"Quintessentially Chinese": Hubris Edition

In ciderpress' submission to the Asian Women Blog Carnival, she wrote:
There are so many white people who feel like it's their natural right to take whatever they want and make it "theirs" and take out of the soul of it and steal away the cool, exotic shape without any understanding or love, decide who belong is their us-group and shut others out, while a significant proportion of 2nd/3rd/4th gen Asians living in the west want to deny any part of them that isn't "Western/American/British"... ie, specifically coded white. (The amount of cultural cringe that many of us feel when we see FOBs/1st gen -- are we so alienated from parts of our own identity that we feel embarrassed by something different and yet so much the same?)
I highlight the bit what I was planning on responding to. I was going to write a few lines at her post, just to let her know that my answer was "yes".

... But then I had to explain myself that I felt this, even in Malaysia, unable to relate to my own peers, that I felt driven to a Western country, wherein if I was accused of being ang-mo again, I had an excuse, and I tried to erase that part of me that was Chinese, even in Malaysia, because I didn't feel Chinese, I wanted to be just Malaysian, and I failed at that too, and so I went to a white country where I could indulge my inner banana and that still didn't matter because I craved my own culture anyway.

And it's just feels so stupid now, all that effort of trying to "not be Chinese," because I am, or at least, I want to be, and I feel like I can't because I'm twice-fobby.

It's difficult to write this post because I have trouble parsing my pain and sadness and regret and it's stupid but I'm crying because I do want to reclaim my culture and I do want to take back all the times I suffered the cultural cringe and I want to revel in the times I sat out late at night eating roti canai and be the same as everybody else.

And now it feels like I worked so hard scraping out anything Chinese in me that when I go home, hearing the staccato Mandarin and swooping Cantonese and round Hokkien dialects, I try to look inside me and think that I did too damned good a job and when people ask me, "what kind of Chinese are you anyway?" it gets stupid and awkward.

I wasn't even living in the West when I tried to erase my heritage. It seemed I had to go all the way around the planet (literally, lawl) to realize just how much I wanted it anyway. And yet, somehow I can't think of a way to reconcile being me and being immersed in that culture which made me feel stifled.

Difficult situation.


  1. I try ridiculously hard to be extra Chinese sometimes, because I get sick of people (mostly Chinese-Malaysians and Chinese-Singaporeans) telling me I'm too angmo/not Chinese enough. That little bit of heart-break gets to be a little much, sometimes.

    In many ways, it hurts more than being told (by Caucasian-Australians) that I'm too Chinese. (Then I usually just get angry, who are they to declare a limit on how much Chineseness is acceptable?)


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