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COMMENTS

When we were in LA, we spent a couple of days with Jen, who – by the way – is totally lovely. She asked Martina a really interesting question that really had us questioning ourselves. The question was this: do we consider ourselves Korean-Canadians or Canadian-Koreans?

It caught us really off guard. It’s not something we ever thought about. “Neither” is our first response. We have no Korean blood in us. We’re not Korean. Jen went on to say, though, that we’re in many ways more Korean than she is. We’ve been living in Korea for over six years now. We’ve been really immersed here. We have a home, a business. We eat Korean food every day. We speak Korean every day (not high level Korean, though: but more than enough to carry on conversations). We pay Korean taxes. When we were in LA, we were culture shocked by all of the things that are not like how they are in Korea.

But that’s not the point of our conversation. Though we’ve spent most of our adult lives in Korea, we still don’t consider ourselves Korean, yet we’ve adapted to Korean culture in many ways. Those of you angry Tumblrinas, please note: WE ARE NOT CALLING OURSELVES KOREAN. We were fascinated by the question, though, and what it implies.

Namely, the question of identity got us thinking. Back in the day, your language and your geographical location and your nationality and your heritage were very often all the same. A Korean person spoke Korean and lived in Korea and had Korean family. There was little mingling. But the world has changed a lot in the past 100 years. My parents are from Poland, but they have half-German grandparents. Then they moved to Canada. My first language was Polish, but then I dropped it for English. Now I’m living in Korea, and my identity and career are all based on Korean stuff. What do I identify as, then?

We hung out with Dan Matthews while we were in LA as well, who spent some time with us when he was shooting his documentary. He’s a Korean adoptee who spent his entire life outside of Korea. When he came to Korea, he hung out with us a bit, and we showed him around the area and taught him a bit about it. How does he identify?

Again, I’d like to make clear that I’m not here claiming some people are “more Korean” or “less Korean” than others. I’m not necessarily sure what I feel about the question of identity, either, because it’s something we’ve only been discussing recently, a lot more so after Jen asked us that first question. I’m not sure how much longer people are going to be able to identify themselves based on any country in the future, really, the more we travel and bring our history with us to plant in new places.

I remember when we were in Poland for our Polish meet up. It was a very difficult time for me, for reasons that I couldn’t really understand. I’ve always felt like a terrible Polishman. I remember visiting Poland when I was 16, and my uncle scolded me for not knowing Poland’s historical figures, and he stated that every good Polishman knows Poland’s history. I remember my brother not wanting me to speak Polish around him, because my pronunciation is terrible. I don’t know Polish well, I don’t speak it well, yet there I was in Poland, with a bunch of loving, Polish Nasties, all of whom I wanted deeply to identify with, but I felt deeply ashamed to. I had no right to claim any Polishness. I just had a Polish family and a bit of the language. That’s all.

A big part of this is why I’m fascinated with the gyopo experience in Korea (a “gyopo”, by the way, is a Korean who grew up outside of Korea). We’ve spoken with many who have a really difficult time here, some of whom have been scolded publicly for not being Korean enough, for not speaking enough of the language. It’s something I feel when I think about my Polishness. And it’s something that I consider while we’re here in Korea as well. What place do we have in this country? We’ll always be considered outsiders, no matter how long we live here.

I’m not sure what else to say here. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, even though I don’t have any clear answers or questions. I just don’t know what cultural identity means anymore. I just know I’ll get a ripping from angry social justice warriors for questioning cultural identity, which won’t help me out much. What’s your position?

I also know that I was really happy to do this video with Jen, who could share her experience as a Korean American and touch on the questions of cultural identity as well. We hope you liked the video as well :D

If you’re looking for something more fun, though, I’d recommend checking out Jen’s video makeover on Martina. Side note: Jen’s got SUCH A NICER CAMERA THAN OURS. Ooooh look at that lighting!

 

And, lastly, click on this pretty button below for more TL;DRs, and for more collaboration videos. We’ve got another one coming next week with Korean Englishman, who’s, like, very similar to us but very opposite in many ways. Yay!

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  1. I am American and at least in my family, we always take our shoes off when we enter our home. One exception being my father, who will take his shoes off, but sometimes wears shoes in the house. I don’t think anyone can truly say what the “rule” is for whether or not you wear shoes in an American home. Our country truly is a mosaic of cultures and so it will depend on the family that lives in the house. If I’m visiting a Hmong friend, my shoes are off before I even step through the door, but maybe at another friends house I would take them off inside or (though it feels rude to me) leave them on. I always check to see what they do or whether or not they are wearing shoes when I enter their home, that’s a pretty safe method.

  2. I never knew people in Canada took their shoes off! I’ve lived in the Philly area my whole life and we NEVER take our shoes off at the door. I mean, when we come in, sit down in the living room or whatever, then we take them off if we’re gonna relax and be home for a while. It’s actually considered rude if you go to your friend/family’s house and take your shoes off without them telling you that you can. Kinda like, you’re going to your friend’s house and take your shoes off, they get all, ‘OMG What are you doing? You don’t live here, why are you making yourself at home in my house?!’ I have been friend with a Chinese family and a Puerto Rican family in Philly, and they both always took off their shoes and we had to do the same when going to their homes, so it might be a cultural thing too. We’ve never done it though, like I said. Unless y’know, you’re going to your Grandparent’s house for a while. It’s always cool to take your shoes off at Grandma’s house. :)

  3. With the whole shoes on/shoes off thing….I have lived in California my whole life (17 years) and everyone I know take off their shoes in the house and it’s common courtesy to take off your shoes unless they say you can leave them on. I guess in other states they must leave them on…

  4. I’m from Hong Kong and I’m not a mixed child/foreigner so I’m Chinese but I go to an international school so its slightly different to the Gyopo experience but also really similar. English is my first language but my mother tongue is Cantonese. In our school we have a choice of languages to choose and I chose French (most of the Chinese people in my school chose Mandarin) so I don’t really know how to read or write Chinese anymore.
    In Hong Kong they call international school kids/kids that study abroad (this is referring to Chinese/Hong Kong kids) ABC’s, Bananas (yellow on the outside, white on the inside- HK is quite uh racist XD) but this doesn’t necessarily make you one if you study in international schools because there are some very very local people here XD. Apparently I don’t qualify for an ABC as I speak Cantonese fluently (Canto has 9 tones so its ridiculously hard to get tones right unless you actually speak) so I like to call people like myself “the illiterate Chinese”.
    Its really easy to differentiate the “ABCs” (the non local school kids) and the “locals”.
    Usually ABCs don’t speak Canto unless they have to. They can usually understand basic conversational Canto but they would prefer not speaking as they know their Canto is “off” (in terms of tones- its quite endearing you see to locals… they like to make jokes out of bad Canto in general OTL).
    ABCs tend to have amazing English unlike locals. The international school kids have the international school accent which pretty much refers to a mix of American/Australian/British English- some say “tomato” like a Brit but say “and” like an American LOL. Locals can understand basic conversational English but when they speak you automatically can tell- its the Chinese accent LOL.
    ABCs tend to hang out with mixed groups of people. I mean this gender wise and ethnicity wise. Locals generally are seen in groups of only Chinese girls/guys. ABCs usually hang out with different people from all around the world.
    Locals date more. Date as in instead of the groups of people, its really common to see couples from different schools. Common as in EVERYWHERE.
    ABCs are more of the American style dressing. We’re more open to shorts and tank tops, etc. Its not only dressing style, its more of everything from the attitude to our reactions (legit. even laughing is different…) and I think even the way we stand. Its really similar to Jen’s situation. They’ll look at you and ask you if you study abroad.
    Locals don’t usually like ABCs as they think “oh they have such an easy school life” “they’re just rich”, etc. ABCs don’t usually like locals because they think “they’re so weird” because they aren’t very in touch with HK culture (another reason why I don’t fit the ABC category)
    Theres a lot of differences that can’t really be described as its just a feeling (like how in school you learn to analyze people in one look) and this post will be too ridiculously long if I go on LOL. yep ^^

  5. Rei

    I’m Korean American, born and raised in Northern Virginia my entire life. My area is actually FULL of Koreans- my high school is, I think, almost 50% Korean now! Anyways, my family always ALWAYS takes their shoes off when entering another Korean/Asian home, but if entering an American’s home, we keep our shoes on because the floors are usually really filthy.

    So, my parents taught me to use only Korean at home (whenever I meet my mom’s friends, they’re always surprised at how well I can speak Korean despite having been born in the U.S.) and they followed Korean traditions quite well, so I’m pretty familiar with a lot of mannerisms and whatnot. But, our way of thinking is soooo different (the whole individualism vs. collectivism thing). I went to Korea about two years ago for three months and was shocked at how different. I definitely consider myself Korean- like, I hold a certain amount of pride in it- but when I was in Korea, I didn’t really feel like I belonged. It was almost as if while I was in Korea, I considered myself American. It’s really strange how that works. I can’t quite explain it. And I definitely know that I didn’t blend in because I have no interest in fashion trends…but, I like to consider myself as having an equal balance of both worlds. The food is also one of the best parts! My mom makes homemade Korean food all the time so it’s rather great!!

  6. Eotteokaji

    Random thing I noticed about Jen, is that her mannerisms are definitely more American style. I’ve noticed native Koreans don’t really talk with their hands much. In interviews they just sort of sit still and reserved, but Americans/Westerners tend to move a bit more, and even use more facial expressions, and in general are a little more expressive.
    Interesting..

  7. babyybear

    I think we all should start going by “hybrids” or something because even though I’m a Polish American and associate more with being that, I’m still 1/10th Japanese and the recessive gene shows and not just in me, but some other cousins of mine. My eyes are not brown as they once were when I was younger, they’re like greenish blueish gray now–if that makes any sense.

    I was raised by two Polish immigrants in a Polish neighborhood with Polish American culture. We adapted American traditions. That being said, I still take off my shoes before I enter the house completely. I take my shoes to my room and keep them in my shoe storage. Once when I was severely exhausted, I took off my shoes outside my front door and then proceeded to enter into my house. xD But I feel totally wrong if I don’t take off my shoes in someone’s house, even if they asked me to keep them on.

    We have traveled back to Poland every 3 years, and I’ve been in Poland since I was conceived. At the age of 16 I started to go back alone and now I’m actually in the process of moving to Poland, I’m much happier there. Simplest reason I can give you. There’s other much more longer reasons, but I’m a dual citizen and I’m much happier there. Take it or leave it! I’ll still travel and visit, but for now I feel like I should be in Poland.

    I really also am interested in the part of my family that was Asian, the culture, the language (which I know Japanese, & have knowledge in Chinese & Korean). So I believe myself to be American born, Polish raised, and Asian inspired.

    I’ve always ran from Poland towards Asia. I refused to date Polish guys (because the ones I knew gave the rest a bad name, but because I was young and naive I thought they were all the same), and only dated Asian ones (because Anime and dramas make you think that they’re ideal). I don’t know Poland’s history, but I do love Poland’s culture. Now I’m not really bias after a bad relationship and I’m not as naive anymore.

    My Polish is at a high level, but it still needs working on. My oldest sister, she was born and raised in Poland for majority of her childhood. But she gave up that life for her American life, has a family here, and hasn’t gone back since. My Polish is actually a lot better than hers.

    I could really go into this some more, but then I’m afraid I’d have a book. And at first I didn’t want this to be so long. Oops.

    TL;DR:

    – We should go by “hybrids”
    – I’m Polish American with 1/10th Japanese, a recessive gene that actually shows in me and some of my other cousins.
    – Raised by Polish immigrants in a Polish neighborhood with Polish Americana tradition
    – Still take off my shoes
    – Travel to Poland a lot
    – Moving there because I’m much happier there
    – American born, Polish raised, and Asian inspired
    – Thought all Polish boys were the same
    – Dated Asian boys
    – Grew up and dropped the naivety
    – Oldest sister born and raised in Poland but prefers America

  8. ReformLife

    I am a Korean American Adoptee raised in a Chinese family in San Diego, California. I lived in Hongdae last Summer very close to the EyK Studios! Basically just a couple blocks south towards 상수역. I barely know any Korean, purely just survival Korean. I know you guys met Dan Matthews “aka Dan” last year, but I would love to see a video about Korean Adoptees and their struggles coming back to Korea. There are at least 100 Korean Adoptees in Korea at any one time if not more.

    I identify with a lot of what Jen has experienced, except I have to tell them 한국말 잘 못해요 (I don’t speak Korean) followed with 입양아에요 (I am an adopted child). They look at me super confused and I walk away like an awkward penguin. When I went to club Ellui, this girl started talking to me and I responded 한국말 잘 못해요 (I don’t speak Korean). She was telling me in Korean that I was lying (friend had to translate for me), and then I just walked away.

    Seriously though, are you guys gonna make a video about Korean Adoptees in Korea? There are 200,000 of us worldwide!

    • ReformLife,
      I’m Korean. So, I probably be not free-biased related to this topic. However, I just red your mention here and feel so sorry about what you experienced . I can assume things missing on the sentence in transition, but It might be only an assumption. If it was “거짓말…!! ” or “거짓말이죠?” something like this, it is simply “unbelievable,” “oh my god,” or simply she was frustrated and reconfirming what she heard, since it wasn’t expected. (In many cases, Korean people usually not talk much about personal information in first meeting, especially things are very complicated.) Korean conversation is very verbal and direct translation never works.
      Hope my comment help you feel better and your better experience with Korea or Korean people in future.

  9. krissy_buddie
    krissy_buddie

    To start, I am Puerto Rican and Guyanese. I culturally identify with my Spanish side of the family, and I also consider myself American. Growing up, I wasn’t taught to speak Spanish by my mother, and in some ways it hurt me. My grandmother speaks English, but is more comfortable speaking Spanish, and I felt like I made it hard for her to speak with me. I also had a lot of trouble when visiting Puerto Rico, because my family there all speak Spanish. It was hard for me to communicate with them, and they never really understood what I was saying. I should also mention that in Puerto Rico, many people do not speak English, and if you ask them questions in English, they usually ignore you.
    Now, it has all come back full circle, as I am a line cook at a Spanish restaurant, and I have difficulty speaking with my coworkers. Most of the people I work with speak Spanish, and though I do speak a little bit of Spanish, I never feel like I am really getting my point across. They are helping me learn to speak spanish, but I feel like I may have waited too long. I really am trying though, and I’ve heard lately that if I didn’t tell them, people believed I was fluent in Spanish.

  10. Diana Chen

    I am a Chinese American. I was born in Ohio of a very Caucasian town and when I was eight, I moved to Shanghai and stayed there until I graduated. I spent most of my education in an British International School and my holidays were always going back to the States. I was always proud of my American Citizenship, until one day, I started feeling too ‘Asian’ in the USA. This is when I realized how China changed me and my ideals.

    Now I feel like a foreigner in both countries. Though my language skills are top notched (in my school, my Chinese class was the equivalent to a local Chinese University, Chinese language and literature class), but my perspective of the world has been globalized. The saying “I say I am Global Citizen but that just means I don’t belong anywhere” really resonates within me.

    However, I learned to accept these two identities and become proud of it. I learn to grow roots in both lands and stay strong. However times can be tough. Both countries have strong prejudice and stereotypes of each other and every time I say “Actually ___ is not like that” “The media is wrong” etc, Americans say I am brainwashed by censorship and Chinese say I’ve been Americanized and I don’t get the culture. It’s especially hard when people are treating my roots as weeds…

  11. omfg, I’m like Simon. I barely even know my dialect T-T I’m Chinese and I can’t speak Cantonese or Mandarin but I can somewhat understand both. I speak Taishanese btw but I can’t speak it without a little bit of English. I wanna go back to China so I can improve it so I don’t have to feel embarrassed about it. I swear, my whole family picks on me for it =( (or at least all the adults who aren’t my cousins)

  12. Jinyoung_wifeyLOL

    In California you dont take off your shoes…unless they tell you which is really really really really rare…You even have to ask permission to take off your shoes…and it has to be a friend…Like I had to ask my best friend’s mom to take off my shoes and she was like……………………………………………………..fine. But when you do, your socks get dirty because everybody else is wearing shoes and the dirt from outside gets inside. Thats why I have to mop everyday and my socks still get dirty. but in your house you know you walk in with shoes and if you want take them off. or change into sandals or just socks. but me if I go to a friends house a neighbor’s house especially DEFINITELY DO NOT TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES!! YOU ARE NEW TO THEIR HOME AND IT IS RUDE BECAUSE ITS LIKE EW WHAT IF YOUR FEET STINK YOU DO NOT LIVE IN THIS HOUSE DO NOT BE SO ARROGANT AND COMFORTABLE!! AND GOOD SHOES NOT SANDALS…ITS LIKE WHAT ARE WE A BEACH HOUSE! but you know friends dont care. you even fart in front of them so its fine!!! take em off. 

  13. vawnki

    I’m Chinese Canadian (TORONTO!!). I speak fluent Chinese and last time I went to China, I got picked out as a foreigner by the taxi driver for putting on my seat belt.

  14. jigae.with.hotdogs

    I’m Caucasian. My family is entirely Caucasian. My boyfriend is Korean-American. We live together. When I grew up, my mother preferred shoes off because she wanted her floors to stay cleaner. My father didn’t care. My extended family all wear shoes inside.

    I take shoes off at the door, so does my boyfriend in our home and in others’ homes. Most of our friends are shoes off except for a couple, and it isn’t pressured to take your shoes off. For instance, if the owner of the house has their shoes off, and as a guest, you leave your shoes on, it isn’t rude, but it does give the impression you aren’t staying long. It’s like leaving your coat on inside.

  15. lady_kire

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but I often feel that I have to carry the burden knowing that I (most likely) am the last grandchild in both sides of my family that can speak some Cantonese. My Canto isn’t good enough to discuss politics or read menus (at times), but I am able to hold some convos and can make some conversations. I have cousins that can’t even say 1 word in Canto and at times, it makes me worried that I could lose everything I worked hard to achieve. In my family and friends, we use the term “whitewash” to say that everything Asian in you is gone. My mom told me how little it affected my lifestyle, but it still scares me.

    I’m Chinese-Canadian and born in Canada. However, I don’t feel like a Canadian. I don’t care to associate myself as a Canadian. To me, it’s just a place that I live in. It’s apparent in my friend groups as well. Most of my Chinese friends say that because my mom is from Hong Kong, it’s more accurate to say that I am more Hongkongnese. I don’t know what to say about that, but I’ve been told that even though I am CBC, my Chinese roots are stronger than my Canadian ones.

  16. dbsksarangx3

    Definitely have the same experience. I’m Korean-American born and raised in the States and recently visited Korea after 11 long years since my last visit. I felt so underdressed and honestly unattractive bc basically everyone in Seoul who’s in their 20-30s are very nicely dressed, makeup and hair perfect, both women and men. While there I was in my jeans and t-shirt and ponytail like ehhhh……. When I was at a mall with my cousin one day, one saleswoman noticed me browsing, came over, and asked “ahh, you must be from overseas!” without me having said anything. Even though I am Korean, I definitely stood out as not the typical native Korean and yes, it was kind of frustrating and sad. In the states, I’m representative of Asians and Korean. In Korea, I’m too American.
    I speak Korean without a noticeable accent and understand 75% but have very limited vocabulary and my grammar gets mixed up often. However, I consider myself half-and-half in my identity bc I’ve grown up in a traditional Korean family with strict Korean parents.
    This is all really interesting, hearing about other Korean-American stories =] Jen is gorgeous. I relate to her growing up in a place with few Koreans, I grew up in the Cleveland, Ohio area. And YES I take shoes off in the house but all of my American, non-Asian friends, do not and it’s so weird. When we have inspectors or plumbers or whatever come to our house to fix stuff and they do not take their shoes off, it annoys my mother to no end haha

  17. Oh my gosh, I live in a suburb of Kansas City too! What she says is true though, most of the people around here are Caucasian. So about the whole shoes thing- as a Caucasian person who has lived in the States for my entire life, I hardly EVER where my shoes around the house, and most people I know don’t wear their shoes inside usually. It’s just a stereotype, but it’s not completely false. There are certain times that I DO wear my shoes inside: If I’m getting ready in the morning and I’m just waiting for my family, I might get my shoes on and do other things in the house so I’m ready to go. My mom used to have certain shoes that were her “indoor shoes” that she only wore inside (so she wouldn’t get the house dirty) because she really needed the support for her feet or else she would be in pain. If we have a BUNCH of guests over, then they usually don’t take their shoes off when they come in so they don’t leave a clutter by the door. But if a small amount of guests are visiting, they normally take their shoes off. If I come inside really fast, like if I forgot something, I definitely wouldn’t take off my shoes, because that just wastes time. So basically, I might wear my shoes inside for certain reasons, but if I’m just hanging out around the house, I would NEVER wear my shoes inside. I think most of my American friends would agree. You can’t believe everything you see on TV!

  18. imnotcrazyimextraordinary
    imnotcrazyimextraordinary

    I am so happy with this Tl;Dr!
    My father is a german who was born in Russia and grown up in a village full of germans. My mum is russian, me and my sisters were born in Russia too. But for the whole village we where “german” what totally distract me, because I didn’t know anything about the german culture or even the language, but we where kinda outsiders for the kids in our neighbourhood. When I was 9 years old we immigrate to Germany, where suprise, we suddedly where “russian”. Even when I first though that it didn’t bother me I feel more and more “homeless” because I didn’t fit in none of the cultures. Therefore I answer the question “Do you feel more russian or more german?” with “I feel like I human, thanks for the question” :)
    I think a lot of immigrants or their children, exspecially their children have that kind of fealing.

  19. Hay there Simon and Martina :)I absolutely love watching your Tl;drs and the F.A.P.F.A.Ps!
    On a more serious note though, I plan on coming to Korea in the near future, from Canada. However it is starting to sound super intimidating! what sorts of things are there to do/eat/watch ect. in Korea that would be comforting or a little bit more like north america to help when I am homesick?

    Thanks bunches~~

  20. silverukiss

    This is actually something I think about a lot. My grandfather is from the Philippines. My mother was born in the US, where she lived for only a few years before her family relocated back to the Philippines where she grew up before moving to the US again, which technically makes her American. So technically I’m only 1/4 Filipino. However, I grew up eating a lot of Filipino food, learning to cook it, hearing stories about my mother’s life and cultural practices in the Philippines. She even took us out there once to show us the town where she grew up. I know more about my Filipino heritage than any other half Filipino I’ve met. So culturally I consider myself biracial.

    The problem I run into is how unwilling people are to accept that, because of how I look. My siblings were born with the dark skin, dark coloring, and exotic looks. I was born looking like a pasty white American girl with green eyes. My grandmother called me their first “American” baby. While a lot of Caucasians consider me not fully Caucasian, the minorities refuse to accept me as well. I’ve been flat out told that I’m not allowed to identify as a minority because of the way I look. That it has nothing to do with my heritage, the only thing that matters is the color of my skin. I don’t know if they realize how much it hurts, to have people call you a “despicable white person” regardless of your heritage, and then they claim that they’re not being racist because no matter what they’re saying it’s impossible for a “true” minority to say anything that’s racist.

    I was also told by teachers while growing up that I was not allowed to claim to be a minority because my dad makes a decent amount of money. So I don’t know what people are trying to claim makes someone’s heritage theirs. I say it’s a load of bullsh** and people can get off their high horses they use to justify hurting other people in order to make themselves feel good. I think that you can claim whichever culture you identify with as your own, because it makes you happy and you love it and the people in it, and that’s all that matters.

  21. himebadweather
    himebadweather

    I’m curious about the reaction to mixed children in Korea. Are they just perceived as pretty things to look at and marvel over? To give you context, my mum is Vietnamese and my Dad is Australian, so when I go back I totally understand that pressure >///< Though tbh the thing that gets to me is everyone constantly staring at me whispering, she's mixed. In fact waiting staff, in my most recent trip, would all group together and stare and point at me (about 15 of them) =_=' Old men grab my arm and say "pretty, pretty mixed child" and then when I reply and kinda shrug them off they just laugh at me… It's okay if I'm out in the "foreigner" areas but most of the time I'm not because I'm with my family.

  22. Well my family is originally from Mexico but my parents immigrated to America and had me and my siblings. I guess I always identified myself as both Mexican and American though a lot of times now if someone asks me what I am I just reply that I’m Mexican even though I’ve become too Americanized to be considered a true Mexican. I have noticed that since growing up in America I’ve switched from Spanish being my dominant language to English, a lot of words I knew growing as a child I now struggle to remember what it is since I speak English outside of my home and even at home I mostly speak English and mainly talk Spanish to my parents. Also when I go back to Mexico and visit my family there have been times when its hard to speak to my cousins in Spanish cause I’ll start to forget certain words in Spanish and they think its funny because I’ve become too Americanized that I’m forgetting my own language.

    Though I’ve met people who actually don’t believe I’m Mexican and become all shocked when I tell them, they usually believe that I’m from India. It might be because I’m darker toned compared to my family(though my father is also dark like me) or I have an Indian appearance not really sure, but it doesn’t really bother me since after they finally listen to me speaking Spanish they don’t question it anymore :).

  23. BillieChristine

    I grew up in an area where most people are either German, Native American, Hispanic, or Latino descent. There are many things that we do around here that have their roots in German culture. We sing “Oh Christmas Tree” and “Silent Night” in German at Christmas. Plus, the school here teaches German at the high school level. Most of us can speak a few words before then, which is why the police don’t use German to call to their dogs here. hehe ^^
    I don’t consider myself German-American, even though that is my heritage. I have a hard time considering myself super American as well. I’ve been scolded for not being American enough because I don’t like classic rock, country music, or other ‘American things.’ Also because of the fact that I am interested in foreign cultures. I’m just kind of here.
    ~
    I always remove my shoes when going into other peoples houses. I would feel bad getting their floor dirty if I didn’t.

  24. eykJenny

    I’m a third generation German-American. So I don’t really have much in the way of cultural identity struggles. My mother chose not to pick up the language and so it was never passed down to me. What was passed down though was wonderful delicious German cuisine via my grandmother. So even though I don’t identify as German-American, I can’t say I had a 100% “American” upbringing. I celebrated Christmas differently than most of my friends (Christmas Eve presents instead of Christmas Day) and I eat “strange” things like vinegar soaked fish/vegetables.

    What I did want to comment on the most though is the question of shoes in the house. We wear shoes in the house if you’re not planning to stay long (an hour or less generally). That’s why a common phrase here is “Take off your shoes – stay a while!” This sounds terrible, but if I’m visiting someone who I know I’ll want to make a quick getaway from, I’ll even leave my shoes on for a few hours just so I can get out the door as fast as possible when the time comes. What usually happens if someone suggests you take them off is you either agree happily or you say something like “Oh, I actually can’t stay long… [insert excuse]” Almost everyone I know doesn’t care if you have shoes on in the house except if the carpet is new or if you’re obviously about to track mud into the house. I have come across the occasional friend who will have us take our shoes off at the entrance, but that was a rare occurrence in my life. So yes! America is a pro-shoe country. That’s not a drama thing. That’s a real life living thing. Hope this helps demystify American shoe culture. :)

  25. Kalm_Traveler

    This has always been an interesting topic to me because I am a mix, and people have been trying to categorically pre-judge me forever. My heritage is pretty much everything in Europe, and 2 Native American tribes. The genetic dice roll made me come out with relatively fair skin, dark curly hair, brown eyes, and my dad’s werewolf curse (ok not really that bad, but I have become a relatively hairy dude in adulthood).
    I have sprinkled red and blonde hairs all over my head, but my beard grows in half flaming red, half black.

    Growing up in the Salt Lake City, Utah, USA area (full of white European-descended Mormon / LDS people primarily), most of them think I’m Mexican. ‘real’ Hispanic people say I’m too white to be one of them. Lots of European friends have thought I was possibly Italian or had some Middle Eastern blood.

    All of these have led to some pretty amusing double-takes when I don’t have whatever assumed accent they were expecting, and when they learn that my ‘other language’ skills are comprised of beginner German, 1 semester of Japanese, and beginner-intermediate Korean.

    I have not yet made my first Korean trip, but having been to Japan once I can say that as a gaijin there, everyone was EXTREMELY polite and friendly everywhere I went (around Tokyo, and in the countryside in Iwate prefecture). More than anything, they seemed very grateful and impressed that I made the effort to learn about their culture, and to learn some of the language to get around while visiting.

    So far, the local Korean community here in Utah (as well as most of the older folks in LA’s Koreatown) have been at least as warm and inviting if not moreso, so I am curious how things will fare once i’m actually in their homeland next year.

  26. I’m a chubby Asian-American who is ancestrally one thing, but b/c of my family’s upbringing I identify with another Asian group… So yeah, I am forever a foreigner in every country LOL

  27. HunHanInNeverland
    HunHanInNeverland

    I’m an ABC in Pennylvania, and I think my experience is very similar to what Jen described. Where i live, there’s a pretty large caucasian population, and most of my friends are american. However, my parents both grew up in china and are chinese citizens, and my house is very different from my friends’. Differences I’ve noticed not only include taking off shoes in the house, but also quirks like having a stash of plastic bags, using the dishwasher only as dish storage, and saving all kinds of containers for future use. I’m fluent in speaking Chinese, but when I go to visit relatives in china, I don’t really know how to act because the culture is very different from how it is in america, and I’m not very familiar with them. If I’m ever asked my nationality, I would say chinese-american because I am a chinese person who is an american citizen.

  28. It’s a very interesting TL;DR to begin with. It made me understand more about people struggle over this cultural identity. I, myself, never have this kind of problem because I’m a native Indonesian and live in Indonesia in my whole life. The most cultural identity crisis ever happened to me is because my mixed ethnicity. Since Indonesia has so many ethnicity, you can say that it can be divided into small areas with certain ethnic living exclusively in them and talk with their own local language. Even though I’m Javanese (I’m identified myself as Javanese) but maybe because some Chinese root I had on my family, I born with more Chinese feature rather than Javanese. The thing is, because I’m a bit pale people tend to ask if I’m Chinese. LOL. I don’t really understand though, because as I grew older I become more Javanese than Chinese. XD
    But the question pops up every single time tho, I’m not really disturbed about it just, you know, amused with these judgmental people. Although the most ridiculous question is that if I’m from Arabic descent. I don’t know why people recognized me as Chinese and Arabic, because this two races have a very very very different feature from one to another. -_-

  29. AnitaCP

    This was a great TL;DR! It was very interesting to learn about Jen’s experience AND I can’t wait until next week – The Korean Englishman is awesome!

    Simon mentioned Dan in the blog post, and like Dan, I am a Korean Adoptee. My experience as an adoptee is definitely summed up in Simon’s words – “We’ll always be considered outsiders, no matter how long we live here.” I was adopted as an infant and have spent (nearly) my entire life in America. Even though I speak English fluently, I am always singled out as a foreigner. My daily life consisted of ignorance and even racism towards me because I am Korean. Meh. Fortunately, I am 99.9% of the time able to realise that these people are being ridiculous haters and won’t let them get me down!!

    I won’t deny that my cultural identity has be shaped by the haters who like to point out my “differentness” all the time, but my cultural identity has been affected more by my lovely mom who showed me that I didn’t have to choose America or Korea because I could have both. Plus, she always made a huge effort to show me how awesome Korea is, which I looooved/love. Whilst in America, I identify as being a Korean not American actually, although I do have a lot of Kentucky pride!

    Now that I live in England, I’m considered an American by the British people! Whenever they hear my accent they ask, “Are you Canadian or American?” and when I say, “American” there are no more questions. No one laughs and says, “No, really! Where are you from?!” It’s quite an experience and a privilege to finally be able to just say, “I’m American.” So…for me, I’ll always be Korean but in the UK, I’m going to rock that I’m American because I can!

  30. About the SHOES’ issue:
    I’m Portuguese and in Portugal most people walk into their houses with their shoes on. Usually you take them off as soon as possible and change into slippers, but it’s pretty normal to walk around with the shoes still on, if need be. Guests are never asked to take their shoes off (that would be a little rude and odd) and in presence of guests (especially if it is a special day, like a party or holiday) everybody wears shoes (you are all dressed up, what you wear on your feet should compliment the outfit). And now you ask: “But doesn’t this mean the floor will be always dirty?” Well… one cannot live without a vaccuum cleaner :p

  31. Pily

    Hello, I really love this question about cultural identity, because I been wanting to talk about this for a while. I was actually born in Mexico, but when I turned 11 years old my family decided to move to the USA so that my little sister and I could have a better education and be together as a family (since my dad already lived in the USA). Now I been here for about 9 years, so I feel that I can call here the USA my home as well. It is sad to admit, but I think I know more English than Spanish now, of course I am fluent but, its getting harder these days. In my house we only speak Spanish and my mom always cooks Mexican food, so its mostly a Mexican household. In the past I would always identify myself as Mexican, not an American, because I would have this ideal that if I was born in Mexico and my heritage is Mexican then I needed to stick to that and live up that image. However, now that I am more mature and have lived here for a long time now I could not help but to have this cultural identity issue within myself. This has become clear to me every time I go visit my family in Mexico, and I start stuttering when I speak Spanish, or when I am completely oblivious to the fashion, government, popular culture, and little details that just make me feel like am not a true Mexican anymore. Even some of my family members have started to noticing these things, and point them out to me which makes me sad. However its funny how even though I been here in the United States for a long time, I will always be seen as an immigrant Mexican and in Mexico they see me as an American now, if its like this then what am I? Do I have to prove I am a real Mexican or do I have to just work hard to be seen as a true American?, its really frustrating. After a long reflection I know that in the inside I love my Mexican heritage and I feel proud to be a Mexican, but I also know that the USA has become my home and it has influenced me a lot so I feel like I am an American also (Mexican-American or American-Mexican). I also feel that labels like this should not matter, after all we all are our own persons and we can embrace ourselves however we want for the better. I know that at least for me, I will never forget where I came form because that will help move on with my life and come across new experiences that will shape me as a person. Well that is all I have to say:)

    • There is an easy way to find out if someone is mexican or not.
      Imagine you are having lunch and there is a kilo of tortillas in front of you.
      Which tortilla do you grab?

  32. wingedash96
    wingedash96

    DID YOU GUISE SRSLY HEAR MY DESPERATE CRIES OR WHAT.
    I needed something to write about and here you are posting a video EXACTLY about my present situation.
    (backs up)
    I’m a Korean American in Korea right now and I resonate so much with this video it’s kind of creepy. Thank you Simon and Martina for posting this.
    I’m not going to ramble on here because I already did in my blog post so here if y’alls are interested~
    http://wingedash96.wordpress.com
    But srsly eatyourkimchi THANK YOU for being totally awesome once again. :)

  33. Yeah, in America most people don’t take their shoes off as soon as the come in the door. We don’t really walk around around the house in shoes (because it’s not very comfortable) but you just go to your closet or bedroom and take them off there to put them away. But I do remember as a kid some families who would have their shoes all by the door and I didn’t see that as odd either. I still have a friend of ten years who takes her shoes off by the door and has put them by the same book case every time haha! It just varies I think.

  34. tam_travels

    The question of identity is a really good one and one that I think many African-Americans struggle with (I don’t know for sure, it’s just my opinion). I do a lot of traveling and living outside of the United States and many times when I say I’m American that’s enough for people. When I happen to be traveling or living within a country that has limited interaction and knowledge about foreigners that conversation changes drastically. The moment I am spotted I am automatically assumed to be African. When I say that I am American my words are met with disbelief, rejection by the listeners, or acceptance, but then follow up questions like, “Ok, but where were you from before then?”.

    One of the things that’s so unique about America is that, it is in fact a nation of immigrants. No one can claim to have hundreds of years of history in America, expect Native Americans. For the rest of us we know that our roots extend outside the US borders, yet for many it seems like the ties and titles are less prominent after the second and third generation (the difference between being Korean-American or an American with Korean heritage). For African-Americans, however, our roots and history will always be relatively obvious. We know our history and where we come from without knowing the specifics. And for that my identity is both ingrained in American and African-American history. If I were to trace my ancestors I’d find my lineage in multiple different countries on three different continents. I’m a descendant of multiple races and ethnicities and although I am an embodiment of all of them I am an American before anything else.

  35. iwantbaozi

    I’m Chinese born in LA, California ^^
    I totally feel with Jenn on the language thing and the ‘not being with one with your culture thing’.
    I speak fluent Cantonese & Mandarin and anytime I try to chat with another person (someone they know that i’m not a native born ._.?) in that language they automatically try to speak English with me. Its not like I dont appreciate people trying to make things easier for me (i assume?) BUT IT FEELS LIKE I’M BEING KINDA UNDERESTIMATED BECAUSE IM AMERICA BORN D; .
    I never really had confrontation (and hopefully I never do) from anyone about being Chinese in Cali. I do feel people stare at me like ‘hey look its an asian, how exotic (im not ugly, im exotic :D)’ or people wonder ‘where is she from’ or ‘what kind of asian is she'(this happpens sadly a lot).

    In school, I usually helped translate for the students that flown from China and I felt pressure around native Chinese people because thats when i got ‘judged’ for being Chinese-American the most. One time I remember the most was this new girl who was Caucasian/Chinese who had just flown in, despite being Caucasian she only spoke Chinese. When I first talked to her (in Chinese)we had a conversation for a few minutes basic things like explaining to her things like rules and such, she asked me where I was from and I told her I was born in Cali and she automatically said ‘A.B.C (American born Chinese)’ and then observed at me like I was the most interesting specimen in the world and questioned my lifestyle like what i ate and i spoke. I usually feel a ‘your not a real-super-legit-authentic chinese’ mentality towards me even though I lived a pretty much an asian life and speak the language the same as them.
    lot more i could say, but thats that ^o^

  36. Where I was raised in the rural South, you don’t take your shoes off in someone else’s house. The exception would be if you’re so close to that family that you are almost family and no longer a guest or you were invited to do so. “Take you shoes off and stay a while” is a phrase that basically means to make yourself at home.
    I think if we had met someone that had a “no shoes” rule we would have thought them house-proud or a clean-freak.
    However, I also grew up running around with no shoes on in the summer – until I stepped on the annual bee – and the shoes came back on. So your mileage may vary.
    As an adult, I have at least one American friend who takes off her shoes in the house, but she wouldn’t ask a guest to do so. (she would consider it a bit rude.) However, as the guest, I saw them taking off their shoes, so I took mine off. (It would be inconsiderate not to so.)
    I’ll take off my shoes when I get to my room (or thereabouts), but I’ll put on shoes when I’m cleaning or to go into the basement. shoes means I’m working & not relaxing.

    • Same here – grew up in Texas. Shoes off inside = comfortable and relaxed. Holiday dinners, visiting other people’s homes, or working outside meant wearing shoes. Of course, you take your muddy boots off before tracking crud across the carpets, but other than that, not a big deal to wear them through the house and take them off in your room.

  37. I wavered on whether it made any sense for me to comment here since I really do not have a huge mixture of experiences with my culture reuses another, but I did emigrate to the US and had some experiences there which were kind of similar. You see being a black West Indian in the States is really an interesting experience. In some ways we can blend in with African Americans, after all ‘English’ is also our first language and it is possible for some of us to hide our accents pretty convincingly ( a phenomenon that is laughed at when people return him with a full blown Yankee accent after living in the states for a few years). However I never chose to blend in. I guess because I went to an HBCU( Historically Black College or University) and was surrounded by other minorities from all over the world, we tended to be proud of our non American identity and sometimes existed in our West Indian bubble.

    On the other hand,when around my non West Indian friends, I became sort of a token. I do not speak Ebonics because it wasn’t in my culture to do so, and I really only used my native dialect when I was around other people from my island ( and even as a child I rarely used dialect and everyone thought I was born in the UK because of it) . I think that phenomenon is called code switching and I think we all do it to some extent. Due to that fact I tended to be accepted rather easily into non black/ non West Indian environments.

    But what made a huge difference was my interest in Asian cultures. When I was growing up it was rare for adults to be interested in Asian cultures. Those of us who are interested tend to be given odd looks. But things are changing now because many young people are growing interested. They recently started hosting a pop culture convention here ( http://animekonexpo.com ) which usually focuses on anime culture with a side of cosplay. But of course I have to be the odd one out and am now interested in Korean culture whereas everyone else is into Japanese stuff. I must always be the odd one out.

    Also in the Barbados please to be taking your shoes off. Wearing shoes in someone else’s house is seen as rude. There is usually a line of slippers and shoes at the door which is a good indicator. Sometimes you may dress and put your shoes on indoors before going out because you want to see what your entire outfit looks like before you leave, but walking into someone’s house with shoes is not really done.

  38. I am actually Chinese, but was born and raised in Brunei, a Muslim and Malay country around South East Asia. Some of my ancestors are Japanese, some of them are Chinese, but I’m more to the ‘Chinese’ side. Both my parents are Chinese, but my dad is half-Japanese. It isn’t hard living in a Muslim country BEFORE, but now it’s getting more difficult because the government is setting up new rules within the country, which would also affect the non-Muslims. Not being stereotypical or anything but lots of people in my country are pretty upset with the new rules being set up.

    Since there are a lot of Chinese people living in Brunei, there is at least a Chinese school in each town. The rest are all public, private and international schools. I am enlisted in a Chinese school, but we obviously need to learn the Malay language, English language and Mandarin language itself (since it’s a Chinese school). I have more Chinese friends than I have Malay friends because in my school, there are about 78% Chinese and the rest are Malay students. If you go to a government or public school, you are entitled to wear ‘tudung'(a cloth wrapped around your head, Malay traditional costume) and ‘baju kurung'(long sleeve & skirt, Malay traditional clothing) as your school uniform even if you’re not Muslim.

  39. Ana

    Hi Simon and Martina! I’ve been a long-time follower but this is my first time commenting (mostly because of my laziness);; My story is pretty similar to Jen’s and I hope that you read my comment ^0^

    I’m a Korean-American and for the majority of my life I’ve been living in the same southern state on the East Coast. I lived in the same predominantly white town and went to the same school from when I was 6 until I graduated high school and as a result, I really struggled with my identity during my years in school. My parents didn’t teach me Korean and very rarely spoke to me in Korean, but I grew up in a Korean household in every other aspect; taking my shoes off, eating Korean food every day, seemingly having much more pressure to do well in everything from my parents compared to my Caucasian friends, etc. I also grew up visiting Korea roughly every 2 years to visit family living in Seoul.

    I don’t speak Korean much at all as my Korean knowledge is probably equivalent to that of a 3-yr old Korean child and not only has it made me feel even more ostracized by Koreans when I visit Korea, I also feel that I don’t fit in with the other gyopos who can at least hold a conversation in Korean. Before I became interested in Korean pop culture (dramas, movies, music), I would say that I identified as just being American, but ever since I visited Caribbean Bay several years ago and fell in love with 2PM’s abs–I don’t know if you remember that they promoted Caribbean Bay alongside Girls’ Generation with the Cabi Song-I now see myself as being Korean-American. There are definitely different levels on the Korean-American spectrum and I suppose I’m a part of the group that has native-born Korean parents, visits Korea, likes kdramas, but doesn’t speak Korean and needs subtitles.

    About Koreans in Korea vs. Korean-Americans, I agree that it is super easy to tell the difference. It’s all about the appearance more than mannerisms: skin color, makeup, and clothing. I would say skin color and clothing are probably the 2 factors that are a dead giveaway. I’m super tan from being baked in the Southern sun for over a decade making me a good 5 shades darker than anyone on the street in Korea. There’s almost no question that people know I’m from the US when I visit. The way Korean-Americans are dressed is also pretty different.. for example: jean shorts, I really don’t think they’re nearly as widely worn as they are in the US, and if they are, they have a different cut.

    For a while I was interested in teaching English in Korea but it would be difficult for me to be accepted by parents/schools, much more so than a Caucasian American–I remember you guys mentioning something like this in one of your previous videos about teaching English in Korea. I’m not sure if I can do justice in explaining why gyopos like myself are given a harder time by Koreans as compared to other foreigners but I think it has something to do with the national pride that is so prevalent in Korean society and many of the individuals there. I think many of them feel that even if we have lived in the US for our whole lives, we should still be 100% Korean; they have this expectation that we should know the Korean language and culture without being affected by American culture.

    But in the end I have just accepted myself as being this weird hybrid of American and Korean and I plan on spending a summer in Korea taking Korean language courses at a university so that I can talk to my relatives! I can already tell that Korea is changing in the way they see foreigners in general and I’m sure the emotions surrounding us gyopos will eventually change as well, I’m just hoping it won’t take too long! :)

    Cheers,
    Ana

  40. EpicBioHazard
    EpicBioHazard

    Aw man! The “what do you identify as” question is like the worst for me! D:
    I’m mixed, like big time mixed. So I identify with a lot of different cultures, yet feel like I don’t really belong in any one, if that makes any sense. (Should prolly elaborate on what exactly I’m mixed with… that might be a good start. ^_^; Parents from Trinidad, but father is Spanish, his family is from Venezuela. Great grandfather is Scottish, which is random, but true. And I was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Sooo many things… but I digress.)
    It’s an irritating question I get a lot. People see my last name and assume I know Spanish (surprise! I don’t!)and I get accused of neglecting to learn it or not being Spanish enough because I didn’t learn or wasn’t taught. I even get crap sometimes from my own family (apparently I should know more about Trinidadian history/Venezuelan history and traditions.) So I feel you on that note Simon!
    I feel comfortable saying I am from certain places though. I identify with where I grew up. It’s all I know. So when people ask where I’m from (they normally mean where my family is from cuz they can tell I’m not from here based off of how I talk and interact with people), I say Miami. Or South Florida since I lived in a few cities in Florida. I don’t know if anyone else has that same feeling I do. Of more identifying with a city and not really a country. I cannot think of a better way to word it. *Kanye Shrug*
    Tl;Dr: I feel a disconnect from family and where they’re from, but more connection to where I’ve grown up and the people from there. U_U

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