Chinese Man Worked In Little India Flower Shop For 14 Years, Now Speaks Tamil Fluently

Chinese Man Speaks Tamil Fluently To Customers At Little India Flower Shop

Leaving our home country and going to work or study in a foreign land is often a daunting, stressful experience because we are unfamiliar with the customs of a new country and may not know many people.

But some manage to adjust admirably, albeit after making some adjustments.

When Mr Xie Tung first arrived in Singapore in 2008, he could not speak English, only Mandarin.

We recount the Chinese national’s inspiring story, as told by Lianhe Zaobao in a short documentary feature.

Worked at flower garland shop in Little India for 14 years 

Originally from Anhui Province, China, Mr Xie Tung first arrived in Singapore in 2008. Back then, the 38-year-old couldn’t count up to five in English, much less speak Tamil.

Still, his boss took a leap of faith and hired him as a helper at a flower garland shop in Little India. But the language barrier was a big challenge.

Mr Xie recalls that back then, he didn’t know anything at all. He had difficulties communicating with customers because he couldn’t understand them, and they didn’t understand him.

So he resorted to using hand movements to communicate with them, like sign language.

Learnt how to speak Tamil & weave flower garlands

Mr Xie remembers that it was very tough in the beginning trying to speak Tamil because it was like “two different worlds”.

Fortunately, his boss, Mr Velumani, was patient with him and taught him some Tamil daily.

Every day, Mr Xie also made the time to watch Tamil movies that had Chinese subtitles at the bottom. Gradually, he began to speak Tamil on the job while conversing with his customers, out of which 80% were Indians.

“I just learnt every day, bit by bit… so over time, I picked up Tamil. Now, I can speak Tamil,” he says.

Well versed in Hindu customs

Besides speaking Tamil fluently, Mr Xie also knows which type of flowers to use for various garlands.

Herbs are used to worship Ganesha, the elephant god, while jasmine flowers are more universal and can be used for most Hindu gods. While the Chinese community uses white flowers to pay respects to the dead, Indians use red flowers, which is the “complete opposite”, said Mr Xie.

Flower garlands used for weddings and temple worship typically take longer to complete — about three to four hours on average.

He added that he observed that Indians prefer to buy flower garlands from one another. But over time, he now has his pool of loyal customers, who do not buy flower garlands from the stall unless and until they see Mr Xie at the store. Some even wait for him to appear.

You can watch the heartwarming video by Lianhe Zaobao here.

Dedication & perseverance paid off

Judging from the way his loyal customers interact with him, it is evident that Mr Xie has endeared himself to the hearts of many.

While he may make the process look effortless now, we can only imagine how difficult it was for him at the start when having to learn something from scratch.

But if there’s anything we can learn from Mr Xie, it is that we can accomplish anything as long as we try hard enough and are eager to improve, so we should never give up.

Kudos too to Mr Xie’s boss, for being patient with him and giving him a chance, especially when his employee may not have seemed like a likely choice for the position.

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Featured image adapted from Lianhe Zaobao.

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