Change of plan

It has only been a week, but I am changing the image of this blog. I have switched over to a different blog. It has a different name and it looks different. But I think this new image will allow me to talk about more topics and convey more messages. The idea of blogging is very new to me and as soon as I wanted to do it, I created a blog within a few hours. I only knew what I wanted to share but did not take time to think about how I was going to do it, what I wanted to look like, and thus I kept changing my mind. After a week of blogging, I have decided to proceed with a new idea. I am very happy with it and I will continue to grow with this image.

My new blog flourishes on the idea of looking at the world through rose-tinted spectacles; to see positivity, optimism and to see everyone in the same light. ❤

Please head on over to my new blog named “Rose-Tinted Spectacles“!

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Discrimination is EVERYWHERE

Discrimination happens where there is a group of minorities.

I am an ethnic minority in England, so discrimination happens to me. A British person is an ethnic minority in Hong Kong, so discrimination may occur to them.

Discrimination is essentially picking on the unpopular kid at school.

For example: Every high school has a popular group of kids that everyone either hates (sorry if you were one of them) or wants to join. When we were 10/12, we were not mature enough to accept girls and boys being friends so that popular group of people consisted of both boys and girls because that’s what makes them cool. They dated each other, and if anyone outside of their friendship group dated one of the popular kids, the whole school would be in shock at such a blasphemy. And of course, they always kept up with the “trends” that appeared from nowhere. They don’t communicate with anyone else in their class because they’re too cool to speak to anyone but their other cool friends. Anyone not in their friendship group is considered unpopular, weird, or a loner. Their presence lowered my self esteem because I always felt judged and disliked by them. But when one of them was nice to me, I suddenly felt a moment of acceptance by society. They have this sense of superiority.

This feeling of superiority comes from the idea of having a big number of like-minded people together. If you have a lot of support, you naturally feel confident. On the other hand, if someone does not have a lot of support, they feel isolated and hesitant. Feeling confident is excellent, but those with low morals consequently feel arrogant and this is where they proceed to oppress or humiliate the smaller numbers. This is discrimination.

Thus we must understand that discrimination happens everywhere. Wherever differences exist, there is a minority and thus there is potential for discrimination. We must remember that our identities, characteristics, behaviour, connections, or anything we did not control, will never entitle superiority. Nothing will ever entitle you to treat people worse than how you would expect yourself to be treated. And nothing will ever entitle you to the vulgarity of discrimination. 

“Chinese people all look the same”

Obviously, Chinese people do not look the same. Two people with blonde hair and blue eyes do not look the same. Identical twins may not even look the same.

In my primary school and high school, there were two Chinese people, Yin (not the real name) and me. Yin had a pinyin name, and I had my White name, Sharon. At the time, I probably had about two friends, and that is most likely an overestimate. Yin, however, was very well known in our primary school, for a reason I could never fathom. Perhaps it was because every now and then, there would be a crowd in the playground watching Yin escape from being stuck in a tree. But extraordinarily, everyone for sure knew this name. This name was so well known that I did not exist. People genuinely mistook me for Yin, shout the name across the playground directing at me, or sometimes outside of school, I would hear mutters of “is that Yin?” by classmates I recognise. It would be understandable if we look significantly alike, but apart from our black hair, same height, same gender and same coloured skin, our appearances were virtually opposites. I had very long hair and Yin had a short bob, I was a chubby kid and Yin was slim and sporty, I spoke with a full English accent and Yin had a strong Chinese accent. This, till this day, baffles me that they never considered that I could just be another Chinese person, not Yin.

Thinking about this situation now, it may be reasonable for my classmates of the time to not recognise someone when they’ve only seen a face once or twice. Having worked in a retail shop, I struggled to recognise the customer that came back a few hours later to purchase a product that I personally kept in the back for them whilst they went to the cash machine. I am so busy and focussed on keeping everything stocked up, fulfilling the other customers’ needs and etc, that I simply cannot remember anyone’s faces because it is not my priority. In relation to this, we must remember that we were all about 5-12 years of age when this occurred. The attention span of children are small, so when someone is only an acquaintance, not a friend, it is natural to forget a face, let alone their name.

The difference is that Yin’s name stands out because it is unfamiliar in comparison to our classmates’ names, and fascination always leads to remembrance. I had a White name so inherently, no one remembered it. Mine and Yin’s Chinese faces are distinctive because it is different to what they have been used to, thus it is natural for them to match Yin’s name to any Chinese person in our school. My friends could distinguish me, because they knew me. Therefore, it is not that they think all Chinese people look the same, but because generally, it is difficult to remember someone when you don’t know them. And when something stands out because it is different, it is automatically remembered and anything that fits in with the norm, it is forgotten. This then leaves what appears to make sense, the remembered name matching with the remembered face.

Perhaps it is understandable when children assume, but I do not think it is acceptable when adults assume. During my A-Levels, there were three Chinese people in my year. A newcomer joined our school for the last year of A-Levels who amusingly, could never tell us apart. I felt like every time the newcomer would just take a stab in the dark at one of the possible three names we could be.

It is a matter of turning the tables, what if I called a White person any White-sounding name hoping it would be correct? That would be absurd. Guessing my name insinuates that you are generalising because I am of an ethnic minority in England. I believe that it is demeaning and disrespectful if you guess someone’s name, and not just with Asians. I think that by simply asking them to remind you of their name is much politer than guessing. The feeling of humiliation when you ask someone to remind you of their name is far less than if you guessed wrong.

All in all, it is not because all Chinese people look the same, it is simply because you don’t know them, like how you may not be able to remember the name of anyone when you first meet them. So don’t guess, be honest. 🙂

I hated being Asian

Growing up in England, I hated being Asian because it brings attention. I would walk down the street and a random stranger would say “nǐ hǎo” or “konnichiwa” to me. Often I am welcomed to places by my apparently-native language. Each Sunday when I enter my church, the same elderly man greets me with “nǐ hǎo” and a hand shake. And every time he says it hesitantly to show that he is unsure if he is saying it properly. Unfortunately, I can’t speak Mandarin (or Japanese) so I can’t participate in the banter. All you can do in these situations is to smile and nod without being rude. Or when I walk past East Asians, they would stare meticulously to see if they know me – walking through China Town was a nightmare. This attention is not praise because I achieved something amazing (I would love that kind of attention), but embarrassment for something I cannot control; it made me painfully uncomfortable and unconfident. 

Since starting University, I have met new people and the number of stares, nǐ hǎos and konnichiwas have indeed increased, but I have decided to embrace this attention instead of despising it. I understand that the staring Asians are in the same position as me, a foreigner sticking out like a sore thumb in the British society, wanting to feel familiarity. Having company and knowing you are not alone in an environment where you are isolated is comforting, just like when a British person meets another British person while on holiday. I also understand that people are trying to connect with me and make me feel welcome by appreciating my culture. Every now and then you get the annoying group of youths who’d say “nǐ hǎo” or “konnichiwa” as their source of entertainment but whatever, they’re immature kids, let’s hope one day they’ll grow up. Nevertheless, I understand that most of the time, this attention is coming through good intentions and definitely not maliciously to humiliate. Therefore, I don’t feel the need to be embarrassed and instead, I feel rather empathetic and thankful.

Where do I belong?

I have always considered the notion of being too British to belong in Hong Kong and too Asian to belong in England – sort of stuck in limbo. My life and home is in England, but my family are in Hong Kong. I have lived in England significantly longer, but I was born in Hong Kong. I communicate better in English than in Cantonese. My knowledge of the UK is far greater than my knowledge of Hong Kong. But I value and celebrate both the British and Chinese culture equally. My mum and I absolutely love a full English breakfast, salt and vinegar on chips is definitely a winner and Mary Berry’s Victoria Sandwich recipe is my go-to baking project of the evening. The dim sum is a bit rubbish here in England but wow I can get so infatuated with a good lai wong bao. And obviously, I eat too much white rice, I cannot live without it. Thus, being both British and Chinese, where do I belong?

Honestly, I don’t feel belonged in either, but that is not a bad thing. I am very different to the natives of each place but that is what makes me special; different is great. I don’t need to fit in with everyone in order to succeed, being myself, kind, happy, a hard worker and all of that good stuff will help me succeed. What is important is being accepted by society. And that is not by changing myself to act super White or act super Asian, but by changing society’s perspective to appreciate how empowering it is to be multicultural. Being multicultural means you can connect with more people in the world, it means you can be more educated and aware of life around you, it means you can learn from others and better your own life, as well as a plethora of other benefits. Changing society – notoriously – is going to take some time, but loving our own differences is a promising step forward.