As the daughter of Hong Kong immigrants, I´m a child of two cultures. Neither of my parents are particularly traditional though; my dad came here when he was fairly young and my mum considers herself a true Amsterdammer (or Jordanees, as she calls it). I spent my earliest childhood travelling back and forth between the Netherlands and Hong Kong, and culture shock awaited me both ways. It was an adventure.
I can still see fragments of one particular night in my head, when my dad brought me to the village in Hong Kong where my grandma lived. I was a very upset little kid watching him walk away. I cried all night until my grandma offered me ice cream, and you can’t be sad with a Winner Taco in your hand. Little did I know this was not the ice cream of choice in rural Hong Kong. It was red bean. I gratefully ate it anyway, but it tasted weird. Culture shock #1.
When I started going to school in the Netherlands, culture shock #2 took shape in a less red beany way. I didn’t speak the language, so I nodded and shook my head randomly to questions from all my curious classmates. I felt out of place those first couple of months, but by no means unwelcome. It didn’t take long before I learned to say more than “ja, nee, cola” and became the banana I am today.
Cultural norms were different at home than in the classroom or at a friend’s house – I learned with amusement that Dutch kids liked to eat their fries with appelmoes (apple sauce), that fries were eaten at dinner at all (they’re living the life!) and that burping was not OK.
Even as an adult I still had things to learn about Dutch culture. It was only after I met Frank that I noticed that his family congratulated me when it was his birthday – apparently you’re not just supposed to wish the birthday boy/girl a happy birthday, but their friends and family as well. It still feels quirky to me.
When we got married, we had an East-meets-West wedding that included a little bit of both cultures. But that’s a story for later.
My upbringing led to me being home in both and neither culture. I’m not as deeply rooted in either culture as a true native would be, and despite not being an expert in either, I’m happy that I get to dip my toes in both.
A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.
But please, stop saying I’m short. YOU’RE JUST TALL.