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Brought up British

Friday, September 18, 2015

Think of a Venn diagram between the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, I would be straight in the middle. Hong Kong does have ties with the UK though (99 year lease and all) but more on this later. Let's go through the ancestral roots, so my parents were both born in Hong Kong. My mum moved over when she was younger to the UK joining her family too. My dad moved much later after he did a lil solo Europe trip.

Me? Well I was born in the UK, and even on the passport it clearly states 'British Citizen' and spent my twenty so years growing up there. But my nationality is Chinese- British Born Chinese to be exact. I moved around a lot when I was younger, and each time I moved it seemed as though I was the only Chinese girl in the area. I remember clearly going in to my fourth year at Primary school, I had an induction because I was the 'new kid', everyone asked me why my eyes were smaller and slanted in comparison to them. I never really focused too much on my differences to the other kids, my mum told me I was bullied when I was in year One but I have no recollection of it, so she moved me to another school. At times it felt great, people would pay more attention to you because you were different, your last name sounded exotic and people would ask you about what you ate at home. Yet at other times I would wish I wasn't the only person who looked misplaced.

My parents worked all though my life, they owned their own business and as most immigrated Chinese people they brought me up through the takeaway/ restaurant life. I started young, helping out in the corner and supporting my parents whenever they needed me. To this day, they've raised me up with the best work ethic, having to be responsible and work at such a young age is extremely treacherous, but I don't regret it- as I wouldn't be the person I am today without it.

Secondary school was more difficult, I met some amazing people (whom I'm happy to say that I still remain insanely close with) but others, well let's just say people can be really harsh when they wanted to. I got teased a lot and getting on the school bus was a real headache at times (I used to get things thrown at me) but everyone can go through bullying regardless of your race, and believe me when I say it sucks. Walking through the streets of my home town too, if there was a gang/ a few guys hanging around they would walk past and make a snide comment too usually about my race. One of my closest friends experienced this for the first time, we were walking once in the city centre and a pair of boys walked past and muttered some incoherent 'Chinese', her jaw dropped and she yelled at them. I told her to not worry as I've experienced this multitudes of time, which is sad really when you get used to this feeling.

I wouldn't say I ever felt split to side with a particular race/ culture. My parents and grandmother taught me traditional Chinese ways (being polite to elders, learning to respect other people and their cultures and how to hold a pair of chopsticks- all essentials of life, clearly). I would speak English at school, but inside my own house (the little bubble) I would chatter in Cantonese and paid attention when my parents spoke it to me.

Looking back though, I wouldn't say I was 100% comfortable with discussing my Chinese culture either. My friends would ask me more about how to say things in Cantonese and a tiny part of me felt ashamed to reveal it. That's my biggest regret up to now, that I never really shared this side of me with my friends. It is tough, as you always have to 'try and fit in' with the culture- being torn between being called Chinese or British, but why do we have to 'fit in' can't we just embrace these parts of us and enjoy them both?

Nowadays, I'm much more relaxed and open about sharing this side of me, after all I'm both British and Chinese. These two things don't really need to be seperate but I can combine them and it is a part of who I am- my identity. After all, I'm lucky enough to enjoy a cup of Breakfast tea and have a cup of Pu Erh for afterwards.

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