Based on my personal experience during these first months in London, I always assumed that the Chinese population was the biggest minority in the city, but in fact they are the fourth asian minority, since the first three places are occupied by Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.
Even when now I can say that I have great friends with a Chinese background, I have to recognize that sometimes it is hard to interact with them. Many of them speak a terrible English, and sometimes we cannot even hold a more than five word conversation. There is a huge language barrier, and what impresses me the most is that sometimes they are not even new in the UK, but they have been living here -and studying- for years.
Language is a clear barrier between us, but I don’t think that it is the only one. Sometimes I feel that simply they are not interested in interacting with anyone that is not from China. I don’t blame them, in fact I think I understand the Chinese community. Maybe if I were in a foreign city -say Los Angeles or Miami- where the Mexican community is big enough for me not to have to speak English, maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe if I were in a city with a Little-Mexico right inside, where I could get my proper food and drinks, and hang out with my spanish-speaking friends, I wouldn’t have the need to interact with others than the Mexican gang. The fact is that I am not in a city like that, Spanish is a language that I barely hear, and for me, speaking, and now even blogging in English was a matter of social need. For the Chinese community, speaking English is just an option, not a need.
Fortunately, this weekend I was able to enjoy a unique show in central London, that went all the way from Chinatown to Trafalgar Square. We were all celebrating the Chinese New Year, and with a parade, many musicians, dances, dragons and food, we celebrated that now we are in the Year of the Horse.
Not only did I enjoyed a great show, followed by some fireworks for the closure, but I was able to interact with the Chinese culture, to have a glimpse on their musical instruments, and great dance performances and amazing traditions. I even started reading about Chinese mythology and how this Year of the Horse will be excellent for me, a Tiger.
I remembered that just a few months ago, in the very same Trafalgar Square, I was celebrating Diwalí, the most important Indian festivity, and now and I am being part of the Chinese New Year. I am now certain that the next time that I walk near chinatown, I won’t see the streets in the same way.
Happy New Year! KUNG HEI FAT CHOY!