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

The Merging Of Two Cultures

Written by: on June 19, 2015

Hong Kong is a city where Eastern and Western cultures collide. Asian culture flourished for hundreds of years before the British took possession of Hong Kong in 1841. For 156 years, the city was under British colonial rule.[1] During that time period, two different cultures interacted with each other. On some level, a new subculture was formed and is still evolving today. Kam Louie, in his book Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image, explores the culture through social expressions by many different authors, poets, film directors, linguists, and essayists.[2]

While I liked Louie’s book, it only focuses on exploring Hong Kong culture through a narrow lens of entertainment and art. I would have liked to have seen the author explore how business and economics have also influenced the culture. Unlike Mainland China, Hong Kong operates on the western model of free market enterprise. This business model encourages initiative thinking, and many times, rebelling against the status quo to achieve a new idea or dream.

When I worked in corporate America, a colleague that I worked with told stories of what Hong Kong was like back in the 1980’s. The individual travelled to Hong Kong a couple times a year, and he explained it as a place where anything goes. His stories reminded me of the Roman Empire from the time of Christ, where anything was permissible and acceptable. Now that Hong Kong is under Chinese rule, I wonder if it is still as free in the sense that everything is permissible.

I’m excited to explore and dig into depth the culture when I visit, and to gain insight from local people to understand how much China’s culture is changing Hong Kong’s cultural landscape. Has Hong Kong maintained significant colonial traits or are they shifting more towards a traditional Asian model? Colonialism has tended towards individualism, vs. the family, community lifestyle that you expect to see with Asian cultures.

The only other Asian culture that I’ve experienced is Singapore. In Singapore, I felt that they took the best of Asian Tradition and culture and married this with Western modernism. They aren’t resistant to change, innovation, or commerce. However, they are a very strict or rule oriented society. When I was there, we weren’t allowed to chew gum, tobacco was banned, and there were cameras in the restrooms. People would be fined if they didn’t flush the toilettes. I’m sure poverty exists, but I didn’t see it. It was one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been in. I felt that Singapore was able to develop their own culture and identity, and I wonder how their independence has contributed to their cultural stability.   In comparison, I wonder how Hong Kong’s lack of independence has impacted their ability to solidify their culture.







[1] http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0630.html

[2]Kam Louie, ed., Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011)

About the Author

Richard Volzke

10 responses to “The Merging Of Two Cultures”

  1. rhbaker275 says:

    Thanks Richard,
    Yes, the edited reading by Kam Louie was very focused on the cinema both performance and production. This really fell outside my forte and I could not relate to many of the examples he used. Many (most) of the essays, in my opinion, are written in a technical genre making them less accessible, at least to a quick read and highlight post.

    I do think the essays related to the capitalistic influences or the western corporate model (bottom-line). For an example, in referencing the move to co-production of cinema, it was the recognition of turning “to the mainland market solely for commercial reasons”(Kindle 2942). The essay author, Chu Yiu-wai, described the feeling of this move among filmmakers as “I fell in love with someone I despised.”

    I have had out of my past somelingering concepts/emotions concerning Asian culture that are perhaps, preconditioned, uninformed and biased. Concerning your comments on Singapore, I recall a news article (years ago – somewhere/sometime) on prosecution for “spitting on the street.” Also, severe penalty and prosecution for drug possession.

    I am interested in the news and culture scene over the weeks leading up to our advance. I am following two Facebook links:
    … and … to get a better/fuller understanding of what is happening in Hong Kong.
    (Postscript – I had to delete the Facebook hot links because the post was not accepted with them in the text)

    • rhbaker275 says:

      I’ll try to make the links copy/paste:

    • Richard Volzke says:

      I will admit that Louie’s book really did not hold my interest, and I wish we had read something on the background and history of the city. Hong Kong is a unique city, and I can’t wait to visit and explore it.

  2. Liz Linssen says:

    Hi Richard
    It’s interesting to hear you’ve been to Singapore. I visited there myself a few years ago and was very impressed indeed. Very orderly. I loved that. It has a fascinating history too.
    I would love to know more too about the business side of HK. Another place I’d love to visit some time in the future is Shanghai. I’m sure you’d find that interesting too as it’s such a huge business hub.
    Well Richard, have a blessed week!

    • Richard Volzke says:

      I enjoy exploring Asian culture – Shanghai would be fun adventure. Hong Kong is a business hub for the East and because I am business minded, I want to know more about it. I enjoyed my visit to Singapore and would love to go back someday to compare the changes over the past twenty years.

  3. Deve Persad says:

    Richard, you definitely have the ability to cut to the core of the subject matters at hand. You’re absolutely right in your assessment of this reading, it’s focus was narrowed to music and the arts – depicting life through them. The real test for us, will be how we see this played out in real time when we get to Hong Kong. It will be interesting to see what effect the 2 systems hybrid has had on business and daily life.

    Thanks for adding value to our learning over the course of these last two years. Your varied and extensive background has certainly provided some excellent perspectives on the subject matters we have waded through.
    I look forward to connecting with you once again in Hong Kong.

    • Richard Volzke says:

      In my opinion, business helps to shape a culture. How a culture conducts its business dealings can tell much about the moral character and ethics of its society. China has wisely seen fit not to meddle in the structure of HK, and I believe it been a benefit over the long term. I can’t wait to explore the inner workings of this great city.

  4. Hey Richard, I have always wanted to visit Singapore. What a great opportunity you will have to compare HK with Singapore. With what I have heard and experienced you will see a lot less cameras and refinement. Ha! Looking forward to Michelle and Dawnel meeting. See y’all in Hong Kong!!

    • Richard Volzke says:

      Yes, it will be interesting to compare the two societies. First, Singapore is its own country, while HK is part of China. I am sure China’s political structure has influenced HK, so we will have to see how it has impacted the people. Dawnel said to tell Michelle she is excited to meet her too!

  5. Richard…
    Thank you for pointing out the lack of business focus in our reading from this past week. I wonder why that is? Is it possible that the transition there has been smoother or negligible? Is it outside the editor’s scope? But I wonder if the things talked about within media and protest are also in someway economically impactful or a reflection of Hong Kong’s loss of its historic economic provision? I have no answer, but because of your post I am thinking differently and in more directions.

    It has been/is so good to journey with you! Blessings!

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