Being born and raised in Costa Rica, both Juan and Veronica have rich international experience before coming to Hong Kong. Juan worked for projects in Columbia, India, UK and even studied French for a short period of time in France. Veronica also studied in Spain before for her Master and spent some time working in UK and US. Even though they have been to so many places, Hong Kong amazed them during their first visit.
"I wanted to get a place quite different from where I am from and be the center of Asia. In Hong Kong, I find people are open to learn our background and share us about local culture. It is also a 24/7 non-stop city that you are free to do whatever you want and reach out to a lot of people" Juan explained why he picked Hong Kong over Bangkok for his first project in Asia.
"Hong Kong has the world plus the local stuff. You can choose to be very local or International. The contrast between the metropolitan city and natural scenery is also impressive" as Veronica added.
Eventually, Juan came to Hong Kong again in 2015 after his time working for PolyU in 2011 and Veronica moved to Hong Kong 4 months ago as she spent a week-long business trip in Hong Kong a year ago.
Majority Chose to be Silent as Changes Seem to be Unlikely
As Juan and Veronica spent more time living in Hong Kong, they feel people are reluctant to express their feelings at work and at school.
"Even though I work in a US bank where culture is more open, Hong Kong staff are usually quiet and don't complain even if they don't like something. For example, people don't say anything even though the air-con in the office is too cold. For me, I kept calling every day until it got fixed." Veronica also mentioned people are afraid of talking to senior management in the company, not to mention calling these people First name.
"The education system here is mostly one-way channel. The teachers give lectures and the students just listen without asking any questions. My friend working in education in Hong Kong once told me that 'If you ask students something and they don't have any body movement, it means they don't get it. If they start moving their body then they understand. ' " Juan laughed about why this trick is so useful for him as most students would keep this ideas in mind but not speaking up.
Apart from being afraid to speak up, Juan and Veronica find people face a lot of pressures to challenge the status quo and make changes for themselves.
"I see a majority of Hong Kong people would choose a career based on job security and they believe job security would translate into higher income. I have a friend known from couch-surfing in Hong Kong. He hates working in the law firm but he does it for the money and make himself happy through couch-surfing. I heard a lot of people are pushed to do something they don't like, mostly by parents." Juan also mentioned a lot of accounting students he met actually don't like accounting at all.
"I also heard a lot of male colleagues mentioned the pressure from their parents-in-law. They end up working in finance because it is better pay. And I see people move to another job if they are offered a few thousand more as they don't think changing the job nature or working hours is possible. So as long as you get paid higher, they will move." Veronica added.
Education Taught HKers Be Used to Suffering in Silence
But even under these pressures from various sources, Juan and Veronica don't think locals feel miserable because of these. They guess there is something special with the locals, and the education system may be one of the reasons.
"The Hong Kong education system was built upon memorization and one-way communication. This not fun for the students but they have to accept it. But in Costa Rica, we encourage students' participation and our communication structure is very flat. That means you can challenge your teachers and be comfortable with it. And it creates a balance for the teacher to delivers something and students to bring inputs to create something new. "
Working in the education sector, Juan felt more can done in early child education in Hong Kong to encourage students to speak up and create something from scratch. On the other hand, he felt Hong Kong is becoming more entrepreneurial in recent years as we will cover it next week. Stay tuned.