Yes, we’ve had Chinese restaurants, judo and Taekwondo for many years on the Rock, but nowadays with modern technology the Chinese presence in our midst has sky rocketed, working in the gaming industry and other industries. “I think we must be getting very close to 300 living here,” Ming Ming Hung – now Peters – informs me.
She left Hong Kong and went to the UK in the very early 2000s wanting to expand her knowledge of other lands and headed for Gib two years later. “In those days I think there were no more than about 50 or so Chinese on the Rock. I studied Visual Communication Designing Creating Animation on websites etc. and I’m now very involved working in e-commerce at one of the largest employers in Gibraltar. When I arrived here, I was impressed by the similarities with Hong Kong with it being a peninsular, speaking two languages and other things.” As well as Cantonese, Ming Ming speaks Mandarin and of course, English…Spanish is coming on slowly!
Ming Ming’s husband, Tristan, is German and they have a son, Titan. He’s five and attends Notre Dame School. The family have a property in Beach View Terraces by Eastern Beach and have no intention of going anywhere… “Yes, we now consider Gibraltar our home and we’re here to stay. I go out to work – although I can work from home also – and Tristan has taken on the role of, ‘house husband’ or ‘stay at home dad’ and it works very well.”
Suspicion of ill fortune is very much a way of life for many Chinese
Ming Ming is a bit of an artist too producing interesting results with her creations – some of those with a Gibraltar theme! She is a member of the Gibraltar Fine Arts Gallery and The Arts and Crafts Centre. Clearly, integrating into the country you’ve chosen to live in is always the sensible way to go. Ming Ming found car boot sales here, and selling items on the internet rather refreshing as this practice is unheard of in Hong Kong, or mainland China, where buying second hand items is thought to bring bad luck! Suspicion of ill fortune is very much a way of life for many Chinese…many are very superstitious! “It’s like buying or renting a flat, you must move into a home with square or rectangular rooms because each corner is dedicated to a family member and each of those corners must remain uncluttered through fears of bad luck falling upon that family member…it’s also feared, you might put on weight!”
Another example of superstition was experienced during one of the Chinese celebrations held on the Rock, which she did not attend. Ming Ming was just under three months pregnant and felt noise emanating from the banging of drums and so on would cause an unwanted miscarriage or damage the baby in some way. Similarly, at home noise is a no-no during that early pregnancy period. “But at these events I usually help by holding up banners as we walk down Main Street to Casemates and supply bottles of water, so I help where I can.” And happily, Titan was born unharmed, making him a Chinese Gibraltarian (and there are others) adding to the Gibraltar melting pot which now includes East European Gibraltarian children as well as from other countries – so that melting pot is slowly filling to the brim!
It all adds to that healthy mishmash of world communities.
There are Chinese on the Rock from Hong Kong, mainland China, Chinese Malaysian, from Singapore and Taiwan, so getting together to celebrate their important dates during the year is a must and can continue for a whole month. The late January/February Chinese New Year and the Chinese Moon Festival, where gathering in restaurants and friends’ homes chatting and enjoying each other’s company and special meals – like steamed fish and chicken – are looked forward to and take place on the eve of the Chinese New Year – not unlike the celebrations on Christmas Eve for the Christian community. Fire crackers and money in red envelopes are offered (especially to the kids), wishing the recipients good luck. “We also decorate the home with slogans with the aim to lift your spirits,” Ming Ming says.
The colourful celebrations experienced on the Rock on two or three occasions where the ‘dragon’ with all its multi coloured attire and accompanying dancers and instruments has not returned due to the Covid pandemic and other issues. Transporting six performers and all their equipment from Madrid was not an inexpensive operation but still, the community continue to celebrate at home and elsewhere. But the rest of Gibraltar’s residents have missed the lion dances, the dragon and kung fu performances which mark the Year of the Pig…what a pity.
An association was instituted a few years back and registered with the Ministry of Culture with a view of fomenting good relations between Gibraltar and the Chinese Community. The association would also help to promote businesses and extra cultural links with China and Hong Kong. Whilst here on the Rock, organising those important celebrations, including the Lantern Festival and the Mid Autumn Festival was and is – where possible – still high on the agenda… Let’s hope those brilliantly, colourful costumes and dazzling performances return soon to our streets and squares for all to enjoy. Ming Ming recalls, “During the Covid lockdown we also raised a few thousand pounds for the GHA and we too, ordered face masks to distribute to members of the Chinese community.”
The aim clearly, is to enjoy their time on the Rock whether for a period of time, looking at perhaps a longer stay than anticipated, or envisaging making Gibraltar their new home as the Hongkongese/German Scott family have done. It all adds to that healthy mishmash of world communities which in Gibraltar, for its small size, seems to do so well. To meet people from other lands, embrace and learn about their cultures and heritage – whilst they learn about yours – can only enrich our sense of understanding to be able to appreciate what nationals from countries near or from afar are all about!
We were already a multiracial community slowly building through the 300 odd years of our existence with folk arriving from the UK, Spain, Genoa, Malta, Portugal, Morocco (Jews and Muslims), India and number of other places arriving, in the main, to service the military fortress Gibraltar then was, with thousands of servicemen stationed here plus those coming ashore from scores of warships berthed in our dockyard and anchored in the Bay.
Yes, our forefathers were yesteryear’s immigrants who began to settle on this little Rock of ours and made it their home…In recent years, and for very different reasons, many more countries’ citizens have come to make Gibraltar their new home. They keep on coming and so…may it continue!