Retail frenzy helps ease cultural divide

Freda Wan

Hong Kong teenagers are said to be more competitive and fashion-conscious, but less friendly, than Macau youths.

Local employers and university admission committees generally view the enclave's teenagers as less confident, but amiable.

Although the two cities have many similarities, the teenagers grow up under different circumstances.

In Macau, there is no public examination, making the classroom environment relatively flexible for teachers and students.

Certificate exams and A Levels do not exist, nor does a centralised school allocation system.

Each primary and secondary school has its own set of criteria for accepting students. Each child has to apply individually to schools.

While Hong Kong has a vibrant financial sector as well as a wide range of service industries, Macau's economy is dominated by gaming and tourism.

In Macau, all lawyers and judges need to speak and read Portuguese. This rules out the option of a legal career for children who are not fluent in the language.

Many Macau families who can afford to send their children overseas do so. These professionals usually do not return. There are not enough high-paying jobs for them back home.

But the culture conflicts between Macau and Hong Kong seem to be disappearing amid the consumerism frenzy.

Recently, proven successes in Hong Kong, including gourmet ice-cream eatery Haagen Daz and electronics chain Fortress, set up shop near Leal Senado, the busiest area in Macau.

Over the past year, several cosmetics counters have cropped up at the New Yaohan department store. Before the individual travellers' programme, cosmetics chain SaSa didn't even exist in the enclave.

One wonders whether the transformation of the consumer culture to make Macau teenagers gradually become more like their counterparts in the SAR.

After all, most Macau people watch news and entertainment programmes broadcast by Hong Kong television stations, although the enclave has its own Chinese and Portuguese TV shows. In school, students use textbooks written and published in Hong Kong.

Teenagers end up learning more about Hong Kong's history than about Macau.