Issue One: Barriers

One question that people always ask me is, ‘Sandy, are you Chinese?’ Sometimes I would say yes and sometimes I would say no. Strictly speaking, I am Australian but born in a first generation Chinese migrant family.

School and home were like two worlds to me. At school I was like any other child, learning in English, but at home I spoke Chinese. Since a young age, I have heard my parents’ stories over and over. The story about there being no food at home or the story about how only one sibling could leave the house at a time because there was only one pair of pants. Needless to say, we were indeed very different from our local neighbours. It wasn’t just the skin or hair colour, our favourite language was half-Chinese, half-English: ‘Chinglish’. We never used the dishwasher even though we had one. Every Sunday, while other children were still in bed; I got up early to attend Chinese school.

I am extremely thankful for all that I have, wholeheartedly accepting the gift of serendipity. Through my parents, I came to understand that depending on location of growth, there is a myriad of ways of being Chinese. For each person, their personally accumulated experiences shape them into who they are today. Each person has his or her own set of exclusive occurrences and therefore everyone’s perspective may be distinctive with no one being absolutely ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. When it comes to culture, there is no ‘should’ or ‘correct’ way of living.

Cultural barriers are inevitable, that is not to say they are unbreakable. With an accepting heart and eager mind, barriers become doorways to new ways of thinking.