The Immigrant Experience

As I was celebrating Thanksgiving with colleagues last week, I began to realize as I explained my immigrant experience that though I was standing among friends who were also Chinese on the exterior, their experience as Chinese people was different from mine as a first generation Chinese American.

It may sound a bit naive at first –  but it was the realization that when in America and among other Chinese-looking friends, we generally all shared similar immigrant/first generation experiences that I could count on to bring us together.  But in HK, I can be among other Chinese-looking people, but our experiences as “overseas Chinese? (I’m using that to include Chinese Hong Kongers) will not have that commonality.

Many Chinese HKers have been in Hong Kong for enough generations that there is virtually no collective memory of the Mainland in their familires.  Also, these Chinese have been in HK enough generations to forget the inevitable hardship that immigration brings.

So while I was reminiscing about family Thanksgivings and certain behaviors of my Chinese family that almost all my Chinese American or even Asian American friends back home would be able to relate with, it was only the singular Chinese Australian and Filipino American colleagues who understood what I was referencing (think Russell Peters sort of humor).

For the first time, for some dumb reason, I realized how important that immigrant/first generation experience was for me in identifying with other Asians in America, but that that point of mutual bonding would be lacking among my friends and colleagues in Hong Kong.


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