With a history of revolution, migration, incessant trading, the witty and streetwise Cantonese are the New Yorkers of China, and make up the majority of Hong Kong’s population. There are also large communities of Shanghainese, Hakka (Kejia) and Chiu Chow (Chaozhou) people.
A large British population remains, including a small but influential community of native-born. Influences are everywhere, from street names (“Lambeth Walk”, “Rutland Quadrant”) to school blazers.
The traditional role of this community of mixed European and Asian descent – as cultural and commercial brokers between East and West – remains undim-inished. If anyone can claim to truly embody Hong Kong’s intriguing duality, it is this young, wealthy and internationally-minded community.
In the Pearl River Delta since the arrival of traders in the 16th century, the Portuguese have inter-married extensively with the Cantonese. Aside from a clutch of surnames (da Silva, Sequeira, Remedios), a lasting influence has been the fostering of an addiction to egg tarts and pastries.
The history of Hong Kong’s substantial Indian population (there are Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs) dates from the arrival of the British in 1841. Like the Eurasians, young Indians have rejected purely Western or Asian notions of identity, pioneering instead a synthesis of both.
Hong Kong has one of the oldest Jewish communities in east Asia, producing patrician business dynasties (the Sassoons, the Kadoories) and one of the most colourful governors (Sir Matthew Nathan, 1903–1906).
Hong Kong’s White Russians were once numerous, and you still find borsch on the menu of every takeaway and coffee shop.
The surging growth in British-, American- and Canadian-born Chinese has been a characteristic of the last two decades, as the well-educated children of emigrants return in search of roots and white-collar work.
Most members of the largest ethnic minority stoically perform the low-paid occupations that Hong Kongers shun, working as domestic servants, drivers, wait-ing staff and bar room musicians, and remitting most of their income back home to the Philippines. Filipinas promenade in their thousands every Sunday at Statue Square.
Working mostly in business and the media, the size of this community is reflected in the fact that it boasts the largest Australian Chamber of Commerce outside of Australia, and one of only two Australian International Schools in the world.