There are many features in this book that offer a distinctive contribution to our knowledge and understanding of Chinese in Australia from the 1980s, a time coinciding with the opening up of China to increased business and personal travel experiences. Historically there have been different waves of Chinese, from the early period of indentured labour and gold-seekers, to the contemporary period where there is a more varied mix of commerce, small businesses, investment, educational, and travel.
This book focuses on the period from 1980. There are many pivotal and distinctive features in this study, which focuses on the personal stories of selected Chinese people, predominantly in Western Australia.
The interviews of men and women reveal poignant details of their personal feelings and experiences. They have varied backgrounds, some entered on 457 visas, most have, or sought education, professional employment or business opportunities.
Importantly, many reveal a glimpse into their personal life in China, or other countries, prior to arriving in Australia. These details provide the backdrop to exposed mixed feelings of cultural loss in Australia. We learn about the difficulties of language, of unfamiliarity of employment and the workplace, not only on their arrival, but as a continuing theme.
Cultural differences and the difficulty of adaptation are revealed sensitively. There is courage in the openness to talk with feeling, and often humour, of Australian habits, and although they appreciate the orderliness and opportunities in Australia, most expressed a preference to continue Chinese eating, family and cultural habits. Central to this sensitive discussion is the discussion of ‘home’ of loyalty; of sense of place; of country. The strength of this book is the honesty and sensitive approach to these difficult questions of identity, culture, family and ‘home’.
Dr Jan Ryan
Edith Cowan University
I came to this new and unknown land. During the past decades, my world has been enriched, my English has improved, my hard work turned into money in my pocket. My initial uneasiness gradually gave way to a kind of heartfelt appreciation of this place. That I quit my job in China and came here, starting from scratch was really a very difficult process, a mixture of joy and sadness, excitement and difficulties.
I was born in 1963. My hometown is Gantao, a town administered by Fuqing city, a county-level city of Fujian province. I did not live in the city. I was a rural child from a rural household. The countryside I am talking about is the place where people relied wholly on their land to support them. Some say:”those living on a mountain live off the mountain, those living near the sea live off the sea.” Unfortunately, we were not near the mountain nor the sea, so we have nothing to rely on but a few acres of poor land. Common crops in my hometown were sweet potato, rice, peanuts and vegetables that were all we could grow on our land. I have five very clever brothers. My eldest brother, second brother and third brother attended elementary school, but only my eldest brother graduated, my second and third brothers did not even finish elementary school due to my father’s death. My fourth and fifth brother did not receive any education at all. However, my brothers supported me in college, which made me the only college-educated member of our family. I passed the entrance examination in 1984 and was enrolled at the Fujian College of Business. In my hometown, only one out of a hundred applicants was admitted. I graduated from college in 1987; we were the first class from the Business College who majored in management of commercial enterprises. At our school, we were a group of ambitious youngsters who came from all over the country.
I was assigned to a government organization after graduation, the General Office of Fujian Province. My position was highly related to economy. I was a young man walking out from a rural area and was very clear about my own position. I couldn’t make any mistakes in the financial situation of my life, even if I was tempted to do so. At that time a lot of people from Fuqing went abroad. They were earning 400 Australian dollars a week – more than 2,000RMB. The exchange rate of the Australian dollar compared to the RMB was 6.5 yuan, so people in Australia could earn more than 2,000 RMB a week.
At that time my salary was only 125 yuan a month, that is, 500 yuan a year. The money they earned in one week was equal to two years’ salary. Because of this, my wife and I planned to go abroad. First, we could learn some English; second, we could enrich our experience; and third, we could make a fortune there and come back to China for a better job.
At that time, many people chose Japan over Australia, because it was easier to make more money in Japan than in Australia; however later we found that Australia was much better. You had to work very hard in Japan. Some people even had two or three part-time jobs a day. My original plan was that I would work in Japan after graduation, so I could help my mother to live a better life and to pay back my brothers for their years of support. But my decision met with strong disagreement from my family. They were worried that I might lose my job in China, which in their opinion way too high a price to pay.
Later, when I was walking past my junior high school on my way to my mother’s house I accidentally came across my former schoolmate who was a teacher at a local school. I told him about my dilemma. He was totally against my decision to go to Japan. I said;”Why?” He said that we fought for so long just to get this hard-won iron rice bowl, how could you give it away. Japan was for the rebels, the illiterate, people who are not able to finish their education, people with no future promise. Their families had no choice but to send them to Japan. We should not “dance with the wolves”, and you should not hang out with these people. I thought his words made sense, so I gave up my plan to go to Japan. Read more
到了89年，我就申请了，家里也是觉得挺困惑，觉得拿不住。我兄弟一直不肯，还是我母亲，她说，整个人生是他的。我母亲虽然没文化，但是人很开通。她说我相信儿子有志气，他不会出问题，他会有成就。最后我答应她，我说我去两年就回来，最多三年。这样，家里面才同意，我就来了澳大利亚。 Read more
“As time passed by, I gradually got to know Australia. It was different from what I saw at first glance from the plane–a land covered by the forests. I slowly started to see the friendliness and openness of Australian people.”
Actually, my memory is not so good, but there is one day I will never forget. That day was August 22, 1988, when Perth, Western Australia came into my sight. As the plane was landing, I could see no houses, only forests. Hence, the first thing that had occurred to me after I came to Australia was that I would have to cut down trees for a living Otherwise, what could I do in this place? Where could I find a job? This place was so underdeveloped, even worse than China. Could I earn money here? I doubted my brother’s recommendation to come to Australia.
In my hometown, my brother was a very successful entrepreneur with a wide range of social contacts and aware of all the latest information. Originally, I didn’t plan to come to Australia. My brother helped to arrange me to go to Japan. Lots of Japanese classes and English classes were set up for those going abroad. The reason why so many people wanted to go to Japan was that they said it’s easy to earn money in Japan, and the social type and skin color are similar. I studied Japanese in the evening. Afterwards, my brother heard Australia was a better place to go if you wanted to establish a new life. His friend’s sister happened to be married to the principal of a language school in Perth, Western Australia, so I registered with this school. I could not speak any English when I first came to Australia, let alone knew much about the country.
When I was at middle school, I only knew that Australia was a developed capitalist country with agriculture as the main industry. “Australia rides on sheep;s back”, I heard that milk was from a tap and someone also said that the tap water was drinkable. Thinking of this today, they had their reasons for saying this. In fact, the milk here is very cheap; a large can of milk only costs two Australian Dollars. You can’t say they were fooling us, or exaggerating.
After coming to Australia, I had to spend a lot of money renting a house. In China I lived in my own house. I found the price of daily necessities here were far higher than in China, however the wages were very high, so I wanted to find a job. Soon after we arrived, we had nothing to do. We just wandered about with friends who had come to Australia before us. On Sunday, we went to a weekend market in Fremantle, which we Chinese call a “flea market”. It was fun to stroll around the market. There was lots of staff for sale and you could buy some very good second-hand goods for fifty cents or one Australian dollar. I met a couple also strolling around the market. The husband was Australian and his wife Chinese. Because there were not so many Chinese there, I felt happy to meet them. We greeted each other and kept each other’s phone numner. Later on, I found out that her husband was Australian and had studied traditional Chinese medicine in China. After coming back, he opened a clinic of traditional Chinese medicine on London Street located in the center of Perth. He specialized in acupuncture and tuina and treating sport injuries for his clients. They were very friendly, so we sometimes went to chat with them at their clinic. Due to the language barrier and unfamiliarity with this new place, it was hard for us to find a job, so I hoped that my local friend could help us. At last, thanks to his introduction, I found my first job. Read more
珀斯是不能再呆下去了。我的一个朋友给我了车票钱，我坐了三天两夜的大巴来到了墨尔本。到了墨尔本已经是89年，中国留学生已经挺多的了，他们来了以后基本上都能找到工作。找到工作以后他们通常还会跟老板讲一下还要不要人，我们有朋友。中国人在这边打工是很受欢迎的，因为没有身份，所以很听话。澳洲当地人他们不高兴就不做，反正他们有福利的，而我们不论好坏都要做，而且人勤快，效率高，所以比较受当地老板的欢迎。在墨尔本之后，朋友就介绍我去工厂。第一份工作是在工厂给汽车做塑料配件，注塑,Toyota汽车商的各种配件都是从那边做的。那个工作大概做了两年，我又做过几年的印布厂监工和铸造工。 Read more