"Doing homework under the counter in between peeling prawns"
British Chinese web series Jade Dragon launched earlier this week and has sparked people to share their Chinese takeaway experiences.
Written by actress Rebecca Boey, Jade Dragon is a 19-episode mockumentary web series that centres around life in a British Chinese takeaway.
Boey herself is an East Asian actor who has is deeply concerned about the lack of representation of East Asians on UK screens. “As an actor of East Asian heritage I am very aware of the lack of representation of people of my ethnicity on UK screens and stages. We are barely there, and when we are, we usually play foreigners with cod-Chinese accents, more often than not working in Chinese takeaways.”
Anticipation of the web series was shared on Facebook. User Vinny Lee wrote “Looks great! Looking forward to it. #excited”, whilst Antonia ‘Toni’ Tootill said, “This looks awesome!”
On a Facebook group titled “~BBC~ ” British Born Chinese!”, Joan Taylor Tran shared her excitement for the web series whilst asking fellow group members about their experiences working a takeaway. “I want to know from those who grew up or worked in a Chinese take away [sic] what to expect having lived the life of a “bbc take away child” “, Tran wrote.
Her inquiry attracted 39 response from 39 different users and a number of additional comments too. Whilst the majority of the comments were posted in a lighthearted manner, some of the experiences were still moving.
Simon Cheung was the first to comment, writing “from the age of eighteen months, I worked ten hour shifts with no breaks or holidays, and six days a week”. Perry Tang said that he “Worked from pre-teen years. Difficult to connect with children of the same age as they didn’t ‘have to’.”
“No such thing as going out on a Friday/Saturday night”, added Kenny Tat.
However, the group members also shared their positive experiences. “On the plus side, I learned to cook like a demon,” wrote Tony Wong, whilst Anna Cheung said, “On the plus side, I learnt to respect and appreciate my parents for what they did to provide for us. And learnt what a good work ethic is, unlike some lazy fuckers these days!”
Julian Niblick Fwaddar Chiu shared a more personal and experience that was surprisingly relatable despite its unique nature, “What stuck in my mind was how a customer was as good as gold for years until one night he was drunk and it came out that he always hated us and other Chinese people.” When Anna Cheung replied asking why the customer went to the takeaway for years, Chiu responded, “dunno. But in them days it was a captive audience as the nearest other ta was 3 miles away. I did see the worse side of English people when I helped in the ta as a teen.”
“I met a lot of arseholes in that game. From personal experience (and even today, in fried chicken shops) a lot of the public seem to treat food servers as very low life forms,” added Chiu. ” That was the reason why, whatever the cost I wouldn’t do ta work for a living, apart from a brief stint in 1994 as head of the family. It was fun times, particularly when someone asked for protection money, just as I had come back from a very bad day at a new business venture!”
Chiu also touched upon working in the takeaway as a child, “doing homework under the counter in between peeling prawns, potatoes and boiled chickens and taking orders.”
Kin F Kam discussed the pressures of interacting with the customers, “I felt satisfied to be able to help out my parents, but hated facing customers as i was very conscious and shy. Also, i dreaded weekends as it was ‘pressure’ time instead of relaxing time.” Chi Fu Andrew Wan had a similar experience, but saw the positive side of it. “I was like that but it was good character building. I used to work in the back but then was moved to the front. Weekends were busy but not that bad, our shop was out in the sticks so nothing like in a busy city.”
Sarah Tsang described the takeaway as a “war zone”, saying that no child should ever experience it. “None of us worked at our parent’s TA. Hated the customers, mostly rascist [sic] youths, half the time was like a war zone (I really do mean war zone), went through some tough times no child should ever go through, but parents had to earn a living, calmed down a lot now though not perfect. They have a lot more kudos than me that’s for sure.”
Nonetheless, Resonate’s Jun Kit Man saw the financial value of a takeaway childhood, “being the richest kid at school because I had a part time job aged 12.
Violence also seemed to be a shared experience. “Indeed, i still recall a serious bust up where this thug punched through a glass window in the shop and it cuts into him, possibly an artery as blood was spurting out onto the ceiling and everywhere on the floor… Served him right,” writes Kin F Kam.
Other users comments included specifics of the job and the effects the takeaway had on their everyday life.
It’s fantastic to see people sharing their experiences of working in a British Chinese takeaway and it’s even better to see how relatable these experiences are.
Watch the first five episodes of Jade Dragon on YouTube now.