It’s a strange situation I find myself in, not really fitting in anywhere completely. I know how sad that sounds but I’m not particularly miffed about it. It’s comparable to being a third-culture kid. You’re a part of many different cultures but don’t truly fit in one entirely.
Whilst I was born and raised in Hong Kong, I never considered myself a true local as I never learnt Cantonese, and I went to an international school. That doesn’t mean Hong Kong isn’t home to me because it is.
Even so, I sometimes felt like a bit of a foreigner in my own country. It was the same when I moved to England for university. Being adopted and raised by two English parents, I was often exposed to British culture within my own home in Hong Kong.
It amused me, being enrolled as an international student at the UEA. Of course, I am one in the sense that I came from overseas but I’m not one in the stereotypical sense. You know, the typical image of an international student from Asia consists of not speaking fluent English, not wanting to interact with people that aren’t the same nationality, etc. It is a bit isolating at times when you feel like you don’t belong somewhere properly.
Additionally, I’m ethnically Vietnamese so there’s another aspect added to what I perceive to be my ‘origins’. Although I’m Vietnamese by race, I have very little affiliation with Vietnam other than that. I’ve only visited the country once, and felt more of a stranger there than I did in Hong Kong and England. Even though my case sounds somewhat unique, it’s a common occurrence within international schools. There are so many students that are influenced by multiple cultures, and whilst some adapt without issues, others find it more difficult.
I think the worst part is the homesickness. Hong Kong and England are so vastly different in some aspects, I can’t help but miss home when I’m at university. As Chinese New Year approaches, I find myself craving mooncakes and sad that I’m missing out on all the festivities.
On the other hand, it’s been akin to a blessing. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the privilege to travel to so many amazing places. It’s always a special moment when I meet another student that went to an international school (and even more special if they did IB).
There’s this instant connection and understanding of what it’s like to be caught between multiple cultures and places. If I could change it, I wouldn’t. Being caught between cultures has its downs but ultimately, I’m glad it is the way it is.
My belief is that the more exposed and educated you are about different cultures, the better person you’ll be. You become more open-minded, more understanding and more appreciative.
And you find yourself with friends all over the world. Even now, my friends from high school are scattered over the globe; USA, Canada, Switzerland, etc.
So maybe I don’t belong in one specific country and culture. So what? You don’t need to be tied to one place to belong somewhere, to feel like you’re at home. Hopefully, anyone who reads this, who’s also caught between cultures, will laugh with understanding and realise that they’re not alone.