I saw the American Asian tag by Amy, and thought it’d be interesting to do a Taiwanese Kiwi one. In general, I think a lot of aspects may relate with many Kiwi Asian’s. I feel that a lot of the experiences that each individual goes through, can make them a stronger person. I think Asian’s are definitely one of the biggest groups that face many stereotypes, that can be faced with when growing up. Growing up, I feel incredibly blessed and grateful to have had a chapter of my life living on a farm. It really kept me grounded, down to earth, have an appreciation for nature and animals and grateful for the small things. When we surround ourselves with nature, we focus on what’s important.
1. Which ethnicity are you? I’m Taiwanese Kiwi, born and raised in New Zealand.
2. Which generation are you? First generation, my parents moved here from Taiwan when my sister was still very young.
3. What is the first experience where you felt that demarcation of being a minority/different? The first that I can remember in terms of my parents, were when adults would speak very slowly to my parents in English. As a child, I didn’t like it. In my mind I would think “they are not stupid you know,” and I remember feeling upset about it. One of my first experiences was when kids would say ching chong or when I would be asked what’s in my lunchbox. Most of the time, children are simply curious. Sometimes, they can be hurtful. But, I think differences can sometimes either be welcomed or opposed.
4. Were you always proud of your heritage or was there a time you rejected it? This is such a good question, because there were periods of my life where I thought to myself “I’m just a Kiwi” and didn’t fully embrace my Taiwanese side. I spoke English with my Sister, and it doesn’t feel as comfortable if I speak Mandarin with her. There were also a period of time where I felt frustration of “Kiwi” often being the image of a Caucasian person, and always asking minorities “Where are you from.” To me, being Kiwi is if you’ve lived in New Zealand for a long time, or call it your home. I always felt pretty Kiwi growing up, and most of my friends were Caucasian. I often got tired of the Asian stereotypes, but I hid it through just laughing a long and letting it slide by.
I couldn’t (and still can’t to some extent) relate to a lot of aspects of Chinese/Taiwanese culture. There were certain ways of thinking I didn’t understand or agree with. There were Taiwanese girls I interacted with at a young age, and I always felt (to put it lightly) that I was more mature and independent, and couldn’t quite relate to them. As I grow older, I’ve talked to more people and embrace both sides of being Taiwanese and being a Kiwi. Often, the term Kiwi can be focused on Pakeha/Maori because of the historical side. This is understandable, but it’s also important to acknowledge that anyone who calls New Zealand their home, are a Kiwi.
I feel like in New Zealand, I can speak my mind freely. Whereas, in Taiwan there’s a need to be careful what you say in order to keep face. There are certain cultural actions, such as gift giving and other aspects that I do think are important, such as respecting your elders. In Taiwan we tend to wear slippers in the house, in Chinese culture we drink warm water and have a lot of value placed on food. My first favourite toy was a Hello Kitty plush toy, and from then on I’ve always loved Cute things, which are normal in Asian culture.
5. What are some stereotypes that you struggle with? I remember growing up, the stereotypes I struggled with was when some students would ask me for help in Maths class, even though it was one of my worse subjects a long with Chemistry. There were also questions of Asians being smart, Asians working hard, Asians being talented in music and the list goes on. There are stereotypes of Asians not being good at English. As I was often let go in English class for my grammar mistakes, because the teacher would say “its okay, English isn’t your first language.” My classmates would say “At least you have an excuse.” The way I saw it was, I grew up here and I speak English fluently.
6. Can you speak your language? I grew up speaking Mandarin with my parents. I do speak it but not entirely fluently. I did grow up feeling frustrated at times that I couldn’t fully express myself with my personality in Mandarin. I find for some specific family friends that I have only spoken Chinese with growing up, don’t know a part of me because I’m a lot more myself when I speak English. Hopefully it will improve greatly and I will be able to express myself more. I also grew up (and til now) feeling frustrated at judgments of my Chinese level. Although, most people are nice and say it’s great. It bothered me for a while, because I do think it’s a reflection of my feelings inside, in how I do truly want to improve it.
7. How has being Kiwi Asian affected your relationship with your parents? I think now it doesn’t have such an affect, but I think perhaps when I was younger it did. I never had parents that expected me to get really good grades, they simply just wanted me to do my best. There’s several stereotypes about Asian parents, however my parents were pretty chilled out about a lot of things. There were only certain things (like any parent) where they would care about or hope for.
8. How do you feel about your heritage now? Do you identify with it? I do, and I feel proud to be Taiwanese now, whereas in my teens I may not have been so much. I don’t know if I can fully identify or relate with Taiwanese culture completely, but who knows, if I ever move back I may be able to feel it a lot more strongly. However, I see that there is so much in our culture, history, and what our ancestors have been through. Our roots are a part of us.
9. What is your favorite thing about being Kiwi Asian/your heritage? The culture, language, food and just being able to embrace myself for who I am. Just to be myself. That’s the most important thing.