alcohol and fat people <3
i’m going to sit in and HOPEFULLY PLAY THE CELLO TODAYYY in my first orchestra rehearsal in like… 2 years or so?
SO FUCKING EXCITEDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD and so fucking nervous at the same time. shittttttttttttttttttt :( whatever, excitement TRUMPS nervousness though. so i’m fucking excited. lololol.
shake shake again tonight to relieve that stress?? hmmm maybe teheeee <3
Hong Kong People and Alcohol Are alcohol like people; do they too have social statuses?
I’m in Hong Kong. I’m studying abroad. I’m obviously partying abroad. What other great research paper can I do when I’m the subject of it myself? Here’s my 2nd research paper that I somewhat half-assed. Damn it. I wish I did it drunk—then I would really get into the spirit of writing this essay.
Hong Kong People and Alcohol
Are alcohol like people; do they too have social statuses?
In the introduction of this essay, I will be giving a brief background as to how Hong Kong’s culture and people determine and view factors as social status, class, and values. Hong Kong people’s identity plays a crucial role in this essay; therefore, I plan on analyzing how Hong Kong’s cultural background before defining the meanings and practices toward alcohol consumption.
Hong Kong’s History and Influences:
Hong Kong is both a sophisticated and cosmopolitan city that blends cultures of both the East and West due to Hong Kong’s history with colonization. Because of being under both British and Chinese rule, Hong Kong has developed into a place where Chinese traditions are mingled with Western values and ways of life. In Hong Kong, an individual’s prestige, wealth and reputation represents the family—therefore, an individual themselves would want to flaunt their utmost assets. In Hong Kong a person’s reputation and social standing depends on the concept of “face,” which solely depends on adhering to the ethical and social norms of society in Hong Kong (a Chinese concept).
Hong Kong culture can be viewed as materialistic, hedonist, self-indulgent and of course superficial due to its affluent appearance. However, the point is that once moving beyond this first impression of a culture of affluence, the facetious abundance of choices are still far in concealing the city as but an obvious stage of affluence (Chan, pg. 444). At a personal level, survival in affluent society has to do with individuals having self-actualization in an undoubtedly chaotic societal setting. While the affluent society of Hong Kong can be rightly deemed as a stage of resources, of possibilities and hopes, there is still little guaranteeing that these may be readily realized for everyone (Chan, pg. 454).
The paradox of colonial rule was that the people of Hong Kong identify themselves pre-handover more than with the Chinese government. The colonial government has therefore left a most unexpected legacy for the Hong Kong SAR Government—a Hong Kong identity. Under the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement, it requires the Hong Kong Chinese identify with the Chinese government as much as, if not even more than, with the Hong Kong SAR Government. The Hong Kong identity overshadows the national identity which also questions the political relationship between the SAR and the central government (Lee, pg. 155).
Due to the streaming disappearance of Western “ex-pats” and arrival of more mainland Chinese, this occurrence has had made a further change in the look and feel of Hong Kong. Its international quality has declined due to the Chinese cultural attributes arising. The perceived influx of the mainland Chinese at both the top and bottom of the income distribution is causing tensions among the Hong Kong Chinese population—some Hong Kong people view these immigrants with suspicion. “It is not uncommon to hear claims in Hong Kong that mainland immigrants are responsible for a rise in crime, the decline I the quality of education, and a general loss of good manners in Hong Kong since the Handover” (i)
Ma (2001) has found general patterns of the ‘structure of feelings’ within Hong Kong culture over the last 30 years. Firstly, symbols and products related to China have been positioned in the lowest division of the cultural hierarchy in Hong Kong. This interestingly enough coincides with the general process of de-sinicization of Hong Kong culture in the 1970s and early 1980s. Whether Chinese products can be deemed as prestige with the re-sinicization of Hong Kong will be an interesting phenomenon (Ma, pg. 135).
Hong Kong and Alcohol’s Relationship:
Alcohol is promoted and consumed as a luxury good. Because of the vast number of brands and types of alcohol available, each brand attempts to secure a unique position in the market to sell to those customers who can both identify and affiliate themselves with the brand of alcohol. I believe there does exist a hierarchy of alcoholic drinks that determines what “social class” one belongs in and determines how the consumer will be judged; “the hierarchical cultural imagination of alcoholic drinks points to the elusive and implicit relations between advertising media and cultural and social identity” (Ma, pg. 118) tend to be sensitive to both pride and shame culturally allocated to different kinds and brands of liquor. Individual consumers react to these collective sentiments either by affiliating and identifying with them, or rejecting and distancing themselves from them (Ma, pg. 136).
In Hong Kong during the 1980s, the culture of the new rich provided the culture space for luxurious and conspicuous display of wealth in some commercials for brandy (and other deemed as “high class” alcohol), an alcoholic drink usually associated with successful business men cheering to a successful business transaction. Western lifestyles often depicted in these commercials promoting the rising status of alcoholic beverages were generalized as the enviable prizes of success (Ma, pg. 136). In turn, for consumers to feel as if they’ve reached the top of the corporate ladder or reached ultimate success, they would view these types of commercials and subconsciously fall into the stereotypical roles.
Hong Kong people differentiate themselves from not only mainland Chinese, Westerners, and other foreigners in terms of social status by means of not only the type of alcohol but by the brands of alcohol.
Methodology and Result:
In order for me to have gathered observations of local Hong Kong people participate in alcoholic activities, I had to go to various alcohol consumption areas. I visited local restaurants, high class restaurants, bars on the streets, and high class bars to observe and interview several alcohol consumers.
I have listed out the places that I have been that I believe gives a relatively diverse representation of different alcohol-consumption settings.
Observations: At Knutsford Terrace, restaurants and bars lined along the “terrace.” The bars and restaurants to me are classified as “high-class” due to the pricings of the dinner meals that ranged from around $280~$400 HKD for a main course.
People seen: beverage in order of more rates.
Local Middle Aged Women: wine, cocktails, beer
Local Middle Aged Men: beer (Heineken, Asahi, Foreign), wine
Local Young Women (20s-30s): cocktails, beer
Local Teenage Boys (18-20s): hookah and cocktails
Red at IFC
Observations: Red is open bar on the fourth level of IFC. The usual customers who go are the office workers who work at IFC. I went there during both happy hour of Red and after 9:00pm on Thursday, and Friday.
People seen: beverage in order of more rates.
Local Middle Aged Men (30s-50s): beer
Western Middle Aged Men (30s-50s): beer, wine
Western Middle Aged Women (30s-50s): cocktail, wine
Local Young Men (20s-30s): beer, wine
Local Young Women (20s-30s): cocktails, wine
Non Happy Hour
Local Middle Aged Men (30s-50s): beer
Western Middle Aged Men (30s-50s): beer, wine
Local Young Men (20s-30s): beer, wine
Local Young Women (20s-30s): cocktails, wine, beer
Observations: There appear to be a lot more Westerners and South East Asians in the Wan Chai district. The district is a more hazy part of Hong Kong that entails Nightclubs, Strip Clubs, and other forms of sexual pleasure. I went to Wan Chai on a Wednesday for Wan Chai is known as “Wan Chai Wednesday” amongst locals and foreigners alike. I went to several bars, and ended up at Carnegie’s for most of the observations for the other bars were similar.
People seen: beverage in order of more rates.
Western Middle Aged Men (30s-50s): beer, cocktail
Western Young Men (20s-30s): beer, cocktail
Western Young Women (20s-30s): champagne (ladies night), cocktail
South East Asian Young Women (20s-30s): champagne (ladies night), cocktail
Local Young Men (20s-30s): beer, cocktail
Observations: I went to a local seafood restaurant near Prince Edward’s MTR Station with a couple of family friends. The average pricing of each main course ranged from $80-$120 which seems to be reasonably priced for a seafood restaurant. I went there on a Thursday night (24/11/2011) around 8pm.
People seen: beverage in order of more rates.
Local Older Men (40s-60s): beer
Local Young Men (20s-30s): beer
Mainland China (30s-50s): Whiskey, beer
High Class Restaurant
Observations: I went to a restaurant in Langham Place in Mong Kok. The restaurant is called GuangZhou Garden. The menu consists of expensive items, from their famous ‘Dimsum in the Cage’ around $160 HKD, to their well-known high end French wine. I went to dinner with a friend on a Friday night around 7pm.
People seen: beverage in order of more rates.
Local Old Men (60s-80s): beer (Blue Girl)
Local Old Women (60s-80s): beer (Blue Girl)
Local Middle Aged Men (30s-40s): beer, wine
Local Middle Aged Women (30s-40s): wine
A: Interviewer (Me) B: Interviewee
I only picked a select few interviews that I believe give sufficient support to the thesis of my essay. There is a data table on which I interviewed several other people that gave some information as to why they chose their drinks. The interviews are conducted through a recording on my friend’s cell phone that I play constantly to decipher what my interviewees are saying; I also have a friend who translated the Cantonese conversations for me (local people).
1. Bartender at Red, IFC
A: What types of people come here?
B: Mostly office people. People who work here at IFC usually have a high income. The office people usually come here during our happy hour.
A: What do the people order during happy hour?
B: For guys it’s usually beer, and for girls, they always order cocktails. Why do women like drinking cocktails?
A: We like drinking sweet things—nothing too bitter, nothing too strong. We don’t like the taste of alcohol. So if we’re going to enjoy our expensive drink, we might as well get something that tastes good.
A: What do people order non happy hour?
B: People order gin and tonics, vodka, spirits mixed with another substance like juice or soda.
A: What kinds of events do you guys host here? Do you guys host any events? And what types of alcohol do these people typically order
B: For an office party, the choice of poison is usually red or white wine. However, for the more expensive parties that we have seen, sparkling champagne is usually ordered.
A: Can you tell me what different people order? Different as in race, where they’re from, etc.
B: All our customers always pick off from our menu—it’s very straightforward. Sometimes customers would ask for a particular wine, or champagne, and we would sometimes carry it, but other than that, they wouldn’t ask for anything off the menu.
B: In my point of view, environment determines what people choose to drink. If you go eat at a local restaurant, you would not expect vodka, would you? They would probably only have beer. At Red, because you are in a more socially high class area, I don’t think you would expect a Tsing Tao beer here either—every beer we have is imported or foreign.
2. Local Young Man at Red, IFC
A: What do you usually drink here?
B: I usually order a beer.
A: What type of beer?
B: Usually if I was eating dinner with some friends, I would order San Miguel, of course. But here (Red, IFC), I usually get a Carlsberg. Sometimes, I’ll switch it up with a Heineken.
A: Why don’t you drink any wine?
B: It tastes bad; I don’t understand why people drink it. They’re trying to look sophisticated and high-class when they probably aren’t.
3. Local Middle Aged Man at Knutsford Terrace
A: Why are you drinking wine? And what type of wine is it? Wouldn’t you prefer some beer to your (Japanese) meal?
B: I would usually get Asahi, or a Carlsberg, but since my friends are drinking wine, why not try it too?
A: Can you tell me the differences in wine? And, why do you only choose between Asahi or a Carlsberg?
B: For wine, as long as it goes down smoothly and doesn’t leave an aftertaste, then I will consider drinking it. I usually ask the waitress for a sweeter red wine, and not that robust. I don’t like merlots, but I like chardonnays.
B: Beers are a different story entirely. I can go on and on about how each beer is classified. I usually drink Japanese beers because I like the taste. The second type of beer would be from Europe say Carlsberg, Heineken and sometimes Blue Girl. However, I will never touch San Miguel or other beers like that.
A: What do you mean?
B: I consider those beers of Asia lower-class in general. I don’t want my colleagues or friends thinking I don’t believe in their class.
4. Family friend at local restaurant in Prince Edward
A: What types of people drink what types of alcohol in Hong Kong?
B: Typically what you call the lower class people, they would drink beer like San Miguel or Tsing Tao or sometimes even Heineken because they believe Heineken will raise their social status. As you can see around you, look what they are drinking (San Miguel, Heineken, Whiskey).Then the middle class people, they are actually interesting. They sometimes drink wine, and sometimes drink beer. But they probably don’t have any idea what kind of wine to order, because they are not all connoisseurs. The beer they order however will never be what is considered a local beer or beer associated with Asia. The beer would typically be imported from Europe. The upper class drinks wine that pertains to their taste—they know what they want to drink and how to order it. The upper class I believe don’t know what kind of beer they consume because they regard it all as the same thing; but from my observations, Westerners and those who believe “West is Best,” tend to go for the European brands of beer anyways.
A: How do Hong Kong people regard class? Do you think picking the right alcoholic beverage categorizes you into a certain class?
B: Hong Kong people are very superficial; I’m sorry to tell you that. We all try to achieve the higher class status; we buy things that are out of our price range in order to impress other people. We love “face.” We do not want to be regarded as mainland Chinese people, something of what we perceive as the “lower class.” We will by any means label ourselves as something more high class.
B: When it comes to consuming alcoholic beverages, we tend to go towards the Western culture and try to order what the Westerners order. Because we as Hong Kong people have this ideology that the West is better, maybe it’s due to the British colonizers as well, we tend to gravitate and look towards the West for the better decisions.
A: What types of people drink what types of alcoholic beverages in Hong Kong?
B: I can only give you the stereotypes that I believe are true. Like I already said, Hong Kong people love “face,” so whatever status they are currently at, they strive to be in the next one by pursuance of drinking “high status” alcohol. Hong Kong people will however not be caught drinking Tsing Tao, or Whiskey for the middle class people reaching the high class status. Whiskey, as a stereotype, is for the Mainland Chinese attempting to reach high class. Like, over there (in the restaurant), those Mainlanders are being obnoxiously loud drinking XO. Drinking whiskey just brings down the alcohol’s status when drunk by a Mainlander. Because Hong Kong people don’t want to be associated much with the Mainland Chinese, they also avoid Tsing Tao beer, and if they want a local beer, they will always choose San Miguel.
There are several theories that I believe correlate with the topic that I’m researching. I will discuss a few of these in reference to my results and my introduction. Then, I plan on listing the factors I believe that determines why Hong Kong people consume the type of alcohol that they consume.
Under the socialization theory, it allows for individuals to undergo the process of having to inherit, disseminate and determine what are the norms, customs, and ideologies of the society they live in. It hopefully provides individuals with the skills and habits necessary for participating within their own society—a society develops a culture through shared norms, customs, values, traditions, social roles, symbols and languages. Under this socialization theory, it can somewhat explain how specific drinking customs and rituals are passed on from generations and from one individual to another within a family, ethnic, or cultural group. Cultural norms influence an individual’s drinking behavior by the extent of that person’s identification with the group, the degree of consistency in the group’s norms, and the presence of confounding or complementary forces, such as gender and age norms (Ethnicity…, 2005).
In Hong Kong’s drinking setting, the socialization theory can be found in settings surrounding food, hang-out spots, family settings, etc. Social determinants of alcohol drinking patterns has also emphasized several factors, among them social class, gender and ethnicity, that isn’t covered under the socialization theory (Almeida, 2004). I will go in further detail as to how the socialization theory and other social determinants play a role in Hong Kong’s drinking scene and as well as Hong Kong’s hierarchical determination of drinks.
In all cultures where more than one type of alcoholic beverage is available, drinks are classified in terms of their social meaning, and the classification of drinks is used to define social status. There are no alcoholic beverages deemed as ‘socially neutral’: every drink is loaded with symbolic meaning, every drink conveys a message. Alcohol is a symbolic vehicle for identifying, constructing and manipulating cultural and social systems. “Choice of beverage is rarely a matter of personal taste” (Social and Cultural…, 1998). When interviewing Jimmy, the local young man I met at Red, he dislikes the taste of wine and “[doesn’t] understand why people drink it. [He assumes] that the consumers of wine are trying to look sophisticated and high-class when they probably aren’t” (Interviewee 2). Jimmy (Interviewee 2) does recognize that an alcoholic beverage has symbolic meaning in determining statuses—he also recognizes that people do not necessarily drink wine due to their palate.
In cultures with a more established heritage of traditional practices, perceptions of situational appropriateness may, however, involve more complex and subtle distinctions, and rules governing the uses of certain classes of drink are likely to be more rigidly observed (Social and Cultural…, 1998). In a typical Hong Kong wedding or Chinese wedding in general, the bride and groom would toast their guests with Chinese rice wine, or in some cases whiskey. Even though Chinese rice wine and whiskey in Hong Kong society is deemed as the lower class beverage (Ma, 2001), it is traditional to drink these alcoholic beverages in this type of setting.
Choice of beverage is also a significant indicator of social status. In general, there is an implied impression that imported or ‘foreign’ drinks have a higher status than ‘local’ beverages.
Preference for high-status beverages may be an expression of aspirations, rather than a reflection of actual position in the social hierarchy. Drinking practices are often used to “construct an ideal world” or as ‘definitional ceremonies’ through which people enact not only “what they think they are” but also “what they should have been or may yet be” (Social and Cultural…, 1998). When I interviewed Dr. Leung, he explained to me in his own opinion that Hong Kong people “love ‘face,’ so whatever status they are currently at, they strive to be in the next one by pursuance of drinking “high status” alcohol. Hong Kong people will however not be caught drinking Tsing Tao, or Whiskey for the middle class people reaching the high class status. Whiskey, as a stereotype, is for the Mainland Chinese attempting to reach high class” (Interviewee 4). The stereotype that is driven by Hong Kong people can actually be supported by the advertising amendments made by the national Chinese government. Alcohol undergoes heavy regulation and control via the Chinese government. Regulations regarding the control of alcoholic beverages started in 1982 when the government prohibited the advertising of liquors with alcohol content greater than 80% proof. However, in 1987, the government relaxed the law by granting “famous and high-quality” liquor brands permission to advertise if they had approval from the SAIC (Buke, pg. 104). It can be deduced that social differentiation in all society is highly looked upon; not only citizens but nations and countries want their citizens to be as highly sophisticated, and high-class as possible.
Dr. Leung, Interviewee 4, believes that “Hong Kong people are very superficial… [They] all try to achieve the higher class status; [they] buy things that are out of [their] price range in order to impress other people…[They] do not want to be regarded as mainland Chinese people, something of what [they]perceive as the “lower class.” [They] will by any means label ourselves as something more high class” (Interviewee 4). When it comes to consuming alcoholic beverages, Dr. Leung believes that the Hong Kong people tend to observe what Westerners order, and follow that trend because he believes that the Hong Kong people look towards the West for “better decisions” when it comes to culture and value.
Not only is there a status indicator in which type of alcoholic beverage is consumed, but there is a social differentiation within a single category of beverage. It’s evident that people are affiliate with a certain brand when it comes to laptops (Mac vs. PC), shoes (Nike vs. Adidas), etc.; alcohol is no exception. Like Ma (2001) explained, consumers tend to perceive and consume the products of their aspired-to class level in much more complex way than products of a more distant level. Furthermore, identifying with a certain brand product is to reject those deemed “below” it (Ma, pg. 135). In the case of Mr. David Lee, he can go into detail of beers he likes, however he “will never touch San Miguel or other beers like that” (Interviewee 3).
There seems to be some correlation between education level and social status; then it can be further said that educational level and drinking patterns would have a similar correlation as that of social status and drinking patterns (Hupkens, pg. 18). People of higher educational level consume the new beverage type in greater numbers and more often and the traditional beverage type less often to people of lower educational level (Hupkens, pg. 27) In this way they claim a competence which distinguishes them not only from people in the lower strata, but also from people who are nothing but rich. It can be said that people with less “cultural capital” will adopt new habits after some time. From an international point, it also implies that the more educated people seek distinction by adopting ‘exotic’ popular habits (Hupkens, pg. 44). Interestingly enough, on my trip to Wan Chai at Carnegie’s bar, I have talked to several Westerners regarding the drinks they were having. I talked to one Westerner who chose to drink a Tsing Tao beer in a seemingly foreign dominated market of alcohol. He was a businessman, in the mid-20s-30s. I asked him why he would choose such a beer in such a high-class bar setting; he told me how badly he wanted to try it because he always tended to go with a Carlsberg (he was from England) and he wanted to try a new beer for once. He’s also tried Chang beer (Thailand national beer), and Taiwan beer (Taiwan national beer). It’s evident to me that this businessman was purely interested in the tastings of different national beers and not because he affiliated himself as middle-upper class he would never touch such beer.
In the interview with Dr. Leung of City University, it was interesting to see from a local middle-upper class man decipher what he believes Hong Kong people associate social statuses with alcoholic beverages. When asked what social statuses drink what types of alcohol in Hong Kong, Dr. Leung clearly differentiates between not only the types of alcohol, but also the brand within each category of alcohol.
Typically what you call the lower class people, they would drink beer like San Miguel or Tsing Tao or sometimes even Heineken because they believe Heineken will raise their social status…Then the middle class people, they are actually interesting. They sometimes drink wine, and sometimes drink beer. But they probably don’t have any idea what kind of wine to order, because they are not all connoisseurs. The beer they order however will never be what is considered a local beer or beer associated with Asia. The beer would typically be imported from Europe. The upper class drinks wine that pertains to their taste—they know what they want to drink and how to order it. The upper class I believe don’t know what kind of beer they consume because they regard it all as the same thing; but from my observations, Westerners and those who believe “West is Best,” tend to go for the European brands of beer anyways (Interviewee 4).
While differences in age, class, and status are frequently expressed through beverage choice, the most consistent use of alcohol as a social ‘differentiator’ is in the gender-based classification of drinks. In most societies, ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ drinks can be distinguished (Social and Cultural…., 1998).
Even in societies where there is less disapprobation attached to female drinking per se, we find that certain drinks are considered unfeminine, while others are regarded as too feminine for male consumption. The symbolic potency of alcohol is such that the appropriation of ‘male’ drinks by women may act as a more effective feminist statement than conventional political approaches such as demonstrations or pamphlets (Social and Cultural…, 1998).
When I interviewed Candy at Lan Kwai Fong’s Beijing Club (local club) why she chose a “Sex on the Beach (sweet fruity cocktail that has the base of vodka),” she promptly responded that you can’t really taste anything alcoholic. She despises shots of straight tequila, and vodka. “It’s too strong for me or for any woman in general.” Anna, a study abroad student from the UK I interviewed on Wan Chai Wednesday, also preferred cocktails over any other drinks if available.
From my observations and results, I found that Hong Kong middle-aged women tend to drink more wine than that of middle-aged men, and middle-aged and young men typically drank more beer. Wine, however, is often deemed as a more “neutral” alcoholic beverage. Wine is typically drunk during a eating setting to compliment the meal anyways; as is beer as a compliment, there are numerous stereotypes, drink and beverage advertisements that pigeonholes beer as a masculine drink (Tallim, pg. 3). The younger women drank beer as well, but the young women tended to drink more cocktails than either wine or beer.
“”Cultural competence,” as a term…encompasses the processes by which social workers and social systems/institutions demonstrate respect and effective responses to individuals of all cultures…social classes…ethnic backgrounds…or other diversity factors “…in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families, and communities and protects and preserves the dignity of each” (Ethnicity…, 2005).
Alcohol consumption varies considerably between countries; these differences are likely to result due to cultural dissimilarities. Culture might differ in the norms concerning the type of beverage, the amount, the drinking companions and the drinking situations (Hupkens, 1998).
Hong Kong is a unique culture that blends both the Eastern and Western influence—even then, the alcohol consumption culture creates different dimensions when it comes to different types of people drinking in their own cultural group. Anna, the study abroad student from the UK I interviewed on Wan Chai Wednesday, preferred cocktails over other forms of drinks like beer, whiskey, shots, or anything that tastes like alcohol. However, one point that she brought up that reiterates the cultural shocks between the Western society and Hong Kong society or even Eastern society in general is that she drinks “to get f*cked up.” In that case, she would drink anything to feel drunk—this in fact isn’t an appreciation of alcohol. It is to use alcohol to achieve getting into a different state of mind. In the Western world, it is often seen that youth drink alcohol to achieve a different state of mind (intoxicated). In the West, youth tend to binge drink whereas those youth in the East drink in a social setting such as eating dinner or hanging out with friends (Hemmingsson, pg. 143). While I was at Lan Kwai Fong several times on all seven days, I noticed that the rowdy, obnoxiously loud people tend to be the intoxicated foreigners (usually study abroad students); the most sober bystanders tended to be local youths staring and criticizing the disorderly study abroad students. Candy, an interviewee at the Beijing Club, says Hong Kong girls do not drink much because they don’t want to become drunk like “American girls do.” She also says that she only drinks one or two glasses of cocktails to slowly drink with her friends and converse with them. Ethnic and cultural group norms, values, and expectations concerning alcohol vary markedly, as do cultural strengths and resiliency factors. Members of different ethnic and cultural groups evidently show preferences for different types of alcoholic beverages as can be seen between Candy and Anna, which may, in turn, affect access and relative alcohol content/exposure. Individuals, who drink in social groups and in situations where there are linked activities, adjust their consumption rates to others in the group and to the linked activities rather than follow an individually-determined pattern of consumption.
Choice of beverage also becomes a statement of affiliation—a sense of belonging in a particular group, generation, class, or nation and its associated values, attitudes and beliefs. Certain drinks, for example, have become symbols of national identity: Guinness for the Irish, tequila for Mexicans, etc.; and to choose or even refuse one’s national beverage can be a significant determination of one’s cultural identity. The ‘national drink’ is often the symbolic locus for positive, sometimes idealized or romanticized, images of the national character, culture and way of life. Because Hong Kong has no real roots, San Miguel might be its “national drink.” San Miguel comes from the Philippines but is brewed in Hong Kong. Though Hong Kong can be thought of being returned to mainland China, Hong Kong people do not want to affiliate themselves with the national mainland China beer Tsing Tao. Hong Kong can be thought of as a cultural mix of the East and West, but culturally and hierarchal intentions wise, the people of Hong Kong will look “towards the West for better [social status] decisions” (Interviewee 4). When I interviewed Dr. Leung of City University of Hong Kong, he explained the concept of “face,” social status, and stereotypes to help further define the affiliation Hong Kong people have towards the West, and the estrangement of Mainland China.
Hong Kong people love “face,” so whatever status they are currently at, they strive to be in the next one by pursuance of drinking “high status” alcohol. Hong Kong people will however not be caught drinking Tsing Tao, or Whiskey for the middle class people reaching the high class status. Whiskey, as a stereotype, is for the Mainland Chinese attempting to reach high class. Like, over there (in the local restaurant in Prince Edward), those Mainlanders are being obnoxiously loud drinking Johnnie Walker (Blue Label). Drinking whiskey just brings down the alcohol’s status when drunk by a Mainlander. Because Hong Kong people don’t want to be associated much with the Mainland Chinese, they also avoid Tsing Tao beer, and if they want a local beer, they will always choose San Miguel.
The consumption or sometimes rejection of a national or traditional beverage is a sensitive issue where newly introduced drinks are associated with modern and upper-class lifestyles and values.
The drinking-place is an essential feature of all alcohol-related cultures. The nature and role of the public drinking-place may be seen as an extension of the role of drinking itself. According to the SIRC (1998) however, there has been no systematic cross-cultural research on public drinking contexts, and the available material is either scattered or incomplete. There are small-scale studies of public drinking-places in various societies which indicate that, in terms of insight into the social and cultural roles of alcohol, drinking-places would be a research area that would significantly improve the understanding of the role of drinking.
It is clear that where there is alcohol, there is always a specified environment in which to drink it, and that every culture creates its own, highly distinctive, public drinking-places. The drinking-place is usually a unique environment—“it represents a separate sphere of existence, a discrete social world with its own laws, customs and values” (Social and Cultural…, 1998). Drinking-places tend to be environments where status distinctions are based on different criteria from those operating in the outside world. The Bartender at Red, IFC emphasizes the point that “environment determines what people choose to drink” (Interviewee 1). “If you go eat at a local restaurant, you would not expect vodka, would you? They would probably only have beer [available to drink]. At Red, because you are in a more socially high class area, I don’t think you would expect a Tsing Tao beer here either—every beer we have is imported or foreign (Interviewee 1).
Drinking is essentially a social act subject to a variety of norms regarding who may drink what, when, where, with whom, etc. Drinking does not, in any society, take place ‘just anywhere’, and most cultures have specific, designated environments for communal drinking. As in the case of the places of where I have visited, each place had a distinct setting. At Knutsford Terrace, there are bars and restaurants that line the alley way. These restaurants can be deemed as upper-class due to the pricings of the inner meals. Because most consumers of alcohol were in a restaurant setting at Knutsford Terrace, it seems acceptable that wine would be the dominant alcoholic beverage consumed complimenting a high end meal. In my observations at Knutsford Terrace there were actually several alcoholic beverages on display: red wine, white wine, imported beer, and cocktails. The most common of drinks was wine complimenting a meal. I often saw local men and women consume wine and food together; Westerners were typically just drinking beer and having casual conversations with friends.
At Red, IFC the customers who went were office workers—I assume they worked at IFC because I’ve been to Red during and not during happy hour. The office workers, local and nonlocals alike, drank according to what was cheapest during happy hour. The businessmen typically ordered beer, and the businesswomen ordered cocktails. However, at some tables, wine was drunk when there were usually more than two persons. After happy hour, there are a lot more different types of people who come to Red ranging from college students to local young office workers who work outside of IFC, to tourists. After happy hour, the case of gender differentiation takes role. Women tend to gravitate towards the cocktails available, and the men usually order beer. After happy hour, it was rare for me to see any local middle-aged women, and it was slightly less rare to spot a foreign middle-aged woman. Men, however, were everywhere ranging in age. Because Red is more of an open bar setting, people were there to relax and socialize with a few drinks to get conversation going. Red is a setting that allows people to appreciate the alcoholic beverage they’re drinking instead of drinking it as a compliment to a meal, or using alcohol as a substance to achieve a different state of mind.
In Wan Chai, there appeared to be a lot more Westerners and South East Asians. The district is a more hazy part of Hong Kong that entails various forms of sexual pleasure. I went to Wan Chai on a Wednesday known for its notorious “Wan Chai Wednesday” amongst locals and foreigners alike. I went to several bars, and ended up at Carnegie’s for most of the observations. Because Wan Chai is a racier part of town, sketchy activities would ensue much more often than the other parts of alcohol consumption area that I’ve been to. In Wan Chai, I believe it gives me a feeling that people who go are likely there to “have a good time” and just want to have fun. To do so, most foreigners tend to go overboard in drinking in order to obtain that “different state of mind.” During my observations, the drinks being ordered by men and women ranged from beer, to tequila shots, to champagne. There was no rule, norm, or status indicator anyone was sticking to. Champagne on Wednesday at Carnegies is free for ladies, and a lot of women were drinking house champagne. A lot of men were drinking mixed drinks which isn’t considered masculine at all, but the mixed drinks consists of vodka, rum, gin, and other liquors mixed with one other soda substance for example coke, sprite, club soda, etc. I believe that the idea behind drinking in Wan Chai is to achieve that separate state of mind due to the racier environment Wan Chai presents itself to bystanders of the area.
Near Prince Edward’s MTR, the local seafood restaurant I went to seems like a typical Hong Kong local restaurant that was in the lower-middle class range due to the average pricing of each main course dish ranging less than $120HKD. While I was there on a Thursday night (24/11/2011) around 8pm, the customers there were eating with their friends—it wasn’t exactly a family setting. It was evident from the customers wear that most were local working class men or middle-aged men who had free time to meet their friends. While the customers were eating seafood, the drinks they had only consisted of beer or tea. There was one table that consisted of Mainland Chinese people who had a bottle of Blue Label Johnnie Walker (I went to detail in the above section of “Affiliation”). Despite this one exception, the rest of the local customers were drinking San Miguel—it was probably the only brand of beer the restaurant offered. From my observations at this local restaurant, not only does this local restaurant setting backs up the gender differentiation theory with beer being a masculine alcoholic beverage, but it also backs up the idea that local people only drink socially and don’t go overboard.
At Guangzhou Garden in Langham Place, I believe this was an upper-class restaurant because their famous “Dimsum in the Cage” for only two baskets consisting very few items costing around $160HKD. Not only is this place known for their “Dimsum in the Cage,” but they are also well-known for their high end French wine. The customers who ate at this place were mostly over the age 30. My friend and I were the youngest customers they had that night. As I looked around, only locals were eating at this restaurant; the drinks they ordered consisted of both red wine and white wine. An interesting table I was glancing at consisted of an old couple (ages around 60-80) who were drinking Blue Girl (brand of beer) instead of red or white wine to complement their meal. Other tables were drinking wine to complement their meal. At such a high-end local restaurant, I wouldn’t expect any different alcoholic beverage to be served. And because this restaurant is known for their French wine, it is not shocking to see every table having several glasses of red and white wine.
After research on the culture of Hong Kong people and the general patterns and trends of alcohol consumption, I can infer some general structure of how Hong Kong people view how their consumption in certain types of alcoholic beverages can make or break their social standing in society.
Firstly, I can see that due to the nature of alcoholic beverages having symbolic meanings, every drink conveys some message. Alcohol is a symbolic vehicle for identifying cultural and social systems. In Hong Kong, people are very wary of what others think of them, and they, therefore constantly put up some sort of front. The Hong Kong people utilize an imaginary “hierarchy of alcoholic beverages” to show their peers that not only does each social status have a certain knowledge of class, but they want to differentiate themselves from both foreigners and Mainland Chinese alike due to the choices they can make in consuming alcohol.
Secondly, the choice of an alcoholic beverage can also be a significant indicator of social status. However, the preference for high-status beverages is an expression for others to aspire towards a certain position in the social hierarchy. Because people in Hong Kong highly revere the “face” ideal, they convey to others that they are better than others. When I interviewed local people of Hong Kong, it is obvious that they know picking a certain alcoholic beverage in a certain environmental setting will make or break your appearance of social status within the set group you choose to drink with.
Lastly, I believe that the environment in which alcohol is available plays a huge role in what people choose to drink. Drinking-places are usually a unique environment—it has its own dimension of existence that consists of its own norms, customs and values. While I was going to the many places where drinking takes place, it’s obvious that under an eating environment, wine plays a bigger role in alcohol consumption; whereas, under a relaxation environment, i.e. Red, cocktails or personal preference is what is the dominant drink.
Hong Kong is a sophisticated city blending the cultures of the East and West. Due to Hong Kong’s long history of colonization, the Hong Kong people tend to differentiate themselves from not only mainland Chinese, Westerners, and other foreigners in terms of social status by means of not only the type of alcohol but by the brands of alcohol. I believe there does exist a hierarchy of alcoholic drinks that determines what “social class” one belongs in and determines how the consumer will be judged; in Hong Kong, there is no exception of “no class,” in fact, Hong Kong people reiterate the idea of social status even more being under British rule and Western influences for a long while. The availability of alcohol in Hong Kong society, I believe, allows for social status to be honed in using the imaginary “hierarchy of alcoholic beverages.” Alcohol, not only in Hong Kong, but in the rest of the globe, is more than just a type of drink—it brings about intangible symbols that pertain to the social life of every person.
LEMME KNOW WHAT YOU GUYS THINKKKKK. tehe. its fucking 15 pages singled space.
project topics for hong kong pop culture?
1. chatroulette again? an easy win.
2. actual study case on: alcohol and class structure? gives me an excuse ;) haha, just kidding.
but, rawr, time to start thinking of a project topic on hong kong pop culture. this is significantly hard for me since i’m a study abroad student and not a local person. :(
very interesting alcohol: http://webct.hku.hk/webct/urw/lc2344527075001.tp2441676547001/cobaltMainFrame.dowebct.
idk if you guys can see it though. that’s why i was thinking about doing a case study on alcohol + class structure, because 1. alcohol currently takes up a large portion of my college life, 2. alcohol defines the eatery settings, 3. alcohol is everywhere, 4. you can meet a lot of interesting people under the influence, 5. alcohol makes a person speak a sober heart n a drunken state of mind.
*i’m not trying to promote alcohol, it’s just interesting to see how people differentiate themselves through the different types of alcohol available. i really hope the website works!!!
johnny walker-black label.
on the roof, at hku, in wei lun hall.
fun night. didn’t drink a lot. just sample tasting.
i forgot how much i hated cheap alcohol -__-
FOTO soon? perhaps. :)
last night was amazing. like every night that i go out in hong kong, it’s been pretty fucking amazing so far.
went to shake shake [its been like my go-to club]. free drinks for ladies but guys have to get drinks for the ladies. the bar tender was so sweet to me and my roomie. we didn’t want to flirt with anyone in the beginning [completely sober] so we begged the bartender. at first he was like no. then, we turned around to see that he mixed us drinks. 2 drinks. he’s so sweet!!!
then, i saw the manwhore and his hawt mofo friends. rawrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. lol
and i saw marco.
and… last night was just another amazing night except for all the throw up everywhere. -___-
damn it. it was times like those i wish i had a camera.
MACAU THE LAST MINUTE.
so. let me start from the end.
aina, minji, hyesoo, minyoung, carmen and i were calmly boarding bus no. 32 to our hong kong ferry terminal from macau at around 10pm. assuming we’d reach the terminal at exactly 10.30pm.
well, fuck no that didn’t happen. at 10.25pm, we start flipping shit. started asking fellow passengers on board where the fuck is the terminal in bad cantonese and some chinese and mixed engrish.
we ended up at the main bus station… and we were panicking. having mild heart attacks. the passengers were saying “you’ll never be able to get 2 taxis at the same time….”
we flag down one cab in 2 minutes after we got off the bus. and i stole it from a guy BWAHHAHAHA. i was like “PLEASE, WE NEED THIS CAB. OUR FERRY’S LEAVING IN 15 MINUTES” and… yep. at first we were like screaming at the cab driver saying “6 PEOPLE! PLEASEEEEEEEEEEE OUR FERRY’S LEAVING!” he firmly said no. minji shoved me, carmen and minyoung into the cab and said “you guys get their first!!!!”
we got to the ferry terminal. OH RIGHT. BTW. HONG KONG TELEPHONE SERVICE DOESN’T APPLY TO MACAU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! as we got off the cab, we stood at the taxi stand area waiting for minji, hyesoo and aina to pop out. we waited for 15 minutes…. then 30 minutes… then we were thinking some things like “maybe they took the bus after all… maybe it really IS hard to flag a cab…” 45 minutes go by… we’re like “fuck..THEY MUST HAVE GOTTEN INTO AN ACCIDENT” we start flipping shit. all of us realizing that our phones don’t work, carmen remembers that aina’s phone has service.
while minyoung stood outside creeping on every cab that drove by, me and carmen started flagging down people for their cell phones. 1st guy: I HAVE NO CELL PHONE. stupid pinnochio. 2nd guy: use the pay phone. 3rd guy: use the pay phone. FUCK MAN. STOP BEING SO FUCKING STINGY -______________- 4th guy: me and carmen run outside, and approached this guy. all three of us were on the verge of tears… and this guy gave us his phone!!! we frantically call aina praying that she’d pick up. ***AT THIS POINT: we didn’t really care if we had to pay for extra fare ticket [BUTTTTTTTTT, the people at turbo jet were very sympathetic, they didn’t charge extra and kept letting us delay the time of our ticket. from 10.45 to 11.45]***
WE HEAR AN ANSWERRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and aina and minji and hyesoo were apparently on the fucking ferry already. i took over the phone from carmen and started cussing. for like.. 1 minute straight of like vulgarity. and hung up.
as we were running through the terminal, minyoung the sweet girl, was cussing too. she was like “NOW is the appropriate time to use ‘chuuluu shibal seki’!” lol. we were soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo pissed at them. we were thinking “WE SHOULD ALWAYS WAIT FOR OUR GROUP OF PEOPLE NO MATTER WHAT!!!”
then, we cooled down and laughed it off.
we finally reach hong kong… and all our anger went away immediately.
the GENERAL RULE: WAIT FOR OTHERS, unless it’s an airplane, or something unrefundable lol. or when cell phones don’t work.
meh. it wasn’t really the highlight of the day. and i just started my period this morning. my tummy hurt like during the middle of the day, but due to aina’s panacea japanese medicine, it really didn’t hurt after a while.
what we did:
1. visit st. paul’s ruin.
2. ate egg tarts
3. ate western food at this rude-ass cafe. the woman called us “cheee-sing” which means crazy in cantonese. we left the cafe saying “FUCK YOUUUU” in a singing tone, and she probably thought we said thank you -___-
4. went to the venetian hotel :)
5. WENT GAMBLING. first played blackjack, then slot machines.
5.5. me and aina both won a lot in the beginning [BWAHHAHA, only like 50 hkd] and then we lost it all because we’re gambling addicts -___-
5.7. oh right. i have check marked all of my vices. alcohol, smoking, and gambling.
6. bought some converses because i have no sneakers here in hk :)
7. ate ‘macau’s famous pork chop noodle’ at the venetian food court.
8. took lots of pictures
9. last but not least… the ending.
10. oh right: the very very beginning of our journey was interesting through the customs part. and NOTE TO ALL FUTURE HKU STUDENTS WITH STUDENT VISAS: WE ARE HONG KONG PERMANENT RESIDENTSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!! fuck yes. line cutting.
i finally went out again last night in like a month? i went with my colleague van and her friends.
i also ate dinner w/ daniel :) and he came to zouk with us as well.
alcohol is still expensive here -____-
people were still throwing up.
had to leave early. mehhhhh.
BUT, that doesn’t stop me from going out. :) going out again tomorrow night hopefully butterfactory this time :)