Tears & the tiger: Lunar New Year reflections

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When Box Hill Branch Manager Guo (Austin) Yu was a kid in Shanghai, Lunar New Year was a big deal.

“It was very much family thing,” he said. “My grandma would start cooking, and me and the other kids would sit at the smaller table because the big table was for grown-ups.”

“We did a bit of damage with firecrackers, and it was a headache for the neighbours, but they knew we were just celebrating!”

In 2005, Guo left Shanghai for Australia. He was 18 and fresh out of high school.

“I didn’t have any motivations, to be honest” he said. “I was a teenager and I thought it would be great to get away from my parents.”

“Asian parents can sometimes be quite strict and demanding, and being their only child – due to the one-child policy in the 90s – there was a lot of attention on me.”

Before arriving in Australia, one thing that Guo needed to get straight was his name.

“Back in China, my English name was ‘King’,” he said.

“My teacher pulled me aside and said, ‘If you’re going to a Commonwealth country you probably should consider changing your first name. Unless you want to be called ‘Your majesty’!”

So Guo opened a book of English names. “I started with A and ‘Austin’ just came up,” he said.

Once in Australia, Austin did a TAFE course which led to his first job as a mechanic. He had a crash course in Aussie culture, doing school pick-ups for his boss and sharing pub lunches on Friday arvos.

“For two and a half years I worked with locals who helped me to understand Aussie slang,” he said. “There was one guy who always liked to chat, but I couldn’t understand a single word he said!”

Austin then landed a job at NAB and worked at our Victorian branches in Brandon Park, Eastland, Ashburton and Chinatown. When his parents were in town from China, they happened to visit our Box Hill branch together.

“My parents said, ‘it’d be nice if you could work in this branch one day.”

Well Austin didn’t just get to work at Box Hill, as of June last year he’s now the branch manager there.

“My parents were thrilled,” he said. “I wasn’t the traditional good kid back in China, so they’re quite proud of me.”

COVID-19 has been tough for all of us with friends and family overseas. Austin lost two of his grandparents during the pandemic.

“Every Chinese New Year I’d ring my grandparents because I knew how happy they would be hearing my voice from across the sea,” he said. “It wasn’t easy for me to accept the fact that I can’t make those calls again.”

Guo (Austin) Yu and his daughter Audrey

“Since losing them I’ve become a bit more sentimental about Chinese New Year and being united with my family.”

Austin’s parents arrive in Australia next week, and will look forward to seeing Austin’s three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Audrey.

“I haven’t seen them in three years so I’ll probably be crying when we can hug each other,” he said.

2022 is the Year of the Tiger, known to be the king of all the beasts in China and a symbol of strength, exorcising evils, and braveness.

Happy Year of the Tiger!

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