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Return Migration and IdentityA Global Phenomenon, A Hong Kong Case$

Nan M. Sussman

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9789888028832

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888028832.001.0001

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(p.ix) Preface and acknowledgments

(p.ix) Preface and acknowledgments

Return Migration and Identity
Hong Kong University Press

The global trend for immigrants to return home has a special relevance to the people of Hong Kong. While the research that forms the core of this book was undertaken within the academic and theoretical framework of cross-cultural psychology, the book has been written to be accessible both to scholars of cultural transitions and to the immigrants and their families who uprooted their lives by leaving their home countries and, subsequently, by returning to them. I hope that my findings help explain the psychological and social experiences of these remigrants.

While I alone am responsible for the final product, such a research study required the assistance of many. First, my profound gratitude to the people I interviewed for this study. No scientific psychological investigation can be carried out without the participation of volunteers. In this case, we were strangers until we met to discuss their experiences of migration and remigration. The interviewees openly shared with me their anxieties, anticipations, joys, learning, and flexible world perspectives. They gave me insights into the cultural transition process as they discussed their relationships with their spouses, parents, children, friends, and coworkers. Although many volunteers were initially reluctant to give even one hour of their precious time to an unknown researcher, albeit one with an intriguing topic, once the interviews began, the respondents often spoke for two or three hours. For many participants, our discussions seemed cathartic, and I hope that they did fnd our conversations helpful in understanding the process they had undergone.

The remigrants introduced me to the cultural aspects of the Hong Kong world of work. I anticipated conducting interviews over lunch but quickly discovered that most local restaurants were too noisy with the buzz of diners and the frantic movements of waiters. When I suggested to one (p.x) interviewee that we instead meet during the workday, he replied, “No, I am too busy during the day.” “Perhaps we can meet after work?” I suggested. There was silence on the telephone. “You want to meet at 10 p.m.?” he responded, incredulous. I was the one who was amazed. “Saturday?” “No, I work on Saturday, too.” “Sunday?” “That’s for the family.” Yet despite their dedication to their work and their families, most of the remigrants I contacted were eventually able to clear some time in their busy schedules for our meetings.

Second, many thanks to the colleagues who assisted me in the initial stages of this research project: Kay Deaux, Philip Kasinitz, Jennifer Holdaway, Bill Dickery, Gerard Postiglione, K. B. Chan, Ronald Skeldon, Lesley Lewis, Henry Steiner, Jan Selmer, Jane DeBevoise, and Michael DeGolyer. I am also appreciative of those individuals who helped pilot the interview schedule and psychological scales.

I am grateful to Kwok Leung, chair of the Department of Management, City University of Hong Kong, and to Wong Sui-lun, director of the Centre of Asian Studies, the University of Hong Kong. They graciously provided me with office space and equipment, included me in faculty events and colloquia, and shared with me their ideas. My adjustment was also aided by my new friends at City University, especially my office mate Anna Tsui and the other faculty and staff in the Department of Management. Thanks as well to David Zweig of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology for his wise counsel and our good discussions. Big hugs and thanks to my two research assistants from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), Lorraine Pun and Yat Yee Lee. They were cheerful, conscientious, and exceedingly well trained by their professor, and my friend, Michael H. Bond of the Department of Psychology, CUHK. Additional thanks to my CUNY student assistants Dianne Tyson, Nhan Truong, Deanna Quinlan, and Rachel Pascall-Gonzalez for their help in various phases of this study.

This research project was funded by the W. J. Fulbright Scholars Program, US Department of State. The funding and support provided by this program enabled me to move forward with my research project in multiple ways. Had it not included funding for my family (including tuition for my children’s schooling), I could not have accepted the grant. I strongly urge the US Congress to continue “family funding” so that researchers who are parents can include their children in their research travel. As an aside, my children have continued their study of Mandarin, and both are now fluent and are pursuing university degrees in Asian studies. My thanks also (p.xi) to the staff of the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES), to the Hong Kong Fulbright office, and to Glenn Shive of the Hong Kong-American Center for providing necessary support for my research. Their superb organizations made my predeparture, settling in, and investigative work go as smoothly as possible.

Thanks also to the various groups that aided me in the recruitment of interviewees: the American-Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce, the University of British Columbia Alumni Association, the Australian and Canadian Chambers of Commerce, the Island School, and members of the United Jewish Congregation and of the Union Church. Also, my thanks to Marti and Alan Law and Sue and Alistaire Heyman for their research and personal support.

The College of Staten Island, CUNY, also supported my research by granting me a Fellowship Leave and, subsequently, a Presidential Research Award.

A special note of appreciation to Colin Day, the former publisher of Hong Kong University Press. When I presented some preliminary research fndings at the Centre of Asian Studies, he was in the audience. His enthusiasm for the topic and recognition of interest among both scholars and the Hong Kong public spurred me to develop my research project into its present book form. He has been a patient source of encouragement and constructive critical suggestions. I wish him well in his retirement and his repatriation.

Profound thanks to Richard Krupinski, longtime friend and writer extraordinaire. His comments and suggestions improved the manuscript and clarifed my ideas. Thanks also to Janice Ewenstein and Susan Greenberg for copyediting assistance. Two anonymous reviewers provided invaluable suggestions that improved the flow and clarity of the manuscript. I am also grateful to my kindred spirit, the late Ira Caplan. For more than 20 years, our discussions of repatriation challenged and enriched my thinking. He regaled me with hilarious, irreverent, and insightful stories of his cultural transitions and kept my focus on the human consequences of moving across borders.

Finally, much gratitude and love to my husband, Jerald Rosenbloom, who is delighted at the prospect of reclaiming our dining room table from under the mound of migration books and remigration articles. When I first broached the subject of my applying for a Fulbright grant so that I could embark on this research in Hong Kong, he was immediately supportive. (p.xii) He endured monthly flights from New York to Hong Kong to visit me and our children and cold meals at home while we were away. Luke and Peter also enthusiastically greeted the prospect of living and studying in Hong Kong. Once we arrived, they adjusted quickly and made this cross-cultural psychologist proud.


January 2010