Live like a local… or not

Study involving an assistant professor and a former scholar from IFTM looks into how temporary residents in Macau choose to enjoy their time in the city

Research Corner | A partnership between Macau Business and the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM)


The once-rigid binary opposites ‘home/away’ and ‘work/leisure’ are being blurred by the role of interregional mobility in worker lifestyles, a phenomenon emphasised by globalisation. The situation is observable in Macau, a tourism destination that is home to a large population of temporary workers.

A recent research paper involving an assistant professor and a former scholar from the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM) has looked into the topic. The work explored how “sojourners” – people who have moved from other regions or countries but without intention of long-term (i.e. permanent) relocation in their new place of residence – “blur spatial and temporal binaries” in their adaptation to their novel and temporary situation.

“The study demonstrates how once-distinct spheres of social life such as ‘home’, ‘away’, ‘work’, and ‘leisure’ are now highly integrated” among sojourners, wrote IFTM assistant professor Dr Cora Wong Un In, in the paper created in partnership with former IFTM scholar Dr Choi Suh-hee, and Dr Benjamin Lucca Iaquinto from The University of Hong Kong.

The authors noted that sojourners in Macau “keep a sense of being ‘at home’ through upholding their habitual routine”. Simultaneously, they feel ‘away from home’ by “partly adopting a local lifestyle and exploiting the sightseeing and tourism opportunities”.

The conclusions were featured in the paper “Sojourners in Macau: blurring binaries of home/away and work/leisure”. It was published last year in the Leisure Studies academic journal. The work was partly funded by IFTM.

The study’s findings were based on individual interviews with 17 Macau sojourners of different backgrounds. They came respectively from the Philippines, the United States, South Korea, Malaysia, Canada and the United Kingdom, in addition to Hong Kong and mainland China. Some had been living in Macau for under a year, while one of the respondents had been based in the city for more than a decade.

Lifestyle choices

The researchers noted in their paper that a sojourner is typically someone who has professional activities which impose constraints on the use of time. “This means that the sojourner needs to decide the timing of getting acquainted with his/her new host region’s lifestyle and culture, and of partaking in leisure or tourism activities in the region where he/she is staying.”

Most sojourners living in Macau are migrant workers, according to data from the city’s Statistics and Census Service. At the end of September last year, the city had a total population of approximately 682,800 people; of those, around 181,700 were migrant workers.

The researchers pointed out that how a sojourner decides to manage their free time is intertwined with the “crucial choice” of attitude regarding the extent to which the person wants to live in the new location in the same way as ‘at home’, or according to the local lifestyle, or in some combination thereof. “The notions of home and away become, therefore, blurred and so do the ones of work and leisure,” they wrote.

The research documented different types of lifestyle among Macau sojourners. These ranged from “selective mobilisation of the local resources into a lifestyle attuned to their new temporary circumstances”, to “almost exclusive concentration on work, and cultural indifference to the new environment and the opportunities it offers”.

The study concluded that long working hours could “highly restrict leisure, and in particular, tourism activities” among temporary workers in Macau. “The long working hours and level of exhaustion experienced physically and mentally by the sojourners may inhibit” their ability to move between work and leisure mode, said the authors. This also hinders the degree of depth and interest exhibited by sojourners in interacting with another culture.

The authors additionally highlighted that some sojourners chose to postpone leisure because of work pressure. Some of these people intended “hastily” to visit local touristic spots just before they left Macau. This implied that “speed and rhythm” of sojourner mobility between work and leisure were “likely to fluctuate” depending on what strategy temporary residents applied in order to manage their time at the new host location, the authors wrote.


– The researchers

Dr Choi Suh-hee is a former scholar of IFTM. She currently is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at Kyung Hee University, in Seoul, South Korea. Dr. Choi earned a PhD in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Purdue University, in Indiana, in the United States. Her research interests include the field of tourism mobilities, public diplomacy, migrants’ leisure, serious leisure, and tourist experience.

Dr Benjamin Lucca Iaquinto is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Hong Kong. He has a PhD in Geography from the University of Melbourne, in Victoria, Australia. His research interests cover backpacking as a tourism activity, tourism geography, sustainable tourism, and tourism mobilities.

Dr Cora Wong Un In is an assistant professor at IFTM. She holds a PhD in Tourism and Hospitality Management from the University of Waikato, in New Zealand. Dr. Wong’s research interests include pilgrimages, religious tourism, postcolonialism, cultural tourism, and heritage interpretation. She is a member of the IFTM team delivering cultural heritage specialist guide training as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Guide Training Programme in Asia.


– The paper

Suh-hee Choi, Benjamin Lucca Iaquinto and Cora Un In Wong: “Sojourners in Macau: blurring binaries of home/away and work/leisure”, Leisure Studies, Volume 39, Issue 6, pages 811-824, 2020.

https://doi.org/10.1080/02614367.2020.1775871