A Chinese student’s thoughts on spending Chinese New Year in the UK

By Stephanie Luo

As we enter the 6th day of Chinese New Year, the streets in my hometown are still covered with excitement, laughter, and smiling faces.

My mother told me there are still lots of booths and performances out there in the town. However, I’m not home. I’m here in England, alone.

Again, with typical sleepless night, I am scrolling down through Facebook and WeChat- looking at the respective newsfeeds. I knew it is perfectly normal to see all these pictures of food and family in this particular time of the year. It’s the Chinese New Year period. Everyone is having family reunions, family parties, family…. just all about family. But whenever I see some close friends of mine gathered around for a meal, or that my parents have sent me pictures of them having a nice day together, my heart breaks a little. I don’t like this feeling.

WeChat- That’s the only communicative tool my family and I seem to have adopted. We don’t talk much on the phone. It’s so much more easier to call overseas compared to 10 years ago when my brother was still studying in England, and – thanks to the technological advance – we have all sorts of apps that do free internet calls. We share our lives via messages. But we just don’t speak a lot on the phone, somehow. Some words cannot be spoken easily, or express easily through verbal languages I guess. I miss them. I miss everything from home. But I would never tell them. It’s too embarrassing, must be a Chinese thing.

The one thing that I miss the most in Chinese New Year is the food my mum cooks when I am in China. She always makes a big feast for my brother and me to indulge in. The smell of meats, the taste of wine, the sight of familiar faces, and the stories that we all shared on the table… not to forget those red envelopes! They are the best!

It’s slightly different this year. I am the one who is going to make myself a Chinese New Year feast tomorrow. I have already invited a few friends (also from China) to celebrate this wonderful festival with me. Shall I tell you a little secret? I have asked mummy to send me a few excellent recipes which she used to follow so I can present myself as a lovely chef on the day. Am I excited? A little, I guess. I’m more nervous than excited at the moment. (Maybe that’s the reason why I get insomnia!)

Fortunately, I live in Birmingham, with a Chinatown nearby. They have hung red lanterns all over the place now. It’s inevitable for me to put a smile on my face whenever I go pass this path full of redness and lights. I find warmth and love in this place. At least, from those lanterns, I know that I am not alone. At least, I don’t need to enjoy the liveliness brought by the New Year through phone calls. I can feel it here, right here in Chinatown with friends.

To study abroad is the path we have chosen. We are here to teach ourselves how to be independent. Yes, we would sometimes feel isolated from the world, feel empty inside, or even cry for loneliness. But remember, we are all here together – experiencing and going through the same journey. Get out there and meet some new friends – meet me.

Make sure you will be proud of yourself when you look back to this moment from the future.

And I need to make sure I won’t embarrass myself with the meal I make for my friends.

I shall now look at the recipes again.

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