key takeaways & lessons learned in Hong Kong & Taiwan

I’ve walked you through all of the business, cultural and social outings we engaged in during our trip to Hong Kong & Taiwan, but I didn’t really talk about lessons learned. Let’s rehash a few key takeaways:

As I’ve never been to Asia before the Chazen study tour, I was surprised to find how modernized Hong Kong and Taiwan actually were. I was less surprised by the former, as Hong Kong has been considered a developed region for some time. And by the end of our visit in Hong Kong, I came to the conclusion that Hong Kong was the “NYC of Asia”… at least in my view! But Taiwan was unexpected – while there was a lot of farmland and undeveloped property across the country, the actual city of Taipei was quite similar to a mid-sized city in the States. There wasn’t quite the hustle and bustle of a New York City scene, but there were plenty of cultural sites to see and the nightlife was certainly not lacking. Bars and clubs lined many streets, and the night market was something special. With that said, there were certainly cultural differences apparent in both Hong Kong and Taiwan that are worth highlighting.

When walking the streets of Hong Kong, I was overwhelmed by the number of hardware and home improvement stores. It was an observation that was made by several other students on the study tour as well. As I think back and reflect on this, it seems logical. While new construction is certainly not that prevalent in NYC, the residential areas and infrastructure in general are much older and more dilapidated in Hong Kong. It only makes sense that residents in the city would want to make improvements to their homes.

There were also several commonalities between Hong Kong and Taiwan that are starkly different from what we’re all accustomed to in the States. First, in almost every restaurant we had lunch or dinner, it was difficult to come across a pitcher of water (or even a glass of water for that matter). While we’re used to being served water with every meal – often without even asking – the tradition in Hong Kong and Taiwan (and I’m guessing across Asia) is to serve tea instead. It seems trivial, but for someone who doesn’t drink a lot of tea, it didn’t go unnoticed! Another observation throughout the tour, but particularly when we were on the trams in Hong Kong, is the abundance of retailers and shopping malls in the area. I never really considered Asia to be such a consumer driven society, but I now think twice when comparing consumer trends in the States to countries in Asia. One last observation – I found that I often received “free” gifts when purchasing merchandise above a certain dollar threshold. This is certainly not customary in the US, and something I found to be not only amusing, but also very generous!

Regardless of the cultural (or otherwise) differences experienced between the States, Hong Kong and Taiwan, my biggest takeaway from the trip is that at the end of the day, we are all people. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each and every person that embarked on this amazing journey… it was certainly the journey of a lifetime. I have made many great friends that I otherwise may never have met at CBS, and for that I am grateful. I would like to thank the Jerome A. Chazen Institute of International Business for giving all of us at Columbia the opportunity to participate in these study tours. I would also like to once again thank our fantastic organizers – Karl, Gina & Justin – without all of your hard work, this study tour wouldn’t have even been possible. I look forward to traveling more through Chazen Institute next year and post-graduation with family and friends. It’s been real folks. Hong Kong & Taiwan 2015 Chazen Study Tour was a blast, but that’s all for now!

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