Traveling from the United States to Hong Kong was a daunting task. The long flight to what seems to be the other side of the world and the language not based on European romance languages makes the trip to Hong Kong seem even more frightening. From the non-stop flight from Chicago to Hong Kong, everything was different. The seats were smaller; the meals were more like American Chinese food, and tea was the beverage of choice by most. Once in the Hong Kong airport, changing US dollars to the colorful Hong Kong dollars created even more of a sense of being away from the US.
I felt I was somewhat prepared after reading, A Modern History of Hong Kong by Steve Tsang and Fodor’s Hong Kong: with a Side Trip to Macau by Fodor’s Travel Publications Inc. However, nothing prepared me for staying in the Tsuen Wan section of Hong Kong where the Panda Hotel is located. The Tsuen Wan area is predominately Cantonese speaking Hong Kongers, with little to no diversity at all. As an African American woman, this meant that I stood out at all times; there was no blending in. Instantly, everyone knows you are from somewhere else. At this point, I realized that I was being the typical American. Why should I expect diversity here in the first place? I tried to draw on interpretive Cultural Intelligence (CQ) in order to be mindful and aware of how I interacted with the people here in Hong Kong (Livermore 2009, 49). Later, a fellow student who had been to Hong Kong many times before told us African Americans to be aware that most people only see African Americans on television and not to be surprised if people want to talk to us and meet us. This knowledge helped me to grow in my CQ and better engage in the culture of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is much like New York in that it is one of the economic and financial centers of the East, boasting many well-heeled financial firms such as Jardines and Linklaters. The financial district on Hong Kong Island bears a resemblance to Manhattan with its high-end stores demonstrating the territories wealth. The bustling city is about the size of Rhode Island having a population of around 8 million and originally starting as an entrepȏt, ready for Chinese trade (The Library of Economics and Liberty 2018). It is obvious from the many shopping centers and outdoor markets, that commerce is still important and economically viable.
Christianity is alive and well in Hong Kong. Multitudes worship Jesus in a variety of Christian denominations, including Protestants and Catholics. I loved the Baptist church in that the service was very similar to my own Baptist church, using the same order of service. I especially liked the bright red prayer tree in the vestibule of the church. Non-denominational churches are also thriving in Hong Kong, including Saddleback Hong Kong and the Vine Church.
Additionally, there are many Buddhist in Hong Kong, as well as those practicing Confucianism, Taoism, as well as Islam, due to the many Indonesians working in Hong Kong. Currently, there is concern over the influence of Communist China and their attempt to indigenize all Christian religions (Newsroom 2018). At the Temple Mall, where Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism were worshipped, the bright colors, red and yellow were heavily used as well as incense. This worship involved most of the senses, stimulating the eyes with bright color and the sense of smell with the incense. Like Catholicism, worship is ritualistic and a multi-sensory experience.
Food in Hong Kong is closely related to culture. There is abundant seafood, representing Hong Kong’s proximity to deepwater ports. Roasted fowl, including chicken and duck, is popular as well. The Hong Kongers encountered at the hotel and other eating establishments, wanted us to enjoy the food we tried. They were very proud of the food as evidenced by the beautiful presentation of the dishes arriving at the table. The communal nature of eating together also reveals something about the Chinese culture, which the people of Hong Kong retain. Although Hong Kong was a British colony, the culture is still very much Chinese.
Overall, visiting Hong Kong and learning about a new culture opened up a new world for me. I now see that the experience of learning about new cultures outweighs the fear of flying over large bodies of water. This trip also made me more aware of being the other in a world vastly different from mine, as a result, becoming consciences of how I treat those not born in my own country.
Fodor’s Travel Publications Inc. Fodor’s Hong Kong: with a Side Trip to Macau. New York: Fodor’s Travel Publications Inc., 2013.
Livermore, David A. Cultural intelligence: improving your CQ to engage our multicultural world. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009.
Newsroom. “CCC & TSPM Implement Indigenisation of Christianity Scholar Says ‘Aims to Advocate Leadership of CCP’.” The Gospel Herald Society. April 23, 2018. https://www.gospelherald.com/articles/71806/20180423/ccc-tspm-implement-indigenisation-christianity-scholar-aims-advocate-leadership-ccp.htm (accessed November 18, 2018).
Pullinger, Jackie, and Andrew Quicke. Chasing the Dragon: One Woman’s Struggle Against the Darkness of Hong Kong’s Drug Dens. Ada, Michigan: Chosen Books, 2007.
The Library of Economics and Liberty. Neil Monnery on Hong Kong and the Architect of Prosperity http://www.econtalk.org/neil-monnery-on-hong-kong-and-the-architect-of-prosperity/?fbclid=IwAR3lKvY9pP1b7bo2aK6mFhn8DuuyDUx2If93hrJUNMHEIqlLVvYjckpWpCk. October 8, 2018.
Tsang, Steve. A Modern History of Hong Kong. New York: I.B. Tauris, 2007.