Last month, I had the pleasure of hosting my family in London for the first time since I stepped on British soil.
I was happy but nervous, not knowing how they would manage in my tiny one-bedroom flat, and if they would face a culture shock in the land of the angmoh.
It took more than 10 years, but there was finally a good enough excuse (in their view) to come to the UK — to attend my wedding celebration in the New Forest. They arrived a week ahead to fit in some sightseeing around London.
Over the years, whenever I walked past a part of London that took my breath away, I’d wish my family was able to experience what I saw. And here I am getting my chance now; I wanted to treasure every single moment by taking them to my favourite places in London.
It was interesting to witness their “wahs” and “chehs” as they experienced the beauty of the riverside at Southbank, watched the world go by from the top floor of Tate Modern, chomped down on authentic Malaysian chicken curry in a C&R restaurant in Chinatown, grabbed great deals at Primark, took in the peacefulness of Greenwich, went for a picnic in Holland Park and ate London’s best fish and chips in Punch Tavern.
In their second week, it was time to wind down from the hectic city life by journeying to the quiet and calm of Hale, a tranquil village in the northernmost point of the New Forest National Park.
We rented a big house with a garden adjacent to the forest where bluebells bloomed amidst rhododendrons and native shrubs.
In typical English weather, the day of the celebration began with heavy showers as one by one, our guests poured in soaked to the skin.
This did not stop everyone from being in good spirits when the weather gods decided to treat us to a sunny spell in the afternoon, just in time for the Chinese wedding games.
Thoughtfully planned by my beloved bridesmaids – we treated Jake’s groomsmen to a fun selection of games – which included four flavours of something very sweet, sour, bitter and spicy, limbo rock and sang Sam Hui’s Jui Khai Pak Tong in Cantonese.
Following that, we revisited the tradition of the Chinese Tea Ceremony, without which a (half) Chinese wedding would not be complete.
To explain the history of the tea ceremony to our guests who might not be familiar with the custom, we showed a video edited by Jake. We thought the best way to approach this is with humour.
The day was beautiful. Our guests interacted well with one another despite coming from different backgrounds and nationalities. My family chatted to our guests with ease.
I guess they all had something in common – niceness – a prerequisite if you are friends (and families) of mine and Jake.
Soon, it was time for my siblings to leave. As they were busily packing, I sat silently in the living room to observe their interaction with one another. My heart swelled with pride as I watched how my siblings have become incredible individuals with beautiful hearts and souls since we were last in one room together.
As a little girl, I remember folding their nappies, carrying these little babies in my arms, playing hide and seek, chasing my older brother around the house and doing house chores with them.
Now our worlds exist on different continents – though they are far, they will always be close to my heart.
My own journey abroad would not be complete without them being here, as seeing them enjoy England banished the guilt I have always felt at being the only one who left home for a country so far away.
I have built a home here now. My home is also their home, and they can return whenever they feel like it.
The tea ceremony video can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psCBxrjNIAI, which includes a Cantonese voice over provided by my talented friend Lena. It may very well come in handy for your own wedding!
> Samantha Hiew has been in the UK for the last decade. Follow her stories on http://samanthahiew.com