Hong Kong International

When I visited New York a few years back, I remember thinking, “Man, if I want to get to know the world in one place, this is where to be.” The variety of people there surround and expose you to different flavors of humanity.

When I moved to China, I didn’t think I’d ever get that kind of experience. And for the most part, I was right. But I didn’t consider the wildcard of China—Hong Kong. In the last post, I talked about Hong Kong’s unique recipe for success in the modern world. In this one, I’ll show you its human ingredients:

A people watching paradise

Hong Kong has been a sought-after destination for immigrants for a long time. Mainly, this refers to mainland Chinese who sneaked over back when China was very poor. (A student of mine’s uncle actually swam from Zhuhai to Hong Kong on a banana tree. That’s a 70 minute boat ride!)

But this has also been true of people all over Asia and Africa (well, maybe not the banana tree part) who have now well-established communities. Look at some of these lives:

The Indians (Asian Indians) have come with entrepreneur mindsets. Like many immigrants who come to freer lands, they seek to build a better life for themselves. So they sell their tailoring services and knock-off watches. They run restaurants and cheap hotels. And they market themselves. Aggressively.

In an apparent perpetuation of competition amongst each other, it’s not uncommon (in this neighborhood, anyway) to have 4-5 young men approach you to sell their services or goods within a block and a half! No kidding.

I often think that if they could tone it down a notch (or two or three) they’d be a hit in Minnesota where many salespeople have to struggle to get over that fear of rejection. Not these guys. I think they’re trained to not hear the first “no”.

Looking to pounce.

Here’s another a common sight:

The guy in the headpiece is from an Indian/Pakistan people called the Punjabi.

Here’s some fun facts about the Punjabi folks. 🙂 Their language, Punjabi, is the 12th most spoken in the world. It’s the 2nd most common language in England! and 4th in Canada. Hong Kong, alone, has 260,000 Punjabi residents.

Ethnic garb is common in Hong Kong. Native African males in earth-toned body-length robes walk about and so do those from the Islamic community:

Then I scuttled passed them to get this shot. (I work so hard for my pictures; )

width=550″ But it’s worth it, as they were happy to pose.

One afternoon, a friend and I walked around the skyscrapers of the business district. We expected to see an Asian version of Wall Street, but to the contrary, what we got resembled an urban picnic. Workers were sitting outside of buildings and on the streets, playing cards and eating. They were having a ball and were game for a pose:

It looked so warm and inviting, I had to jump in:

Just hanging with the gals.

Turns out it was Chinese Labor Day and streets were blocked off to give workers some space to kick it. But for an “international” post, I do have to admit that the workers were strikingly similar in ethnicity (and gender). Indeed, in this district, Hong Kong was owned by Filipino women, hailing from the not-too-distant archipelago nation, The Philippines.

For years, Filipino folks have come in much the same capacity as Latinos to the U.S.—to offer their labor for much higher wages than they can get back home.

At another gathering of workers—and there were many of them this day—we stopped to chat it up for a few. They had some home cooking to offer for a great price.

My buddy, Erik, and I enjoy Filipino picnic food.

While eating, I asked where all the men were. Some talked about how the men were out doing their own thing, but I’m pretty certain that there simply aren’t (m)any Filipino men around. Many of these women come here by themselves for the wages and then send the money back home. (I know a couple in Zhuhai who do this same thing.) Several have children back home, too. They’re with Grandma, or perhaps Dad, while Mommy is away to help ensure her kids a better life.

Many of them work as house cleaners and caretakers of other’s children. (This adds a sad irony to their lives, being there for others’ kids while her kids are mom-less back home.) It seems unfair and perhaps it is. But the way these women see it, they are grateful Hong Kong is here to provide them this better alternative. From what many have said, it beats what’s waiting for them back in The Philippines.

Thus, many choose this path and it’s super nice to see the support amongst them.

A mommy on the left, as a matter of fact.

Finally, I’ll say that the Western world is obviously well-represented in Hong Kong as well. Heck, Britain owned it for 150 years. I didn’t get a lot of good shots, but many tens of thousands live here and even more, like myself, come to visit.

But whether it’s the Punjabi, the Filipino, or the American, the foundation of Hong Kong’s population is Chinese. For how diverse it is, it’s surprising to note that they make up over 90% of the people. So for the last pic, I’ll give you a picture of who I thought fits the “Hong Kong” image pretty darn well:

A slick, stylin’, smokin’ Hong Konger.

Hong Kong is a magnet for many kinds of people. It’s a wonder to watch them all interact, and yet, maintain their identity. Because as such, it reveals the fine line humans walk in this regard.




  1. Enjoyed this story and I think the photography is great. So there. Look forward to seeing you again , Brandon – you are missed.

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