Hong Kong: Neither China nor the West

Katie McGee
April 3, 2016
Goldfish market Hong Kong

Hey everyone!

I find that traveling always tends to teach me a lot, both about myself and about others. After spending the week traveling first to Hanoi, Vietnam, then to Hong Kong, I find that I am more and more likely going to end up an expat living somewhere in Asia, whether that be mainland China or one of its neighbors. As much of a challenge interacting with people who don’t understand your mother tongue is, I love getting to explore the cultures, the foods, and meeting new people. As exposure to new cultures is one of my greatest reasons for being abroad, I have found that Hong Kong is not one of those places that I will likely find myself living in the future. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a great city, but in my opinion it is too much like New York City. While the convenience and standard of living are great here, I constantly catch myself thinking it’s too Western. I know this sounds bad, and definitely sounds as if I am disregarding the privilege I have had growing up, but at the same time, it is true that while I am abroad, I want to feel like I am abroad, and if that means that I have to give up some of the amenities that I am accustomed to having in the US, such as western food, understanding everything people around me are saying, the prices, etc, then so be it. (I am, however, okay with having western toilets in public. That part I am happy to keep.)

In addition, I have found that many of my classmates share my sentiments about Hong Kong being too western. Some have mentioned that on the other hand, the tourist attractions such as the temples and markets are no different from those in China, leaving Hong Kong with nothing spectacularly outstanding. In many ways it is too westernized, and the Chinese parts of it aren’t quite Chinese enough. In the end, I would only recommend Hong Kong to the tourist who isn’t quite comfortable traveling outside of the western world, yet has a need to tell people that they’ve done it. In that case, Hong Kong would be the perfect destination. in any other case, unless it is a short trip to get away from the lower standards of living and language barriers that encompass traveling through East Asia, Hong Kong really isn’t worth the visit. Its most valuable assets remain its music and movie/television industries, the products of which are typically exported to China and can be enjoyed without visiting.

Another thing that I have learned while in Vietnam and Hong Kong is that cultural sensitivity is so so important. In both Vietnam and Hong Kong, the majority of people are very proficient in English, and I found that it makes it that much more obvious if you act like a jerk in front of someone who understands what is happening than it is with other people. Of course, it is important to be respectful to everybody, especially when you are a visitor in their turf, and the other party not understanding your language is not an excuse to say offensive things or act offensively. That having been said, it is always safer to assume that everyone understands what you are saying at all times in order to avoid offending them and the ensuing awkward situations. I have noticed that many foreigners do not act like this, and often don’t even know how bad they are making themselves look or what kind of impression they are leaving. And as much as it seems like common sense, it is true that as a traveler you are representing your country and if you are within a company or a student, you are also representing that organization. Said organizations often hold seminars on how to handle culture shock and the like, but most of that is internal conflict, and I think that it would be very beneficial for people going abroad to also learn about cultural sensitivity, and appropriate behaviors while abroad, because I have witnessed so many instances of cultural insensitivity that it is appalling.

On that note, I will end the blog for this week, and I would love to hear whether people have other opinions on the matter. Until next time!

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Katie McGee

<p>Hello! My name is Katie McGee, and I am a junior at the University of Puget Sound, located in Tacoma, WA. I am a Chinese major with a Japanese minor and a Global Development Studies emphasis. I am a Chinese adoptee, and although my parents did their best to expose me to Chinese culture as a child, I grew up in a community with very little diversity. I have devoted this year to traveling East Asia (South Korea, Taiwan, Mainland China, and Japan) and improving my Chinese along the way. I have already learned so much during my travels, but continue to look forward to what adventures lay ahead.</p>

2016 Spring
Home University:
University of Puget Sound
Chinese Language
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