Grace, whom we met shopping for groceries, immigrated from China to St. Louis as a student and now works in New Jersey. She takes us through her migration journey and reflects on Midwestern versus Asian work cultures.
Samantha: Could we start with your name and cultural background?
Grace: My name is Grace. I'm from China.
Samantha: Can you tell us about how you still connect to your culture?
Grace: That's a really tough question. I mean, I keep all the traditions when I'm home. But you guys probably know as well, food is a big part of Asian culture, and I cook Chinese cuisine at home and all that. And I celebrate Chinese holidays.
Samantha: So tell us, what was it like when you first came to America?
Grace: What was it like? I came to St. Louis, Missouri first, so it's very different from where I came from. It's much more, um, I can't even say it's suburban, it's more rural. And I couldn't drive, and it was difficult to get around. Especially outside of New York. And I feel in Asian culture, it's always fast, fast, go faster, work hard. But people in the Midwest are much more laid back. So that was my first impression of, "Oh, this is just a big open field, and people are much more chill. And they look different."
Samantha: Oh, that's actually really cool. Because even though I was born and raised in America, I think New Jersey is a very high-energy kind of place, so I couldn't imagine living in the Midwest. Do you think now that you've experienced both cultures, which American values really stand out to you?
Grace: Yeah, I feel I, you know, the Asian people, like previously mentioned, they focus more on work and accumulating wealth and building up their futures. And I think Americans are more living in the moment and just enjoy, just live a fuller life. Because I'm working right now. Rather than spending, you know, hours and hours at work, you know, take a half day off every weekend, every few weeks just enjoy yourself. That, I feel, it's what I experience right now, that's the first thing that comes to mind.
Samantha: Of course. We were both raised with Asian parents so there's such an emphasis on the long-term, you know—college, a career, starting a family. But while you're here, you just see people enjoying themselves.
Samantha: So I think you have a really good balance, then!
Grace; (laughs) Yeah. Well, maybe. I hope so.
Serena: Last question, with the recent rise of anti-Asian hate crimes and all this racism, how that made you and your family feel?
Grace: Yeah. I'm working from home, currently, so I sort of work and avoid that. When the thing first started, of course I saw it on the news. Later I kind of stopped watching it on the news because it's really heartbreaking, really hard to watch. And, um, my family in China always tell me, "Oh, be careful," you know. "If you feel something wrong, just get out." And I feel like seeing people bringing up the topic and talking about it... well, at least bringing it to light. I don't know if it will change it, but at least people are talking about it. And that's the first step for the whole thing.
And also, what's its name... oh, oh my god, I forgot.
Serena: (laughs) Take your time.
Grace: Last week, Tonight by... ah, I'm forgetting. Anyways, a late night show. They talked about Asian-Americans recently and Asian-Americans being good citizens, model minority. But there are wealth gaps among different Asians. And I think this as a topic... people need to talk about it.
Samantha: Yeah, my parents are your average immigrants, keep their heads down, never talk. But recently they attended these two rallies, you know, like they wanted to be heard.
Grace: Yeah, definitely. Just putting it on the table... it's a mainstream topic right now. So maybe it's a good thing.