Twenty-one years ago, my seventy-six year old grandmother, Helen made a big move from China to Australia, without knowing a word of english. In order to be closer to her son, she migrated here and adopted the Australian way of life. After 21 years, she identifies Sydney as her home, not Guangzhou. It makes sense how she feels this way. She’s more familiar with Australian laws, culture and society than contemporary China. Along with this, she rarely visits her home country, fearing that her health would fail her during her trip. So as of right now, “Australia is my [grandmother’s] home now.”
By being a social butterfly, she is constantly occupied with keeping up with friends and acquaintances so much so that she has a “scheduled Mahjong session every Friday morning.” She participates in social activities with the elderly such as playing ping pong or even just reading the newspaper together. At lease once a week, she would visit her family and take care of her grandchildren. To her, it’s important to keep up to date with her family here and make sure everything is in order, whether it’s to translate her mail, smartphone complications or even just to stop by to stock up the fridge. On social media, grandmother would reach out to her long list of siblings and relatives, keeping up to date with everyone’s recent activities.
But when she first migrated from China to Australia, “it was so difficult to understand everything.” She did not know an ounce of English and struggled with the difference in cultures. She came to Australia for her only son. And although her English right now is a very limited, she is able to build a home here and thrive amongst the Chinese community she has found.
With the conversation I had with Helen, I found quite a few similarities between her stay here and those I observed at Chatswood. Within the Westfield, there is a special food court, ‘Hawker Lane’ that promotes asian cuisine that’s designed to resemble the hawker stalls in Singapore. Here, I noticed the elderly Chinese community spending time with their family and friends through authentic food that would remind them of home. Many order food that they’re familiar with, conversing with their family about the similarities between their home town and the environment of ‘Hawker Lane’.
It’s quite the same with Helen. We discuss the differences between Australia and China. When she arrived here she was “unable to explain anything to anyone” due to the language barrier. I cannot fathom how daunting it must be to move to a different country with a different culture and a different language. But here’s my grandmother twenty-one years later, “planning daytrips, going on WeChat and taking dancing lessons” in a country she calls home.