There are just over 7 million people in Hong Kong. Over 6.6 million of those 7 million are Chinese. Over 133,000 are Filipino, 133,000 are Indonesian. (based on the 2011 census figures). Those are the biggest ‘ethnic groups’. Now while expats come from many nations across the globe I am going to be speculative here because I couldn’t find any definitive numbers, and suggest between 40 and 60 thousand of those 7 million people would be classified as expats like myself.
Globally, the theory goes that between every one of us there are at most 6 degrees of separation from knowing each other via friends and friends of friends. A couple of friends of mine and I have tested that in the past and actually found it to be not too far off the mark. At the time, as a girl from New Zealand I was most astonished to see I did have links into many circles. George Clooney – yep – 3 degrees of separation (since moving to Hong Kong 1 degree). Winston Churchill – 2 degrees of separation. The Queen of England – 1 degree of separation. Madonna – 5 degrees of separation. Sure – you might have to go through friends of friends, but the connectivity of every person in the Western world is more or less there. I would hazard to say more-so with the advent of the internet and social networking.
So, where am I going with this you ask?
Well let’s pull back to Hong Kong and that theoretical expat population I guestimated. Whether it is a situation of circumstance or something else entirely I am going to throw out there that Hong Kong expats only have one degree of separation between knowing each other. I drew a little something to explain how I came to this conclusion …
Given the gossip-mongering that goes on among various circles of the expat mum community I realised on more than one occasion that I knew, have known, or know some of the people they are chatting about… above and beyond the typical gossiping that happens in apartment communities.
This has been happening more frequently the longer I stay here. I then realised upon looking at some of my Hong Kong friends that even though some of them are in vastly different social circles in terms of my friendships, they all know or know of each other. As I looked at the connections more, I realised I also knew several more of their friends, their husbands and the web connected out from there. The connections spread all over Hong Kong with no area seemingly missing (yet). From Lamma Island, Discovery Bay, Sai Kung to Repulse Bay over to Shatin and back to Central, I have yet to find more than a one degree separation between friends and acquaintances. It occasionally happens amongst my chinese friends too but certainly not as frequently as in my expat circles.
How often have I been in meetings or events where a conversation has come to “Oh – I know someone who does [insert industry here]”, followed by a “Me too!” only to be continued with a “Hey – we’re talking about the same person!”
I find it happening all the time. Is it because I have been here “so long”? Is it because the expat community is “small”?
Gossip can be so viral. We’re all guilty of it. However the reality is if you choose to gossip about someone in the expat community in Hong Kong, the person you are telling either knows who you are talking about outright or someone who knows the person … and the dangers therein in terms of friendships really do mean it might be wise to tread carefully.
Some expats make it to ‘urban legend status’, not always in a good way. And scarily enough I know at least one of the ‘urban legends’ personally so I’m not going to mention those stories here.
Community is an important asset to our well-being. The ability to connect, especially in a place where you can often feel quite isolated is something I think we take for granted. The expat community in all it’s forms is an interesting and diverse one, even if I do find it someone frustrating at times. It also seems to be a heavily interconnected group… agree? disagree?
I’d be curious to know what others think.