Being a mix of British and Chinese has always complicated my life in some ways, so to explain to people what it’s really like to be biracial, I’ve compiled a list about the struggles that it brings to someone like me.
‘Where are you from?’ is the worst question you could ask
Unless you’re ready for a 3-minute long explanation, don’t ask it. It’s maybe because of my facial features or my accent, but people always wonder. I mean does it matter where I’m actually from? Because I don’t have a one-word answer for you. That won’t stop people from guessing: I’ve been mistaken for being Spanish, French, Russian, Vietnamese, Slovakian, Kazak, Canadian – the list goes on. And people never get it right. Just because I’ve lived in Vietnam for 14 years does not make me Vietnamese by nationality.
You’re culturally ambiguous
Since you’re not defined as being uniquely Asian or uniquely Caucasian, you’ll always be in this strange but familiar liminal zone: you’re always in-between cultures. You’re not one nor the other, you’re both. You’d think that people won’t stereotype you, but that won’t stop them: ‘can you understand those Chinese people?’ or ‘can you cook me a stir-fry?’ Umm no. It’s true that I might have some cultural habits that aligns with the Chinese culture, like believing in the Zodiac horoscope and celebrating Chinese New Year, but I would never be considered as uniquely Chinese, because I don’t speak the language and to the Chinese people I would always look too Caucasian. And to the Westerners I would always be considered as Asian because of my features. The struggle…
Filling forms is like taking a test
You know when you’re in the immigration area at an airport and you have to fill in forms where you have to put down your “ethnicity” and you see all these different boxes: Caucasian, African-american, Asian, Hispanic and there’s a category in the end that’s called Other. Yep, that’s pretty much the box I tick every time I fill in these forms.
You’re stuck between beauty trends
It’s complicated being mixed because there’s always someone out there who decides on a beauty trend which doesn’t correspond to the norms on the other side of the world. As an example, in Asia they think attractiveness is based on light skin, brown hair and big eyes. In the West, you are pretty if you have darker features like dark eyebrows, hair, and tanned skin whereas in Asia tanned skin is considered to be unattractive. I’ve never understood it. I still don’t.
People don’t understand your humour
Since you’ve been exposed to a lot of different types of humour around the world, you’ve formed a certain type of humour that most people won’t understand: it can be a mix of Vietnamese, Chinese and American humour. Weird right? Unfortunately, this means that you’re that person who starts laughing when no one else finds the joke funny, or when everyone else laughs and you’re the one who doesn’t get it.
You hate it when people call you ‘exotic’
I’m really going to complain about this. I’m not an object, so please don’t call me exotic. I’m not an animal either. So please don’t start staring at me with intent eyes as if you were at the zoo, because I won’t make conversation with you.
You have ridiculously high expectations for food
You’ve tasted the best, and probably the worst. You know what’s good, and tasted the best of Asian and Western cuisines from all around the world. From street food stalls to Michelin restaurants, you know which spices work together and your palate has adapted to food with lots of flavor. I’ve always complained about English food being too bland, and compared Asian restaurants in the West to be a bad imitation of the original thing. Trust me, I could be the next judge at Masterchef. So be aware that I’m always a critic when it comes to food. This also means that some days I feel like having a good pad thai, other days I just want a hot Chinese pork bun, or hot pot. And it’s been always hard to find a good replica in the West.
You find it weird how some people fetishize mixed-race babies
This one probably aligns with the one being called ‘exotic’. But yes, if you look on Instagram there are Instagram pages that fetishize mixed-race babies. People rave about it too.
You’re insecure about your accent
Because you’re mixed and you’ve lived everywhere, it means you absorb all the accents that you hear around you. Going to an international school means that I’ve watched a lot of American series and films, and going to a British uni means that my accent is a mix of British and American. I might sound too ‘British’ to your American friends and sound too ‘American’ to your British ones. Ughhh.
So there you have it, a list of the challenges I have to live with. It’s not all that bad, it just makes life a bit more fun and interesting. Aside from all these struggles, it’s really time to embrace who you are and not let your cultural background limit you in any way.
Thanks for reading!