My Freedom: Millennials in Hong Kong

My Freedom: Millennials in Hong Kong
My Freedom: Millennials in Hong Kong

By Andrea Ng,

In part two of our series, we explore millennial mind sets in Hong Kong. Using our framework outlined in our previous article, we look at the culture, forces for change, and the meaning of our happiness drivers. 

The Culture: What Does it Mean to be From Hong Kong?


Hong Kong has a unique character – western culture is underpinned by a strong Cantonese culture and identity. Regarded as one of the fastest cities in the world, people indeed ‘walk fast, talk fast, and eat fast’. This reflects the city’s famed energy and dynamism, and symbolises their ferocity in drive and competitiveness.


The cramped physical space doesn’t limit the desire to overcome limitations and is often seen as a powerful force that drives Hong Kong’s fervent spirit. Locals are known to be resilient, encapsulated in a straightforward, blunt, and direct personality that cuts to the chase. They have an enterprising spirit, and are viewed to be expedient, prudent and shrewd in business.


Social gatherings are commonplace. This is one of the many reasons why Hong Kong’s restaurants are known to be always noisy, and boisterous – the hustle and bustle symbolises the city’s vitality.

Forces of Change: Political Uncertainties


Political tensions and uncertainties have raised tensions and fears for the economy, even if the city’s strong economic base has enabled it to withstand periods of economic difficulties. It also poses concerns over the survivability of Hong Kong’s competitiveness in the business world. Regardless of what the future holds, there is certainty that change is brewing in the city.

Forces of Change: The Rising Influence of a Generation


Change in the city is driven by a generation who challenge the status quo. This reflects their growing influence on future politics and the cities culture. Not all are sympathetic to the disruptions, and it is undeniable that this is a watershed for Hong Kong’s society, balancing rising discontentment and unrest against the desire for the restoration of peace in the city.

Forces of Change: Identity in Question


Stemming from the rising influence of the young generation is a desire to defend and uplift Hong Kong’s culture. This strong assertion of a local identity is exhorted by the growing sense of where and what home is to the people of Hong Kong. More so than ever, brands are getting involved in these discussions, with expressions of identity illustrated in marketing, advertising, and design. Indeed, this reflects how the NY Times describes the sentiment in Hong Kong now: all about its people.

Happiness Drivers


1.   Positive Emotions – Carving Freedom


Hong Kong millennials are searching for a renewed sense of freedom. A documentary to capture the voices of the younger generation in Hong Kong revealed that freedom to make life choices is sought after in the post-Umbrella Movement era.This is a generation looking for freedom, wanting to gain control to better take advantage of opportunities. They desire escape from urban suffocation and have the chance to lead the lives they want. 

2.   Achievements – New Goals, Old Values


While Hong Kong millennials are reactionary and eager for change, the values of pragmatism and being success-driven still inform the way they view success and achievements. They still believe in the ‘Hong Kong Dream’, where achieving success and prosperity is through hard work, and determination. They continue to hold practical aspirations, as they are still acutely conscious of status, and their competitive spirit isn’t quelled, but is increasingly directed along different paths.

3.   Engagement – Work Hard, Play Harder


Work life and play life are equally intense in this city that never sleeps. Millennials in Hong Kong continue to uphold their belief of hard work as the path to success. But, at the same time, they expect to play as hard as they work. Recognising that tough conditions could dampen spirits, coupled with the societal culture of long working hours in a tough and hyper-competitive environment, they are looking to break out, indulge, experience, and play even more in their lives.

4.  Relationships – Constraints To Marriage


Hong Kong’s high living costs not only have an impact on consumption and ownership, but also affect the dynamics of relationships. Many are delaying marriage to save as there are fewer affordable homes in the city. Undeterred, Hong Kong millennials are still hopeful for a future with love, relationships, and marriage. A quiet phenomenon is growing, where married couples are ‘married but living apart’.

5.   Meaning – Change Starters


This is a change-maker generation: they want to be heard and to use their voice to motivate change in their world. Using the power of a collective voice to drive change, Hong Kong millennials are using their desire to be heard in a bid to effect changes in their city. Part of this is driven by their own personal search of local identity and as the most connected population in Asia.

6.   Health – Recharging for Balance


This is the sleepless city with the longest working week in the world. As millennials continue to juggle the work-life equation, they increasingly look to channel their competitive spirit at work into their play and relaxation. Finding new ways to celebrate wellness, self-expression, and positive energy in lives, events, give people the opportunity to free themselves of inhibition. They are looking for solutions for mental and physical well-being in their on-the-go lives

7.   Security – Saving For Today


Hong Kong millennials’ anticipate the unexpected. With political uncertainty, high living costs and unaffordability, they are acutely aware of the need to secure a financial base in order to pursue their life goals. With saving a well taught virtue, Hong Kong millennials are some of the biggest savers in Asia, typically saving over 20% of their income.[2] They’re looking for more control in financial preparation, and seeking alternative ways to grow their wealth

What does mean for brands?


Demonstrate empathy and understanding: Brands can demonstrate an understanding of their complex struggles. Address their need for more energised play and purpose, and give them a sense of release whilst tapping into the ethics of work hard, play hard; by being bold, and impactful.


Help them make meaningful disruptions: Millennials will look for brands which can deliver meaningful experiences and help them be change starters by giving them a platform and a voice.


Join their highly connected lives: As a restless and diverse group, brands that can tap into and be ahead of the pace of change will be able to sustain interest. Cut through the digital noise by offering something valuable and meaningful, ensuring they’re able to reach out and stay connected.

By Andrea Ng, Join The Dots

Article reproduced with permission of RW Connect and ESOMAR. 


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