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Get a Chinese: stories of the Chinese community inside and outside the Chinese takeaway

  • GB 249 SOHC 36
  • Collection
  • 2017

‘Get A Chinese: stories of the Chinese community inside and outside the Chinese takeaway’ was an eighteen month oral history project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and carried out by the Chinese Community Development Partnership. The aim of the project was to record the experiences of the older generation of Chinese people who migrated to the UK after 1950 and how they survived in an environment completely new and strange to them.

Fifteen elderly people from Chinese communities in the central belt of Scotland were interviewed by volunteer researchers in 2017. Almost all of the interviewees were born in Hong Kong and migrated to the United Kingdom after 1950. At that time, life was not easy in Hong King even in the city. In the rural areas where facilities were very limited, it was even worse. In these remote areas, young people lacked education and job opportunities. Unable to earn a living, many villagers tried to build a new life in the United Kingdom. After working hard for several years and saving up enough money, many set up Chinese restaurants and takeaway food shops. Working long hours in these eateries, many found it difficult to find enough time to learn English. Although managing to pick up some basic English in their daily life, language remained a big barrier and restricted their ability to integrate into wider society. By interviewing members of this ‘hidden community’ as the older Chinese community in Scotland has sometimes been described, the project hoped to help the public better understand their courage and determination and to change attitudes that had arisen towards the community due to a lack of understanding.

The interviews focus on the interviewees’ lives before they emigrated, their early experiences of living in Scotland, their current lives and the changes in Scottish society witnessed by them.

The culmination of the project was the publication of a book in both Cantonese and English recounting the interviewees' stories.

The collection comprises:

  • 15 recorded interviews (in Cantonese)
  • Time-coded summaries (in English)
  • Publication: Mitford, T. (ed.) (2019) Get a Chinese: stories of the Chinese community inside and outside the Chinese takeaway. Chinese Community Development Partnership.

Chinese Community Development Partnership