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The Gyopo Experience ft Jen!

July 10, 2014


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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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The Gyopo Experience ft Jen!


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  1. 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:)

    6 years ago
    • 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?

      6 years ago
  2. I am French-Polish and I thought it would be interesting to share my situation! My parents are both Polish and they emigrated to France when I was 1 and when my brother attended Kindergarten in Poland. Therefore I’ve never went to school in Poland : I learnt Polish only speaking with my parents. In fact I lived in a place where there were a lot of foreigners. My parents made some Polish friends but they were learning French hard. 16 years later, my father speaks French more fluently than some French people I know. As for my Polish, well… My parents never taught us grammar, my brother and I do terrible grammar mistakes, especially when it comes to declinations. (Seriously, it seems to follow any rules)We don’t have a particular French accent, but my brother and I aren’t able to roll “r” properly. Usually when I speak to my family in Poland, they like to stop me and say something like “Say cow!” (krowa) “Say bicycle!” (rower). I feel like they don’t care about what I’m saying and just pick out my funny pronunciation.

    When it comes to shoes : we go into the house with shoes on, we go to living room where we put them off and put slippers on. When we have guests coming we let them keep their shoes on. But, when our Polish friends come, they tend to put them off and my parents start grounding them “Noo~! Keep your shoes on!”.

    6 years ago
  3. My experience is not exactly like the gyopo experience, but nevertheless I can identify with a lot of the things that people have been saying here. Both my parents are Finnish and I was born in Finland, where I am also currently living, so to most people I am simply Finnish. However, my cultural identity is a bit more mixed up than that, considering that my family moved to Singapore when I was 10, and we lived there for the next 5.5 years before moving back to Finland. I went to an international school there, so my experience wasn’t exactly entirely Singaporean, though I obviously still lived, shopped and ate in the country (oh how I miss you, food in Singapore). Most of my friends were from India, though I made friends from all around the world, including Korea, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia etc. There was something of a Finnish community there, but I wasn’t very much a part of it, and the Finnish kids didn’t really especially hang out together. Since it was an international school, we were all TCK in one way or another, and I didn’t really have to think much about my cultural identity, apart from being an international school kid, like all the others. I spoke Finnish with my family while I lived there, but I quickly also became fluent in English, which I used everywhere else. Eventually me and my sister started mixing the two when speaking with each other, and by the final year, English was starting to win out.

    Then we moved back and suddenly I was faced with having to think about what all this meant for me in terms of my cultural identity. As a Christmas present my mother gave me a book on TCK (third culture kids), which helped me a lot with identifying the things I was feeling about our move back. However, I also felt like maybe I wasn’t TCK enough. After all, compared to kids who had moved around all their lives, how special was my experience? Nevertheless, I also didn’t really feel entirely Finnish. It was definitely a part of me, but I also resented those who told me “don’t worry, in a few years you’ll be just like everyone else here, just as Finnish”. I didn’t want that! I felt like that would be invalidating my experiences in Singapore, and moreover, I didn’t feel like everyone else. I was bilingual, I’d moved away when I was a kid, my written Finnish was full of grammatical mistakes, and I didn’t feel any deep patriotism for my country now that I was back. Sometimes I felt like I was from everywhere and nowhere, unable to ever return to the place I’d inhabited in Singapore. Even if I ever move back there, it won’t be the same as it was.

    What did help was going to an IB school in Finland. I didn’t have to suddenly change the language of my schooling, and I was even able to continue in the same program I’d started in Singapore. The students were a mix of other ex-expats, mixed nationality kids, second gen immigrants and “normal” Finns. Still, sometimes I felt like especially outside school, people didn’t really understand. I looked Finnish, spoke Finnish, and my parents were Finnish, so any claim to not feeling entirely Finnish was stuck up snobbery. Speaking too much English or talking about my experiences was showing off. I sometimes felt guilty, wondering if I really was just a stuck-up show-off, while at the same time occasionally feeling resentful and wanting to assert myself as different. It doesn’t help that Finland has a culture of being modest and avoiding saying anything which might make others jealous. Showing off is very much looked down upon. A friend once told me she felt guilty about posting fb statuses about her holiday trips because she feared it would seem like she was showing off. When I made comments about ”Finnish people” I was laughed at and told ”what, like you aren’t Finnish”. I was too foreign to be allowed to complain about Finland and too Finnish to talk about it like an outsider.

    After graduating from HS, I considered going to university overseas, but ended up staying in Finland (but studying English, and thus keeping myself in a more English-language environment). My sister did move overseas, and that has its benefits too. Studying in a university in a different country from where you came obviously makes you international.

    My relationship with language is also complicated. My spoken Finnish doesn’t really make people suspicious, but I do tend to drop in English words sometimes and I avoid having to write essays or papers in Finnish at all costs. I’m fluent in English and consider myself bilingual and in many ways it is my best language. Yet I am insecure about it in ways that I’m sure so called “native speakers” aren’t (I hate the term, because I never know whether to classify myself as one of not, since technically I am not, but practically am at the same level). My accent has been most commonly characterized as american (I have never even visited the US, but I have had teachers from there), but I doubt I sound exactly like I am from any specific place in the US. Mispronouncing words makes me feel insecure, wondering if it’s my Finnish influence coming in, and I hate it when I am told “Oh, you speak such good English” by Brits or Americans, because it shows that they think of me as a second-language speaker. If both my languages are flawed, what do I have? On the other hand, maybe my English is fine, but I along with everyone else am just more critical because it is not my mother tongue, paying special attention to mistakes that would otherwise be ignored. Maybe having both languages be a bit incomplete is the price to pay for bilingualism.

    TL;DR: Finnish parents + ex-expat + bilingual = hell on your cultural identity

    6 years ago
  4. MARTINA! do you have wings for eyelashes?!?!

    6 years ago
  5. I always found it gross for ppl to wear their shoes in their houses, ESPECIALLY THEIR BEDROOMS AND ON THEIR BEDS!! D: there’s so much crap on shoes. :( like what if you had muddy shoes? do you change them before going into the house??? As a HongKongese-American (born there, raised in L.A.) I have some experiences to share while I was in Hong Kong. Let’s just say the language barrier was hard. :0 I know how to speak cantonese, it’s just that I’m not extremely fluent, I’m intermediate at most. I have difficulty translating english from canto and vice versa but I can still hold decent conversation. However, I don’t know how to read chinese. I know how to read some words but not all. So when I went to Hong Kong in the summer of 2011 it was really hard for me to order food. LOL. Like at fast food restaurants, I’d understand the menu since they have english translation underneath but I wouldn’t know how to say that item in canto. I was in a struggle of ordering it in english and causing weird stares since I do have a very Asian face and Hong Kong style way of dressing (they wouldn’t know I was a foreigner) or ordering it in numbers… which would equally be weird. Like one time, I was ordering a Vanilla ice cream cone at Victoria Peak. I told the guy I wanted a “vanilla icecream” in canto… but then i forgot how to say “cone” in canto… so I finished it in english… and he repeated my order in canto and afterwards… I heard a few snickers between him and his friends… :( Like.. idk if it was about me… but it made me feel embarrassed. And there was this other time I was at this place in Hong Kong where they sell kpop mugs/pencils/keychains and pics… I was getting into kpop during this time… and after watching You’re Beautiful I wanted some Lee Hongki pics. But I couldn’t find it and the owner guy asked me who i was looking for… but I didn’t know how to say lee hongki in canto… so I said “Lee HongKi” in english.. and he just looked at me and smirked and said “you mean 李洪基 (lee hongki)?” in canto. I know I shouldn’t have felt ashamed, but I did at that point and slightly embarrassed and mad. AND OFC I didn’t buy from that store, I just said yeah, thank you, looked at the pics for a while and left the store. D:< I'm never gonna buy from that store. Sometimes I feel like wearing a sign that said "I am American" so Hong Kong people would understand why I don't know how to say something or not understand ____. Or maybe I should dress more American… but then I'd get weird stares too.

    6 years ago
  6. You guys have covered a lot of topics over the course of these videos and they’ve all been really interesting! One thing I would really like to hear your opinion on is the topic or racial relations in Korea. In many parts of Asia, there is only a very small percentage of foreigners, meaning the population is almost 100% Asian. In comparison to somewhere like Canada, it’s a pretty big difference culturally; whereas we are more of a melting pot, they are more of a singular culture. I know that when I went to Japan, I only saw one other black person the entire 10-day trip (I’m African-Canadian). Outwardly I was not really treated any different other than the usual foreigner staring. However, I did hear some stories about how black people are viewed there. As well, I have seen many shows (from both Korea and Japan) wherein black people are treated with a slightly racist feel, if I could call it that? For example, on an episode of “Happy Together”, they had this dude named Otswiri from Ghana who they kept saying looked like Will Smith. I know as well you have mentioned Koreans calling black people Obama in a kinda “all black people look the same vibe”. I know that, because of the lack of different cultures such as black, Hispanic, and other demographics, some Asian ideas about these cultures seem slightly racist. However, it is more of an innocent ignorance – they simply did not know anything about black people, for example – than a voluntary one on their part.

    So really, the TL;DR of all this would be: how do Koreans treat people of different skin colours or foreigners who are not strictly white? Do they treat them in a manner that could be misconstrued as racist or do they not really care?

    6 years ago
  7. As a person who is born and raised in Sweden but have parents from Algeria and Egypt I felt like this was a subject I’ve encountered pretty much all my life, especially since I’ve grown up in the suburbs of Sweden too.
    Looking back I can see both major similarities and differences in how I tackle the identity perception of myself. I kind of got to hear all my life this on going debate of how I would either never be “a real Swede” or that I was as much of a Swede as anyone else.
    Now the me as a small kid just chose to abandon the whole concept of “having a nationality”. Whenever the subject came up I’d say “I’m not from any country and I might as well be from every country, I’m an earthling” or something of the like, needless to say that statement was never taken seriously.
    Not sure if one can tell but I was quite the individualistic child, I might not have been the one who took most place in a classroom or in a discussion but I knew who I was, what I wanted and what I was striving for.
    However that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to have a place to belong. Whenever I visited my family on my mothers side I’d be way too westernized, not necessary in a bad way but they’d still treat me as an outsider. Even though I understand arabic almost at the same level a native would. I take pride in even understanding several different dialects but It takes a long time until I open up and try to speak it (mostly because of disgraceful memories of people laughing at me and my sister for mixing up the dialects when speaking) so when family members said a word or two in arabic (not giving me a chance to respond) they’d automatically switch to french (which I barely speak, I’m lucky if I can introduce myself). Even so they expect me to go through with my life as if I’d grown up there, and I know it won’t end up that way.
    Luckily for me my parent know and accept that I will live a very multi-cultural life where I will take in and share as much as I can. Next step is to make them understand that me liking asian culture isn’t a blind obsession! ;P

    Point is I’ve learnt to see my multi-national-identity as a more positive thing rather than negative. It help putting on a smiley face and holding your head up high because no one can tell you who or what you are!

    Anyway this was my first comment ever made here although I miss the thumbs up option, it was kiinda the lazy way of commenting for me! X3

    6 years ago
    • And I really want an editing option too, auto-correct mistakes everywhere!! X’3

      6 years ago
  8. Hey first time poster, long time lurker here. It is so great being able to read everyone’s stories on here. I thought I should make my contribution as I am probably the only Uzbek-American on here (please correct me if I am wrong!). WARNING long post.

    I was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan one year prior to the fall of the Soviet Union and for the most part of my youth I experienced a lot of lets say displacement before finally setting down roots in the Northeast. I never really had a strong foundation in Uzbek culture and was brought up by a very liberal set of parents. Being the first wave of post-Soviet Union Uzbeks to immigrate to the U.S. I can definitely attest to the cultural recluse experience (like Jen). For more than a decade now, I’ve had little contact with my “people” so I’ve come to fully embrace myself as an American. Unlike the large Korean American population, I don’t think we Uzbek-Americans have much of an established stereotype to subscribe to–perhaps a good thing.

    My issues with cultural identity maybe should have been bigger since I look very racially ambiguous on top of being the only Uzbek person everywhere I go, but I consider myself lucky in that I got through it pretty okay. I am naturally an introvert and so I didn’t run into too many socially demanding situations. Plus, I lived in a very diverse area until the start of my teens so that helped a lot. But lo and behold when my parents moved us into a very suburban and very white neighborhood I began to become more conscious of my own “strangeness”. I found the Asian community at that point and felt I had more common grounds with them versus Caucasians. I get mistaken most often as a white/Asian mix or a Pacific Islander. I also can’t find myself able to connect with my own ethnic group. First thing being that I don’t look very much like my ethnicity. Second being that I do not believe in religion and other Uzbek cultural practices. So developing as a young person, I thought of myself as Asian-American than anything else. Most of my friends now are either Asian, multiracial, Caucasian, or other minority.

    tl;dr I don’t feel Uzbek or even Uzbek-American, I just feel like an Asian-American (even though I don’t look like one nor am I technically considered one).

    6 years ago
  9. First time posting here! I’ve been a long-time fan of eyk and I found this topic really interesting and relatable. I am an ABC and having grown up in a rural area with 99% of the population Caucasian, I grew up struggling with my identity. I had a difficult time picking up Cantonese/Mandarin because my mom thought I might confuse myself growing up bilingual. How very wrong we were. Today, I live in the Bay Area and I find myself fitting in a lot easier with my Asian friends, but I still get that “different” feeling because my Chinese is pretty limited compared to someone who grew up learning two languages. When I go to China and Hong Kong to visit relatives, my conversations with them are pretty limited. I’m not sure if it’s because of my horrible accent while speaking Cantonese or just the lack of effort on both of our parts but it does kind of suck to be the “American” with a Chinese face. I feel relieved reading a lot of these comments on this page as many others have gone through the same struggles I have—I used to think I was definitely the only one foolish enough to not learn another language!
    In the end, I think I identify myself as Asian American, even if my Asian roots are not as strong. One day they will be!

    6 years ago
    • Awesome! I’m glad you felt motivated to comment. Thank you for taking the plunge. See you in next week’s comments, yes? YES!

      6 years ago
  10. Hi S&M
    This is my first time commenting here. So, here I goes
    I can totally relate to this. I’m a Muslim and happens to be part Malay, part Jews, part Arab, part Chinese, part Japanese and right now I’m living in Malaysia. Even thought I was born and raised in Malaysia, I totally felt different and out of place. Whenever I told someone about this, they will tell me that I don’t belong here. Maybe, just like Korra’s new season, the world are changing and I don’t think that race can be defined by the old ways anymore

    6 years ago
  11. 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.

    6 years ago
  12. 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.

    6 years ago
    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~
    But srsly eatyourkimchi THANK YOU for being totally awesome once again. :)

    6 years ago
    • I’m so happy you liked this video! It’s a topic we’re really interested in, and it’s something we’d like to get more discussions on :)

      6 years ago
  14. 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^

    6 years ago
  15. 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

    6 years ago
  16. 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! :)


    6 years ago
  17. 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.

    6 years ago
    • 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.

      6 years ago
  18. 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.

    6 years ago
  19. 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.

    6 years ago
  20. In my case I’ve been raised bilengual, french and english. My dad comes from the States, my mom from Quebec, Canada. After divorcing, my mom came back to Quebec when I was five and I’ve grown up here ever since although we go visit our dad every summer and talk to him every week. More so, like lots of North Americans (or ppl from the whole continent really), I have fairly recent ancestors that have emigrated. That includes mainly french, polish, irish & italian. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

    I feel like identifying yourself to one big thing, the more so when it’s vague and can have many different implications, isn’t good, isn’t right. I might get hated here, but that includes to your country. And I know there are very nationalist people, that are proud of their country and might even feel some kind of superiority because of it but hear me out.

    I’ve actually researched on this in the context of a class (it was a main subject) and following the books we had to read, we had an individual’s thoughts regarding the whole “broken identity” situations. The thought he brought up that struck me the most was how you define your identity. You are unique, everyone knows that. Everyone is. In that case, how could you simply be, for example, “French”. How many other people are also French. In that case, you need to add something else, narrow it down right? So you are “French” and you “like raspberries”. Alright but many other people are that… Hmmm so now “French”, “likes raspberries” and “favorite/favourite color: green”. That still includes many people. Alright let’s add “loves biking”. And then “is allergic to penuts” and “hates opera” &….

    Your identity can’t be described by a word. Or a thing. It’s a combination of things. Which is why someone’s cultural identity can’t be soley used to define who someone is. That doesn’t make sense. And the geographic place we were born and raised shouldn’t make a difference how people are considered and treated. As far as I know, we’re all from planet earth right? You’d be born on a spaceship and it still wouldn’t matter. You are not where you came from, you are not where you live. That’s way too limited of an outlook. Neither are others. You are beautiful you, others are beautiful them. Get to know people. And don’t capture them in a generalized label box that puts them in a intimidating place that makes you want to keep your distances. Remember they’re just people.

    I wonder if the people who keep distances because of misconceptions & generalizations realize how much greatness they’re missing out on (probably not).

    I don’t know. I’m lucky, I grew up in a very ethnically diverse place. We’re a mix of immigrants, natives, second generation immigrants, exchange students. And we don’t care. I mean, everyone is a potential friend. And that’s awesome. I’m not saying there aren’t groups of people that don’t stick together by origins or foreign language, but none of them really have that as a sole group. I guess what I’m tryimg to say is that I live in a place where open-mindness is a top priority and that makes the whole difference. It’s something people should value more and it should be transmitted through education.

    Something else I’d like to add. There is this philosopher (John Rawls) that developed the idea of a “veil/cloak of ignorance” (if I translate the French term, I’m not sure what they call it in english). The idea behind the veil of ignorance is that it’s a fictional situation in which you totally forget everything about who you are and what groups you belong to when making a decision or taking position. So for instance in the context of gouvernment money being or not being distributed in a way that helps the people with lower income. In front of such a situation, a person that wears the veil of ignorance can’t be in disfavor of having the poor getting more money despite what it would mean for the richer people. Because he doesn’t know to what groups he belongs to. He could be rich. But he could also be poor. So would he risk it? No. Same for discrimination. Should I want people to discriminate homosexuals, *insert skin color*, nerds, foreigners, handicapped people etc.? Under the veil of ignorance, the answer is always no. Because you don’t know who you are and therefore you need to consider the possibility of you being part of the discriminated group. In the case mentioned, people should ask themselves if they wanted people that come from a different country/ have a different culture/mentality /that speak a different language be treated as outcasts or perceived as different. The answer would be no once again. Just get to know people and base how you treat them after that. You might have things in common (interests, sense of humor) and become friends, or you might just not connect and drift away (and that’s okay) but just give everyone a chance.

    Also I’d like to point out that the whole concept of “us” versus “you/them” is never beneficial. Trapping people in groups, identifying them to something and not going beyond preconceptions is ignorant. When you look at it, the people in the “us” group are probably very different and some probably don’t even like each other amongst themselves. Humans naturally classify things and people to keep the world coherent and I’m not saying that you can never ever at some point generalize certain things in certain context. But always think stuff through, never cease to question these groups you’ve made in your mind because what is imagined and reality are never 100% in sync and people from a same group are actually very different between themselves and there’s always more to learn than there is to assume. Plus if you really want to work with groups, how about this: no matter where on earth we come from, no matter our skin color, no matter our age, we’re all humans. We all get angry, love, smile, cry, get tired. There aren’t any outsiders there. I feel like I’m branching out to the wrong people considering people commenting here have a little golden something called “open-mindness” and are probably not the people making others feel like outcasts, but hey. Just wanted to put eternally scattered thoughts out there.

    And this is definitely all over the place and drifts away from the main subject but I guess it’s my way of putting myself out there. I guess I’m just frustrated with close-minded people and I decided to rave here. Sorry if I offended anyone. Feel free to add thoughts or argue. I don’t usually post comments but hey. Why not?

    6 years ago
  21. AH, I can so relate, too!
    I am Taiwanese-American, but, my way of living, my ideals, my mannerisms, – everything about me is VERY American, because I was born and raised here. My Mandarin has always been so-so, although I am trying to fix that now. I am considered ‘asian’ in the states, but ‘white’ in Taiwan. I have very mixed features, so I stand out a lot in all asian countries. But since becoming older, I have been trying to ‘be’ more asian in many ways if that makes any sense. I really love many of the asian cultures, especially the food and way of life. And now having a Korean boyfriend, I’ve become really interested in Korean culture, and I think I have a greater passion for learning their language than I do for Mandarin!! SO where do I fit in? What’s my identity? This is an awesome post, because I’ve always been in that spot, too (: It’s actually great to see so many others like me who are hybrids (in all ways!) But thankfully, I’ve really grown to appreciate it, despite always sticking out like a sore thumb.

    5 years ago
  22. MLE

    I’m a socio-cultural anthropology major and took a class recently on Ethnicity and Identity. These sorts of questions came up SO often, so you’re not the only ones thinking about it and academia has been pondering the question for a while now. Essentially to sum up the class, there is no theory of ethnicity, only different ways in which we identify in different situations. Ethnicity is an extremely fluid category, and sometimes a problematic term specifically for the reasons that you’ve brought up.I could write a whole essay about it (and have written several haha) but I don’t want to clog the comment section!

    6 years ago
    • Thank you for the comment, even if it’s not a whole essay. I’d like to use it at the end of our next TL;DR :D

      6 years ago
  23. I would say that a lot of the continental U.S. wears the shoes at home. But if you travel to Hawaii, many, if not most, people take their shoes off at home. I grew up in Hawaii and that is just normal. Even now that I live in California, my husband and I take our shoes even if he didn’t grow up that way. Even we go over to his parents’ house he leaves his shoes at the door. I like to think that I married an Asian man in a Caucasian body.

    6 years ago
  24. This is really interesting, I’ve never really thought about this in depth before. My parents immigrated from China to Canada, whee I was born and where I grew up. I speak Chinese pretty fluently as a result of going to years and years of Chinese school (which my parents forced me to do). We visit china every few years as well, and every time we go back, it’s for at least a month. As we spend more time in china, both my and my sister’s Chinese improves very quickly and by the end, pretty much no one can tell that we’re from a foreign land even though my mom says I have a very slight accent (actually, I just enunciate like everything which make it seem forced rather than laid back). But me and my sister have very good Chinese compared to other Chinese people who were born and raised in places outside of china. Chinese (IMO) is one of the hardest languages to learn and pronounce because of the accents. Honestly, listening to some of my Caucasian friends trying to speak with the correct pronunciation is hilarious because they really can’t hear the difference between them. Anyways, a lot of Chinese Canadian friends of mine didn’t even bother to try and learn Chinese because it’s so hard. Because of this, most Chinese people that I talk to are very impressed with my Chinese, simply because their standards for foreigners are so low. Of course there is some language shaming, people still expect you to know the very basics and to have at lest a slight grasp on pronunciation.

    On general, I think Chinese people really like ‘gopyos’. I’ve had people give me things for free for a lot if random reasons (was you’re so talk here have some free stuff, wow you’re trilingual here have some free stuff, wow you’re so pretty here I’ll give you this for free) but I’m pretty sure those are just covers for the real reason, the fact that I grew up in Canada. The kids there look at me like I’m an alien princess or something and we all astounded by the level of my English. They really find it impressive.

    The way we present ourselves changes, as well. I’ve noticed that pretty much all Chinese People who live on urban areas are super pushy, for instance when walking on the streets, they will literally shove people out of the way. Because these places we so densely populated, they have to do so, or else they won’t be able to get where they need to go without wasting hours just trying to squeeze through the crowd nicely. When we first arrive, we’re politely saying excuse me and sorry and thank you while slipping in between people. By the end, while we aren’t shoving anymore, we don’t really speak, we just go. No one in china apologizes when they bump into you or shove their way past you.

    In china, street vendors pretty much always raise the price a lot because they expect people to want to bargain the prices down and this way, they’ll still get profit and the customer will feel satisfied, having gotten such a big discount. Once vendors learn that you’re from a different country, they’ll try to rip you off. They’ll usually assume that you’re rich just because you don’t live in china, and will triple, maybe even quadruple the already raised price of products.

    I’m not sure if this is what it’s like for everyone, but this is my experience as a gyopo.

    6 years ago
  25. I really enjoy these types of blog posts, that get you thinking. I have always enjoyed the topic of identity it was a big topic we discussed in one of my classes this semester and though the subject of identity can be very complex, somebody in the comment section below said it best, that at the end of the day you are human. This blog post also made me think about Malcolm X’s words “We declare our right on this earth…to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day…” and one quote from MLK’s I Have A Dream Speech, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Society is just so focused on “identity” of the outside such as race and nationality that they miss the most important part the “content” of peoples character, their ideals, personality, and beliefs the things on the inside.I believe what is on the inside really makes up ones identity, but the world unfortunately doesn’t think like that they are just so consumed with outward appearances.

    6 years ago
  26. I was born in Ukraine, my mother is Jewish and my father is Russian. We migrated to Israel when I was 6 years old. My 2 first languages were Ukrainian and Russian, but since most of the people that came to Israel from Ukraine and Russia spoke in Russian here, I replaced my Ukrainian with Hebrew. It is hard for me to say that I am Ukrainian anymore because I don’t know almost anything about the culture, I do not remember the language and I actually know more about Russia than Ukraine. I grew up with Russian friends and I went to a school that was about 95% Russians so I speak the language pretty well. I actually mix Russian, Hebrew and English in my daily speech. Almost every Israeli I meet or know see me as Russian, and all my Russian friends see me as Russian too, but the parents and the older Russian generation here see me as incomplete Russian I guess. Because I never studied Russian and did not read much in Russian my vocabulary is very small. Also I did not read many classics of Russian writers and poets and I did not watch many Russian movies and it is something that my parents make me feel very guilty about. In the end though, what I learned is I don’t really belong to Russian culture or Israeli culture, because I am something in the middle. But it doesn’t bother me as much because I make my own traditions, mindsets and experiences.

    6 years ago
  27. ahhh i def know how you feel I was born and raised in NY my mother is South America my father was puerto rican. When I went to south america to visit I would always get do you speak spanish granted I understand and yes i speak but not 100% fluent. Its the spanglish that comes out but yet when I tell them that yes I can they say wow that’s a surprise.I also get the well your part bolivian how do you not know about the culture etc… while yes my mother had lived in the states for about 50 years and has adapted to american culture you sorta put aside what you grew up learning and have to learn to adapt to something new. you made the example of food,how you dress and the language barrier.
    Now as being puerto rican and living in NY as the what they call the NYerican I am the total opposite of that sterotype and when I went to PR to visit it was like wait what your part PR I don’t see it. Cultural identity is ever changing due to the fact that people are constantly changing meaning its not strange to see people move to different countries and you live there and have to learn to co exist w the culture.

    6 years ago
  28. I’m a Yonsei (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yonsei_(fourth-generation_Nikkei)) so the child of at least one parent who was born Japanese in America (for me specifically, Peru. Mother’s parents and their parents were all full Japanese and immigrated, grew up and stayed in Peru) and my family moved to Australia where I was born and raised. The idea and pressure of a specific cultural identity makes me super uncomfortable, my mum always called herself Peruvian even though she was completely Japanese but she only spoke Spanish (and then eventually English of course) and never learnt Japanese (she was the youngest and never had much desire to move to Japan or learn to speak Japanese like other members of her family). My dad is full Peruvian so here’s a Yonsei who is half Peruvian growing up in Australia haha, I learnt to speak English and Spanish and my household is a blend of both Peruvian and Japanese culture (speak spanish, eat Japanese and Peruvian food). I think there’s a big emphasis in Australia for multiculturalism, especially where I grew up and I dont think I’d call myself Australian, from other foreigners’/familys’ perceptions I am Australian but it’s such a diluted term from my own perspective. And travelling to Peru and Japan to visit family, it isn’t really of a culture shock, sure they know Im a foreigner definitely but Iv’e never had that pressure to be ‘Australian/Peruvian/Japanese’. And I think its funny thinking back on my family, we’ve got sooooo much family on both sides. All my dad’s familt is easy, they all speak Spanish done. But I go to Japan (and Peru) to see my Mum’s family and its crazy, they all either be speaking Spanish or English to me and if that doesn’t work they’ll be throwing out rapid fire Japanese and Portuguese and you see these huge family gatherings of just all these languages being thrown around and these a very Japanese or Peruvian looking people just switching languages all over the place like its the most normal thing. I most likely lost the point somewhere really early on, its 2am hah. But I think, embrace everything you are or you want to embrace, do whatever, screw weird people and their uptight patriotism. My family and life are awesome and so crazy and I wish I could talk more or be more succinct but words are really hard gosh darn, I wish we could just have like autobiographies/histories on our families done bam in front of us easy.

    6 years ago
  29. This is such an interesting topic, and one I can relate to. I was born in India, and lived there for 11 years. I’ve been living in Florida for almost 9 years now. It’s home but I remember when I got my citizenship, I struggled with the same question. Am I American? Indian? Indian-American? I did not have an answer though because when I’m here, I’m “the Indian” who has Indian food, wears Indian clothes, speaks the language etc. But when I visit India, it’s the total opposite. People seem surprised I remember the language, or that I can handle the spiciness of the food. English, in India, has the same distinction it has in South Korea, where it is impressive if someone knows it fluently. In my case, since I speak it everyday, English-speaking is a habit. But when I go to India, I have to tone it down because people think I am showing off. I completely stand out, even though, at least to me, I look the same. It’s a weird experience, one I do not really like. So even though I love my family back in India,, I really avoid visiting. I know! Bad.

    P.S – Martina, you look AMAZING!!

    6 years ago
    • have you ever experienced this in India? My Indian-American friend says when she visits her family and she is trying to get a deal or get tickets for a tourist attraction (Taj Mahal etc), she lets her family do all the talking. she doesn’t say a word. Because as soon as they hear the trace of American accent, they’ll charge her more.

      6 years ago
  30. Yay… I’ve finally gotten it down to continue posting replies on this site. I am just lazy.

    But this topic is perfect for me. Like Dan, I too was adopted and now live in Sweden. I’ve gotten this kind of question a million times, mainly because as born Korean I look very different from the stereotypical tall, blond and blue eyed people of Sweden. I am short, black haired and have almost black eyes (they’re brown really, but it’s hard to tell). I also get confused a lot for an newer immigrant unless I open my mouth (and speak fluent Swedish).

    But as for identity, as you say, it depends on the culture that you hold closest. I may have been born Korean, but I share sooooooo few traits of the Korean lifestyle. This was something I realised only after my first (and so far only) revisit to Korea. I looked the same as to everyone, but I couldn’t understand cultural references, language or customs. I was literally a foreigner in a Korean body, and that revelation was something I think that I needed. If someone would ask me today I’d say I am born Korean, but my inner self is 90 % Swedish. I do share a lot of things that I have adopted from Korea, that are close to my preferences, but I could never become Korean again. I still hold Korea very close, after all it’s the culture I was born from, but I can’t think of myself leaving my life and what I know to change completely. I guess what I am trying to say is that I try to be open-minded, and yet I know what I like.

    One more thing I can say however is that being born somewhere else helped open my interest for the world. It helped me be interested of other cultures than the one I live in, and I love that because it’s helped me to discover a lot of cultures that are amazing. We often tend to think from what we’ve been raised with (something I noticed when I was studying in China, and had a number of American friends who kept asking me what my Major was. For the record, I still don’t know. I’ve only gone to Universities as Colleges in Sweden are pretty much none-existant and most would go to a University (and many never finish a Major there, since Bachelors give you credits and they are first). And to get back to my point, it can sometimes be very different from what we’re used to. Hence, why I love talking to people like you all.

    6 years ago
  31. So Martina when you where talking about pointing Korean American’s and Korean Canadians i know what you mean by you can see the difference. There is the odd time you cant till. Like my one friend she is like half gyopo. (Ban gyopo) She is looks total korean from korean. She speaks it perfectly. The only difference is she would rather speak english when she can. However if a korean person comes around she will speak 99% korean and only use a korean word here or there. Where as her sister was born in Canada and everything. She is not gyopo at all. She prefers korean, follows all the korean trends and will only speak english if she has to so to like me or her sister only if her sister speaks english first. But like i have it down to this crazy art form lol where i can till no word of a lie about what age you came to Canada; because the look isn’t just in the clothes all the time its in there facial features and the way they act.

    For me i am Ukrainian and German. My cousins all of them who are on my mothers side act Ukrainian and my dads all act German. Then there is me. My life is so Korean. I go to korean church, i speak korean, my friends are almost all korean, ill cook korean food and etc. lots of korean people ask me are you part korean. I get mistaken for half korean. My family only the elders like aunts and uncles think i am weird. Because i love both my cultures and i love korean, along with other asian culture. The biggest thing i get is my korean friends not understanding why like Japanese or Chinese culture. Like some of my korean friends think its weird i like japan and china. Its because of the whole history thing. But like Jen said its a pride thing. Funny thing is i know a half Japanese half korean guy and he doesn’t like Koreans at all but he try’s to be friend them. It makes no scene u less he is trying to like them.

    So for me i get more flack for being more korean then Ukrainian or German. But all the aunties are trying to find me a korean man lol. So the dating thing is i think only a big thing if your traditional. I have seen most Korean’s there family would not mind at all as long as you understand korean culture and practice it. Cause there ok with Canadian or American but not a lot.

    6 years ago
  32. Guys i feel ya. I’m Nigerian, i was born there and moved to the States when i was 8. When i was 10, i was sent back for high school because my parents thought i would get out of touch with my culture. I was only in the states for two years before i went back but whoa! apparently i had changed so much…

    Fast forward 12 or so years later, after i had finished high school, moved back to the states, finished college and now I’m in med school, I’m looked down on as not being Nigerian enough both by Nigerians here and back home. I speak the language of my people, i eat Nigerian food, but apparently thats not enough. Reasons that are brought up are because i don’t wanna get married to a Nigerian man ONLY or that i dont want to go back to live in Nigeria, or that most of my friends aren’t Nigerian and the ones that are aren’t Nigerian enough, or that i dont listen to Nigerian music….i mean the list goes on and on. People always find one reason or another as to why I’m not Nigerian enough… I have actually talked to my mom about it cause at one point i started thinking that my mom was disappointed in me because of all these things. She assured me that she was not!

    But i have come to accept who I am… and in talking to other people who came from strong cultures its nice to know I’m not the only one going thru these things!

    6 years ago
    • I feel you as a Nigerian. I have some Nigerian friends and when we talk about guys and i tell them i am not interested in dating a Nigerian , they gasp, tsk, and shake their head. but i stopped caring a long time ago (to be honest i don’t think i ever cared.) and when we (my sisters and i) go to a Nigerian gathering it’s so awkward, like when my moms friends want to talk to us they all use English (accompanied with that look) or even worst force us to reply in our language. even when i was in Nigeria i only spoke English so i guess we always stood out as the groups of sister that don’t know how to speak their mother tongue.

      did they really send you back to Nigeria alone ?? if my parents thought of doing that i would tie myself to a pole lol

      6 years ago
      • HAHAHAHA gurl i feel ya! I just dont care anymore either…if its not this, its another thing! Gotta shake off those haters!

        No i was sent back to stay with family. My school was a boarding school so i was there most of the time!

        6 years ago
    • Sorry, I got a bit excited at your comment: my groomsmen at our wedding was Nigerian. Joe. Same as you: he left the Nigeria when he was pretty young. Damn I miss eating at his place :D

      6 years ago

        Second, if u guys ever want to come to FL, i will love to host u guys and show u around the fun places….and u guys can eat ALLLLLL the Nigerian food u want, my mother loves showing off her cooking!

        6 years ago
  33. Ohh, I can totally relate. I was born in Russia, but moved to Germany when I was 3. I speak Russian a bit, but definitely not fluently. I have a German pass, speak German perfectly, but EVERY German tells me that I’m a foreigner. I visited family in Russia a few times – and you know what, I was just some German for them. My parents even forbid me and my brother from talking in Russian in public, because everybody would immediately know that we are not actually Russian. Even my father, who was born in Kazakhstan and lived in Russia for many years, had a hard time “concealing” the fact that he was living in Germany now, because some Russian vendor picked up on his weird accent that he developed while only speaking to Russian-Germans for so many years. (Concealing that we’re German was necessary because the city we visited is known as one of the most xenophobic cities in Russia and there’s the danger of getting ripped off and things like that.)
    I don’t really feel like I’m German. I grew up here, talk the language, but I still feel like an outsider. My cultural background is just really vastly different to “normal” Germans, but at the same time, I’m not Russian either. Either way, I’m the “foreigner” in both countries.
    It doesn’t really bother me, though. I’ve since moved in with a “real” German and there are a lot of moments where our cultural expectations and experiences clash and there has to be some explaining to do, but I think it’s more interesting that way. I definitely wouldn’t want to trade my experiences. I like that I have my Russian background, though I wouldn’t want to live in Russia and don’t plan to visit it anytime soon.

    6 years ago
  34. I feel like the idea of a cultural identity, as moving throughout the world becomes more common, has – and will continue to – become more and more diluted. My parents immigrated from the Philippines to the U.S., and neither I nor my two siblings fluently speak their language(s) or fully understand the customs of their culture. I identify as Filipino, but weakly – most of my ties are in little things, like the food, random words, and taking off my shoes when I go in my house. In a similar way that a lot of white Americans only identify with their ethnic origins by lineage, not retention of culture, I think future generations of Asians raised outside of Asia (who usually always identify by their parents/grandparents/etc.’s country of origin) will as well. In places of great diversity like the U.S. and Canada, it’s almost inevitable. On the other hand, places that are much more homogeneous like South Korea, being a foreign-born/raised makes it difficult to fit in, no matter how in touch with the culture you are. Balancing and/or immersing yourself in your “original” culture and the one of any place you might find yourself in can be difficult. At the very least, you guys are awesome in that you immersed yourselves in another culture, and have taken the time to respectably understand it; honestly, I feel like the only reason you guys can’t call yourselves Korean-Canadians is because of its homogeneity, you know? In the same way you two are Canadians from culturally European families, if you guys had a kid who was born and raised in Korea, I think it would be fair to identify that child as Korean, too. Thanks for sharing this awesome thought-provoking video! :D

    6 years ago
  35. Yeah, I definitely wear shoes in the house. I’m never barefoot. The thinking behind it is that Americans think floors are gross and dirty, even in the house. My mom actually yells at me when I don’t wear something yo cover my feet. I think it’s pretty nasty when people pick up the dust from the floor on their feet. People I know with pets definitely wear shoes in the house because animals do gross things that you don’t know about on the floor and then you’re stepping in their mess and hair and saliva. Nasty!

    6 years ago
  36. Bre

    Jen grew up around Caucasians, right? So, what about the Koreans who grew up around Koreans in the US? What is their experience when going to Korea? Are they used to Korean fashion and other things so that it doesn’t come to a shock as much as it did for Jen?

    6 years ago
  37. Background info: I’m first-gen Portuguese Canadian (my parents lived in Portugal until their early teens, when their families moved to Canada. They met in highschool). Growing up, they spoke Portuguese amongst themselves, but I never really learned to speak the language (took some classes, but the teachers were AWFUL). At home, we ate Portuguese food, we would visit our family every summer, and we were involved in the cultural clubs for Portuguese expats living our area. But everything else growing up was very Canadian. As a result, I feel like I’m in this strange bubble where I’m ‘too Canadian’ for my Portuguese friends from my childhood, and ‘very Portuguese’ for my non-Portuguese friends now.

    When I go and visit these days I can pass as a local until I open my mouth. (I’m in your country, and want to practice dammit!) It’s even stranger when I go and visit the US; where everyone thinks I’m Latina and would speak to me in Spanish, or remark how I “didn’t have an accent”. O_o

    6 years ago
  38. On the shoe topic, my father’s side of the family takes their shoes off at the door or did when I was growing up. My grandmother was born and raised in Hawai’i and that’s how she did it growing up. I have always tried to enforce that but no one seems to get it.
    There is some slight awkwardness since my grandmother was the second generation born in Hawai’i despite being of German descent. She used to talk about going to school, learning Hawai’ian, learning to hula, competing in the Miss Hawai’i pageant and not winning because she wasn’t descended from royalty etc. In fact, she taught me my first “swear” it was “howlie”. I still use it, lol. The point of my ramble being that there’s some expectation the other way as well, that people who don’t “look” the nationality in question can’t really BE the nationality in question.

    6 years ago
  39. I live in the States! Kansas to be exact. We do keep our shoes on in our houses! Although I wish we did take our shoes off, keeps the floors cleaner…

    6 years ago
  40. I’m half Korean and half Chinese, but I lived as an American for my entire life. Unlike most of my gyopo friends, I never been to Korea from the day I was born to now. My mom is Korean, but she was born and raised in Japan. This, she grew up in Japanese culture. And no I never been Japan either… Sorry! I didn’t know about my Korean heritage until I entered high school. It was kind of awkward because I thought I was half Japanese until I finished middle school. My mom didn’t grew up in that culture and doesn’t speak, read, or write Korean. I wanted to learn more about my culture by reading books about Korea and tried to learn basic Korean from one of my gyopo friends. I’m still trying to learn about Korea any way I can. It was just a little awkward and isolating at first because I never grew up in that kind of situation.

    6 years ago