How I Preserve My Culture As An Asian Canadian Mom (3 minute read)

In my life, I've been called many things. 

**Click Below To Listen** 

Growing up in the 90s in a predominantly Caucasian community, I got the usual questions and comments.

Here's a sample with answers I should have given back instead of silently seething. 

“What are you?”

A Human Being

"No...like where are you from?"

Earth

“Ching Chang Chung”

Ming Mang Mung

Someone pulling at the outside corners of their eyes

Proceed to pull my own eyes so I look like Mr. Bean trying to stay awake in the Asleep in Church episode


We’ve come a long way since then and I’m fortunate I grew up at the tail end of much worst times. So I’ve been a victim of racism but I’ve also been called a racist. Let me explain.

Being Chinese is a huge part of who I am. When I started grade school, I would put my “white person” hat on and when I came home, I took that hat off (along with my shoes 😏) and became myself. 


I spoke Cantonese at home with my family, ate Chinese food, celebrated all the traditions, and went to Chinese school on Saturday mornings. When I went to school, I spoke English with my friends, ate sandwiches and celebrated occasions like Valentine’s Day and Halloween.

Around grade 5 or 6, I started watching American television and listening to American music and the “white hat” stayed on my head a little longer every time I came home. There were moments (especially during the teenage years) where I rejected my culture and wanted to be a blonde white chick with blue eyes (you know, like Kelly from 90210). 


I didn’t look like any of the members of Spice Girls (except maybe the pregnant friend from the movie...although I just checked IMDb and she's Japanese..hmmm I digress).

Anyway...many bottles of hair dye and multiple pairs of coloured contacts later, I started to learn to love myself externally and internally around first-year University. Rather than being torn by the two cultures, I defined my own as neither fully Canadian or fully Chinese. 


I was granted an opportunity to pick what I loved about each culture and the change in perspective empowered me. I grew to accept that I can have both Eastern and Western values and that's just who I am.

I enjoy listening to Taylor Swift and I enjoy singing Jacky Cheung's 90s hits. I enjoy making Sloppy Joe's for dinner and making congee with century egg and “oil fried rail.” I love hot fudge sundaes and red bean soup and sometimes both at the same time (because why the hell not?). I speak English to my coworkers and friends, Cantonese to my parents, in-laws and daughter and Chinglish to my husband. 

I learned to love myself physically and embraced every aspect of my Asian look. I love my natural black hair (I have highlights now because it’s a low maintenance way to hide my ever-multiplying greys; I will post a beauty blog another time), my olive-yellow skin, my below Canadian average stature and my slightly upturned eyes. 


Not only do I love myself the way I am, but during my "self-discovery phase", I realized I wanted to be with someone (another CBC) who could fully appreciate that journey.

So back to my story of me being called a racist. About 5 or 6 years ago, a friend of mine was chatting with her white male coworker. The guy’s girlfriend was Chinese and they were talking about interracial dating. 

My friend mentions to him that she knows someone who prefers to date Chinese men because they want to preserve their culture and they’re physically attracted to them more than other races. 


She was referring to me. She tells me about this conversation and says her coworker called me a racist and that I should be open to dating other ethnicities. At the moment, I was flabbergasted and angry. 

First of all, I wasn’t there to defend myself. 


Second of all, I found it shocking that someone who didn't know me at all could make a judgment about something they knew nothing about (You know nothing Jon Snow White Man). 


That day, his ignorance cemented my sense of self and reminded me to keep my own ignorance level in check.

As my daughter enters the dating world, many years down the road, I want her to know that I will accept and respect whoever she is attracted to. I hope she feels empowered to know she has a choice to define her own culture and shares with me her self-discovery journey. 


Her identity is for her to create and no one can take that away, especially the ignorant folks. I can help shape that journey by instilling the Eastern and Western values that I've embraced. I hope that by sharing with her how I came to love myself, it will inspire her to do so as well.

So Readers, what are your thoughts on blending cultures to raise our children?



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