My father was Chinese, from Hong Kong, and my mother is Canadian, with a background of several European countries.
I was born in Ottawa, Canada but I grew up mostly in Europe due to my parents’ work. Being both a Hapa and a Third Culture Kid has given me a truly unique, global perspective about life and culture. Right now, I live in Canada where I am attending university.
People often assume that I am Russian or Turkish or sometimes Italian. They almost never guess that I am half Chinese. My features take after my mother more than my father; I have big, double-lidded eyes and light brown hair. But I do have a small, Asian nose!
The challenges I faced being multiracial were different than other Hapas. My brother clearly looks Hapa, so people know right off the bat that he has some Asian in him. Since I do not, people are much more careless about making racist remarks about Asians in my presence; they don’t realize that it affects me. Because I look white, people (both white and Asian) identify me as white. They act as if my Asian side doesn’t exist, as if it is a fairy-tale I made up. I identify as Hapa, so to have people consistently deny my heritage and tell me that no, I’m just white, was really tough.
I’ve never been to China, and I’ve always wanted to. My father never taught me much Cantonese, and because of that I cannot converse with my Chinese grandmother. Still, I’ve always felt more connected to my Asian side than my brother did, and tried harder to immerse myself in the culture. Perhaps this was because I was compensating for the fact that I look only white. I love making jiaozi, the Chinese dumplings. And I find it peaceful to visit the Temple and light the incense and pray to family members who passed away.
I don’t know if I’ve ever truly “embraced” my heritage. Because I moved around so much (I changed schools basically every two years), I struggled with my self-identity and tended to become like a chameleon; I would try to blend in with whatever surroundings I was in. Depending on where I am, whether that is in Canada or in Europe, my persona changes to suit my environment. Because of that, I never really had time to contemplate what it actually meant to be Hapa. I just wanted to fit in.
Now that I’m an adult, I’ve learned to be proud of my heritage. I always enjoyed being unique to an extent, but now I am fiercely proud of where I come from. Biracial families were not common back in the day, but now they are becoming more common. I think it’s an important stepping stone for international relations and the eradication of racism. People see the love that my parents shared and I’m hoping that, in time, biracial families will become the norm. And from what I can see on this website, Hapas are all quite attractive and intelligent people!
Hapa and proud!