In response to susanhayden’s post on Chinese people in South Africa

So, I decided to have a read around for some morning stimulation and came across “Chips*, Here Come the Chinese” by susanhayden. Have a read of her work, please!! I felt so moved by her work that I decided to respond in a blog post rather than just a comment since I have a lot (obviously) to say on the topic. 

I’m a South African born Chinese who now lives abroad. It’s funny, I feel more South African in a general sense and Susan, you’re not alone in understanding where my family comes from but you definitely are a minority in South Africa. You remind me of some of my closest friends who all were from South Africa and some have stayed and others have moved to various other countries. You get it. You should be proud of the South African that you are and that you present to the world because this is why I love South Africa so much and the people in it. 

I’ve experienced a lot of racism growing up (esp when that woh shee Japanese drinking ad came out on TV a few years back in SA), however, after high school, I moved abroad and still experienced racism wherever I went, even in Hong Kong (which seems odd but since I didn’t speak Cantonese I immediately was seen as “other”). I realised quickly that racism is everywhere. My roots are something I’m proud of (both being Chinese and being South African) but I feel more South African than I do Chinese (I’m second generation and and while my family have not stayed in South Africa for more than 150 years, I have stayed there my whole life until I moved obviously). I try learn the Chinese customs and the language but since I’ve only really ever spent a few holidays there, it’s hard to be and feel truly Chinese. On the same note, it’s so hard to be South African when every day I lived there, I returned home to a microcosm of a China filled with a South Eastern Chinese dialect, the local foods, traditional celebrations, life principles, stories and the life lessons like work hard, respect the elders, do good for the world). This cycle can go back and forth… But that’s the point. 

My world has thus become the rainbow nation that South Africa speaks of. I relate to people based on their experiences of the world and what opinions they have which are racially and ethnically independent. Of course, we are all influenced by where we come from and where we go, but we are more than that, we are all people and we are the life lessons and morals and principles which we develop as we go on through life. 

In a greater sense, I think globalisation and it’s effects are starting to become more obvious. This is evident more so outside South Africa where nations like Australia have greater than 50% of their population made up of migrants. It’s pretty hard to meet an Australian who has had a few generations of their family here. Most people I’ve come across are Australians with migrant parents. So they’re similar to me. “Halfies” as in, children born to parents each from a different ethnic background, are so common. It’s not even a novelty, while just a few years back, I only knew of 3 on South Africa. 

There are often times in my life which I feel like I don’t fit anywhere. Everywhere I go, I am asked where I’m from because I sound one way, look another but live somewhere else. I speak English, Chinese and Afrikaans. Life would definitely be much easier if I was Caucasian for this respect (and this is where the inherent unspoken racism inches it’s way into this topic). I’ve also met a Danish guy who told me he’s born and bred Danish and that he’s so proud to be from Denmark. I felt jealous when he told me that, like I couldn’t have something he’s had – a feeling I missed out on. But I also think that I’ve got something that he and no-one else will ever have, and that’s the life that I have led and choose to lead. 

I’ve since come to accept that I belong to the world and not to any particular country. Once you see the world like that, I think it’s easy to understand culture and not feel so threatened by migrants. I’ve come to see South Africa and China as merely places that I have some relation to and places that hold a special place in my heart for the time and life experience I’ve had there rather than an indefinitely special place that I will advocate for. I value the people that impact and influence my life, more so than the patriotic stuff that I used to care about.

You are so correct, that migrants have a hard life. I’m living as a migrant but really, my life was made significantly easier because my parents have done the hardship for me. It was only a few nice South Africans that have made their journey more pleasant along the way. But you are right, this sadness and deep hardship is not the sole point to a migrants story, the food you speak of, in addition to a whole host of things like the culture, the sharing, and mostly the gaining of a perspective of life is truly what makes the migrant life beautiful and what we should celebrate. Isn’t the world nicer when we’re all too busy having a party together anyway?

Thanks for the blog post, Susan. Your work is amazing. Keep it rolling in 🙂 and, nice to e-meet you!