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Flight attendant from Taiwan finds 'second home' in Xiamen

By ZHANG YI and LI PEIXUAN in Xiamen, Fujian | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-06-26


Liou Pei-syuan and Yuan Zhenyu in Xiamen, Fujian province. [LI PEIXUAN / China Daily]

"I can hear my hometown dialect onboard wherever I travel, which makes me feel at home."

Liou Pei-syuan, a 29-year-old woman from Taiwan, is a flight attendant with Xiamen Airlines. In 2017, she left her hometown in New Taipei City to work in Xiamen, a coastal city in Fujian, the closest mainland province to Taiwan.

Every time when she flies cross-Strait routes and sees familiar names of Taiwan places, it makes her feel like she's at home. Now wed to a man from the mainland, who is a pilot with the airline, she regards Xiamen as her "second home".

Her first trip outside Taiwan was to the mainland. During her college years, she visited the mainland many times through cross-Strait exchange programs and found that people on the mainland were friendly.

While visiting, Liou saw various landscapes and enjoyed convenient food delivery service, something that Taiwan did not have at the time. Such experiences sparked her curiosity about the other side of the Strait.

When she was about to graduate from college in Taiwan in 2017, she started looking for a job. By chance, she saw that Xiamen Airlines was recruiting in Taiwan, and its hiring slogan was spoken in Hokkien, the southern Fujian dialect that is also spoken in Taiwan.

"The slogan means, 'it is fate that brings us together, and make your mark if you wish'," Liou said. "It resonated with me, because Taiwan is a small place and I wanted to see the big world".

The similarities in both work and life between Xiamen and Taiwan made it easier for her to adapt to living on the mainland. For flights across the Taiwan Strait, for example, there are in-flight announcements given in Hokkien.

"Among our passengers, many speak Hokkien. When I hear them speaking, I communicate with them in the dialect to form a bond," she said.

Cross-Strait flights

According to Fan Hong, general manager of Xiamen Airlines' cabin service department, as early as 2005, the company became one of six on the mainland that was allowed to operate direct cross-Strait charter flights for Taiwan businesspeople during Spring Festival.

In 2008, airlines received approval to operate regular direct cross-Strait flights. At the peak of the services' popularity, people could fly directly to 61 destinations on the mainland and Taiwan. This dwindled to just four destinations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In February, the mainland urged the island to prioritize the resumption of flights to 16 mainland destinations, but the island decided in March that only 10 would be resumed gradually.

As cross-Strait personnel exchanges recover, airlines and people on both sides have eagerly called for the full restoration of direct cross-Strait flights.

More than 5,000 Taiwan residents from various sectors attended the 15th Straits Forum held in Fujian last week, the biggest grassroots-level exchange event across the Strait after the pandemic.

Recently, the mainland announced efforts to help Fujian explore a new way to achieve cross-Strait integrated development and build a demonstration zone to support the goal.

"With the integrated development of both sides of the Strait and increasing personnel exchanges, we need more flight attendants from Taiwan who are familiar with cultures on both sides to join us and serve on these cross-Strait flights," Fan said.

She said the company began hiring Taiwan flight attendants in 2017, including Liou, and now employs about 300 from the island.

Settling down

Liou, who helps lead a small group of flight attendants, said that over the past six years of her career, her colleagues from the mainland have helped her improve skills at work and learn Mandarin.

To help more newcomers like her who are from Taiwan to better adapt to life and work on mainland, she created an electronic handbook that includes information about the application processes for mainland travel permits for Taiwan residents that users can refer to at any time.

Fan said that over the years, these flight attendants have been cultural envoys on both sides of the Strait and have become examples of success for Taiwan youth who want to come to the mainland to pursue their dreams and achieve their goals.

"Many of them have settled down on the mainland, and some have found 'The One' here," she said.

Liou met her husband, Xiamen pilot Yuan Zhenyu, during her first year working at the airline. The pair registered for marriage on the mainland in 2020 and went to register in Taiwan last month.

Yuan, from Changsha, Hunan province, said Liou, the first Taiwan woman he's gotten to know, is very polite, well-mannered and sweet. Liou said Yuan, the first mainland man she ever dated, is very thoughtful, manly and reliable.

During their cross-Strait marriage life, the couple has learned to respect each other and find a way to resolve their differences.

For example, Yuan said that in terms of food, Taiwan's cuisine is usually lighter compared to the spicier, heavier taste favored in Changsha.

"We compromised in terms of diet," the husband said. "Usually when we're at home, we don't cook very spicy food. But I will prepare myself a bottle of chile sauce."

The couple also likes to learn each other's dialects, which they think are interesting. They also travel to their hometowns and get along well with each other's family members.

"I hope we can better take care of our families and keep going together," Yuan said.

Reviewing her six years on the mainland, Liou said: "Now, this place is my second home. Here, as long as you are willing to work hard, you can surely make your mark."


Hu Meidong contributed to this story.

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