Featuring Resonate's MD Jun Kit Man - "I'm not from China, I'm from Bromley"
A new documentary sheds light on life as a British Chinese child working in a takeaway.
BBC Stories, the BBC has released a documentary about what it was like to grow up in a British Chinese takeaway.
Featuring Resonate’s MD Jun Kit Man, Ying, Cafie, Jhen, Kaz and Elaine, the documentary shows six British Chinese sharing their memories of working in the takeaway, combatting racism and helping their immigrant parents.
Reflecting on some of the most daunting parts of working in the takeaway, Ying and Jhen recall peeling food. “When I was seven years old I was peeling prawns.” Ying says. “It’s a never ending task but it’s a fulfilling task. You do it for the love of the family.”
“The least favourite part was peeling potatoes,” Jhen says. “Me and my brother, we both did that after school. And it was in a very run-down, very basic brick outhouse, without any sort of heating or insulation, we’d have to wear think coats whilst handling knives in the cold and it was damp and we could be in there for a few hours before we’d finish.”
Nonetheless, there were some memories that brought a smile to the interviewees faces. “Sometimes I would really hope that we would get an order wrong,” Cafie says. “Just so that means there’d just be food left over that I could eat.”
“When I was a kid, you’d have little Christmas buffets,” Kaz recalls. “And every kid would bring something in – I was always the kid with the prawn crackers!”
Balancing a social life with working at the takeaway was tough for some too. “Growing up I wanted to go out, you know, go out to my friend’s house,” Jun Kit Man says. ” But I couldn’t cos I had a job, you know, on Thursday night. And I resented it, I resented the fact that I had to work on a Friday night. Like, if I was going to meet some friends at a house party, I’d smell like fish and chips!”
Two of the women recall being asked out by customers. “I have actually been asked out over the counter a couple of times,” Kaz said. “And that’s been a bit awkward. Because you can’t just leave after saying no, because you’re still serving them.”
“Thinking back to it, it’s kind of creepy, cos I was really young,” Cafie recalls. “I was probably, like, 16/17 and there would be this guy that came in, um, he asked me to marry him. But, like, I was like, “I can’t, “I’m 16.”
In terms of racist encounters, Cafie recalls trying to record an order when the customer asked her if she could get someone who speaks English. “In the takeaway where I’m standing is at the front and then the kitchen is behind me. So when I take the phone orders it’s quite loud. So I was on this phone call for probably about ten minutes, trying to get the order down. She was obviously getting really agitated. And she was like, “Um, can you please just get someone who can “speak English on the phone, please?””
Jun Kit Man recalled more passive racist comments being passed his way. Customers who come into the restaurant or the fish and chip shop and he’d tell me, “oh, my son, he’s going to China to study Chinese.” And being a 15-year-old-boy, I had no idea what to say about that, except for, “Mm, that’s good.” I’m not from China, I’m from Bromley.”
He went on to say that whilst British Chinese kids know why “oh, do you order dog?” is racist, their parents tend to think of it as “just kids being kids”.
“In the world, our parents are meant to protect us, but in some ways we protect them, by not telling them why what they did was wrong.”
Check out the full film on Youtube.