Week 12: Winnie

Week 12: Who Are You?

To be honest, I found it very difficult to answer the question “who are you?”, because I would not call myself a “Hong Konger”, yet, I could not call myself an “American-born Chinese” (ABC) either. Growing up in the U.S. did made me feel like an “American” back then, but after moving back to Hong Kong, I had to readjust myself to the local Hong Kong culture, despite the fact that I still do not understand some local traits. For example, when I first watched the local cartoon movie “My Life as McDull” (麥兜故事), a film that reflects the local society, with some elements hinting towards the local government, I was totally clueless with the slang, the phrases, and the plot itself. While other people in the theater were laughing and nodding in agreement to the movie, I was quite blank and laughed at the wrong places. Thus, if I really had to define myself with a term, I would call myself a “third culture kid”, which “refers to someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture”. This term is also similar to globalization, since third culture kids have often grown up in a “globalized culture”, instead of a single culture. So, I may be familiar with some things in U.S. and some elements in Hong Kong, but it would take a while before I could fully be assimilated into one culture. But, I am glad that I belong to a “globalized culture.”

Two important collective memories I shared with my peers are the September 11 attacks and SARS. Although I was in Los Angeles when the 911 attacks took place, there were numerous rumors in which LA would be the next target. My friends and I would never forget the morning when we turned on the TV and watched the airplanes zooming toward the buildings, with gray smoke fogging up the sky. The same scenes of the buildings collapsing replayed over and over again. These images became repetitive in our minds; in fact, these images still recur in my mind whenever I am on a plane. It was the first time most of us have ever learnt of “terrorism.” As for SARS, it was the first year I was back in Hong Kong. I remember my friends and I were super scared whenever a classmate was coughing, fearing that they were infected. And although our parents urged us to wear masks whenever we were going out, we never did, because we thought wearing masks was silly, despite the fact that we were scared of getting SARS. In both events, people were scared of death and danger. However, one memory that I am glad I did not share with my local peers is taking the A Levels and HKCEE, because I know that those were the most pressurized moments for them.

Meanwhile, one important value my father appreciated back in his days is survival. In the early days, my father underwent hardships—those were the difficult times when it was hard to get food and daily necessities. He told me that even after he got a job, he only had a salary of $60; out of those $60, he mailed $50 to his relatives in China, leaving only $10 to spend on food. Even before he got a job, getting food for survival was the main thing people back then aimed for.

One of my father’s dreams back then was to find his long-lost parents. My father and my grandparents got separated during the complicated period in China and Hong Kong. It was amazing when I was listening to my father’s story—it was like something out of a movie. Without high-tech media such as the Internet to help him, my father relied on letters, friends and relatives, and luck to find his parents’ whereabouts. This is probably a very common scene back in those days; it is even more common for people to not be able to find their family. But luckily, my father did.

Also, another important value that my father really endorses, even now, is education. This is because back when he was young, he never had the chance to study much because of the hard times. Thus, my father’s dream is to obtain a better education. That’s why my father currently continues to seek education; he would take certificates and diploma courses in order to enhance his knowledge, because he feels that education helps one to be successful. Therefore, my parents are willing to pay more money for my siblings and me to go to university, hoping that we would achieve good grades and have successful careers. Compared to the current generation, I feel that the older generation values education a lot more. This is because back in the days, the older generation rarely had the chance to go to school to learn and was forced to go out and work, while people today were much luckier and could go to kindergarten until high school. In general, generation Y seems to value leisure and entertainment much more than education; education becomes something taken for granted.

However, my generation is generally more open-minded than the older generation. Looking at the news about post-80s, it appears that they are big supporters of democracy and human rights and know exactly what they want for Hong Kong. For example, when the news were broadcasting the post-80s protesting about the Express Rail Link in front of the Legislative Council, some people may support them, thinking that they are doing what’s right for Hong Kong. In contrast, when my parents saw these post-80s crowds on TV, they disapproved the whole act, because they felt that these people were just showing off and that the “youngsters” did not know what they were doing. But the interesting thing was that, not all post-80s supported the demonstrations. For example, my older brother, who is also a post-80, criticized the protestors as well.

My parents have always said that I am very fortunate to be able to grow up in this generation, and to have studied and grown up overseas. I think so too. Even though at the beginning I felt like I did not fit in at all after coming back to Hong Kong, I have grown to appreciate all the different and weird experiences that I have gone through—because that is who I am.


“Third Culture Kid”


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