As a long-time Flushing resident, I have always known the neighborhood to be a vastly diverse place. Just by walking on the central and aptly named Main Street, one can see an array of small casual food places, ranging from Chinese bakeries, Korean BBQ, all-you-can-eat sushi to American chains like McDonalds and Starbucks. Flushing is unlike any other Chinatown in New York, as the air is filled with the tones of Mandarin and small splashes of Korean and Vietnamese. As the first ever Chinatown to prominently feature Mandarin Chinese as its main tongue (as opposed to the Cantonese that largely dominates the Chinatowns of the Lower East Side and Sunset Park), the Chinatown of Flushing is more akin to a mixture of Northern Chinese and Taiwanese cultures. That said, I feel as if the cultural landscape of Flushing is always changing, with other East Asian, Hispanic, and South Asian cultures marking their presence in the Flushing community.
Of course, the most telling aspects of a neighborhood is the food that the locals eat. I love walking around the various malls that act as hubs for all the people in the community. The food court of New World Mall offers everything from bubble tea, mini hot pot, and fried chicken. Although the bustling, young crowd at the malls is very lively, I decided to head to one of the Chinese bakeries to conduct my interview.
The workers at Fay Da bakery were busy when I visited, but an elderly couple sitting in the store overheard me and agreed to be interviewed. While I spoke to them, the couple was enjoying a couple of staple pastries common in Chinese bakeries (pictured below!) and some warm soy milk. Though my Mandarin is definitely not at fluent level, I really wanted to have an authentic conversation so I decided to speak to the couple in Mandarin. The man answered most of my questions while the lady listened on and occasionally nodded her head.
The gist of the conversation in the audio clip is as follows: I asked the man when he came to America, and he responded that he had been here for over 30 years now. He first came on a student visa, studied in Boston, and then decided to remain in America. I then asked if he had been in Flushing since then, to which he replied that he had spent some time in San Francisco, California where he had looked for a job, but decided that he liked the community in New York more. After he found a stable job in New York, he first lived in Brooklyn and then moved to Flushing. Finally, I asked him what he thought of the community in Flushing and or any feelings he had about the area. He said that living in Flushing is very nice because everything is very convenient. He said there is ample public transportation, the schools, the library, and the convenience stores are all very good. He said that for Chinese immigrants, living in Flushing is very comfortable and convenient. Off the record, we also spoke briefly about how his kids are about my age and are currently applying to university. Although he doesn’t consider America to be his “home,” he knows that his kids do and are grateful that they are still able to learn about their heritage through their community.