Sunday, October 28, 2012

One family, two cultures

They eat new potatoes as much as noodles and in many other ways the Leong family fit the ever-changing profile of a modern New Zealand Asian family. Figures issued by Statistics New Zealand yesterday projected that the 400,000-strong Asian population would increase by 3.4 per cent a year to 790,000 by 2026. The proportion of Kiwis identifying with Asian ethnicity by that time would rise from 10 per cent to 16 per cent. Among them will be the Leongs; they classify themselves as Chinese New Zealanders and incorporate aspects of both cultures into everyday life. It is a practice that has become entrenched over three generations of the Seatoun family, with Jack Leong, 84, raising his son David as a typical Kiwi respectful of his Chinese heritage. In turn, David is raising his two daughters and son, also called Jack, 17 months, in the same way. David's wife, Angela, said the assimilation of both cultures into family life was something that had "just happened". "We didn't make a conscious decision but we were raised as Kiwis and we wanted our kids raised the same way but to still understand the traditions and customs of Chinese culture." These come to the fore particularly around how the Chinese handle the delicate issue of death. "At funerals, mourners are traditionally given handkerchiefs to wipe away the tears, lollies to lessen the bitterness and money for good luck." Her two older children, Stacey, 8, and Cate 5, have been made aware of their heritage and are encouraged to hold on to that side of it. One aspect which may already be lost is the language; Angela spoke it as a preschooler but soon lost fluency and she laments that it probably will not be picked up easily by her children. "With my parents both living in the South Island, I find the language is getting further away too." She is, however, determined that other parts of the culture will be retained. "We try and follow some traditions because we think it's important." - © Fairfax NZ News Last updated 01:42 03/04/2008 CRAIG SIMCOX/Dominion Post FAMILY: They eat new potatoes as much as noodles and in many other ways the Leong family - including Jack and his namesake grandson - fit the ever-changing profile of a modern NZ Asian family.

No comments: