Hong Kong

Seniors and hierarchy in HK

Yo! It’s been a while since my last post unfortunately! >_<

Something I have noticed in HK and from speaking to my seniors at Uni, is the very obvious hierarchy system that occurs in HK. In the UK, the line between a junior member of staff and a higher level one is sometimes very blurred. Especially when I was working in industry. Staff spoke to the student scientists and the managers the same, there was no real difference in the way that you are treated. This made it much easier to connect with people who were at a different level to you. It also means that there is less chance of you not speaking ‘respectfully’ enough so you can’t really piss off your seniors, unless you speak in an obviously rude way.

In HK, the line between you and other levels of staff is very obvious. People who are more senior in rank than you are referred to as (senior) si-hing (male) / si-je(female) (師兄/師姐). Even in a school setting, people in the year above will also be called senior, similar to how in Korea, seniors are referred to as sunbae(-nim) or senpai in Japan. The lecturers and professors are also referred to as Dr. or Prof. rather than just their name as they would be called in the UK.

It has been very strange to get used to this in HK as I have been so used to treating everyone the same but now that I am in HK, I have to be extra careful to call everyone by the right names or else risk pissing off my seniors. I have already been warned a few times by my seniors that there are people I need to be extra careful with in regards to showing my respect or else I will get an ear bashing. To say I am scared/worried would be an understatement, but so far, I don’t seem to have pissed anyone off (fingers-crossed!)

It isn’t such a big deal between seniors who are only a year or so ahead of you, but if the gap is any larger then there is an expectation that you will be more respectful and you will need to treat them differently. I must say though that I have met seniors who are very friendly and are always happy to help and don’t differentiate between junior and senior so much, but it is always good to be aware of who is the senior figure.

Hopefully I won’t piss any seniors any time soon, but I will make sure to be on my best behavior at all times!


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