In Hong Kong I frequently noticed that the many outdoor markets and makeshift mechanical shops were overwhelmingly run by elderly people while the most strikingly affluent parts of the city were crawling with young people donning business suits and briefcases. I started to wonder if the old world trades such as running outdoor markets and makeshift metal shops are up for a generational turnover, who would be filling those shoes, and whether or not familial trades are still as sturdy as they once were. I spent 2 days in neighborhoods Mongkok and Tai Kok Tsui where I interviewed a number Hong Kongers including metal workers, market vendors, and a Chinese Doctor. Here is what they had to say.
“We repair engines here and work with spare parts. My father taught me to do this when I was around 20 years old.
My daughter works here. My son in law does as well, and I treat him like a son. We are a family here and I think we’re all happy to work together.
I like the challenge my work gives me. I have to keep learning.”
Coco – 22
I help my father here because he’s getting older and he’s been working since he was 17 years old so I want to make things easier for him. I think he will retire in 10 years or so, and maybe then I will continue to work with my husband and we’ll take over the business.
Timmy – 22
I’ve been working here for only about 3 months. My father in law taught me how to repair engines. I was a chef before. It’s okay here. It is my wife’s family business and I want to help out and keep an eye on her because as you can see, she is very pregnant.
My parents run a business in Mexico, and they recently migrated back to Hong Kong. I think I will be here for 10 years or so. We might take over the business but I’m not sure, we’ll see about that.
It’s kind of neat the work that we do, I like the welding part. It really takes time for you to learn every single piece of the the job, and to get each thing right. My father in law is an expert. He’s been doing this for over 35 years.
I’ve been doing this for 60-some odd years, I started when I was 13. It was a job I found as a kid and then I kept doing it. I wouldn’t say I am passionate about it but working at the market has been a good profession. I should be retired, but it’s just what I’ve always done so I’m still here. When I first started it was tough because I was just learning but now it’s easy for me. I do not think my children are not interested in doing what I do, they have other professions and they seem to like where they are.
This market has been here for 27 years. There was another market in it’s place before that and they tore it down and built a new one, but they gave the old shop owners a space in the new building. Most of my customers live around here so I see them all the time and we know each other well. I like it that way.
Chinese Doctor – Mr. Wong
I have been a Chinese Doctor for almost 40 years. I do consultations and make medicines. My grandfather and my father were Chinese doctors so I didn’t really do it because it was my passion but more so because it is a profession I respect. Usually the people I treat are people I know so it feels good to be of service to my community. Nothing too crazy happens here. I treat my patients and go about my day.
When you treat somebody and you are able to cure the symptom they came to you for, it feels gratifying. When my last patient first came to me he was coughing a lot and now the cough is gone so this is a good day. Unfortunately, sometimes people come to me with a very complicated problem that I cannot treat so I have to send them to the hospital so they can receive Western medicine.
[He insisted he comb his hair before the picture was taken.]
I do metal work for machinery. I followed in my fathers footsteps, he taught me how to do metal work. I have 3 sons and 1 daughter, and my oldest son works with me but the others have entered other professions. My eldest and I, we get along. I think because he does this with me our lives are more relatable.