For generations, businesses like Grand Asia have played a major role in their communities, not just as a source of employment, but as social and informational centers for new immigrants: a cross between a bridge and a second home. Yun Liang works as a supervisor at Grand Asia and hers is one of many stories there. As part of Grand Asia’s continuing leadership in the Triangle Asian community, it has been a major sponsor the Dragon Boat Festival. Her spoken English is limited, though she understands it. Jenny Chen was kind enough to translate for us.
MF: Where are you from?
YL: Nanning City in the Guanxhi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
(Nanning is a city of almost 7 million people. The Guanxhi Zhuang Region is in south central China just north of Vietnam. Autonomous regions are similar to provinces, but have more legislative rights, reflecting the presence of significant ethnic minorities within the region. The Zhuang have a different writing system, Sawndip; religious traditions, Moism; and a two thousand year history of not being fully controlled by the primary Chinese government)
MF: What did you do there?
YL: I ran a small restaurant.
MF: What brought you to the United States?
YL: In 2005, I married an American who lived in Virginia.
MF: How did you meet?
YL: We met through a friend. He came to China one time to meet me and we decided to marry.
MF: Had you ever been to the United States before that?
MF: Does your husband speak Chinese?
YL: His Chinese is very basic. He’s Caucasian. We like watching American talk shows together.
MF: What brought you here from Virginia?
YL: There was no work for me in Virginia, so we moved here.
MF: How did you wind up working at Grand Asia?
YL: Our house was near the store and I walked down here and asked Jenny for a job. This was my first job in the United States.
JC: I often hire people that way.
MF: And you’ve been at Grand Asia for almost twelve years?
YL: Yes, I started as a cashier, but have been promoted to supervisor. Almost all of my closest friends here work in the store with me.
MF: What happened to your restaurant in Nanning?
YL: I gave the business to a very good friend there.
MF: How are markets in China different from Grand Asia?
YL: In China you’d never find a bakery or restaurant inside a grocery. The market is a market.
In China, we also don’t have cash back. When I first came to America, I went to Walmart and they asked me “Do you want cash back?” I had no idea what they were talking about. Merchants were supposed to take your money, not the other way around.
In China they trust cash only and credit cards weren’t used that often and personal checks are never accepted. For some reason though, they trust the newer technologies like Paypal and they’ve grown even faster than they have in the United States.
MF: Are there specific things you miss from Nanning?
YL: I miss some of the foods, certain kinds of noodles.
MF: Are there any American foods, you’ve come to like?
YL: Pizza, chili dogs, and I like chocolate.
JC: In Taiwan, the pizza toppings can be different. You might find things like crushed peanuts, curry, duck, and lettuce on your pizza.
MF: Speaking of food changing in different places, how do you like the Chinese food in America?
YL: In China, there’s no such thing as sesame chicken, but it’s not bad.
MF: Have you been back to China since?
YL: Yes, I go back every one to two years. The buildings are very different. It’s nicer now. While I have permanent residency in the United States, I’ve kept my Chinese citizenship. There’s less trouble with my visa, if I go back to visit.
I expect to stay in the United States though. My son came here with me when he was eleven. He’s now twenty four and works in nursing. Because he came to America in middle school, his Chinese is a bit broken, he understands it, but doesn’t have all the phrases down. His English is better than his Chinese, because that’s all that they speak where he works. Culturally, he’s much more American.