My Lifestyle is My Personality, Not My Country

Just because you are from a particular ethnicity doesn't mean you are to behave in a certain way.

Rickshaw Taxis in Beijing, China

This article was written as part of Peeve Week 2: Culture/Relationships

Culture can many described and considered as many different things. These could be ethnic cultures, village customs or family traditions. Culture and tradition can be beliefs that are passed on through generations, or items or actions that we continue to do. My particular peeve is in regard to my Asian ethnicity, and the stereotypes and misconceptions of the culture that are attached.

Tradition is a thing many people are proud of. It is like the roots of our existence and how our lifestyle is derived from. But tradition may not affect everyone. For example, if you take an Asian baby away from their parents, and raise him/her in an Australian family, I am sure the baby will adopt much of the Australian culture. Others may decide they do not want to celebrate, believe or pass on what their former generation did. I am just one small example of this, and personally I am tired of being scrutinized for what I do or do not do.

My family migrated to New Zealand when I was two, and then migrating to Australia when I was six. Personally, I think it is a great feat that I can speak Chinese, but others ask for more. They wonder, since I am Asian, why can I not speak very fluent advanced Chinese or Taiwanese dialect, or why I cannot read or write Chinese. Mind you, I did attend Chinese school for ten years in Australia – but I live in an Australian culture. It is very hard to practice and make use of my Chinese in a western environment, especially when I do not have the interest. I have no ties to my family in Taiwan for many reasons, and so I do not particularly feel the need to follow Asian traditions (in fact, I disagree with quite a lot of Asian beliefs).

Others make fun of the Asian things I do, or the Asian things I do not do. It’s as if nothing is good enough, I can’t be Asian enough or I am too Asian.
Yes, occasionally I like to burn incense sticks and paper with my family for the dead. While I do not believe strongly in the Buddhism beliefs, I have created my own set of values and beliefs and I burn mainly out of respect.

Yes, I do wear slippers inside, bring my own water or food when going out, buy economically cheap things such as sales, and re-use a lot of things. While I did learn these things from my parents, I don’t have to, but I do because the reasons behind them make sense. If there’s a sale on necessary commodities, why wouldn’t you bulk up? Or why waste up to $5 on unnecessary purchases such as water?

No, just because I’m Asian I’m not Buddhist. I do have my beliefs in souls, spirits, karma and all that stuff… but it’s not simply because I’m Asian. It’s because of true experiences I have had, and perhaps encounters with the spiritual world – but that’s too hard to explain to someone outside my family. Instead, the easy way to conclude my beliefs is simply “they are part of my Asian beliefs” though that isn’t true, it’s the easiest way for people to understand.

Sometimes culture can be a nuisance if one does not want to be part of it, but sometimes it’s a proud heritage or tradition. Just keep in mind, culture is not something enforced upon each generation. If someone acts a particular way, their culture may be the influence, but in the end it is their decision. Some may embrace it, others may not, and it is up to the person and their own values.

Jess is a 16 year old down to earth, deep-thinking teen. She loves to talk about all the real life issues, and get actively involved within the community. She currently resides in Australia.

5 thoughts on “My Lifestyle is My Personality, Not My Country”

  1. Awww, I am guessing asking you how to make sushi is out of the question then. 🙁 [damn, have to buy a book now! :(]

    Just kidding to make a point! Excellent post Jess. People love assuming things, specially when it comes to looks and culture. Many people love judging others, even if they don't think so. People focus a lot on where one is from, instead of knowing what one is.

    I'm mixed, born in a different country and raised in different countries, and I have seen stereotypes and I have been stereotyped almost every single day, both online and offline. People make retarded and racially retarded jokes [much like my above one simply because of appearance or knowledge that someone is something from some area] in front of me, related to me, all the time and they think it is all right. A joke is fine, but that idea from which the joke stems is always there, growing. We need more posts like these, with people actually going through such an experience, so more people can start realizing how narrow minded they are, even if they profess to be open minded. The typical "I'm open minded" and "I treat everyone equally" mantra isn't going to work since people say one thing and they do something completely different, like people hanging out most of the time only within their own ethnicity, even if they have opportunities to hang out with other ethnicities.

    I do not associate with any culture. I'm me, and if someone cannot understand that, they cannot understand me.


  2. I can relate too having been raised in the Philippines and then being a half-Mexican in the middle of the inner-city in Las Vegas. I have a strong Mexican background, but you couldn't tell by the way I lived.

  3. same here… I consider myself being Cosmopolitan. I was born in a country different from my ancestors land, I've moved from one country to another several times. I was a citizen of 4 different countries. Now I'm Canadian and I like being associated with a country that welcomes diverse cultures.

  4. It doesn’t matter if you do or don’t practice Chinese traditions. All you have to do is to appreciate and understand it. You can also try some new things about Chinese traditions and make fun of it. And most of all, enjoy it.

  5. I get what you’re saying, I was born and raised in another country but we’ve migrated to New Zealand. They are mostly very accepting of my different culture but there is still a certain ‘distance’ in how people treat me.
    Saying that, it seems to be getting better over time.


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