How Overseas Chinese in the US Cope With Self-Isolation

And how you can too!


中国打上半场,欧美打下半场,海外华人打全场 – this saying recently went viral on Chinese social media. It roughly translates to:  if the COVID-19 was a soccer game, China played the first half, whereas the US and Europe are currently playing the second half. Overseas Chinese, sadly, have been on the field throughout the game with no respite. Chinese expats were first battered by concerns over the health of their loved ones back home and now dealing with the deteriorating situation in their adopted countries.

As comical as this allegory was intended to be, it actually has much truth in it. 

As the number of confirmed cases is skyrocketing day by day in the US, especially in New York City, some Chinese nationals have left for China despite the exorbitant plane tickets. Those who remain are coping with the closure of non-essential businesses in many cities, empty shelves at grocery stores and growing anti-Asian racism

Trapped at home with limited access to restaurants and Chinese grocery, how are overseas Chinese in the US dealing with self-isolation and anti-Asian racism? 

As an oversees Chinese myself, and as someone who recently returned to New York, I wanted to share my thoughts. They are a collection of specific things that my Chinese friends across the country are doing to make self-quarantine easier without stepping outside our tiny apartments.

  1. 1 Asian Grocery Delivery Apps

    Hong Kong Supermarket in the Manhattan Chinatown

    If you are annoyed by the limited and overpriced options of “mainstream” delivery apps such as Instacart and Amazon Fresh (not everyone can afford Wholefoods during lay-off season…), try Asian grocery delivery apps!

    Stock up your fridge and pantry with Asian groceries! Fill your pantry with Asian snacks, condiments, and even pre-made hot pot soup base, all while supporting local vendors that are losing businesses due to the pandemic and xenophobia.

    I recommend FreshGoGo (which has English-language version on both its app and web page) and Oscart, but order soon if you are in New York since there is currently a 2-week wait for delivery. 

  2. 2 Chinese Food-prep and Lifestyle Apps

    Mousse cakes, egg tarts, and brownies made according to the recipes on RED by my ex-roommate Wendy (who I swear only used our kitchen less than 10 times when we were living together for a year!)Since restaurants are closed in New York and parts of California, many Chinese students and professionals have all suddenly turned into celebrity chefs, flooding social media with their photos of elaborately made meals and delicate desserts! Many are actually turning to Chinese lifestyle apps for culinary inspiration. The most popular are the food-prep app 下厨房 (xia chu fang) and the lifestyle social media platform RED/小红书 (xiao hong shu), similar to Pinterest. 

    Screenshot from RED

    Millions of users from all walks of life share their recipes and detailed cooking procedures with photos and videos on these apps. You can essentially follow their easy steps and make any Chinese dish and dessert that you crave! 

    (Unfortunately, even though these apps have English versions, most of the content is in Chinese.)

  3. 3 Mutual Support Groups

    Street sight in the Manhattan Chinatown

    Alarmed by the spike in verbal and physical attacks against Asians, not to mention the blatantly racist labeling of COVID-19 as “Chinese virus” by President Trump, some Chinese expats are forming mutual support groups on WeChat for self-protection. In New York, there are already a number of mutual support groups running in different boroughs. Members are prepared to convene together and physically fight back aggressors if any member sends out an SOS signal.

    These tactics of mutual support can be applied to any communities coping with COVID-19 and self-quarantine, so form you own group in your neighborhood, or join an existing one to help out those in needs.

    During such difficult times, mutual support groups often remind us of immigrants’s resilience and their determination to claim the rights and respect that they deserve. I wish for everyone to stay safe and healthy amidst the crisis and rally together against the global pandemic and racism of any kind. 

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