VHS Video Tapes

In Fun
Relationship: Child of im/migrant

During the 1980’s-90’s, my parents relied on video tapes to get entertainment from Hong Kong/China. It was something familiar, something in their own language, it was a way to connect to their homeland. 

Like many Chinese immigrants of that time, my mom worked in a garment factory and my dad worked in a restaurant. Between work life and a new family, there was very little time to perfect their English. My siblings and I are American born, but we speak Cantonese when conversing with our parents. Watching the latest Chinese drama series, comedies, music videos, award shows, etc. as a family helped us understand and retain the language. 

Video rental shops in Chinese communities in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens were readily available. Sometimes, we would simply borrow a video tape from a friend. These tapes did more than link us to another country/culture, it connected us with our parents. It connected us with our friends whose families have similar stories to ours. It connected my parents to other Chinese immigrants. 

Although we don’t own a VHS player anymore, these video tapes will always be a reminder of my childhood, of my Chinese background, and of the relationships it helped me develop between my friends and my family. 

Place(s): Chinatown, New York City, Hong Kong, China

– Brenda Choy

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant