Meeting Shantounese in Oxford

    There is a mid-age Chinese lady working in my restaurant. I saw her on my first day at work but didn’t talk to her until last week. After a little greeting, she asked me where am I from in China, I said Shantou, then she went on and asked the name of the road near my house. I was a bit surprised but then she told me her husband is also from Shantou and she go there almost every year. Her family is living in Oxford now and her husband is working at the Chinese medicine shop in city center. I was so excited when I heard that, because it’s very rare to meet people from my hometown abroad. I know a few friends from Shantou and studying in UK now, but I have never meet Shantounese randomly like this.

    So after work, I went to her husband’s shop right away. While I was living in Oxford three years ago, I walked past that shop many times but I had never thought the doctor inside is just from my hometown, how weird is that! I remember I even spoke to him once when I tried to ask for a part-time job, but that was in Mandarin so I couldn’t tell he is Shantounese.

    Anyway, he was very friendly. His wife already introduced me to him before and went, so he talked to me in Shantou dialect straight away. It’s so strange to speak Shantou dialect outside Shantou. For those who don’t know about Shantou dialect, it’s a language that completely different to Mandarin or Cantonese. It’s kind of similar to Fukien, but still a lot differences. In short, it’s one of the Chinese dialects but only people from Shantou area could understand. I only speak to my parents in our weekly phone call or when I went home, other than I haven’t got a chance to use it at all. That’s why I felt so strange. And he, I should call him Dr. He (not English “he”, it’s Chinese family name “He”), was like me. Since he has been living in England for many years, it’s harder for him to speak Shantou dialect. However, we still tried to speak even though it would be way easier if just speak Mandarin.

    Both of us were very happy to meet each other on that day, and a few days ago he introduced another Shantou student Ke to me. Ke is currently doing a MA in Oxford Brookes University and also the vice-president of Chinese student community in Oxford. He is an excel and smart guy.

    It seems like a cultural sense that people from Shantou (or say Chaoshan area) are very united when they are abroad. There are a lot of stories about Shantou people united together and achieve great success in their overseas lives. Live examples would be those successful businessmen in South East Asia countries like Singapore or Thailand, most of the richest people there are originally from Shantou area. And Li Ka Shing, wealthiest person in Hong Kong and East Asia, is Shantounese too.

    I am pound of being a shantounese, and wish I could be one of those successful ones in future.