Exoticism, by one definition, is “the charm of the unfamiliar”. This word can also elicit negative reactions since it projects a fear of the unknown and even sometimes connotes hints of impropriety. Using Scholar Alden Jones’ definition of exoticism in art and literature as the representation of one culture for consumption by another tempers the supposed agitation and truly reveals the beauty and mystery of another culture, specifically the arts and humanities of Asia. The dichotomy between Eastern and Western cultures is prevalent in every aspect of society and further emphasizes the difference and diversity in all approaches to life and how to best live it. Westerners have adopted many practices of Eastern culture and have greatly benefited from this exchange, as evidenced and supported by the medical fields, particularly meditation and acupuncture to name just a few.
Todd Hewitt is Head of Spas for Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts. Based in Hong Kong, Todd oversees the spas for more than 100 luxury hotels worldwide as well as developing exciting new projects. Former Vice-Chairman of the ISPA Board, he has been in the hospitality industry since the age of 14 when working for the family business in Canada. His worldwide adventures can be followed on Instagram @spatodd.
When you first moved to HK, what was your first cultural discovery, and how did you adapt?
When I first moved to HK, I was amazed with the great efficiency of systems in the city. The subway (MTR) is an example of this efficiency with over 5 million riders per day. Back home in North America, this would be pure chaos. And it is all done with remarkable politeness. So for me, it was easy to adapt to this. Follow the rules and procedures and all will be fine.
Do you approach your professional life in a more didactic or instructional way?
This is a great question and I had to give it some thought. When I don’t know someone and I need to get things done now, I tend to give instructions with timelines, ask questions along the way and then review the results. Once comfortable with how each individual works, I tend to get more participatory, giving general guidelines and letting them run with it!
Shangri-La has become synonymous with an earthly paradise so how do you ground yourself?
I ground myself through my daily exercise routine (where my coach kicks my butt and I realize what I can and cannot do…..for now) and by publicly recognizing my gratefulness to a different individual at least once per week.
Favorite Spa treatment:
Hot shave treatment by a 85 year old woman in Tokyo. Her attention to detail is remarkable. She is the first person I see when I travel there.
Fun Fact about you:
My sister and I desperately wanted to have ponies when we were growing up. We had a small farm and were told to go and ride the cows if we wanted it that bad. So we did. And it embarrassed our parents enough that we finally got our own ponies.