Monday, January 16, 2012

Immigrant's view: Hong Kong

Bevan Chuang, 26, PA, Auckland. From Hong Kong, 11 years here.

"Like a lot of Hong Kong Chinese, we were desperately trying to get out of the country before the handover [from British to Chinese rule]. I went to Selwyn College in Auckland. I'm more proud of being Chinese now than when I was in Hong Kong. In New Zealand, suddenly you become a minority, and you're trying to find your identity.

"In Asian countries you're expected to achieve really well. Getting good grades is extremely important whereas here I had the freedom to be myself. "Because we don't have relatives here, we don't have to do the usual Sunday family things - go to yum cha, go shopping. I can take my dogs for a walk. That's something we couldn't have in Hong Kong - it's all apartments, all concrete.

"New Zealanders probably have an assumption that Asian women are relatively submissive, but Hong Kong women are famous for being too bolshie. Women have a bigger say in Hong Kong, they're able to work in high-level jobs whereas here not many women are managers or CEOs.

"A growing number of New Zealand men want to go out with Asian women. There's an exotic feeling to it and it's more acceptable for a white male to go out with a Chinese girl than vice-versa. A lot of Chinese women are quite westernised, and probably think white men think more similarly to them than Chinese men.

"My ex is a Pakeha from a small town in Hawke's Bay. He is very Kiwi. Although he got along quite well with my mother, and even my grandmother, there was still a cultural clash in the way we think.

"I'm a workaholic, he's more laid back. He wanted to go fishing on holidays, I wanted to do something more exciting, maybe go to work. I'm expected to live with my family until I get married, and to look after my elders. Here, kids are expected to have an independent life. I've had lots of arguments with my ex when I couldn't go out with him because I had to look after my grandmother.

"Asian culture is similar to Maori culture in understanding you are part of a collective world. More Asian people need to engage with Maori. When they see the similarities it's probably easier to settle here.

"People see Hong Kong as part of China, and we really want to distinguish ourselves from Mainland China. "Sometimes I don't respond when people ask where I come from? It pisses me off because it immediately puts you into a stereotype.

"And people think if you're Chinese you came from a poor village. I come from a fairly well-off background, I grew up with luxuries around me. "European countries love our products - look at how they steal Maori words and use them in commercials. We should make the most of what is uniquely New Zealand. "I like this place because it is so different. New Zealand is a place where I can stand out and grow. We can still try new things - technology, the creative arts, the way we deal with people."
By Nicola Shepheard By Nicola Shepheard
5:00 AM Sunday May 18, 2008

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