Expat tribes

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Regular readers know that if there’s one thing Mr Tall likes, it’s a little seat-of-the-pants amateur sociology. And recently I’ve come across an online writer whose very title glows with the kind of qualifications and expertise I’m looking for in my speculations on culture and society: Assistant Village Idiot.

Assistant Village Idiot is in actuality a very smart and thoughtful man, and he has a wealth of insight into the way we think about ourselves in complex modern societies. He’s written a series of posts in which he’s divided the American populace into a number of ‘tribes’. These tribes aren’t really ‘tribal’ in the traditional sense of forming a single extended clan that’s genetically related. Rather, AVI’s tribes comprise subgroups that find similar ways of thinking and acting that draw them together, and make them feel good about being a part of something bigger than themselves, but smaller than the great abstract monoliths that are modern nation-states. A good example is the ‘White People’ tribe we’ve had some fun with in a recent article.

But how does a move overseas affect our tribal view of the world? I found that my own sense of tribal affiliation was quite different after I’d been an expat for a while. Looking back on those days, there was a complex but comprehensible interplay between the ‘tribalism’ I’d carried along with me to Hong Kong from the States, and the condition of being an expatriate. In the rest of this article, I’d like to consider some of the ways being an expat ‘changed my tribe’.

The first, and now most obvious, way being an expatriate changed my view of tribes is that for the first time in my life, my ‘national’ tribe was important. That is, when you’re one of 300 million American, living in the middle of America, you’re free not to think much about your status as a member of a particular national culture. It’s for this very reason that huge societies like the USA fracture into smaller subcultures and tribes in the first place. When I met someone new in the USA, the first five minutes of our conversation did not usually include the question ‘So where do you come from?’ As an expatriate, however, it usually did. Now my first and most obvious identification was ‘Mr Tall, American’ rather than ‘Mr Tall, student’, or ‘Mr Tall, correct-thinking, educated-type person’.

This ‘return to nationalism’ is sometimes an issue for expats like me who come from big countries; it’s perhaps less so from those whose national/cultural backgrounds are more, shall we say, select. For example, it seems certain of the UK’s constituent cultures (cough Scots cough) come pre-loaded with polished and comprehensive representations of their tribal origins. But expats from many countries who now live in Hong Kong have at least some opportunities to meet up with countrymen: clubs, national day events, political groups, international schools teaching your home country’s curriculum, and so on.

This immediate, obvious ability to associate with a national tribe can be comforting when you’re fresh off the boat – you are going through culture shock, and you feel suddenly more comfortable when you’re with other members of your ‘national’ tribe. But in the longer run you’ll find out whether or not those people are members of your ‘real’ tribes back home. If they’re not, you might find that you’ve struck up a quick social relationship that doesn’t seem to work very well.

Second, there’s a potentially very positive effect for expats as we’re pushed out of our home-country tribes, and gradually realize that we’re free to be people we hadn’t previously thought we could be, and to meet the kind of people we’d never dreamed of associating with before. An expat meets not only people who represent different nations, histories and cultures, but people who also mix and match some of the characteristics of his ‘own tribe’ back home with the characteristics of tribes he’d generally shunned. All the categories and characteristics an expat finds so instinctively familiar are mixed and muddled in unexpected – and sometimes fascinating – ways in people hailing from other countries, because their tribes don't map directly onto his tribes.

Third, there’s the possibility that expats can discover, and even form, new tribes that have no (or less obvious) precedents in their home countries. I’d like to close the article by listing out some possible ‘Hong Kong expat tribes’:

Banking Tribe – Since Hong Kong is so top-heavy with banking and finance institutions (and hence expat jobs) there’s no doubt bankers and those in related functions form one of Hong Kong’s long-standing, premier tribes.

TESL Tribe – This expat tribe obviously comprises NETs and other English-language teachers, along with teachers at international and ESF schools, plus expats at local universities. I know they’re not all teaching English, but I just like the way ‘TESL Tribe’ sounds!

Mixes Tribe – Expats in mixed marriages, plus the mixed fruits of their, umm, cross-cultural exercises in mutual understanding and enhanced relations. Speaking from experience, this is an easy tribe to feel a part of . . . .

Sports Tribe – Many expats who work hard like to play hard, too, and I think there’s a tribe in Hong Kong that includes all those expats who associate and bond over rugby, running/races, sailing, etc.

Church Tribe – St Paul says that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, and being an expat is a good way to see this ideal made real. ‘International’ churches in Hong Kong (i.e. essentially those that worship in English rather than Chinese) are quite wonderful in the way people really do leave behind at least some of their baser tribal comforts to unite in response to a higher calling.

Readers, do these make sense to you? Can you think of any others?


A Tribal Appendix

Assistant Village Idiot’s tribal breakdown for the USA goes as follows:

Arts and Humanities Tribe – essentially, White People in the Christian Lander/SWPL sense. The A & H Tribe comprises artists, musicians, media and entertainment types, ‘educators’ of all stripes, social workers and psychologists – i.e. most of the people who listen to National Public Radio and enjoy its detached, tasteful, mildly ironic take on cultural matters (his essay 'The Sadness of NPR Christmas' is an absolute gem). The A & H tribe votes democratic, and still looks to European elites for their example and approval. And as Lander and AVI both ably illustrate, this tribe derives much of its sense of quiet superiority from comparing itself favorably to our next tribe.

God and Country Tribe – this very large tribe comprises good ol’ boys, i.e. Southern whites; a big proportion of Midwestern and Western whites; and any others who are unironically proud to be Americans. This vast group is the Arts and Humanities Tribe’s nemesis, and its foil for much satire/stereotyping in the popular media. But as with most stereotypes, there’s some truth lurking.

DIversity Tribe – is made up of most African-Americans, plus some Hispanics who are particularly focused on racial issues (e.g. members of organizations such as La Raza, literally ‘the Race’), and all of the white people who make their living or focus their energies on pursuing a ‘diversity’ or ‘multiculturalist’ agenda. The DIversity Tribe are Democrats, it almost goes without saying.

Geek Tribe – i.e. the hard science and technology crowd. This is an interesting bunch; they are hard to predict politically, trending maybe toward libertarianism if anything, and they’re equally eclectic in their cultural beliefs and practices. But I think we can assume most of them like Star Trek . . . .

Business Tribe – as the name implies. This is a broad group, obviously, but my impression is that AVI intends it to comprise people like entrepreneurs and small business owners, plus the people who really buy into, work hard at, and advance through corporate organizations. There are mostly Republicans here on the small-business side, but this group is more varied politically at the corporate level.

Government and Unions Tribe – civil servants and, in the USA, at least, their enablers/dependants in the big labor unions. Also almost monolithically Democratic in politics, this tribe never the less has lots of overlap with several others, including God and Country.

Criminal Underclass Tribe – again, the name is pretty much self-defining. AVI suggests that all of the other tribes in the USA ‘tithe’ 10% of their members to this class, which seems maybe a bit high . . . .

Military Tribe – again, self-defining. In the USA there is a well-established military subculture, but it’s obviously not much of an issue here in Hong Kong.

You can find much of AVI’s analysis of the A & H tribe here and his rundown of the rest of his tribes here. He also applies his model very acutely to numerous situations and phenomena; for example, his analysis of why the A & H Tribe hated George W Bush with such venom may be at least in part that he forsook his true tribe (i.e. A & H, as his good breeding should have assured) to join up with – in speech, manner and often action – the despised God and Country Tribe.

My own situation is the opposite of my erstwhile president’s. I was born into a true God and Country family, with just a few Geek Tribe members scattered through my relations. But I launched myself on a trajectory to leave G & C behind and ‘ascend’ to A & H. I majored in English in college, attended grad school in the humanities, and did pretty much everything I needed to do to learn to ‘pass’ as an A & H Tribe member.

I had a friend in grad school – a definite A & H’er himself – who at first didn’t believe my life story. I told him that my grandparents were corn and hog farmers, and my Dad was a blue collar worker. He said there was no way I hadn’t grown up middle class: I sounded right, I knew the right things, I held the right beliefs, and I was pursuing the right goals.

For my first couple of years here in Hong Kong I was immersed in an environment that featured lots of other A & H people, so I stayed one too, more or less. But then it was time to move out on my own, get my first ‘real’ job, and to associate with the people I really wanted to associate with. And I found that, increasingly, I wasn’t as ‘A & H’ as I thought I needed to be.

What’s my tribe now? That’s an interesting question, and one I’d like to return to someday . . . .

Comments

The Sports Tribe

I've come across a few mentions of how important this has been. I read an introduction to Hong Kong that was written in the early 1900s, which mentioned that it was a young-person's city - if you visited, don't expect to see any older people. Their explanation was that sport was so important, once you were too old to play you'd better leave!

Moving to the 1940s, George Wright-Nooth comes across the importance of sport literally as he arrived in Hong Kong [1]:

Waiting on the wharf to meet me were Henry Heath, Lance Searle and Colin Luscombe, all Assistant Superintendents who will become part of this story. Very nearly the first thing they asked me was whether I would play for the Police Rugby XV that Saturday. I had been the Captain of the Bedford School 1st XV [...], so naturally I was delighted.

The next day he had his first meeting with the Commissioner of Police, which didn't go so well:

He looked me over in silence for a few moments and then said, "Well Wright-Nooth do you play cricket?" Innocently I replied, "Yes Sir, but I'm not very good at it. I only played in the school second XI." then I jumped into it with two feet. "Rugby is my game, Sir. I'm far more interested in it and would like to play it here." His interest in me completely evaporated and I was quickly passed back to his personal assistant. The fact that I had been the first Hong Kong police officer to be trained at the Metropolitan Police College in Hendon instead of by the Royal Ulster Constabulary for only three months, and that it had cost the Hong Kong Government several thousand pounds, was of no consequence. What was more important was that rugby and cricket are played in the same season in Hong Kong and I had chosen the wrong game.

I still picked up some traces of this when I arrived in 1989. I heard several tales of people from the UK employed in Hong Kong office basically because they were excellent sportsmen. Their 'work' involved looking presentable in a suit, and not actually losing the company any money. Their real work was to play in whatever team their employer favoured.

MrB

[1] 'Prisoner of the Turnip Heads', ISBN 0-304-35234-9, by George Wright-Nooth

No-Chinese Chinese Tribe

Ethnic-Chinese born outside of Hong Kong (or China, Singapore, Taiwan) who speaks fluent English and barely any Chinese, if at all.  We'd get the incredulous looks from Customs officials, store clerks or the average person on the MTR who can't believe we aren't native speakers.  Sometimes a bit embarrassing depending on the situation when I visited there -- smile and nod.  I don't know how I'd cope if I became an expat in Hong Kong!  ;)

Vinnie.

Tribes

MrB, thanks for putting up that extremely funny story! I have certainly run across quite a few expats in HK who have found the sports tribe very congenial indeed. I think this tribe in the past (and still to some extent) can be also associated with certain of HK's expat-oriented clubs such as the cricket clubs, the football club, etc. Clubs are pretty tribal in of themselves, actually . . . .

Vinnie, you're on to a good one. Here's a question for you: are there 'markers' that you and other members of this tribe can pick up when you spot each other, maybe even without hearing each other speak? 

Gait...

Well, according to a friend of mine from Taiwan from back in college, there is a "marker."  He said it's the way we American-borns carry ourselves.  He knew immediately that I was American just by watching me walk.  I think it's because when I walk, I tend to take long, brisk, uninhibited paces since there's plenty of space to do that.  When I want to go "there," I just go....  While in Hong Kong, I found that mostly impossible to do so I suppose it might not be a good marker to look for unless you're outside the urban areas.  Or perhaps the marker would be the frustrated look on the person's face trying to get through the crowd.  ;)

Vinnie.

Re: Gait....

Hi there,

There are other traces......  My own experience being stationed in Los Angeles from 1999 to 2001 was that some locals just knew I was from Hong Kong after hearing me utter a few words.  Well, my strange English accent came from a mixture of Jesuit secondary school education sprinkled with a bit of this and that of British and US Television.  They might have met many people like me before.

The rhythm of my strides surely did not match those citizens of Los Angeles when I was there.

My 2 cents,

T

But I was in the Sports Tribe

But I was in the Sports Tribe and the TESL tribe! What happens there? Am I thrown out to the wolves when my divided loyalties are revealed?

Name this tribe

What about the descendants of the British trading houses, military, police force and civil servants who have chosen to stay behind after 1997 and made Hong Kong their home? Many of their families have been here for generations, they were born here and are very much a part of Hong Kong, past and present. I am not acquainted with any of them and would love to hear their experiences... I do see some descendants of the Gurkas owning and successfully managing bars in LKF.. I also wonder what their stories are...

Re: Gait....

I lived in LA for 39 years and I can't recall having ever seen anyone on foot.

Re: Gait...

Hi Jim,

You are quite right in general.  That might be why my ex-colleagues were all astonished when I declared I am not going to learn how to drive and I would find an apartment Downtown.   I could not afford a car then anyway.

I ended up living in an apartment on Bunker Hill back then, a better area in Ghost town.

T

Just among the women

Wow, I'd say just among the expat women in HK there are a number of tribes

* Southside tribe 

only leave Repulse bay / Stanley / Chung hom kok, Tai tam to take the kids to school in their SUV's.  Occasionally seen at Horizon Plaza or City Plaza, Usually European continentals.  Those with children under 3 have never been known to leave 109 repulse bay road.

* Working mother tribe

Frazzled,  take mornings off work for assemblies or school outings only to see them run late or their kids get sick at the last minute. Overload their kids with every activity under the sun just in case they're not stimulated enough by the helper. Fire the helper when their child inadvertently says "mum" to the helper.

* School volunteer mum

Always seen at school.  Helps out with everything and anything.  A pillar of the community.  Also knows every bit of gossip about every parent, child and teacher.  Life would crumble without school going children.  Moans a lot.

*Association woman

Formerly top of her career, now following hubbie.  On the board of a number of organisations or associations, rallies less organisationally inclined women around her, organises activities incessently.  All that drive and professionalism has to find an outlet somewhere.

* Woman with a mission woman

After dabbling in association or school has finally found their true mission in the poor, downtrodden or neglected. Be it people, children, animals, continents, rainforests, germs whatever.  Has ceased conversation in lieu of preaching.

 * Ladies who lunch (and shop)

See around soho or noho or coffee shops of glossy malls, with a pile of shopping bags at their feet, immaculately manicured nails and coiffed hair. Driver is circling the block until lunch / dinner / coffee finished so that she's not late for the next appointment. Blackberry blinks green and a constant background ping as sms's and voicemails line up on her phone.

 * blogger and chatboard ladies

Spend hours on the computer. Have more friends on facebook and babycenter.com than in real life.

* sporty mums

as with other sporty types, but they've more time to indulge their passion.  Here you have the casual and team sport types, and the serious high octane marathon ladies, only glimpsed briefly as they charge past you at high speed on the mountains.

(Un)Evolved-Chinese Chinese Tribe

Perhaps a variation on the No-Chinese Chinese Tribe would be the Evolved-Chinese Chinese Tribe (or unevolved depending on your perspective).  Depending when you left Guangzhou or Hong Kong, expecially if decades ago, how you speak Cantonese or what idioms or words you use may not be understandable to current HK Cantonese speakers since their version has evolved separately from yours.  Your-version-of-Cantonese idioms/words might sound old fashioned to someone in HK -- or be completely unknown, as in my and my parent's experience last year for our word for "squirrel."  Are there no squirrels in Hong Kong?  Of course matters worsen when English words are mixed into the same sentence.   Ngo hai guilty of this 'cause ngo m-set gong Heung Kong wah.   ;)  [ I think I am having too much fun with this site.  :)  ]

Vinnie.

HK Tribes

Great post.  Your five basic tribes describe the Hong Kong expat scene really well.  As someone who doesn't fit into any of them, I've now got a clearer sense of what does and doesn't work for us here.

School volunteer mum +

Hello gweipo,  just wonder have you consider the *School volunteer mum with purpose* Just like School volunteer mum but they helps out so their child will be on the teacher / head of department good book and received / plead  a good recommendation for secondary school or university. 

More on tribes + tribal/class/schools writer

Wow, some great comments here.

Jim, that's a very funny line!

Tngan, your comment made me think of Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch detective novels -- he's got one set on Bunker Hill, I'm pretty sure . . . . 

Gweipo, thanks so much for that finely-graded and witty breakdown of women's expat tribes -- that is territory I know not . . . . Also very much enjoyed your comments on the Rod Steward audience over on your blog. So, any new moustaches sprouting in your household after all that inspiration?

Vinnie, I'm glad you're enjoying yourself! It is fun when you start to sort out the immutable characteristics one's been born with from the layers of stuff that's piled up as you've been raised and have formed your identity. BTW, I think there are squirrels in HK . . . .

Fernando, I think there are quite a few more options than the ones I've listed! 

I also wanted to introduce a writer I came across just a couple of days ago. Her name is Sandra Tsing Loh, and I don't quite know how I've managed to avoid coming across her rather wonderful series of book reviews/essays in the Atlantic magazine over the past few years.

STL lives in LA, but she's obsessed with many of the same topics I hold near and dear here in HK. To wit:

Her most recent effort takes a look back at one of my favorite books, Paul Fussell's nasty little masterpiece Class: A Guide through the American Status System. She's got lots of trenchant observations on current class issues as well. 

This takedown of self-proclaimed Education Savior Jonathan Kozol is particularly tasty. STL (who's a German/Chinese mix born in California) demonstrates how she's highly attuned to the White zeitgeist:

After a fair amount of heartache, I have to admit I have given up on trying to charm white people, at least a certain NPR-listening, Bobo, chattering class of white people, back into public school. For these shrinking families, the aesthetics alone of public schools are horrifying—the chain-link fence, putty-colored bungalows, fluorescent lighting. Confessed one writer dad to me, about his son’s corner elementary (which he did not have the heart to step inside): “Even the grass made me sad.” Another white mom rejected my daughters’ school because our kindergarten wall art looked “rote.”

In this article she finds it easy to be cheap because her house is so small, among other extremely hilarious reasons (the third page of this article is where Loh cuts loose and lets it roll; the beginning is a bit slower). 

This one's about finding a kindergarten for her daughter (sneak preview: she doesn’t get into the first one they apply to . . .) 

Here she reviews James Twitchell's brilliant book Living it Up: America's Love Affair with Luxury, and comments on materialism and status cues. 

Off topic - Angels Flight

dear Mr Tall,

Thanks to Google again, the title of the book is  'Angels Flight'. 

I still remember the cable car system back in 2001 when it was folded up after the fatal accident.  I was riding it with colleagues after visiting Grand Central Market the day before the accident happened.......  

Best Regards,

T

 

Off Topic - Bunker Hill

Hi there,

The L.A. Downtown area is full of movies locations.  Even the apartment block I used to stay was being used in Nick Cage's Gone in 60 seconds while I was there (one of the garage scenes, I think).  The back door/loading dock area of the apartment tower/The Omni Hotel (formerly the Inter-Continental) on lower Grand Avenue was used by the remake of the Italian Job (The chopper vs Mini scene).

There are countless other locations of older movies and TV around.

Best Regards,

T

squirrels...

The squirrels in my part of the world are "grey squirrels" native to the US & Canada.  I suppose if they were introduced to HK they'd be expat squirrels.  ;)

Vinnie.

Expat squirrels

Actually, don't joke, Vinnie -- I think the squirrels in HK might actually be introduced species!

I wonder if they wonder about their little tribal identifications . . . .

 

Mr T

materialism...

Hi Mr. Tall,

I find your study of class and status useful and refreshing especially for such a materialistic city as Hong Kong.  On their way up the economic and social ladder, people with aspirations of wealth and status (and everyone else) need to pause once in a while to reflect on what they have achieved, where they were, and how their past and future successes will affect other people and society as a whole.

Hopefully, if these people have descendents born to "old" money (or "no" money, too), they will have also passed down wisdom to their progeny about their place and responsibilities in society.

In the meanwhile, HK is the place to play and enjoy the luxuries of life.  Nothing is wrong with materialism  -- but just not in excess.  Enjoy the reflection of the sun from your gold coins; learn from the reflection upon your life.

Just my opinion.

Vinnie.

re: Expat squirrels

;)

More Sandra Tsing Loh

I don't know how I still managed to miss this one:

The Drama of the Gifted Parent

I'm including a longer quotation here to give the flavor of STL's style, and her arrival, with eyes wide open, at that magical point at which social class and status and children and schooling and one's own perceptions of one's self all converge:

Actually, to my surprise, I’ve turned out to be a big-barreled Mother Jones–like figure—in this case, a defiant urban public-school mother, which in today’s middle-class zeitgeist practically feels like being a communist; I’m given to wild-eyed rants against the perils of affluence, particularly when I’m in my cups. Then again, while waiting for the school bus among Mexican day laborers and Armenian grandmothers with strangely dyed magenta hair, I do sometimes gaze longingly at the Los Angeles private-school parents whizzing by in their Priuses—the writers, the composers, the actors, the thinkers … so intelligent, so creative, so sensitive, so incensed about global warming, so angry about Bush. Then I think of the administrators I met in those private schools, when we were interviewing (as I said, to my surprise I’m a Mother Jones–like figure …). Given that independent-school business (and middle- class urban fear) is booming now, “the front office,” as I call it, is always manned by mercenary professional gatekeepers—the lion-maned admissions directors, the women with important scarves—who let you know, in no uncertain terms, exactly what on your Visa is nonrefundable. But in “the back office,” there is always the gentle little gnome who lives in a woodland cave of the mind. In Los Angeles, this woodland gnome is typically a sweet and fragile eighty-something educator (think wonderfully old-fashioned cardigan, white hair perhaps growing out of the ears) who in Austria in the 1950s invented some sort of benevolent alternative- learning theory whence gently flowers the school’s educational philosophy. If he or she is the emotional figurehead of an independent school (one possibly even bearing his or her name) that now allows in, by breakneck competition, only the most affluent and privileged (with the occasional Savion Glover–brilliant inner-city child, for color; or perhaps an heir of Denzel Washington), thus exacerbating the twenty-first century’s Grand Canyon–like divide between rich and poor, it’s not the helpless and unworldly little gnome’s fault—it’s just something that happened along the way. Hey—you wouldn’t blame John Dewey!

The irony for me is that although I see and decry these social divisions, there’s some lingering part of me that wants to sit obediently before the gnome, manipulate blocks, and be patted on the head and called exceptionally creative, and gifted.

 

Groups or Tribes?

All tribes are made up from groups of people, but not all groups are tribes.

After I finished my final university exam, I had my head shaved. I belonged to the group of people with very short hair.

That weekend I was pushing my bike through the towns' park, when I noticed a group of young men sat on the grass who also had very short hair. Shortly after I passed them, they noticed me...

"Oi!"

<don't look back, keep pushing...>

"Oi!"

<nearly at the gate...>

"Oi you, grow your f***ing hair!"

As they were so kind to point out, I was part of the group, but certainly not part of the skinhead tribe.

So what turns a group into a tribe?

Seth Godin's latest book is titled 'Tribes: we need you to lead us'. In his view, tribes have one or more leaders, and communication between members of the tribe. Without those, you're just looking at a group.

That description works for me, if I can say that communication is not just about written and spoken communication, but all the little signs that show which tribe(s) we belong to. Gweipo's list of ladies' tribes is a great example. If you had a roomful of ladies that had never met before, but each belonged to one of those tribes, I'm sure they could spot and gravitate towards their fellow tribe-members within seconds.

Mr Tall, I haven't read through all of AVI's posts, but do you think he's making a distinction between groups and tribes? If yes, does he give any ideas how to tell that a group has made the jump to become a tribe?

the silk road and traders between tribes

good comments Mr. B.  I'm not so interested in the leadership and communication between members OF a tribe since that works with rituals and if not, memes.  What fascinates me is the people that bridge tribes and are the traders forming the silk roads between the tribes.

You can't...

This phrase comes to my squirrely mind: "You can't choose your relatives but you can choose your friends."

Then two questions:  "Who are you now?"  and "What do you want to be?"

:)

Vinnie.

Tribes

Gweipo, I'm not quite sure what you mean with 'bridge tribes'. Please can you say some more?

I'm interested in the leaders, for the direction they can send the tribe in. Back at the start of this, Mr Tall points out a big benefit of tribe membership is "make them feel good about being a part of something bigger than themselves". But often the easiest way we make ourselves feel better, is by making the distinction betwen who is in our tribe (good people), and who is outside (bad people). That's the easiest path for a leader to take - witness any political campaign for plenty of examples. But some leaders still manage to inspire their tribe and make them feel better about themselves, without having to put anyone else down. In the famous "I have a dream" speech there's a good example of this, when it would  have been so easy to stir up feelings of revenge & hatred he heads in the opposite direction:

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

Those are the leaders that stand out for me. Is this somehow similar to the bridging you are thinking of?

Vinnie, I think you've neatly summarised Godin's book with your two questions!

Godin

So MrB: I take it you've read Godin's Tribes book? What did you think?

I came across his name (hadn't heard of him) in Gweipos comments. Fortunately, the HK Public Libraries have some copies, so one's on its way to me for the acceptable fee of HKD2.50!

BTW, couldn't agree more about the pluses/minuses of 'tribalism'.

Godin is good

I enjoyed it - I can see what the topic of the next Batgung lunch will be!

I found his book 'The Dip' interesting & useful too. If you enjoy the Tribes book, let me know if you'd like to borrow The Dip for a read.

modus operandi...

Perhaps this would be a spin-off of this article on tribes.  I'm wondering how Hong Kong businesses (or HK corporate/governmental work places in general) operate given Far Eastern and Western "modes" of operating.  The Far Eastern mode being more "group" oriented, e.g., self-sacrifice for the good of the group.  The Western mode being more "individual-centered," e.g., a single leader determining the direction of the group.  Is one mode usually more dominant than the other in HK business or are aspects/influences of both modes intermingled?  I wonder if there are business "tribal culture" clashes that a new expat might encounter.

Vinnie.

Bridging tribes

Well, I can't help thinking that people like yourselves who have grown up in one nation/state and part of a tribe of that place, and now live here, but not as part of the dominant "expat American" tribe that would be your default enable you to bridge the cultural divide between the two tribes / nation states.  Albeit in a blog.  Even more so if you enter into a relationship or marriage with someone from another tribe or allow your children to be socialised by joining 'their' education system (as I've chosen).

Throughout western and eastern history there has been systematic bridging by marriage (think of the European kings and queens, chinese emperors), but also through trade (which is why I mentioned the silk road).  Then there are always individuals (like myself) who don't enjoy being defined and keep a finger in a number of different tribes and often find ourselves defending the actions or motivations of one tribe to another.