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An Employee’s Take on Asian Cuisine, Culture, and the Need for Unity

linwang
New Arrival

When I was a kid growing up in China, working in the airline industry never crossed my mind. My first flight was on Japan Airlines to start a job in Japan. Imagine that middle-seat, out-of-college guy who went through a three-month crash course in Japanese and had never been on a commercial jet!

 

Great wall photo from Lin’s youthGreat wall photo from Lin’s youth

 

Photo taken from the farewell party in JapanPhoto taken from the farewell party in Japan

 

I came to the U.S. for a graduate program in Pittsburgh. After two years at a start-up company in New York City, I came to Texas to work in the airline industry as a data scientist. For data scientists, airlines are like a candy store for kids – there are so many interesting problems that can be addressed with a data-driven approach. And the scale of an airline means everything we do might impact millions of our Customers, reduce costs significantly, or bring in large revenue. Plus, connecting people to what's important in their lives makes a nerd like me fulfilled.

 

Well, it took me almost a decade before I realized that Southwest Airlines is THE airline to work for. She is smart, friendly, and kind to both Customers and Employees. Since I joined Southwest in 2019, I have loved every single moment of it – the People, the Culture, and the challenges. In particular, I am grateful I have a job that has fed my body and soul through the pandemic.

 

Lin stands in the “BIG” letters that can be found throughout Dallas.Lin stands in the “BIG” letters that can be found throughout Dallas.

 

Our Purpose at Southwest is to connect people to what's important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel. Learning about other cultures is a great way to make a transactional interaction relational. Plus, aren’t we about celebrating everything here at Southwest?

 

When I was told by my colleague that Southwest has sponsored the Chinese New Year Festival & Parade for nearly 30 years, I was very excited. In fact, I wore that t-shirt during the dumpling-making party last year!

 

We are nearing two decades as the largest carrier of air travelers to, from, and within California*, which has a significant Asian American population. Being able to connect to a community and build long-lasting relationships is critical to growing our business on the West Coast and beyond.

 

Lunar New Year is perhaps the most important holiday in China and many other Asian countries. In the part of the country I am from, the ritual involves a dumpling-making family gathering on New Year’s Eve and visiting relatives and friends in the next few days. When I was young, it used to be the presents, the fireworks, and the food that got me excited. Now I realize it is about connecting or reconnecting to people we care about.

 

I have moved between cities, countries, and continents, but regardless of my location, this special holiday beckons me to take a step back, slow down the pace of life, and check in with family and friends. Today this is often through a video call. Plus, I have yet to meet a person who doesn't like homemade dumplings!

 

Lin enjoys giving back to the community. This photo was taken at a Habitat for Humanity volunteering event back in 2017.Lin enjoys giving back to the community. This photo was taken at a Habitat for Humanity volunteering event back in 2017.

 

When it comes to my heritage, there are so many things that I love but if I had to pick one, I would say my favorite is food. Food is so important and specific holidays require specific food. People greet each other by saying, “Did you eat?” as if nothing else matters. Food unites people. Business transactions are made over dinner. And as China is a huge country, there are almost limitless cuisine choices.

 

When I came to the U.S., I found the food labeled as Chinese alien to me – I had never had Chop Suey, Moo Goo Gai Pan, or Crab Rangoon before (I'd venture that almost no one in China has). Now I am used to them, they serve a purpose in our neighborhood.

 

Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month is also about Asian culture broadly, and I'd like to note that living in the U.S. has allowed me to explore other Asian cultures, at least in terms of their cuisine. I never had Vietnamese, Thai, Burmese, or even Indian food before leaving China. I did live in Japan for a short time and so was acquainted with that culture. I am very happy for these experiences and hope to someday be able to visit those countries and judge whether the food I know is "authentic" or not. When you have a chance, sample and enjoy the regional food from Asia!

 

Today’s current societal issues against Asian Americans are disturbing not only because it is wrong in every aspect, but also because it makes me worried about the safety of my own family. My mom is living with me. When I read the news about elderly Asians being attacked in San Francisco and New York, I couldn't stop wondering what if that happened to her? How can we treat others just by the way a person looks or the color of their skin?

 

When I lived in Japan, I could always easily be spotted as non-Japanese. It might have been how I dressed or my untidy long hair (to save money). But the moment I moved to New York City, I was stopped by strangers asking for directions. That is what America is—diverse people striving to create a common society built on pluralism of culture, ethics, and faith.

 

Carnegie Hall NYC.Carnegie Hall NYC.

 

Recently, I read former President Barack Obama’s book “A Promised Land”. He points out that, “The distinctions of languages, culture and historical background are stubborn things. All those differences the good times had papered over started coming to the fore during a crisis.” The pandemic came to mind for me. People get frustrated when their way of life changes overnight, but the virus does not care about gender, race, or income. So instead of letting fear and anger control our mindset and seek victims to blame, we should unite and follow the science.

 

*USDOT O&D survey 2001-2020

 

 

For years, we’ve sponsored the Chinese New Year Festival & Parade in the Bay Area. With no parade earlier this year, we brought the spirit of the Chinese New Year to our Passengers in the airport. Check out this video