British colonialism).
  • How their desire for universal suffrage is still unmet.
  • The struggle of a SAR city in relating to communist rule.
  • The concerns of the PRC government in managing a city with so many freedoms, and their desire to prevent excessive influence into the mainland.
  • The frustration that Hong Kong Chinese feel about the decision to encourage Mandarin within schools in a city that is used to the mediums of English and Cantonese.
  • The push of film producers to produce movies in the medium of Mandarin and no longer in Cantonese.
  • The fight to become a truly democratic city, with the co-existing fear that the one-nation two systems may lose one of its systems over time.

These are just some of the profound questions that linger in the hearts and minds of Hong Kong citizens since 1997. However one understands Hong Kong, it is different to Beijing. In my visit to that city, we could not find one person who spoke English (making travel and eating very difficult). We saw two Chinese men fighting each other quite seriously in front of the Forbidden City, and we were encouraged to douse our eating utensils in hot water when eating in restaurants. When taking a train somewhere in the country (I had no idea where we were going), some of the women on the train were fascinated by my friend’s blonde hair and kept touching it, while offering us chicken feet to eat in a friendly gesture. We were definitely in China!

Hong Kong Culture has provided me an awareness of some of the contemporary issues that live in the hearts and minds of Hong Kong Chinese. Personally, I hope Hong Kong doesn’t lose the western aspects of its identity, while somehow enjoying its Chinese heritage. Hong Kong is certainly an important city-state, a peaceful stepping-stone into mainland China, very unlike the DMZ between North and South Korea and therefore to be appreciated and valued. Can’t wait to visit there with everyone in September and enjoy some of the Cantonese cuisine (but no chicken feet please!).

[1] Kam Louie, Ed., Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image (Aberdeen, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010), 2

About the Author

Liz Linssen

12 responses to “No chicken feet please!”

  1. John Woodward says:

    Liz, thanks for your personal insights about Hong Kong. I think it will be extremely interesting to see how it has changed since you were last there and to see what direction it is actually moving! I just wrote to Deve that my time in East Asia is going to be interesting in the fact that (as my friends have informed me) that height is just as interesting to people there as is blond hair. But, I am becoming quickly fascinated with this part of the world, especially after having been to a number of places in the world that has experienced major political changes (from Berlin to Prague, from Budapest to Sarajevo. Moscow to Tashkent). Learning about the inner issues of this complicated place has peaked my interest and opened me up to what I think is going to be an amazing learning experience. Thanks for sharing you past insights…it is helpful in putting together some idea of what it is all about!

    • Ashley Goad says:

      John, you and I are going to be quite the pair running around Thailand! Between your height and my blond hair, we should charge for gawking! 🙂

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Hi John
      Thank you for your kind feedback.
      Yes, indeed I’m sure people will be fascinated by your height! It will be interesting to see how HK has changed for sure, and I can’t wait to visit the places GFS has scheduled for us. I’m sure it’s going to be a wonderful time for everyone. Have a blessed rest of the weekend. 🙂

  2. Ashley Goad says:

    Liz, I loved your take on Hong Kong! You tell a beautiful story! Maybe you and Mitch can lead one of our “first Monday of the month” chats and tell us all about what to expect – from electrical plugs to driving sides! You could be our tour guides – or at least regale us with personal stories!

    Can you believe we’ve reached the end, Liz? Look at how far we’ve come since our time in London! I’m so glad we were on this journey together. Peace, my friend!

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Hello dear Ashley
      Thank you for your feedback.
      I’m sure Mitch can tell you WAY more than I ever could with regards to china! He knows so much 🙂
      I can’t believe we have reached where we are either. Wow, in less than one year, we’ll be graduating. What a blessing indeed.
      Have a great week ahead x

  3. rhbaker275 says:

    Thanks for sharing your insights … I know you have spent considerable time in ministry in the far east and with Asian culture. My only exposure was a three ministry team to Mountainview International School in Indonesia in 2009. My cultural experience was limited as I served as an electrician for the English speaking, multi-nation, multicultural school. We did arrive in Indonesia on the first day of Ramadan and we visited a mosque and an Islamic university. Great experience!

    One anecdote – chicken feet, of course, are looked upon quite differently in most non-western cultures. On one occasion I was sharing a home prepared meal with a Dominican family – we had gone on the street and invited a couple strangers to join us for the meal. I was caught up in the conversation with the guests and when the plate of chicken was passed, I simply brushed a couple pieces onto my plate. I was aghast when I looked a my plate a few moments later and there was a well cooked and seasoned chicken’s foot on my plate. What to do!? Of course, I knew every chicken had two feet and so I scanned around the table to see who had the other foot. It was Denis – a lovely pastor’s wife whom I knew very well. I simply observed as she grasped the foot in both hands, spread the toes (or whatever) and used her teeth to pull the sinew (or whatever) from the tougher parts of the foot. I followed suite – it was okay but I was not as graceful I am sure. I have no recollection now of how it tasted!

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Dear Ron,
      Wow, I really admire the fact that you have eaten chicken feet! I admit I didn’t accept the offer when it came my way 🙂 What an experience it must have been for you!
      I must admit I am looking forward to the cantonese cuisine that awaits us this September. I’m sure it’ll be a wonderful time for us all.
      Have a blessed week ahead.

  4. Liz,

    Good post here. Thanks for sharing. It was good to read of your travels to both Hong Kong and mainland China. Frankly, it was encouraging to read that Hong Kong still resembles some elements of British culture. I have never been to Asia, though I have been to many parts of the world, so I know it will be quite different than anything I have experienced. But I am somewhat relieved that there will be some familiarities there — can’t believe I’m saying that. I consider myself to be quite an intercultural person; however, chicken feet do not sound delectable to my tastes either. 🙂

    I especially look forward to getting to hear about all of our research. This should be a very interesting time. I certainly hope I will be ready by then. Can’t believe that it is only three months away. I look forward to seeing our cohort together again.

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Hi Bill,
      I’m sure you’ll enjoy HK. It really didn’t feel that foreign as it’s so westernised. Now, china, that would be very different!
      I’m sure we’ll all have a great time there…it’s a good country to visit for your first time in Asia. 🙂
      Have a blessed weekend

  5. Deve Persad says:

    You know, Liz, I spent many summers eating chicken feet soup at my grandmother’s place…but that’s another story for another day. Thanks for shedding some light, via your personal experience, on life in Hong Kong.

    I appreciate the way in which you have been able to adapt to various cultures and are a living testimony to the richness it brings to life and ministry. Thanks for your vulnerability in these blogs over the course of these two years. You have challenged and blessed me through your writings and in our journey together.

    See you soon!

    • Liz Linssen says:

      Hi Deve
      Thank you for your feedback.
      Wow, so did you enjoy chicken feet soup?
      Looking forward to our final advance together. Should be a special time for everyone I’m sure. And can’t believe this is our last blog time.
      Hope you have a blessed weekend,

  6. Liz…
    You have a particular “gift” (skill) for synthesis and drawing out the key essentials. I have so appreciated your posts these past two years. I especially appreciate your contrast between Beijing and Hong Kong. It will be interesting to see if Hong Kong is able to maintain its ‘translation’ place or if it succumbs to China’s influence (rule) and at what cost?

    Oh … and I am totally with you on no chicken feet! 🙂

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