A Little Cultural Perspective

I never realized that my family and personal background was so complicated until I moved to Japan.  I’m Chinese American with family roots in Indonesia and Hong Kong.  I have personal roots in Canada and the US – the south and west coast.  My husband is Japanese, and I also now live in Japan.  Whenever the Olympics roll around, I’m never at a loss finding a country to cheer for!

Living in Japan (or possibly anywhere where the majority of the population is of one ethnic background), people try to categorize you.  Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a bad thing.  People try to understand each other in a way that will fit into their existing mindset.  It’s similar to asking for someone’s profession and being able to make connections in your mind about that person based on that information.  For example, if someone told me they’re a blogger, I would tend to assume certain personality traits (creative, sociable, friendly, awesome) about that person based on my experiences – until I develop more of a relationship.  (Side note: I’m a Communications Major so how people interact with each other really interests me.  In fact, I’ve been known to stare in the name of “observation”.  Very often.  I’m oblivious to others’ disinterest.. and at times, normal social graces.  So please feel free to jump down!)

The problem occurs when you meet someone whose background you haven’t had much experience with previously.  Your mind quickly tries to find a category, even if that only describes one aspect of that person.  Since I moved to Japan, I’ve heard “Oh! You’re American.”  or “I see.  You’re from China!” or “You’re Hong Kongese.” many times since I moved here.  I just smile and nod, but in my mind, I always think, “Yes, but I’m obviously Asian, ” or “But I never lived in China,” or “Is ‘Hong Kongese’ really a word?”  As much as people would like, they can’t categorize me into one ethnicity or location.  But I don’t blame them for trying because I can’t either, and I’ve had a lot more time to process it!

To me, my blog thus far has felt like “an American experiencing Japan.”  My perspective and original recipes, crafts, and projects have been heavily influenced by American style and culture, a bond that’s grown stronger for me since moving to Japan.  Over the past few years, my other cultural identities have gotten a little lost in the mix.  Moving forward, I’ll still feature my favorite spots and finds in Japan, but I’ll be featuring more projects and ideas that pull from one culture or another or a fusion.  I’ll also try different cultural takes on popular projects in the blogosphere.  If I have all of these influences, I might as well use them, right?  :)  I have some really fun plans in store, and I really hope that y’all will enjoy the little change in direction.

xoxo,
Jen

8 thoughts on “A Little Cultural Perspective

  1. I so feel for you, although my roots aren’t as near complicated as yours.
    But I do not look like I belong to any ethnic race at all. Well yes, I look obviously Asian, but when it comes down to categorising the which ethnic race I am, people starts making assumptions. I hate that, I rather you just ask me, I will be happy to share.

    And the one surprise I got from traveling so much lately, it is having to feel for real I don’t belong anywhere. In Singapore, I am percieved as Japanese, Korean, Chinese. In Taiwan I am percieved as Japanese or Chinese. In Japan I am looked at as from Taiwan or Malaysia.

    It was fun holding everyone in suspence, but then it dawn on me, I don’t belong anywhere! Oh goodness, should I be happy or sad about that?

    And I love the way you have been working with your blog, a true outsider’s perspective from an insider’s point of view (does that make sense? LOL) Anyways, I am looking forward to the new changes here. (I wish I am as committed to blogging as you, heaven knows mine need a revamp LOL)

    • Hey JC! Haha I get that too! Over the years, people have asked me if I’m a whole range of different ethnicities. It’s quite funny at times! But I definitely understand your feeling of not belonging. I’m not completely any one culture, and everywhere I visit, locals always see me as a foreigner. There’s sometimes advantages though since you can get away with more things! I’ve changed my thinking recently – wherever I think of as “home” is where I belong (although that’s a few places!).

      Thanks for all of your support and kind words :) You really made my day!

  2. Haha wow I know exactly how you feel! I was born in one place, raised in several others, speak more than one language and have an american accent when I speak English lol. So people are always so confused about where I’m from, and try to tell me I’m french, or American, or Canadian. It’s quite funny. I like to see myself as a citizen of the world ;)

    • Haha That’s a great way to think of it! I think there’s more of us everyday who are global citizens :) You’re lucky that you speak so many languages. I wish I spoke more. Even after 2 years in Japan, your Japanese is much better than mine!

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