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Friday, 20th October 2017

Irish Born Chinese

My POV if Dublin should have a Chinatown

Created Saturday, 4th February 2017, 18:07 by Whykay
I attended the discussion if Dublin should have a Chinatown. I left with a feeling of disappointed and not very satisfied with the arguments for a Chinatown. And one of the reasons was every other European city has one just doesn't cut the mustard. I felt it was very much focussed on commercial aspect (which makes sense), and busload of tourists (which I was afraid of, twee alert). No-one understand that it's a central point for a community which can include supermarkets, schools, where the locals goss, cultural exchanges, restaurants, and feeling of having that connection to home away from home. Within the Chinese community, we are very different. I come from a family from the southeast China, Hong Kong to be exact. We speak Cantonese, food is Cantonese style. My family is also is from a Hakka background. It's a another language and the food is certainly different to Cantonese style cuisine. 

Painting broad strokes that we all speak Mandarin, eat spicy food and dumplings is somewhat alienating to me. I am part of a dying culture, Hong Kong Cantonese and Hakka, which is very sad. The oldest Chinese school in Ireland (in Dublin) don't have Cantonese lessons anymore, it's not the language of the future. I am delighted that we are pushing for Mandarin in schools though, it's much easier to learn, and like French and German, would be very useful in the business world.

Back to Chinatown itself, do we need it? No, I still am against it. It's ghettoising the city, and the population is too small to sustain it. There hasn't been much of a history of Chinese immigrants here in Ireland, mainly they moved here in the 70s/80s and set up shop, endured isolation from their families back home as travel was very expensive and the internet didn't really exist back then. The Chinese community tend to keep to themselves, and work hard to provide for the next generation, and I am lucky to be part of the next generation where our career options are more diverse. We are much more educated due to the amazing support of our parents. That what grinds my gears, all the people they refer to who were Chinese were business owners and that was it, still no mention of the community, the next generation. Besides the moderator (who was 2nd generation Chinese) and the professor, the other two panellist really didn't get it.

I felt patronised, and felt like a kid again with adults telling what's good for us. The folks pushing for Dublin Chinatown, they also have a petition, but who's on the committee pushing for it? How were the Chinese community contacted? I don't read the Chinese newspaper printed in Dublin as I can't read Chinese! A question was posed if the Chinese Embassy was contacted, and they said "no". I know this is a discussion that needed to be held, I appreciated, but it was non-Chinese telling us that it's good to have and serve the Chinese businesses in the area and tourists. I stood up as the first person to ask questions when they opened it up to the floor, I didn't get any replies or comments. As the discussion continued, I stood up again. I wanted to highlight to the panel not to forget the community, although I think they didn't understand when I meant by "community".

(NOTE: By the way, I don't normally like standing up and talk in public, given that I stood up twice and took the mic and expressed my point of view really was important for me. No other Chinese person asked or comment on anything. There were less than 10 Asians in the audience, I still blame the weather, or does the Asian community care?)

The whole Chinatown proposal is really out-of-date, would be amazing 20 years ago, but in the multi-cultural society we are in, why segregate the city with a mono-cultural zone. Why Chinatown when there are many other Asian communities here in Dublin, Ireland? And I did mention that Polish community is much, much bigger, why not have a Polish town? I was asking questions, and sharing things from my perspective. It's quite shallow with what they are proposing. It's not going to be home away from home. We have amazing associations catering for Chinese culture, schools, etc. I would like to see a big multi-cultural centre for various ethnic communities to hold their meetups, classes, and other services. Wouldn't that serve our community better without singling out one culture so we can serve busloads of Chinese tourists?

I tweeted (which auto-posted to Facebook) caused a flurry of discussion and questions, which should have happened at the meeting itself that evening. My friends were trying to understand my stance on this (here's one tweet thread with one of my friends), and from the conversations, I was pointed to this interesting doc, Dublin City Council's Integration Strategy 2016-2020, and other helpful suggestions.

I'm glad I attended the discussion, I didn't want to be a negative ninny, but I get to say my piece in public and no-one objected. I also met Helen, who was the moderator. Yay, another IBC. 

Let's see how far this goes, I get so annoyed every time an article comes along about Dublin Chinatown and there's no Chinese commenters or feedback on it... bar myself. So yeah, I'm the crazy, ranty IBC. Although if they did have a good argument for a Chinatown, I'm all ears, and would back it... only if the argument and suggestion is really, really good.

What do people think? Especially Chinese living in Ireland?