Growing up within a mix of cultures can be a cause for confusion. Bits and pieces of different lifestyles are linked to form a patchwork-quilt of an identity. There’s a struggle in determining where you belong on that east-west spectrum. I sometimes felt I possessed special knowledge about things my predominantly western primary-school classmates would be intrigued by. Knowing the Cantonese names for various foods at family dim-sum outings and preferring Malaysian hawker-style dishes above all else. Celebrating Chinese New Year with my parents’ friends, or more aunties and uncles than I could possibly be related to.
I also sensed there were elements of my background from which I was distant. Being able to recall Chinese rhymes and songs my dad loves, then realising I hardly understood what the lyrics meant. Reuniting with cousins from Singapore and noticing some of their jokes and slang were lost on me; maybe that made me more of an Australian.
The confusion would continue in how I interacted with others. Consider a friend making a remark touching on some generalised Asian stereotype, and as an afterthought turning and saying something like “I didn’t mean you, you’re different” or “no offence”. Do you laugh it off, making fun of your own culture? Do you agree, letting them know you’re not ‘as Asian’ as that? Or do you try to change their perception of something that, in reality, makes you who you are?
Over time, through grappling with the significance of these cultural clashes, I’ve definitely learned to reconcile my identity as a member of the two cultures, and to celebrate my heritage. Instead of a puzzling patchwork, my identity becomes something I appreciate as colourful, interesting and intricate. There shouldn’t be a need to side with one culture over the other; I, myself, am confident to say I love being a part of both.