Throughout my formative years, I struggled to pinpoint exactly which culture I was ‘meant’ to identify with. Was I Australian, or Chinese? Was I Chinese, or Singaporean? I was in a constant state of cultural flux: Australia was the only home I had ever known, we celebrated Chinese New Year with yee sang and red packets, Malaysian desserts were a staple part of my diet, my extended family resided in Singapore, and many foods I knew only by their Cantonese names.
I changed my mind from time to time, moving between being “Australian-but-my-parents-grew-up-in-Singapore-and-Malaysia”, or “My-family-is-originally-from-Singapore-but-I-was-born-here”, or “Yes, I am Chinese. Not from China though”. I was often confused; which one was ‘right’?
During university, some non-Asian friends even pointed out to me that I jumped straight to these answers when asked an innocent, “So, where are you from?” I argued that it was for efficiency, because a lot of the time, simply saying “Australia” is not a satisfactory answer, and another probing question follows.
Despite there being times where a difference in cultural values has caused tension, and moments where I haven’t understood why things have felt different, it is a blessing to be able to experience two cultures - supposedly on opposite ends of the spectrum - as one person. I’ve since discovered, that as a cultural chameleon, all of them are right.
Yes, I took noodles to school for lunch. But I like sandwiches too.
Yes, I may have grown up learning Chinese nursery rhymes, drinking copious amounts of soybean milk, and quoting Singaporean sitcoms. But I also love English literature and the warm sandy sunshine of Australian beaches.
Yes, it may take a little longer to explain why I don’t ‘look’ Australian. But that doesn’t mean I’m not.