Observation Report

I was born and raised in Shenzhen, a city well known for its largest immigrant

populations from other regions of China. Over the past decades, the development of Shenzhen

has also been facilitated by its geographical proximity with Hong Kong, a developed city with

one of the most thriving economies across the globe. What differentiate my hometown from

Hong Kong are the colonial history of Hong Kong and the two distinct political systems that

govern the two cities. The lives of people living is Shenzhen can be easily affected by

government policy, and most of the policy in Shenzhen is largely drafted by the central

government of China, while Hong Kong has higher degree of autonomy and democracy in


However, in the past few weeks of my internship in Hong Kong, I have come to see not

only differences, but also similarities shared by both my hometown and Hong Kong. To me, I see

the culture in which I was exposed to before I left for the United States a few years ago was a

collage of different subcultures, and Hong Kong is one of them. Growing up, we listened to

Cantonese pop music, watched Hong Kong movies and TVB drama and even read magazines

published in HK. My life in Shenzhen has been directly and indirectly shaped and influenced by

the entertainment industry and the vibrancy and uniqueness of Hong Kong culture.

Another aspect that both Shenzhen and Hong Kong share in common is that we can see

many things unique to our culture are fading out without our notice. There are many things

disappearing in the fast-faced development of both Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

Oftentimes it may become too late to preserve and attach importance to the artifact, tradition, or

cultural heritage until it is about to disappear completely.
The picture that I chose was taken in one of the sections from the History Museum of

Hong Kong. This picture depicts a very traditional Hong Kong-styled convenience store which

once was prevalent in the 20th century. The name of the store can be translated into “Lee’s Store”.

The decoration and arrangement of Lee’s store is very representative of other convenience stores

existed during the same period, and the products presented in this picture could be commonly

found in other similar convenience stores back then. However, today stores like this are

disappearing, gradually being replaced by the chain convenience stores with well-equipped

interior designed in modern style. Instead of selling goods and products produced locally,

today’s convenience stores mostly sell products from all around the world.

The picture of Lee’s Store is complementary to the picture of Starbucks at Mongkok

because the Starbucks at Mongkok presents a traditional Hong Kong-styled tea café—which has

always been an important part of Hong Kong people’s life—through its nostalgic decorations and

furniture like those tea cafes back in the 20th century. What Lee’s Store and the Starbucks at

Mongkuk have in common is that they both have a special role in contributing to construct the

uniqueness of Hong Kong culture, and they can also illustrate the idea of culture in-betweeness.

If look closely enough, some of the products sold in Lee’s store are produced locally, while some

are exports from overseas, such as cigarettes, soda, and chocolate. Although the Starbucks at

Mongkok is an American company, the idea behind its interior design is a good example of the

East meets the West. The menu in most of Hong Kong’s tea cafés is similar in that the food they

service is typically a fusion between the Western and the Chinese cuisine.

These days, however, it’s becoming increasing difficult to find a convenience store like

Lee’s Store selling locally produced candies and toys, or a Hong Kong-styled tea café with

authentic food and traditional decorations. People in Hong Kong start to see their importance
only after they are going to vanish before our eyes. In Hong Kong, the rapid development and its

culture of disappearance comes hand in hand. Today’s Hong Kong’s blooming economy is made

possible by the disappearance and replacement of different tangible and intangible things that

once constituted Hong Kong culture.