Thursday, March 04, 2010

I am Taiwanese American

All my life, my parents told me "If anyone asks, you're Taiwanese. Not Chinese. It's different." As a child I would dutifully comply, even though I didn't completely understand the distinction. In high school, one of my friends would tell me that I was Chinese American, like her. And when I disagreed, we would argue about it, no doubt just spouting our parents' political beliefs.

Well, I now understand the difference (especially after having lived in Taiwan for over a year after college), and yes, there is a difference. And yes, some of it is politically-based. To a certain extent, it comes down to whether or not you believe that Taiwan is an independent country, not a renegade province belonging to China. I believe that Taiwan is (and should be recognized as such) its own nation. Taiwan is a democracy. It has its own political system, its own president, its own economy, industry, and foods and culture. It's a tropical island country. Are many aspects of the culture similar to Chinese culture? Of course, but there are also so many differences: the food (oyster pancakes! Smelly tofu! Bubble tea! Bah-zang!), the language (although Mandarin is now the official dialect in Taiwan, the Taiwanese dialect is very different), and especially the way the people there think (as you can expect, someone growing up in a democracy that encourages freedom of speech and thought will be much different from one growing up in a Communist country with censorship. Also, Taiwan had been occupied in the past by both the Dutch and the Japanese, and there are influences from both in the Taiwanese culture today). Taiwan has been separate from the mainland for over 200 years. And all of this was especially apparent to me when I visited China two years ago and realized the extent of the differences.

Anyway, I don't want to go on and on. I simply wanted to share this marvelous video. To my delight and surprise (they hadn't told me they were doing this), my younger brother, parents, and aunt and uncle are all featured! Can you guess which ones they are?

(Need a hint? Check this link out.)

I am Taiwanese American!


Unknown said...

I told my children that they are Taiwanese Americans, too. Born here, yet, their first language is Taiwanese. Proud!!

Anonymous said...

I love this, especially the use of humor to emphasize the point! Having a voice that is truly one's own, whether in writing or life, often takes so much bravery.

-Heather J.

stacy said...

Bubble tea is Taiwanese? Awesome! I had some in Seattle (there are several bubble tea places around there) and I'd had the impression it was southeast Asian (Vietnam, Thailand), but wasn't sure. Good to know!

Kieren Dutcher said...

This is great. I've always had a problem checking 'white'. I am not white, paper is white. I am kinda pinkish, and white isn't an ethnicity, anyway. Now I write in european american.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

This was a wonderful post. I identify a lot with Asians even though I'm "white." I grew up in Hong Kong and just spent the last eight years in Mainland China. My oldest daughter is adopted Chinese American. I haven't been to Taiwan (yet!), but I've met a lot of Taiwanese people, and YES, there is a difference, for sure! I just moved back to the US last summer and as I was walking down the street in my small town in Washington State, I passed a bunch of women speaking Mandarin. Of course, I couldn't resist speaking with them for awhile (and practicing my rusty Chinese!). It turned out they were from Taiwan. I guess there is a huge Taiwanese American community in a city near us. So, I'm going to see if I can find any restaurants in their area that might be better than the Americanized Chinese food we have around here. Even though it's not the same as HK exactly, there are a lot of simmilarities -- bubble tea, for instance. :)

Sorry about the long comment. I'm just excited to come across your blog!


Tarie Sabido said...

I first watched the video on Angry Asian Man (or Youtube) a couple of weeks ago and I instantly recognized your brother!

Me: "OMG is that Alvina Ling's brother? . . . Does that mean those are her parents?"


Anjali said...

Love this video.

I'm an Indian/Puerto Rican/Austrian American who married a Spanish/German. Neither I nor my children have adequate boxes on the census.

With the thousands of ethnicities in this country, and the growing number of interracial relationships, I can only imagine how inaccurate the census will be.