Immigrant in NY Interview

Interview: Chinese delivery man 'Charley' Liu came from China with his parents when he was ten years old. His parents currently own a Chinese restaurant that is mainly delivery-based. Liu has worked for the restaurant ever since he was old enough to stand at the counter. At first he helped clean the restaurant and worked in minor food preparatory activities; then he moved on to the status of delivery boy and occasional cook. His parents came to America for a better life. Although Charles considers himself fully assimilated to the United States, he says that because of his work for his parents, and growing up in a bilingual household, he still has strong ties to his home culture.

"Growing up in a Chinese household means growing up with a very strong family work ethic. Lots of my friends didn't think anything of skipping school or not pulling their weight at home, in terms of chores and things. But I was always needed at the restaurant. The restaurant was my afterschool activity and it was more demanding than any girlfriend, more important in my life than any group of friends. If the restaurant didn't succeed and people didn't eat, we didn't eat."

Liu added that another difference between Chinese and American culture was the Chinese view of childhood. "Younger people in the family -- I say younger, because this is also true of how I relate to my other family members, like my older brothers -- definitely have a lower place in the family hierarchy due to age. In Chinese culture, there is less of a sense of 'childhood' than in American culture. In Chinese culture, at least immigrant Chinese culture, children aren't given a free pass when it comes to learning about responsibilities. Being a child is about learning to be responsible from adults."

Liu said he didn't remember much about China, other than the anxiety that his family felt. His family came to America to seek a better life, economically, as well as more freedom. "Many of my father and mother's relatives are doing better back home than they would have ever dreamed possible, years ago. Some of them have cars, and all of them have more disposable income to buy what might be considered small luxuries, like better clothes and eating out. But my parents don't regret immigrating, because they say in a country that isn't free, all of those types of privileges can be very quickly withdrawn by the government."

The Chinese delivery business is a high-demand, low-profit industry, but the Liu family selected it because they said they wanted to own their own business and keep every penny they earned. As for many immigrant families, owning a business means the ability to work far more hours than the standard 9-5 shift. In the restaurant industry, every penny must be watched, which is why Liu has continued to work there, even while going to school. It is very common for immigrants to employ family members because family members can be trusted…