I was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata) India and emigrated to Toronto, Canada when I was only a year old. I never felt out of place being of Chinese descent in such a multicultural city like Toronto, but telling people I was “Hakka Chinese” and born in India, was a different story altogether.
I have to admit, as a kid I felt kind of ashamed to be Hakka. I knew how to speak Chinese in the Hakka dialect but, outside of my own family, I never really came across anyone else who was Hakka Chinese. People would be confused, “Are you Indian? You look Chinese so why don’t you know how to speak regular Chinese?” My parents sent me to Chinese school but everything was taught in Cantonese and I couldn’t understand what was being said. The other kids would look down upon me because I couldn’t understand their dialect. I would go to Chinese restaurants and not be able to order in Cantonese or Mandarin, so I would resort to speaking in English and then suffer the disapproving looks from the restaurant staff because they thought I didn’t know Chinese.
Then my parents took me to Meizhou, China to see where my family originally came from. I couldn’t believe I was actually in China and there was a whole city of Chinese people speaking and I could understand what they were saying! I remember feeling the slight exhilaration at just being able to bargain with a street vendor in Chinese! I guess I had grown up with Hakka being so isolated to inside my home that I couldn’t possibly imagine a whole community using the dialect!
Well, now I’m an adult and I, like several other people I’ve come across, are starting to come out of the woodwork and declare their Hakka heritage with pride. Even before researching for this website, I was starting to see a weird pattern where it seemed like every new Chinese person I met, was saying they were Hakka too. I’ve even discovered that friends I’ve known for years have at least some Hakka in them. I’ve found myself teaching people about their Hakka background and explaining where they came from and how the Hakka ended up in every corner of the world. And now, thanks especially, to a proliferation of restaurants that are putting the word “Hakka” in their name, it’s no longer such a mysterious thing to be Hakka.
The Hakka People, who once spread out across the globe, are now coming together to form a sense of community thanks to the internet. I’m not alone anymore and I can be proud of my heritage. I want to help elevate the status of the Hakka people and tell everyone about their amazing abilities to fuse with other cultures and yet retain its own heritage. So that’s why I decided to create this website. It’s to promote the Hakka culture through, what I think, is it’s most distinctive aspect: its cuisine.
Have a story to tell about your Hakka journey? Contact me and we’ll share it with the world!