The Indian Hakkas of Vienna

Authors: Ralf Vollmann, Tek Wooi Soon (University of Graz, Austria)
Speaker: Ralf Vollmann
Topic: Language, Community, Ethnicity
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2020 General Session


Background. The Hakkas are known for being highly mobile and are dispersed both in China and abroad. A group of Meixian Hakkas (Meizhou, Guangdong) settled in Calcutta, India. Many became wealthy in the tannery and leather business; due to the decline of the leather business and government policies, many migrated again to other places looking for better opportunities.

Material & method. The group of Indian Hakkas in Vienna comprises now approx. 400-500 people, but are said to have been 4000 persons earlier. In a series of qualitative interviews with various members of the community, the linguistic and social situation is assessed for various age groups.

Analysis. Most persons from this tight-knit community are working in gastronomy, some own restaurants, others are cooks or waiters, the oldest migrants are already retired. They are now Austrian citizens and identify with their new homeland. However, this community considers itself to have its roots in India, and many people return to India during Chinese New Year for family reunions. men who migrated to Austria usually tried to find a Hakka wife in Calcutta or even in Meixian (China), with increasing difficulty due to the dispersal of the community. Some are married to non-Hakka Chinese women. Many families and the community which gathers at regular meetings speak Hakka at home, they also speak English, Hindi and Bengali; the first generation had learned Mandarin Chinese with Hakka pronunciation. People from the second immigration wave had learned Chinese in the earlier school years, but later shifted to English schools. The immigrants speak a solid, but grammatically rudimentary German; the second generation is, of course, fully integrated linguistically; they did not acquire Hindi and Chinese, but use Hakka as their family language.

Conclusions. The Hakkas of Vienna speak Meixian Hakka uninfluenced by Mandarin, with loanwords from Hindi, English, German. The use of Hakka did not yet decline, as they have mostly contacts within their own group both privately and in working life. The young people speak Hakka effortlessly, but are young Austrians, fluent in German. Interethnic marriages (usually with non-Hakka Chinese persons) may lead to language loss in the next generation.

Keywords: Hakka migration; Hakka language; Indian Hakkas