By Graham Clifford
Tim’s father posted the decorations over from China and they hang proudly in the window of his riverfront restaurant.
“It will be the year of the Pig in our culture so we are getting ready. Our Chinese New Year begins on the first week in February and this year we want to celebrate with our Irish friends. The symbol of the Pig represents luck and general prosperity,” he explains.
On Monday evening, February 4th, in conjunction with Together Ireland, Tim will welcome people into his China Dragon restaurant for a new year’s celebration.
“It would be very special for Irish people and those from other countries to come, have some food, chat and celebrate with us,” explains Tim who first moved to Ireland in 2003.
The East Asian Lunar New Year is also celebrated across Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam and elsewhere.
A former secondary school teacher of Politics, Tim grew up outside the city of Fuzhou, the capital of China’s Fujian province, in the South West of the country.
His home city has a population of 7.6 million people and in 2015, was ranked as the 10th Fastest Growing Metropolitan Area in the world.
“After seven-years of teaching I just thought I need to try something new. I needed a change. I had friends in Ireland and so got a work permit and came over to initially manage a Chinese restaurant in Dublin,” says Tim.
With his wife Cindy, and young son Xinhang at home, Tim would spend the next decade working as much as he could in Ireland and then returning to China for a month or two at-a-time.
“It was difficult but those trips home kept me going. Eventually in 2013 when my son had finished primary school, they both came to join me in Ireland,” explains Tim.
‘MORE RELAXED AND LESS STRESSFUL’
Tim’s career in the restaurant business in Ireland saw him work for extended periods in Dublin, Tullamore, Tuam, Galway City and Maynooth – eventually he decided that the transient nature of his work couldn’t continue.
“Once my family came to Ireland I knew I had to stay in one place. So, in 2015 we opened China Dragon in Fermoy and we’re delighted to live here now,” he says.
He employs five staff including some Irish workers and business is going well, as its reputation develops.
“ We have people coming from as far away as Cork City to eat here which is great. I work seven-days-a-week but still I am enjoying life. The people are so welcoming, and kind and we like the pace of life here. Back in China the pace everyday in the cities is so fast. The focus is on work, work, work. Here it is more relaxed and less stressful.”
Cindy, who was also a teacher back home, has settled into life in Fermoy and Xinhang is preparing to sit his Leaving Certificate in Colaiste an Chraoibhin.
“He has fitted in well since moving from China. At the weekends he will meet up with friends and go to the gym up by the GAA club. He will turn 18 in March and is now trying to decide where to study after school,” says his father.
Having been in Ireland now for over 15 years himself, Tim has grown accustomed to the Irish perception of Chinese food – even if it differs slightly from the real thing at home.
“I am going back to China for a week soon to visit my parents and see my brother and sister. And I’m looking forward to eating the food I grew up with. Our Chinese dishes are more plain than Irish people are used to and would include a lot more vegetables. I think Irish people have more of a preference for the sweet and salty taste than we would back home in China.”
FERMOY NOW HOME
Slowly but surely settling into life by the Blackwater, Tim makes the most of his free time when he can get it.
“What do I do when I have a few hours off? Usually pop to the pub,” he laughs, adding “I love a pint of Guinness. I usually go to Cheers in Fermoy, but Cindy and I also love visiting other restaurants and cafes in the town and trying out what they are serving. We’re happy here, it’s home and we feel part of the community.”