Archive for June, 2010

Culture fear.

June 10, 2010

Recently I was surfing around in Google trying to work out why there is such a large Chinese population in my town of Box Hill. Melbourne is well-known for being a multi-cultural city, where as you walk around you will encounter people from hundreds of different nationalities. Many suburbs are likewise known for their heavy cultural influences, with towns being known for their Greek, Italian, Vietnamese centres.

Box Hill is one of several areas which are becoming dominated by Chinese – in fact; I would go so far as to say that the Chinese are already the majority there. As you walk around the main shopping areas, you can and will feel like the minority.

It has made me curious how so many people of the same heritage end up in the same location. Is the information spread through China via family networks? Are there webpage’s setup somewhere in Chinese with help for would be immigrants, pointing them to this particular town? Or is it something more traditional, such as what Courtney was saying the other day, that Box Hill’s distance from Melbourne’s CBD is a culturally significant number. Anyone who is remotely familiar with Chinese culture will know that many numbers have very large, spiritual meaning to them. So while this last option might sound silly to you or I, to a culture like the Chinese, it’s a valid reason.

While I did not find an answer to this question, I found a link to this page. The following article is from the City of Whitehorse’s (contains Box Hill) local paper, reporting on a Facebook page which has been setup under the name, “Playing Spot the Aussie in Box Hill.” Basically this refers to there being so many Asians in Box Hill that it rarely to actually spot ‘normal’, ‘white people.’

The page had attracted 12,000 members, the creators of the page denying that it is racist, and in reality just a ‘simple game.’ Of course there were also the typical keyboard warriors, slagging off at anything and everything Asian as when people are cloaked by anonymity they suddenly become idiots as perfectly illustrated in the Penny Arcade Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory below.

 

Regardless, it seems that whenever people are faced with excessive numbers of another culture that they don’t understand, their natural instinct is to fear it. I can understand this to a degree as previous to living in China, while not particularly familiar with Box Hill, I did see it with different eyes. To me it was simply a run-down suburb, full to the brim of Asians. I had no affiliation with the culture, nor any particular desire to change that. However, once I lived in China, all of that changed.

On my return to Australia, both Courtney and I moved specifically to Box Hill to maintain that link with the Chinese culture. We had unwittingly formed a bond with the country which continues to thrive within us. To us, Box Hill is a bustling, interesting suburb, where the Chinese influence only enhances what was formerly a very drab town. The Chinese are friendly and polite as a people, yet often very reserved and shy when dealing with ‘foreigners’. It cracked me up to hear myself referred to as a ‘laowai’ or ‘foreigner’ in my own town, but at the same time, I don’t remotely feel offended.

I couldn’t feel safer when walking the streets of Box Hill, as when there are large numbers of Chinese, they are completely normal people, going about their daily tasks – not the scary ‘other culture’ that people make them out to be. At night, the town is always jumping, full of large groups of Chinese families and friends going out to dinner. In fact if you substituted all of those Chinese with Australians – you’d have a very different story. From a harmless, fun, almost festive atmosphere, you would have drunk, Bogan louts.

Box Hill is full to the brim of some of the most delicious, cheap eating anywhere. If anything, myself and all us other non-Chinese who visit our favourite haunts several times a week, it’s actually a bonus that more people don’t realise what it has to offer – not unlike Victoria street in Richmond and it’s famous Vietnamese strip.

Ultimately, Box Hill is a fantastic city, only made all the better by the Chinese culture which now inhabits it. All those who cry about ‘invasion’ from another culture, or the opening of the immigration floodgates, are living in the dark ages.

Return of the Sleeping Chinese!

June 3, 2010

If there’s one thing I have always loved about China, it’s sleeping Chinese. If there’s one thing the Chinese absolutely excel at, it’s sleeping. Anytime; anyplace; if it has a reasonably flat surface; – ok check that – any surface at all, is suitable for a midday kip. In fact, all Chinese work places don’t simply allow break time for eating, but also factors in having a nap. It is quite common for Chinese workers to have approximately two hours break per day, where they may be working longer hours than most western staff members; it factors in having a brief nap.

Shanghai Scrap has reported on this taking place at Expo, where a long boulevard of sheltered double-benches has proven a perfectly suitable sleeping environment for the weary Chinese. It always cracks me up when they not only curl up in a public place for a rest, but take their shoes off – one must air out those socks!

We came across so many Sleeping Chinese(tm) while in China. I often envy their ability to sleep; particularly while on sleeper trains. I suspect most Chinese could even sleep while being hung upside down, as the bumpy, often noisy trains didn’t faze them in the least; their deep restful snores often keeping me more awake than the train itself!

I have one particularly fond memory of our driver, waiting for us while we had our medical exams for entry visas. As we returned to the car, he was out like a light in the front seat, his two socked feet poking out of the window.

If you’re interested in seeing photos of Sleeping Chinese; and let’s face it, who isn’t, go check out Sleeping Chinese, which is an entire archive of them! Failing that, there are 36 of them at Shanghai Scrap – and that’s just from one afternoon!

Chalk up another 17 dead miners.

June 1, 2010

You’d have to be pretty hard done by to want to work in a Chinese mine. I am almost certain that most people who are lucky enough to wear that particular mantle are either 1.) Desperate, or 2.) Completely unaware of just how dangerous it actually is.

In light of yet another mine blast in Central China, this time claiming 17 lives (and likely counting), I can only shake my head in complete dismay. While conditions have supposedly improved in the past few years, China’s mining industry is still without doubt, the most deadly in the world. In the past year alone, over 2600 miners lost their lives – and they’re only the ones lucky enough to be reported! With the Chinese government keeping a firm handle on all things reported, who can say how many lives were truly lost.


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