Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hello, World. 你好,世界。

Hello, World. These two words seem appropriate at the present moment, because it explains what this blog is going to be about—a search for one’s personal identity, a journey of self-discovery. At one point in our lives, we have asked ourselves “Who am I? What makes me who I am?”, but it is only through personal experience that one can answer these baffling questions.

The topic of “culture” is somewhat foreign to Americans in the United States, mainly because the United States is a potpourri of cultures built from a foundation of immigrants. In its basic anthropological essence, the word “culture” describes a way of living built up by a group of human beings that is passed down through generations. It also, however, describes something that almost every society has, sans the United States. The truth of the matter is that American “culture” (if we can even call it that) is built upon borrowing ideas from others. It is highly unlikely, if we embrace the anthropological view of “culture”, that America has built its own unique “culture” in its short period of history. In contrast, civilizations like China demonstrate a society whose cultural background spans thousands of years. Therefore, keeping with the argument offered by the anthropological definition of the word “culture”, China has a national cultural identity, due in part by behaviors and customs passed down generations.

That said, this blog is about a Chinese girl growing up in the United States. Whereas others spend their college years searching for what they want to do in the big picture of life, this Chinese girl spends her college years not only searching for her destiny, but also her identity. Torn between two worlds, this Chinese girl grew up eating rice for lunch in an American elementary school in the sea of bologna sandwiches. This Chinese girl translated for her mother at supermarkets, while the child in the cereal aisle carries a conversation with his mother in perfect English.

This Chinese girl is me.

I am well aware of the books found in the “Self-Help” section of bookstores that deal with the subject of “finding one’s self” and “knowing one’s self”, but my journey in finding my cultural identity is far less cliché. As a matter of fact, I am still struggling to find my place between the two “cultures”. Essentially, others would consider me a Chinese American. But to me, those two words carry a heavy meaning upon my shoulders. From this identification, one could deduce that I was both Chinese and American. But in reality, I felt neither Chinese nor American. Before going on, I would like to clarify that when I say “Chinese”, I mean someone who grew up in China and was immersed in Chinese culture, while I say “American”, I mean someone who grew up in the United States and was immersed in American society. I dream of a day when I tell people that I grew up in Chicago, the look of genuine surprise would not flit across their face. I dream of a day when people do not go on and say “But what ethnicity are you? Chinese, Korean, Japanese?”, to which my answer of “Chinese” would be confronted with their “Chinese knowledge”, consisting of badly spoken broken bits of Chinese words with a stupid smile on their face. But I digress. Through all this adversity, I still struggle to find which society I identify with and shapes who I am as a person, whether be at home with my parents who are die-hard Chinese-to-the-core type of people, or at school where I had to explain what “shumai” was to a friend (which, if you were wondering, is a shrimp dumpling).

This is a blog about my experiences of being a Chinese American. I am just a girl, whose family is very culturally Chinese, growing up in an American society

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