Being Asked If I Feel More Taiwanese Or Kiwi

a7fc89977b2d41e2a3a8c4c6a8103f39.jpgIf you’re an Asian who was born and raised in a Western country, the question on whether you feel more this or that can be a difficult one. As someone who grew up in New Zealand, it’s my natural response to say that I’m from New Zealand. I’ve never lived in Taiwan long term and fully immersed and experienced the culture first hand. However, I’ve always spoke Mandarin growing up and was raised by my parents who are from Taiwan. It runs in my blood and is an important part of me and is a part of my identity and background. Which is why, a question like this, makes me want to answer it as simple as this: I feel like a Taiwanese Kiwi.

There are still aspects of culture in Taiwan that I am still learning, but appreciating your roots and knowing the importance of embracing both sides is vital in understanding parts of yourself. I think Language plays a significant role, because the Language I speak reflects a part of me. That is why to speak English and to speak Mandarin is important, because they reflect my upbringing in New Zealand, and they reflect my Taiwanese background. As an Asian, it’s a natural assumption to think that the person comes from somewhere else, which is why the common question “Where are you from?” is often asked.

It’s natural to ask those sort of questions, but many Asians who were born in a Western country know that they also feel a strong sense of their identity in the country they were born and raised in. We have the accent of where we were raised, we understand the culture, we grew up being in the environment, we make friends with those around us and we will still be asked the question. This is something that over time, I have to accept I will be asked and occasionally given the reminder that my physical identity makes it seem that I’m from somewhere else, even though we live in a multicultural society.

Were you raised in a Western country as an Asian? What was your experience like growing up? Have you ever encountered questions on ethnicity that made you really think deeply about your own identity? I’m very curious, as I know each of us will have different experiences. For some perhaps might feel more this or that, and others may embrace both sides. Whatever it may be, respecting different cultures, races and people in general is the only way we can gain a better of understanding of others. We create our own sense of belonging and identity, and no one can change or take that away from us.

Photography by dragontrees

6 thoughts on “Being Asked If I Feel More Taiwanese Or Kiwi

  1. I’m interracial and I hated and still hate being asked where you’re from. I know most of the time it doesn’t come from a mean place, but I hate being asked. But also I love being interracial as I’ve had such a diverse upbringing.

    1. It is funny you should say that Rachel. I am very sensitive about asking this until I know someone well, because I know many folks would not like it. But this is frustrating as I am genuinely curious about people with a different upbringing to myself and feel I can learn from them. It is a fine line to walk!

      This summer I was working with a girl with a very english accent but quite a dark complexion and bright blue eyes. It was an electrifying combination and I was SO curious but I didn’t need to ask in the end as she told me one day that her mum is from India. This is great as one of my friends is an Indian lady so suddenly we had a whole new subject to talk about.

      Nice to meet you.

      1. Its such an sensitive topic. Most times it doesn’t bother me because I know people are asking because they are curious and it’s not coming from a bad place. I think its the worst when someone asks you straight away, as I feel my skin colour doesn’t define me. If you know the person or have met them a few times I think its fair to ask x

    2. That’s understandable, it can get tiring if it’s asked too often. Most of the time people are simply curious, but there are moments where it feels intrusive and unnecessary. I wrote about how I often wish people would ask “What is your ethnicity”, rather than “where are you from”, because my initial reaction when I’m asked ‘where are you from”, is “I’m from Auckland”.

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