A Taiwanese immigrant moved to London ten months ago with her working holiday visa to work in a coffee shop, thus having the opportunity to prepare to commence a master’s degree in the UK the coming September. Coronavirus outbreak has thrown her plans into turmoil.
I have known Kuanchi Chen personally since last August and one of the best ways to describe her is through the following story.
At the beginning of March, when it was still possible to travel, Kuanchi visited Venice. There, she was stopped by a resident who, in Italian, began to yell at her something about her being Chinese and spreading Coronavirus around the world, for the little she could understand.
She simply replied with the only sentence she knew in Italian: “Io non sono Cinese” (I’m not Chinese), and she also tried to explain to him she is actually from Taiwan, leaving him speechless.
Kuanchi Chen talks to The Prisma about how she has been dealing with the lockdown, what her worries are and how different cultures have different approaches to a pandemic.
How are you dealing with the Coronavirus outbreak as an immigrant in the UK?
At the beginning of the outbreak, many Asian people here in the UK are terrified to wear a mask because of the racist attitude towards Chinese people. Fortunately, I am able to have the opportunity to stay at home with the help provided through the government’s furlough scheme.
As an immigrant from Taiwan, I deeply understand that as foreigners, we might not receive help immediately if we catch the virus here, which urged the Taiwanese to organize an online medical group for citizens abroard to get not only physical but also mental health advice.
Due to the fact Taiwan has handled the pandemic well and with control, this made many students return to Taiwan before the outbreak.
Personally, I choose to stay because I believe that the risk involved in travelling is still way too high and I’ve tried my best to protect myself with gloves and masks.
What are your worries for now and the future?
For me personally, life seems to be a little stuck on hold right now. The situation with regards to me studying still remains uncertain and not all people in London have already adopted the new way of life, one which limits social activities and is an inconvenience yet the measures are all necessary.
As a foreigner, it is foreseeable that it will be difficult to travel back to Taiwan as easily as before. Furthermore, it is hard not to worry about work opportunities and the economic situation after this pandemic.
Finally, I also worry about the reconstruction of society. It will be harder for foreigners to re-establish their friendships and social lives for at least a few months.
How has your life changed?
In the short term, it has been hard to plan or organize my future, my homelife, to find work opportunities or to deal with the feeling of just simply wanting to visit an exhibition. Although sometimes these uncertainties build panic and anxiety, they can also be the motivation to look for something new to try.
For the long term, thanks to the lockdown, I am able to spend more time in choosing my own daily living routine, forming a new style of life mentally and physically. There is now also an opportunity to try to build up relationships which enable good communication and support with people I know during a seemingly longer daily life.
How do you think the British government is dealing with this emergency?
From my point of view, the “slogan” or the “measures” from the UK government sometimes seem a little vague and ambiguous, which can lead to misunderstanding and fear for migrants.
Considering different systems and economic circumstances, I believe that the British government must utilise many strategies to hold on to its historical empire and its complex situation within its population.
Were you prepared to deal with the pandemic?
Based on the early experience of Taiwan, we Taiwanese are more sensitive to new information and strictly obey all the possible measures from the government.