Bridging the Cultural Gap
Cassie Lim & Kayla Wong; Hong Kong, May 2015
“We believe that under the same sky, everyone is equal and also on the same ground–the Earth,” Bosco, the director of WEDO Global explained, which is why the social enterprise that promotes and facilitates worldwide exchange uses the colours blue and green to represent its ideals.
Such a sentiment, unfortunately, is not shared by all. Hong Kong, despite being dubbed Asia’s World City by the local government, is not as tolerant as it should be of a multi-racial society, and that is how Bosco sees it. The Special Administrative Region has a Chinese-dominated population, with ethnic minorities constituting a mere 6.4 percentage, according to the 2011 census. Most of them are domestic helpers from nearby Southeast Asian countries, further entrenching the prevalent view that ethnic minorities are in Hong Kong due to economic reasons. However, unknown to most people, there are communities of ethnic minorities who are here because of historical reasons.
Since the days of British colonial rule, descendants of the soldiers and policemen who came mostly from Nepal, Pakistan and India, still live in Hong Kong, albeit leading an almost hidden existence. Contrary to popular belief, they were born and raised in Hong Kong, speak perfect Cantonese just like the rest of the Chinese, or even better, and identify themselves as Hongkongers.
However, there exists a perceived cultural barrier that inhibits proper communication with them, thus worsening the existing cultural gap. “Because we Chinese seldom go to other communities to visit, to see, and if we go, we don’t know how to observe or what to see. For example […] in Hong Kong there are mosques … seven of them, but we seldom go inside … [as we don’t know] whether we are allowed to go in or no” explains Bosco.
This lack of mutual understanding between the different ethnic groups is what WEDO Global seeks to remedy in Hong Kong. They work to co-create a barrier-free inter-racial environment with the ethnic minorities, who are shareholders in an equal and mutually beneficial relationship. Their ultimate goal is a seemingly lofty ideal, but through their multi-cultural education programmes and tours that introduce participants to the foreign communities and their cultures, they are taking gradual and concrete steps.
By going into the very communities of the ethnic minorities, participants can let go of their preconceived biases by simply enjoying their hospitality. The interaction not only allows them to understand one another better, but also helps participants to realise that the ethnic minorities are not that much different from regular Hongkongers.
WEDO Global’s work over the last three years in bridging the cultural gap in Hong Kong is recognised and supported by other sections of the society, including corporates such as DBS Bank. Support in the form of funding for the training of their cultural ambassadors and purchase of audio tour equipment has helped WEDO Global to scale-up their business model. By learning how to become better story-tellers, they are able to introduce their cultures in more expressive and engaging ways, allowing WEDO Global to reach out to more Hongkongers.
The Hong Kong society that WEDO Global envisions and is working towards, is one without any racial barriers, where all are equal, and where one can call him or herself a Hongkonger proudly without being conscious of one’s racial or ethnic background. To Bosco, being born in Hong Kong does not automatically entitle one to be a Hongkonger. “I would say that we [who] are born here in Hong Kong, as well as contribute to this place - Hong Kong, are then truly Hongkongers.” - AsiaForGood
Interviewed by: Cassie Lim; Written by: Cassie Lim & Kayla Wong; Edited by: Ng Kah Gay;
[Photography by: David Lalanne]
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