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Humans of Hong Kong: Down the path less trodden with Jess Tang

By Nicole Hurip 8 June 2020

Welcome to Humans of Hong Kong, a brand-new story series on Localiiz that takes a deeper look at the many colourful characters and unique personalities that call our beloved city home. Jess Tang is a creative consultant for some of the most well-known brands in the world and prides herself on being able to take the path less well-trodden. She is also the founder of a platform for creative professionals to support and learn from each other, an idea born of these difficult times when being in the creative industry is more challenging than ever. Join us as we discuss what the spirit of Hong Kong is, and how being a rebel is a way of life.

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“I studied in one of the most conservative girls schools in Hong Kong. It was a local, girls-only school. I wore a navy cheongsam, and there were a lot of rules: no make-up, you have to tie up your hair, my socks have to be up on my shins at a certain length of height, hair colour needs to be true to your original colour. Living in Hong Kong, growing up in this kind of context, I guess that made me a little more rebellious. There are different reactions to that: Either you follow the rules, and then you become what the teachers and society expect of you. I feel like there are so many expectations of who you need to be.

“Luckily, my parents are pretty open-minded, so I didn’t really get that kind of pressure and stress from them, but I do know this kind of stress exists. The family hierarchy, kids wanting to respect the seniors; a lot of people follow what’s expected, taking the normal path. I guess I’m one of the outliers who did not pursue a traditional career path.

“I always liked doing my own thing, having a vision, developing my own original vision, having original thinking, my own attitude, and ways of seeing things. I like to develop my own thoughts on different issues, from diversity and inclusivity to creativity and perceptions. I enjoy having my own points of view, but I am also aware that my points of view are probably driven by my own background.”

“Hong Kong is a city of contrasts because we have Central and Admiralty. We have all the glamour and luxury on one end, but we also have Sham Shui Po, we have the dark side, the Kowloon side. Hong Kong as a city on its own, it’s quite unequal—there’s a lot of social or economic inequality. From a creative perspective, that nurtures a pretty fertile ground for subculture, creative subculture, or more rebellious attitudes, expressions, and thinking. So that’s why you see a lot of more experimental concepts popping up in Sham Shui Po, on Tai Nan Street, where all these art galleries and coffee shops are trying to build up that creative subculture in Hong Kong.”

“I’m definitely grateful for my family’s support. Without it, I may not be who I am today. I’m also grateful for whoever thinks and acts empathetically. I think empathy is one of the most important skills—or ways of seeing the world and treating other people. My husband Hurmen is very empathetic; he’s good with people of all ages, from babies and three-year-olds to my grandparents who are like ninety. Everyone in my family, my friends as well, they like him because he’s really good with people.

“A factor for having emotional or social intelligence is empathy, like being able to think in the shoes of people from different backgrounds, to use language that is more relevant to them. For example, when you talk to a six-year-old kid, you’re talking about Peppa Pig. If you’re talking to a sixteen-year-old, you’re discussing a school project or a school outing. If you’re talking to my grandma, you talk about what news did you watch this morning, what TV show or drama did you watch, or what she ate. If you’re talking to my parents, then you ask them about their life story. So I think being empathetic means that it’s a skill of being able to think, and talk, and interact in a way that the other person feels comfortable. Encouraging other people to open up, and that’s what I like about him.”

“Hong Kong is a very resilient city. My grandparents moved here from China during the Cultural Revolution. What I’m trying to say is that resilience is part of my family background and history, and on to my parents who immigrated to Canada before the handover, living in a foreign country and then coming back to Hong Kong again. I guess I cannot really use my own family history to describe Hong Kong, but I guess all this resilience and transience, the mix of how people are surviving in very difficult scenarios and situations—that’s the spirit of Hong Kong.”

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Nicole Hurip

Travel editorial director

Never content with sitting still, Nicole has turned her passion into a career. Hong Kong is her home, but she’ll always have a soft spot for L.A. and London, where she spent her college years. She loves exploring hidden places, hunting for cool vintage pieces, and talking to interesting people. Her vices include consuming excessive amounts of wine and cheese, a debilitating weakness for sparkly things, and spending too much time on Instagram.