While reading Kam Louie’s book Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image, three inter-related thoughts kept coming to mind. The first was liminality, but since others from our cohort “called dibs”, I’ll just focus on the other two.
As I learn more about Hong Kong, I am reminded that large cities share certain characteristics. Sometimes they seem to have more in common with each other than they do with their surrounding home culture. For this reason, people coming from other large cities may find it easier to adapt to a large city in another part of the world than for a rural person moving to a large city within their own country. Aaren Renn lists several characteristics of World Cities:
- Home to major stock exchanges and indexes
- Influential in international political affairs
- Home to world-renowned cultural institutions
- Service a major media hub
- Large mass transit networks
- Home to a large international airport
- Having a prominent skyline
These characteristics create a sense of belonging to a community that is larger than one’s local geographic region or national culture. World cities represent a culture that is truly global. While Hong Kong is a part of China both geographically and politically, its place in the international community means that it is more than Chinese. This “more than” or “other than” quality leads me to my second observation.
Many of us are familiar with the concept of Third Culture Kids (TCK’s). I have three children that view life from both an American as well as a Mexican perspective. While they can easily function in either culture, they can never fully let go of either culture. The result is that they have developed a third culture that is distinct. They best relate with other third culture kids, even if the cultural background is different from their own.
Hong Kong strikes me as a “Third Culture City”. It is Chinese, yet it is global. It is both Eastern and Western but not fully Eastern or Western. It is part of China, yet “mainland Chinese still need permission to visit Hong Kong, while tourist from many other countries enter visa-free.” Some other characteristics of TCK’s that could apply to Hong Kong are:
- A life filled with high mobility
- Traveling is a way of life
- Politically astute – TCK’s tend to read the newspaper and watch the news more often than other children. They are often aware of the background of political decisions and implications for the people concerned.
- Speak more than one language – often 3 or 4.
- Prefer to socialise with other TCK’s as they enter adulthood – often become expatriates themselves.
- Privileged lifestyle
- Adapt quickly
- More welcoming of newcomers into a community.
- Educational achievers – a high percentage will attend university and obtain advanced degrees.
- Make great culture bridges – they have multiple frames of reference.
It doesn’t take much effort to see how many of these TCK characteristics can apply to a city like Hong Kong. In the same way that TCK’s are raised in a culture outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their development years. Hong Kong spent 155 years under British rule, while marinating its connection to China. Now it is under Chinese rule (but with more freedom than Mainland Cities) while maintaining its connection to UK and the world.
So, is Hong Kong Eastern or Western? The answer seems to be yes.
 Aaron Renn, “What Is a Global City?,” New Geography, December 7, 2012, accessed June 18, 2015, http://www.newgeography.com/content/003292-what-is-a-global-city.
 Kam Louie, ed., Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010), 10.
 Pollock, D.C., & Van Reken, R.E. (2009). Third culture kids: The experience of growing up among worlds. Boston: Nicholas Brealy.