China is both a nostalgic and conflicting memory for me - despite having grown up and lived there for 14 years, I feel disconnected from it at times. It was not until I moved to Bath for university, when I was living on my own amid all the British people, that I yearned to connect to my Chinese roots more.
Life in Shanghai, China
I moved to Shanghai, China, when I was just a few months old, and lived there until I was 14. From attending local schools to having Chinese friends, I was fully immersed in the culture. Mandarin was the only language I could speak until I was 10 years old. My family has some Chinese traditions, from cooking its cuisine to hearing about my grandparents' experience in the Chinese Cultural Revolution. But I did not fit in - I got questioned about the French nursery songs I sung in kindergarten, why my parents spoke French and German to each other, etc. I never explored the city much, because you couldn't really get anywhere without a car. I got fully accustomed to the Western lifestyle when I moved to Paris, France, and lost touch with most of my Chinese lifestyle.
Nostalgia in Bath
Moving to England was a big change, even for me who's lived in France 4 years prior. It would've been an even bigger one had I stayed in China until high school. Everything from food to cultural terms, the difference in lifestyle is striking. It is generally more laid-back and casual, with a big emphasis on nightlife and drinking, as compared to China. I adapted relatively quickly from living in a household of solely British people and being used to moving around frequently. While living on my own in a foreign country, where I did not feel like I fit in with the locals (again), I started wanting to reconnect to my cultural heritage.
How I tried to reconnect
The biggest thing I did was learning to cook Chinese food. From asking for recipes from my parents to seeing traditional ones on the Internet, I get that tiny spark of excitement when I see something that I ate years ago.
There are a few Chinese supermarkets in Bath, in the city centre. The one that I usually go to is called Hondo Chinese Supermarket, on St James's Parade. It has everything you need: sauces, rice, instant noodles, and my favourite: frozen dumplings. I bought food such as cha siu buns (叉烧包) and scallion pancakes (葱油饼), which are common in China and some of my favourite food when I was young.
Another way is meeting and talking to others who are (part) Chinese or lived in China. Last year, because of Covid, I have not met a lot of native Chinese people. I have met some who either lived in China or who is part Chinese, and they helped a lot because I could relate to them more, as we all share experiences of having multiple cultural identities. I would say joining the Chinese societies at the university would definitely help you meet people of similar backgrounds and have a community. There are ChinaRen, Chinese Students and Scholars Association in Bath (CSSA), and ABACUS (Association of British and Chinese University Students).
Moving to a new environment is never easy. While it is nice to hang out exclusively with people from your own culture and to find comfort in familiarity, I would still advise branching out and immersing yourself with other people and cultures. This allows you to discover so many new things and grow, and make moving to England worth it. That being said, it is still definitely important to connect with your roots at times, making it another form of growing.