I have recently returned from a short trip to Hong Kong. It’s a very special city to me. I have both – respect and thrill toward this Asian metropolis. I lived there and went to school. This was my second trip in many years since the graduation.
Land in Hong Kong and you will not be left indifferent. It will not take you long finding the words to articulate your opinion.
It’s one of the most capitalistic cities in the world. Its brutality is part of charisma. A fast-paced economy lifestyle is in non-stop and continuous pursuit of perfection and development where an individual wealth is the main measurement of success. In one of the conversations after I asked to reflect how people feel about being part of China after 1997 and how it has influenced their lives suddenly I felt that this questions has very different relevance between West and East. The opinion was that if Hong Kong remained a part of the British colony it would have been hold back its development. China has ensured that the economic activity keeps driving the metropolis further. It is a growth that defines the significance of Hong Kong.
A fairly socialist European view would consider a work-life balance for a majority of Honkongers as unfair. While certain aspects of life in Hong Kong may require more of personal stamina, there is plenty Europe can learn to keep up – not only in terms competitiveness but also in several other areas that contribute towards a quality life.
I am talking about the undivided attitude and flawless service quality I experienced both in public and private sector.
Here are few basic examples:
a) Landing in the airport. A perfect signage system that will continue to accompany you on every step in all corners of Hong Kong.
b) Amazingly efficient and brisk crowd handling skills at the immigration area. And guess what, it is done by humans not machines.
c) Public toilets. Basically it is a network of well-maintained and free toilets across city.
d) Getting a local mobile SIM card. I am not over-exaggerating but it took me no longer than 2 minutes in a fairly crowded shop to complete a transaction and start calling around. (I got a suggestion for an option that suits my needs the most, I paid, and then a shop representative installed the new SIM card and adjusted my phone settings).
e) And yes, you will find a bunch of ex-pats living in Hong Kong who are naming (complaining) a lack of service infrastructure in the West (Europe, Canada and U.S) as one of the key reasoning for not “returning home”.
I noticed that the locals use a term “convenience” quite frequently in our conversations. For example, one of them would say that a life in Sydney “was not convenient” for him.
The insight is that “convenience” stands for speed, efficiency and accessibility. It also embodies undivided attention towards a customer. A simple and common thing – accepting or passing a credit card or money (also business card) while holding it in both hands and slightly bowing is a symbolic example for me that illustrate both respect to money (hard work) and customers.
Hong Kong is a fast-pace and high-density city that is largely driven by affinity towards wealth. Thus, a concept of “convenience” is the fundamental basics for any brand in Hong Kong regardless of its price positioning and/or other value proposition. If you are not “convenient” someone else will be.
“Convenience” at a very basic level is defined by simple physical attributes like location or store’s opening times; but at its core “convenience” is delivered by individual and human attitude of a person who represents a brand.
Having said that, more often I feel in Europe that there has been increasing Ryanairization not only of services as a physical offer (which is fine) but also in human attitudes; that means that honestly good and human service becomes increasingly rare and is available with pre-defined premium brands or selected few.
It would be unfair towards Europe to over-glorify Hong Kong. The growth and convenience has its costs. World Wide Fund came out with rather shocking study at the day I was departing Asia. Their latest research says that 2.2 earths would be required to sustain the pace of consumption if all people in the world live a lifestyle like that of Honkongers.
So, here is a trick and challenge: how to find a healthy equilibrium between convenience, growth, sustainability and quality of life?