Sunday, 7 February 2016

Asian?


Chinese New Year begins tomorrow and the first thing that comes to my mind are those red envelopes full of money.  I know they're called ang pow, but I didn't actually know how to spell that until I googled the word literally ten seconds ago.  Every year my sister and I make jokes about how ang pows are given by married relatives to unmarried ones, and every year we get super protective of these red envelopes and blame our mum for trying to steal them to repack as ang pows for our cousins or second cousins or any other Asian unmarried child she may find.  This year I even asked my mum if I could receive my ang pows early, because I came home from Italy to find that I had spent all my money.  She told me I couldn't because that would be bad luck, which made me realise that I actually have no idea what the purpose of these ang pows are.

Yesterday a fellow Asian asked me if my family had big celebrations for Chinese New Year, and I replied with the fact that we have pineapple tarts all over the house, which is a bit of an exaggeration already.  Then I started thinking of other Chinese New Year foods, and the next most famous one I could think of was moon cake - but it turns out moon cake is actually brought out for the mid autumn festival which is in August some time, so that shows how little I know about my culture, and I feel somewhat appalled.

I mean, subconsciously I've absorbed some of my culture through our visits to Malaysia and the food we eat, but throughout my life I've also fought hard against it in order to feel more normal in the country I live in.  Chinese people are more competitive, they can't talk as well, they're too modest - those are the thoughts I've been unknowingly bitter about while growing up, thinking that the way I've been raised is a shortcoming of my persona, basically blaming it for everything I feel insecure about.  However, in the holidays I watched this video by the Fung Brothers and at the end they discuss the angle the person who wrote the article they were reading was taking, and I guess it made me feel as if I'm not the only second generation Asian immigrant to feel this way.  In fact, I'm probably just one in this huge demographic of people who can relate on so many different levels.

The Fung Brothers also talk about embracing Asian culture in a lot of their videos.  They persuaded me that we actually have the best of both worlds because while we culturally assimilate and have amazing opportunities living in a white country, we also know what the best, weirdest Asian food tastes like and we have extra holidays to celebrate.  We basically get to pick and choose the best bits out of white and Asian culture and mush them together to create something even better.  And while this picking and choosing and mushing may be difficult, and our identities may seem non-existant not fully belonging to either culture, as we grow up we become comfortable with this bicultural person we've created.  There's no escaping your culture because no matter what it'll always be a part of your identity, and I'm thankful of mine.

After rediscovering the Fung Brothers, I also began to watch more of mychonny's videos and I'm not sure whether I truly relate with them or if I just think I do because he's an Asian-Australian.  You see, there are just so few Asians in mainstream media to relate to, but discussing that would require a whole other post.  One thing I noticed about mychonny and the Fung Brothers though, is that they both buy into Asian stereotypes as a form of humour, which is also probably one of the main reasons I like their videos - I find it funny.  Joking about how Asians play the piano or the violin or both, Asians have strict parents, Asians are bad at driving, Asians have the 'Asian flush' is something I do often, and after I realised I had been fighting my culture and gained a newfound appreciation, I questioned whether stereotyping was a form of racism, and whether it's wrong to use it as something to make people laugh, degrading myself.  But the thing is, I'm not really because as the Fung Brothers say, all stereotypes must come from somewhere, so there has to be some truth in them.  Not all Asian stereotypes are negative either, like 'Asians are smart' for example.  What I don't agree with is when people assume these stereotypes apply to every Asian, but that also goes for all the other stereotypes that exist in this world.

After this year's trip to Malaysia I began to feel defensive of my race for probably the first time.  On the first day after we landed in Sydney we were walking from the train station when this tradie yelled 'Ni hao' at me, and while this might sound like a harmless act to you, I felt like yelling about how ignorant he was, coming up with all sorts of comebacks in my head, but I knew picking a fight would be a bad decision.  My dad simply ignored him too and it just sucks that this is the right thing to do.

In Italy this girl on the trip started talking about how Asians should go back to their countries and stop migrating to Australia because they're destroying our resources, and I don't think I realised what was happening for a while.  I reasoned with her, I tried to tell her why everything she was saying was wrong on so many levels, but she just wasn't getting it.  I mean, Europeans were the ones who invaded this country ILLEGALLY in our modern-day books, and they're the ones who started destroying resources.  Now Asians are coming under skilled migration and family migration with visas - it's not like they're just letting anyone into the country willy-nilly - so we have just as much right to be here as they do.  And afterwards, when I was ranting about this horribly ignorant discussion with some friends, I still defended her in some ways.  My friend had to make me feel mad, because I wasn't before.  I condoned freedom of speech, I felt bad for 'bitching' about her, and I'm worried about how compliant I was about these comments.  I should feel angry at this girl and completely dislike her, and the fact that I don't makes me feel like a traitor towards my race.

What also concerns me is the fact that nowadays a lot of Malaysian girls strive to be more white, because apparently that's what's in right now.  They're neglecting their nasi lemak for second-class cafe food to seem more hipster, going to Melbourne is reason enough to delete their entire Instagram feed to restart with just 'Melbourne photos', my cousins are always yelling about how much they would rather eat pizza and pasta, and I just feel like they're all striving to become either more like the people they see on American TV or super hipster like the girls you see photos of on tumblr.  So maybe it's not only second generation immigrants who are questioning their Asian culture, maybe it's our generation in general?

What is wrong with us?

Love,
M

26 comments:

  1. This is a great little insight into what it can feel like to be in a situation like this. I can't imagine the difficulties of moving to a new country with a very different culture. I can see how it'd be tough figuring out just where you fit in, who you are. But I definitely, definitely think that it can be made into a "best of both worlds" situation (just wish people, like the "Ni hao" guy, wouldn't make themselves look like idiots).

    I have a lot of Irish in my ancestry, but my family and relatives have been born in/lived in America for several generations. So my family is pretty distanced from our Irish/other heritage. Yet, I sort of feel drawn to Irish culture because of it. It's strange. And I've noticed quite a few people feel this way. I think it's got a lot to do with how interconnected the world is these days, maybe. We have access to all these different cultures, and the ones we expose ourselves to start to rub off. I know a few of my own friends think they relate more to British culture because of how much British TV they watch.

    Who knows. It's kind of interesting, though. Just wish people were more comfortable in their own skin.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm a second generation immigrant so I was born here, but I can't imagine how difficult it must've been for my parents to adjust. I like how there's such a huge Asian community in this country so there were a lot of people going through the same process as they were at the time.

      As for me, I reckon I am somewhat drawn to my culture as you are to yours, but I also sometimes shy away from it because it feels different, and I'm so accustomed to it that it seems more negative than unique. I like how we have access to all sorts of different cultures, and how the people are so mixed nowadays, but what I need to work on is being proud of my own, and belonging uniquely somewhere in the middle of the two cultures I've been brought up in. Being comfortable in your own skin is definitely something we should all be.

      Delete
  2. When I was younger, I used to struggle with this a lot. Specially because I have experienced first hand, a lot of racism towards me and my family. But, now I see things much like you do. It's such a hard transition, between one country to another. One culture to another. It's hard when at times you don't feel welcomed and feel like you belong somewhere. But, if you look at things in the way you've mentioned, life gets so much easier. We get to understand two different worlds, and we get to be part of those worlds where as many people wouldn't be able to. Coming from a third world country, to the UK, it was a massive cultural difference to me. There are so many opportunities here in the UK, and there are so many open doors, and safety compared to home.

    What makes me sad, it's exactly what you said as well. So many people are not okay with their race. And that makes me so sad. My mother for example, its the perfect image of women from my country. She hates where she is from, every time a person here asks her about home she tells them how horrible it is, and how she hates the people there. Then, whenever asked where she is from, she is proud to say. Because we have a bit of a "fame" of how wonderful the women in my country are. Which makes it for a bit of hypocrisy, when girls and women do this. I am so proud of where I am from, and I am also so thankful to be able to also learn and appreciate another countries culture. There are days, even now after nearly a decade living outside of home, that its still hard. There are times that I still don't understand every single word, and every single accent. But, if I had the option of choosing, I don't think I would choose to stay there instead of coming here. Even with all the struggle.

    It really is the best of both worlds. There will always be people like the Ni hao person. Here is a shocking fact: Since I am from a really massive country, we have people who are racist to people from other states. So, even at home, you could still find people who are racist somehow? (Don't even ask me how does that makes sense, because it doesn't.) Unfortunately, there will always be assholes in the world. No matter how much we try, there will always be that one person, who is a complete idiot. But, who cares about people like that? They are probably insecure in their own skin, so they have to make a statement to remind themselves how great it is to be white, but in reality, they are just wishing to feel special. (Not that any white race, isn't special. This was just a example of how I think some racist people feel.)

    I really do love your blog! <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think they're trying to justify their race as special as such, but rather that human beings have issues with anything different. It's hard to wrap our heads around something majorly unprecedented and as a result people make comments, and a lot of them end up being offensive because humans are also sensitive beings. I don't think you can escape racism anywhere, and a lot of people tend to be thinking racist thoughts if they aren't saying them - including me subconsciously. It's just an act of instinctive judgement that we have to try to keep impartial and use our morals to disregard.

      I only just realised how lucky we are to be familiar with a second culture, and even if we're like your mum and are ashamed of our countries in the most part, there always comes a situation where we feel proud of some aspect of our culture's reputation. With the bad there is always the good, not that your culture's reputation should necessarily impact your opinion of your identity.

      Thank you so much for this comment!!

      Delete
  3. Personally I think if you are going to work hard and technically 'earn your keep' than you are more than welcome to live anywhere, it's the people that just come to countries for the free benefits that bug me! It's nice you get to celebrate Chinese new year, I new only a little about it in till now so it was really nice to learn some new things from you :)

    Meme x

    www.thedayinthelifeof.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everyone deserves the benefits offered here as well though, and sometimes you're simply born into a country that doesn't have them and it's not your fault. I agree with the immigration laws we currently have in place here though, and I like how they offer student visas to at least attempt offering opportunities to others with the resources we have.

      I barely knew anything about Chinese New Year until I decided to take interest yesterday, so there's so much more to it.

      Delete
  4. I can relate to that in a way, I'm half Cuban, some part Irish, and some small part native american. So I know only a teeny bit about my culture :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Learn more! It'll make you feel fuller somehow.

      Delete
  5. I don't even know what my culture would be as both my parents have incredibly mixed heritage. I'm a mutt, basically, I think it's cool that you get to have as you said the best of both worlds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My mum always says that mixed raced people are the most beautiful.

      Delete
  6. Chinese New Year is a fascinating celebration.

    It saddens me that some people are ashamed of their race, that they need to hide it or act a certain way to be accepted by society. I suppose that's the way it is nowadays.

    That picking and mushing you talk about- I guess that applies to all cultures in a way. The typical white American culture includes pieces from cultures that we pick up along the way, often after brutally slaughtering the ones who had that culture in the first place.

    Being just human is rather difficult at times.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chinese New Year is pretty fascinating - enough so that all my cousins are getting a week full of public holidays while I'm here still going to school.

      I guess all cultures learn from other examples, and all people do too nowadays because we have so much access to other cultures through the media and the internet. I enjoy being able to experience the contrast between being in this country among the people I see everyday, and being in Malaysia around the relatives who act quite different in their morals and most aspects of daily life.

      I think our identity is just a complex thing that we all struggle defining.

      Delete
  7. If one had to eat pizza every day for whole day, I think it becomes boring... (and pizza is my favorite fast food, so I know what I am talking about :P)
    Same with the appeariance. I am white and I like it, but I always envied gorgeous hair Asian people have. I straighten mine and put on it lots of oils to make it nice and shiny. I also envy smooth olive skin of Middle East nations. I put a bit of bronzing lotion to my moisturizer in winter, not to be so ridiculously pale all the time. Otherwise, I have a feeling I am green...

    We always want what we don't have. It is human nature, I guess...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess we do have the mentality that the grass is greener on the other side, and thank you for making me feel like I'm not the only one. It's not so much appearance as identifying as living a certain way of life though, although I read an article about how changing what's on the outside can help the process of changing what's on the inside as well.

      Delete
  8. Happy New year..guess its already started. I am indian with brown skin n black straight hair but I love it. I sometimes try n look a shade lighter than my skin tone but otherwise I jus loveee my brown skin n hair :)

    Affordable Lace Gown

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love my complexion as well, simply because I couldn't imagine what it would be like to look in the mirror and see anything else. I'm glad you love the way you are.

      Delete
  9. Happy Chinese New Year. This was such a thought-provoking read. I am asian myself but adopted, so I feel really detached from my native culture. I feel very "asian" in the sense that I have to deal with racism just like all other asians, look to asian makeup brands and celebrities, as they mirror me and will match better for my features when it comes to inspiration and application of makeup, but in terms of feeling very Korean, I do not because I was not raised with my culture. I know I am asian and am happy and proud of it, but it sometimes makes me sad that I do not feel very Korean. I have often wondered how it is for those who are raised with asian parents but have been quite assimilated, so this read was very interesting for me. I do think you have the best of both worlds.

    Rae | Love from Berlin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And I've always wondered what it was like for adopted Asians, because I do know a few. I guess you live life the way your parents do? But I guess appearance must matter, because you mention makeup and racism and simply identifying with people of similar looks, and this must all be based on what they see and what you see. And you know what? I reckon you have the best of both worlds too, because your looks and background give you incentive to learn about your original culture as well as accepting the way you've been brought up wholeheartedly.

      Delete
  10. Ethnicity and, mostly, cultural differences should raise awareness and open our minds more than the opposite that is happening.

    Barbs

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! We can only learn more from other cultures rather than feel derogative or lesser about all the differences they present.

      Delete
  11. This is such an amazing post, M. I'm Asian too (not Chinese though), but I totally understand most of this, especially since I'm familiar with the Asian culture. It's sad and unfortunate all the stereotypes and misinterpretations and just plain misunderstandings and ignorance. Hang in there!! <3

    Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I use the stereotypes as humour though, and yet I feel somewhat angry when people believe they're completely true. That seems a little hypocritical of me but hey... And we shouldn't have to hang in there because being part of this culture is a GOOD THING!!

      Delete
  12. Hi M! I just wanted to say that you always leave such sweet and wonderful comments on my blog, and I thought I'd return the favor. Also, thank you for being an active reader/follower, it truly means a lot. <3

    Happy Chinese New Year! I enjoyed reading the details you gave us about your culture, I find it very interesting given that I am currently taking an Cultural Anthropology class. I love how you poured your heart out into this post, and how you feel about people and their stereotypical comments. It's hard to overcome stereotypical views and even though I cannot relate to some of your feelings, I completely understand!

    What a beautiful, moving post. Hang in there, sweetie. And remember that you are beautiful in every way. :)

    xx Mackenzie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Mackenzie. I love good blogs, and yours is pretty amazing. I reckon I have more overcoming of stereotypes than most people, because my entire view of people of my culture has been built on them, and I need to tear that view down because it's just plain negative - and the fact that I've been actively applying these stereotypes to my opinions on people and life makes me feel ashamed.

      Delete
  13. You're not alone M... While I am not Asian, I do know what you mean. I'm a second generation Hispanic in the U.S, which is so confusing and tough in it's own way. My parents and grandparents have always told me stories about where we came from, which made me feel proud. But at the same time hearing people on the street or on t.v say that "Hispanics should go back to the barrio they came from." it's like what? go back to friken West Palm Florida??? Or my favorite "You're what's wrong with the country!" yeah, sure, 10 year old me really made a negative impact on the country. Hearing those things as a child does have a impact on you, I feel like all my life I grew up proud and also ashamed and confused. Yeah, it makes no sense. Until I became an older teenager did I throw that shame out the door. Now I really don't a crap about what anyone thinks about me or my ethnicity. They way I see it, someone should make sure their ancestors came to the country legally and morally before they assume that someone else's didn't. Cause otherwise they're just being hypocritical asses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For a while there I only really thought it was my race that experienced this, but then I realised that nobody can escape it as long as they're not white. We just have to overcome it and throw that shame out the window like you have, be more thick skinned. I've never actually had people yell directly offensive things to my face, but I can only imagine how much impact that must've had on your identity at a young age. It's nice to know that a lot of second generation immigrants still have a lot of cultural pride, despite the somewhat racist country we've grown up in.

      Delete