The TL Knowhow section is the sharing of insight that may not be readily available or from a personal standpoint as either an expert or deeply committed enthusiast. The purpose is to really focus on the practical application of "knowledge" and I've re-written this particular post about five times now to get down to the practical points. As some of you may know, I am writing out of my comfort zone of business related topics here, but I did want to make an effort to contribute to this section in it's scope. This is a particular topic which I think, may no longer be applicable, but it was something that I honestly went through with very little guidance. But this specifically deals with a cultural identity crisis as being Korean, but being born and raised in Canada. I do assume that the knowhow presented here would be applicable to those in a similar situation.
The first point is, if you don't think you have an issue with your own cultural identity, then you simply don't. It is part of the base that sets our fundamental base of personal identity such as being human, male or female and sexual orientation. If you were raised by wolves, or if you know that you are the wrong gender or have questions of whether you are straight or gay, these are issues that we can't help but wrestle with daily and it affects our outlook and relations in life. Simply put, its not something that ever just 'goes away'. One good think about the issues with cultural identity is that, I believe that out of the identity crisis you can have, it is one that can be resolved with simply more 'exposure' and reflection. Which to some may not qualify it as a crisis of sorts, but again, for me, it was something that did affect me every day right until then end of undergraduate.
What Culture is Home? It is one thing to learn and adapt to new cultures on top of your primary cultural identity, it is an entirely different thing to question what culture you truly feel is "home". For those who travel extensively or have many friends of difficult cultures, you may think this is an irrelevant topic, as you also may feel that culture is interchangeable and if you're open minded enough, something to simply just "add on". This post isn't addressed to you, because whether you realize it or not, what you judge as good things about the new cultures you learn or bad things, is always filtered through your primary cultural identity. Someone from a different primary cultural identity with the same degree of international cultural exposure will naturally have a different idea or weighting of what is socially positive or negative, i.e. A well traveled person from Paris or from Shanghai.
Personal History For me, my cultural identity was a massive and daily struggle for most of my life until about 21. I was born in Montreal Canada, grew up between Montreal and Toronto and graduated with my undergrad as well as completed (but not graduated) in a master's program in Canada. I then played national level rugby in Korea and graduated with masters in business from Korea and married a "native" Korean and have lived in Korea for the last decade. While I could get into a biography of why I had cultural identity issues to begin with, it wouldn't be helpful because what I've come to realize is that maybe I'm just a one off or maybe it isn't a common affliction, but for some people who are raised in immigrant households as the first born in the new country, or who have lived abroad from a young age, or who have really traveled extensively and married to someone other than their native culture, there is sometimes this affect of great confusion.
To that end, this is one of the areas of persona study and development where I received no guidance or reference materials to assist me. Part of that relates to the fact that I'm a young immigrant history for Eastern cultures in a Western context, and another part is that this isn't a major issue to most immigrants.
I can't actually articulate why I was culturally confused, but what I felt was that I was never comfortable and I would always question whether or not I was Korean or Canadian or Korean Canadian in a certain situation. Among my high school friends, we were just friends, but in greater society, I was always very sensitive to the differences in how society accepted me and how they reacted to me. I won't get into much detail of what this entailed other than I did get into a lot of confrontations nearly on a daily basis throughout my entire life in Canada.
Always Being Defined by the Context I was very sociable for most of life, and had many different groups of friends from my rugby mates, my school mates, and my church friends. My rugby mates were all typical white Canadians, my school mates a mix of different ethnicities, and my church friends who were all Korean Canadian. And in the context of rugby, school and church, I was comfortable with them, but I realized that my interactions were always dictated by my surroundings to an extreme degree, that I felt as though I was always playing a part. Again, we adjust our personas according to the situation, but I never felt comfortable in all three situations because I'd always end up being offensive one way or another. So, I simply attributed it to having a non-conformist personality and left it like that for a long while.
Break this too By the early 90's, there were an influx of a new wave of Korean immigrants as Korea had dramatically increased in it's economic world standing. And while my Korean was terrible and my only exposure to Korean culture was really my home life and church, for the first time I felt very comfortable. When I usually got angry, I'd need to express it by yelling or breaking something, at which point most of friends would tell me to "take a pill, or relax", but my native Korean friends would be like, "good, just get it out, here, lets break this too". Actions or thoughts which I thought weren't the norm, were the norm within the native Korean culture and it was refreshing and freeing at the same time.
Not Native, Just Korean But logically, I tried to find some middle ground here, after all, I was not or ever going to be "native Korean" and there is no doubt that for the most part I thought and behaved like a Canadian, so I simply kept on trying to find a middle ground. In the end, I did come to identify myself as "Korean", while not native South Korean or Korean Canadian, but simply "Korean" as my primary cultural identity. From there I judge what is positive and negative and while I think I'm quite culturally lonely at times, I feel free, and defiantly confident to express myself without any confusion.
While many of my non-Asian colleagues tend to assume I'm very Canadian because of my fluency in English, they usually change their mind when they see me in my native environment of drinking. ^^
It's A Long Road, Sorry. If you are confused about your primary cultural identity, then the road isn't short or easy, there are no silver bullets, because this is a long process to come to a deliberate conclusion to what is innate for others. Much like one's own sexual orientation or gender, if you're not confused, it's a non-issue, but if you are then life be hell. Thankfully I would say that cultural identity confusion is far easier to deal with that the above too, and if you don't make it an issue, it eventually goes away on it's own.
What I mean by that is, eventually you'll get married, have kids and the cultural identity of your spouse and your children will usually just bring you into line. I would think though if you were a foreign adoptee (adopted as baby outside your home country) or bi-racial (parents who are different in physical racial appearance, i.e Indian+Korean, German+Japanese, African+French, etc), the issue would be unavoidable at times. But for the most part, it can just "go away" unlike other more primary identity issues. That being said, resolving it adds to one's confidence in self awareness.
My Point of Reference
There are few key points of Knowhow that after many years of struggling I came to understanding and really it wasn't until I actually decided to write this have I ever articulated it, but these were critical in resolving the issue for me. And for me, the title, "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword" sums it up for me.
I bought this book when I was visiting my friend at Oxford. My Korean friend, a sociologist PHD candidate had already read this and said that it was a great book: a classic essential. The reason I bought the book wasn't for my own cultural development; the book is about Japan's culture during the first half of the 21st century. I was having a bitch of a time with some ongoing Japanese business negotiations and wanted to get a bit more understanding — if only to take my mind off the bitch of time I was having.
The book was written during the late stages of WW2 by Ruth Benedict. She was commissioned by the US Office of War Information to do an analysis of the Japanese culture so they could better understand "the enemy." But by the time the work had been completed, the war had ended and instead the work done by Ruth was used as a reference on how to manage the occupation of Japan during the subsequent rebuilding period.
What is curious to note was that Ruth was unable to visit Japan at the time, due to the war, and she did not speak or write Japanese: all she had to go on was previous writings as well as interviews with Japanese American immigrants.
While there are many critics to the book, and I'm not a sociologist or an academic, I feel as though this book finally put to rest and articulated the approach to my own understanding of coming to a conclusion of cultural identity, a framework to peg my own process and understanding.
1.Ruth isn't judgmental
She is especially aware that during war time, there were a ton of stereotypes and a lot of strong opinions — even by those who were considered authorities who had worked with the Japanese as ambassadors for many years. She didn't look to existing expressions of Japanese culture in war time, but sought to put into context the key values which made up the Japanese cultural identity.
Cuz I'm not, I am Whenever you talk about culture, stereotypes are to be found. It is very hard to avoid that, and when it is your own personal cultural identity, it is extremely hard not to be judgmental about others who are in different situations and contexts. What happens is that once we are judgmental and critical of others because we stereotype them, we usually say: "they are wrong, and therefore we are right." This becomes cultural self identity based on our group association rather than actual self-realization. It is the equivalent of basing one's identity on the basis of skin colour or looks only.
In the case of Korean Americans, every 5 years or so a new set of stereotypes emerge from the community. It has to do with the influx of new immigrants, developments of the old country, and the effects of those on the existing immigrants. Regardless of what these stereotypes are, most of the time we identify which we are and which we aren't. As a result, we never get around to defining ourselves by anything more than the process of elimination via the disassociation of stereotypes.
Korean Canada in the 70's So up until the early 90's, most East Asians referred to themselves as Oriental. And that was in the context of appearance and one's heritage. For the early Korean immigrants in Canada, from the 1970's, it was matter of simply assimilating, as most children who were born in the 60's were born in Korea and not in Canada. They had no doubt that we were different, they didn't expect equality, they knew that they had to go above and beyond to earn it. But kids born in Canada in the 70's were raised to understand themselves as Canadian: they had been raised entirely in the Canadian school system and they developed an identity of being "Second Generation" Korean Canadian, not just Korean immigrants in Canada. For most of the 80's, there simply was very few immigrants at that time, as Korea was rapidly industrializing and the option to immigrate has narrowed.
Korean Canada in the 90's Up to the mid-1990's, people were fine with being Korean Canadian, it basically meant that we went to a Korean church, ate Korean food, but otherwise that was as far as it went. But with the influx of a new wave of Korean immigrants in the mid-late 90's, the term "FOB" — Fresh off the Boat — popped up, meaning those fully Korean immigrants who basically were like "our parents" (1970's immigrants), but with a key difference: Korea was no longer considered a backwards place, and Koreans didn't come to Canada looking to fully assimilate.
Rather, they came with with their own pop culture: K-Pop, kdramas; and modernized Korean social fun: Norebangs — "Korean Karaoke", HOF drinking houses, and PC bangs. They came with some level of pride, and due to insecurities and ignorance, they were critical of the "Second Generation" Korean Canadians who couldn't speak Korean properly or even at all. They couldn't understand why "Second Generation" Korean Canadians weren't really Korean. At this point, most Korean dramas reflected this "rebelliousness" of the Second Generation Koreans. Second Generation Korean Canadians didn't want to be associated with these rude and culturally backwards people who seemed as though they didn't really want to be in Canada anyway.
At first there was a curiousness on both sides, but this quickly turned into a division as Second Generation Korean Canadians didn't understand the pressures of being an immigrant, and the new immigrant community didn't understand the conditions of a mature immigrant community that was basically cut off from the Home Land for almost 20 years. Around this time is where the terms "banana," "whitewashed," and "wannabe FOB" started popping up; and of course there were the "Asian Americans" who didn't want to be associated with the term "Oriental." (oriental was actually how East Asians had referred to themselves right up until the mid-90's and this term excluded South East Asians and East Indians).
Korean Canada by 2000 By the early 2000's this had settled down and the new immigrants had created an identity for themselves: as the 1.5 Generation. This is unique, because unless those in the 1970's basically felt the need to fully assimilate as much as possible, this wasn't the case of the 1.5 Generation who, in many cases, were forced to immigrate by their parents and who still held on to their Korean identity first. But as Korea had grown wealthier, there became another group of fully Korean Koreans: visa students.
These early visa students were just coming to Canada to learn and were usually wealthy. They had no reason to interact with Korean Canadians, or even 1.5 Generation Koreans because they were there to study or enjoy their freedom as a visa student. There wasn't too much interaction between Second Generation and visa students, but there was between 1.5 Generations and visa students. Animosity arose from the fact that that the 1.5 Generation were fundamentally immigrants and led an immigrant life, whereas the visa students were basically just living as Korean foreign students and there was generally no real social commitment to where they were studying.
Times Have Changed While I haven't been back to Canada for many years, many of the conditions that affected me probably wouldn't nowadays. In the 80's and 90's, we really didn't have any exposure to Korean culture unless we visited there for the summers, and even if we did, we only hung out with our relatives. It wasn't until the early 90's when K-pop and Korean dramas really start being interesting and modern. Nowadays there are things like YouTube and kids learning Korean in school for credit. Visiting Korea now is a great thing, not a burden. Korean modern culture with its gaming, food, and drinking has gained international recognition.
As an aside, back in the 80's going to Korea for the summer was like the biggest downer ever, cause you'd end up going hiking and people would laugh at you for wearing shorts cause everyone was wearing pants and these button up shirts, and it every where you went you had to explain that your Korean sucked cause you were born in Canada and not because your parents didn't want to educate you (even though your parents both had university degrees and were part of a small upper class and that is why they were able to immigrate in the 70's). AND there was no air conditioning! You were expected to lie there in the heat and understand that you could be cool if you wanted to! I'm not kidding that is what they told me! lol.
But for those who maybe are living in smaller communities, or for one reason or another feel cut off from the cultural cross over, or hate K-pop and Korean drama or don't want to be pigeon holed with the Asian crowd...maybe this point of being judgmental is still valid. Because it's not what you aren't, but rather what you are. And this is a an extremely difficult matter if you do not have any frame of reference other than to say what you're not.
In this respect, going to Korea for many Korean Canadians or Americans, as a young university student is now such an eye opener, that once they land and get exposed to the very attractive pop culture that is Korean fun, night life and drinking (Korean fun being that we aren't shy about going all out to have fun, so no one tries to be cool or make an impression, we're just out there to be nuts and cut loose, if we're going to be embarrassed, then hell, we do it together!). But what many foriegners and Korean Canadians assume is Korean culture, is merely our pop culture and while its great for getting everyone to do the Gangnam Style Horse Dance, it has its limits.
2. Ruth isn't about pop-culture
Not that there was pop-culture at that time, but Ruth steps away from the propaganda on both sides and gets right into what the values for family and the values that dictate the relationships. I think that is the key point: the values that dictate relationships.
I really dislike K-pop, in fact, most of the time I hear it is when I'm abroad in Taiwan and they force me to try to sing it or dance to it cause I'm Korean. I absolutely hate Korean dramas (and most Korean men do), they are just ridiculous and I'll tell you right now, a son of the owner at a chaebol (massive conglomerate level), will never ever even know the name of the mid-manager let alone the secretary or even cleaning lady.
But if we based our cultural identity, solely on pop-culture, we really do not come any closer to understanding the relationships that define us. Pop-culture is a great place to start and gain interest, but to just to stop there or feel it is enough, is simply scratching the surface. For many people, pop-culture is what they define as culture, and while I meet many foreigners who speak Korean far better than me and know the names of all the celebrities, but their ability to interact is usually elementary apart from their novelty. Meaning that I wouldn't trust them to actually advise someone on what is really going on between two Koreans in a slightly more involved setting other than having fun or an obvious cultural faux pas which has created a pressured situation.
It isn't to say that pop culture doesn't have its joy or use, or wouldn't get a lot of cultural understanding and also begin to understanding more about yourself, but it isn't enough.
3. Ruth is all about the Chrysanthemum and the Sword.
For me this is critical which defines what is your base primary culture and just adapting other cultural aspects to your primary one. When Ruth titles the book, the Chrysanthemum and the Sword, it is about the contradictory nature of how Japanese were described at that period, "polite and demurred but also aggressive and arrogant,", the good and the bad, i.e. the Chrysanthemum and the Sword.
Good Bad and the Ugly In much the same way, one's primary culture identity is a inherent unconscious mix of this Chrysantemum and Sword. We do not choose to be only the Chrysantemum when it is our primary cultural identity, we are both. When immigrant or very well traveled people state, "I am many different cultures, I simply choose what is good about that culture and discard the rest, or I chose the best from both cultures". It points to cultural adaptation on top of a primary cultural identity because ultimately by what criteria is one choosing what is good or bad? Are you choosing what is good or bad as a Korean or as a Canadian?
Sorry said the Scorpion to the Frog... Whereas for a primary cultural identity, we don't have the option to make that choice, good and bad are not two sides or choices, but it come part and parcel as simply as a whole, we simply are Korean or Canadian for all it's pluses or negatives. Of course we can minimize the negatives and maximize the positives, but we do so in relation to what we inherantely believe to be negative about our own culture and our exposure to the standards of other cultures. For adapting new cultures, we can pick and choose what we think is nice or not, but it just becomes another way we express our primary culture and not really an inherant part of us. Meaning than when you are sleepy and grump or stressed and not conciously dictating your behavior, what comes up, the Chrysanthemum and the Sword.
The Scorpion and the Frog is a fable about a scorpion asking a frog to carry him across a river. The frog is afraid of being stung during the trip, but the scorpion argues that if it stung the frog, the frog would sink and the scorpion would drown. The frog agrees and begins carrying the scorpion, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When asked why, the scorpion points out that this is its nature. wikipedia, an extreme example and in now way I am I advocating stupidity ^^
In this respect, the application is really allowing you to explore and express even the "bad" things of the culture without labeling or judging it as bad. I binge drink with my father-in-law once a week, but in Korea, I don't see it as binge drinking, rather I only see it as spending quality time with my father-in-law as we drink copious amounts of alcohol over a period of 6 hours until one of us happily passes out.
I am extremely macho and chauvinistic by the Canadian standards in which I was educated with, and my level of abuse to my staff would likely get me sued in Canada. But why do I freely continue to be do, when I'm sure I'll be told that "I should know better" because I am not ignorant of what is the expectation in Canada. But that is what it has become to me, just another standard, because my primary cultural identity isn't Canadian, I don't judge what I do a negative in this light, in fact, I don't even think of it at all as something to be judged or articulated. While I will always make allowances for whatever cultural situation I'm in, as to not cause unnecessary issues, as that would just be ignorant and culture insensitive, I do not feel any need to switch cultural gears.
Of course I do try to minimize what I know would be considered negatives in other cultures when I'm with non-Koreans, but I never deny it or judge it as something that I can just choose to cast off whenever I think it is morally wrong by another standard. And I'm not defensive about this either, that I'm subscribing to a single idea of what it means to me to be Korean. As Korean society also is still evolving myself as part of Korean society my cultural identity also is evolving, along with the society, as we all jump on the "well being health bandwagon" or stop focusing on regional differences between provinces as it is now domestically faux pas to do so.
4. Ruth tackles the cultural aspects that don't really make any sense.
Cultures are not so simple as to read a book and get it. You can say Americans are aggressive and you can say Koreans are aggressive, but they are different types of aggressiveness and the French can chime and say, hey our people are aggressive too, but at what degree or in what circumstances.
Ruth breaks up her chapters to deal with the cultural traits that seem contradictory and foolish to the eyes of an American, but in the struggle to make sense of it, do we really being to stop interpreting those cultural aspects thought our own framework but start to get new points of reference in the culture itself.
It is a critical turning point when you can start to build on understanding from within the cultural framework rather than interpreting from your own cultural framework. And that only comes when you tackle and grasp and can understand a cultural contradiction with it no longer being a contradiction, because obviously those "contradictions" make perfect sense to those in the culture. And part of that is a step from just seeing both the good and the bad, but why the bad isn't bad in that culture.
What I enjoy about The Chrysanthemum and the Sword is that it is dated. It is written in a period without all the modern advances, before Sony, and Capcom and Toyota and Cosplay. Even before Mighty Atom (Astro Boy) was conceived. It is as much as a historical snap shot as it is a commentary, but if you can navigate through all the historically dated material, what you're left with is some very naked non-current event justified insight into the Japanese culture.
Some of the best insight that I've gotten into Korean culture have come from comparing where Japanese and Korean culture differ and it's because while our two culture are probably the most similar in many respects, when we are different we are extremely different and that points to a lot.
It almost goes without say, but you can read all you want, but if you really have this cultural identity issue, you need to visit the "home country" and actually live there, not as tourist, but as a native. Modern Korea is not a place for the weak of heart and there is a good reason why, even with the wealth of Koreans, a lot of Koreans still migrate, but, for me this is where I am most comfortable.
Most Korean Americans who come and actually work here outside of teaching conversational English rarely last a full year and go back to America really appreciating the standards of living and the sacrifices their parents made. Others like me, really felt as though there is no other place more comfortable. It did take me a few years for my actual integration into Korea to be to the point that I really did see everything as a Korean, rather than what I assumed was Korean, but the deciding factor for me was that I was always comfortable and accepted at a certain level.
At the end of the day, even if you do feel cultural confused, a big part of it is having the knowledge and actual exposure. The Korean Americans /Canadian who leave after a year realize that they really are Korean American / Canadian, not Korean, and while they may not be able to define what is "Korean American / Canadian", they know they aren't just a 'Korean'. But then again, likely they weren't confused about being an overseas Korean to begin with and just wanted to explore what the Korean side was.
If you don't have that exposure to actually know your 'heritage culture', I think it is easy to classify yourself as Asian, but of course, no one calls themselves Asian in Asia. We are clear that we are Korean, Japanese or Chinese, with the exception of probably Singaporeans who call themselves Asian as more of PR tool for foreign FDI than anything else.
To Summarize: If your primary cultural identity is an issue (and a rare issue at that), the following is a list of knowhow that may help you in your process. If they seem obvious, then good, knowhow is meant to cut to the heart of things, but I'll tell you, they didn't just pop into my head one day, they are a lot product of a lot of reflection and actual decisions.
1. Only you really know if you are confused or not. Confusion of your primary cultural identity is something only you can really know, and how knows where it stems from. I don't, but I do know that from high school onwards, I was always uncomfortable, angry and confrontational because of it.
2. Stop judging others people's progress/state of cultural identity It is actually harder to do than it sounds, whether it be you meet and attractive Korean Kyopo girl who says that she hates Koreans and only dates white guys, or, some Korean whitewashed guy who suddenly found K-pop or visited Korean for the first time, and now is this walking pop-culture stand or even the guy who speaks fluent Korean and English, but looks down on Korea as if it was a third world still, they are who they are. It's cool and it shouldn't have any bearing on your own identity. + Show Spoiler +
To me, it isn't cool when you have a crowd of Overseas Koreans in America criticizing some Korean American kid who grew up in the middle of North Dakota, as the only yellow kid, and now went to Rutgers NJ and people are looking at him like he is an Asian hater cause he only has white friends. Um. What do people expect?
Depending on so many different factors such as exposure and travel and up bringing, this is a very personal journey and really, whatever their own level or progress of cultural identity shouldn't matter to you at all. Unless the reason why you hang out with other 'Asians' is simply because you're 'Asian' and use chopsticks and like the same kind of food. Aside from me being judgmental there, ^^, if your cultural identity is dependent upon reassurance from others, well, it's a pretty fragile one at best.
At the end of the day, really, we are just people and maybe you want to be part of a certain community, but hating or forcing or preaching this on to anyone just is distracting.
3. Pop-Culture isn't enough. Pop-culture is great for introducing a culture, but it has it's limitations, rather the focus should be on making friendships outside of the shared interest of pop-culture and to learn about the history, family and other cultural aspects. Basically making friends with those who are not from the same cultural situation as you. I know guys who can name all the dramas and sing all the songs and speak much better Korean than me, but I wouldn't trust them them even have a clue what is going on when it comes to Korean social or political movements, e.g. the mad US cows protests. Korean Americans/ Canadians still have no idea what it was really about, hint, it wasn't about the beef.
4. Chrysanthemum and the Sword. I would think this is the most critical knowhow in that one doesn't judge a cultural expression as good or bad but takes it as it is. Most Koreans who live abroad can tell me why being chauvinistic as well as "binge drinking" in Korea culture is bad, but when I ask them, can you tell me why it would be considered "good or accepted" they usually draw a blank other than saying, "because it is tradition". But understanding both sides is critical and without it, we usually are never scratching the surface beyond our own interpretations.
5. Making Sense Out of Contradiction. The things that make the least sense, things that are not even a matter of good or bad, but just seem completely irrational is really the break though point whereby if you can really get it, it now becomes a point of reference that is independent of your current cultural frame. That means, if you understand what seems to be contradiction without it being so any longer, and it simply makes sense without having the need to articulate why it makes sense, then it is definitely a turning point in progress.
6. Live like a Native. Pretty straightforward and I'd say if I had to choose between learning the language and living like a native, I'd go with living like a native. You'd pick up the language in any case, but really, my eldest girl cousin speaks Korean fluently and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who says she understands what being Korean is about.
At the end of the day, most Koreans I meet, over time, they stop thinking of me as an overseas Korean (Kyopo) and not because we are friends, but while I'm not native Korean, I am Korean. And maybe that only makes sense to me, but really, it is the only person it does need to make sense to. For me it means that I live a life where I never have to wonder if what I'm saying or acting is appropriate and that use to be an issue. When I get a speeding ticket in Korea and need to speak with the police or government officials, I'm totally cool. There is no misunderstandings or missed expectations of how I will be treated.
I work with Aussies, Brits, Scandis, and all sorts of Asians and a few Americans here and there, and other than the Americans and Canadians, I am much more mindful and deliberate in how I interact. But whether or not you have a cultural identity issue, the points outline would be above and beyond for approaching a new cultural basis.
To finally close, yes really... If you're interested in Japan, or a historical perspective, or understanding a cultural approach, then I think this is a gem of a book.
I'd also like to recommend a book that has a lot of press in the last year, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." I think it is a very honest account of a Chinese American mother who has her cultural and obsessive compulsive nature on overdrive. If you don't judge her and take it not as a cultural guide, but as a really an honest memoir, it gives a snapshot of that cultural immigrant identity.
As part of the TL Knowhow section, this thread is both a "discuss everything and ask me anything" related to the topic and books. I'm recommending these books as they did provide me a framework and something honest as an experience. In terms of Korean books, the books that I've read dealt with Korean history, politics, sociology etc, in terms of getting more knowledge about Korea. I never actually read about Korean cultural identity except in comparison to Japanese or Chinese approaches whether in business or historically.
Brought to you by the TL Knowhow Team Written by: MightyAtom Edited by: tofucake
Hey guys, if you have any questions, post them here, apologies in advance if it takes me a couple of weeks to get to them, I'm on a really crazy deadline until Nov 1st, so I'll do by best. This article was written months ago, but I finally had some time to go over it and post it up. Calm before the storm I guess. ^^
-I am the universe- Morihei Ueshiba
Rekrul Korea (South). September 20 2012 01:14. Posts 16590
Great article. It's always extremely interesting to me to see how people change, whether it be short term or over a long term duration as people submersing themselves into Korean culture. It changes everyone whether it be for better, worse, or both. It's not about changing your cultural identity but being introspective enough to understand and apply the new concepts you'd never have fathomed existed that in other cultures are inherent.
why so 진지해?
snively United States. September 20 2012 06:20. Posts 1096
oh wow some of the stuff you said really struck a chord in me. When I read the section Always Being Defined by the Context the first thing I thought was "...this is me" or at least it was when I was younger. The problem with my life is that im not even ethnically Korean OR ethnically Chinese, im half Korean and half Chinese. When I was younger I would tell people I was Chinese, because my mom had the most influence on my life and I thought I wanted to be Asian instead of being American. When I started playing starcraft I told people I was Korean because I thought I wanted to be Korean instead of being Chinese. Now I just tell people I'm American and I don't care anymore :D
tl;dr: totally awesome article and I really felt a personal connection with what you wrote
Last edit: 2012-09-20 06:21:37
My religion is Starcraft
duk3 United States. September 20 2012 07:14. Posts 806
Really interesting article. I haven't faced anything of the same scale personally as an American with a mixed Western European ancestry, but it is a very thought provoking issue. Even as someone who hasn't dealt with the wider scope of trying to define yourself across the boundaries of different countries, I find that I definitely change how I behave and what I say depending on the people I am with or where I am. Sometimes I'll think of a witty (and fairly offensive) comment and end up never saying anything just because I'm not sure if it would interest whoever I'm talking to or if they would find it more offensive than humorous.
you'd end up going hiking and people would laugh at you for wearing shorts cause everyone was wearing pants and these button up shirts
I have often experienced this from the other side, as I am the person hiking along in my shorts in America wondering why the group of Asians all decided that it would be a good idea to wear long pants and coats on a steep hike in the summer. Do you know if it is still the standard to wear pants and shirts in Korea on hikes, or has this changed by now?
Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.
Aerisky United States. September 20 2012 08:03. Posts 9553
Well-said and great read yet again. One day you should become an author
I've never really experienced too much of an identity or culture crisis to date, perhaps because I've grown up in more accepting and/or integrated environments. I definitely identify with both at the same time as an American citizen but a fully Asian child. Interestingly I've also picked up on some of the biases and mindsets of both cultures.
"It has always been in my observation of human nature, that a man who has any good reason to believe in himself never flourishes himself before the faces of other people in order that they may believe in him."
GoldforGolden China. September 20 2012 12:34. Posts 67
being a Hong Kong-er, identity crisis is a big problem to me.
I had been studying in UK for 9 years, although I never really adapted the British style of living (PUB and Clubbing are just not my cup of tea) but most of my entertainment and education were stemmed from the UK such as movies and drama.
I didn't watch Hong Kong/taiwan/korea/japan drama at all, either listens to hong kong/chinese music (and so I rarely go to karaoke, asians love their karaoke.) and so I can hardly relate to the Hong Kong people as well.
The problems that local Hong Kong people are facing, such as Chinese immigration problem because I spent so little time in Hong Kong (I am studying at Aus right now) and as these problems become a bigger of a deal in Hong Kong, I feel more and more distanced away from the Hong Kong society.
Another thing that makes this problem more clear is my accent. Definitly not british or hong kong, someone guessed I am malay since my english is fluent but the malays definitly think I am not from there. lol
I am hoping that in the future, I would find a place that I could feel like "home", somewhere that I can relate to and feel like I am a part of. Right now, I am just accepting for who I am and focus on being myself.
We think too much, feel too little
Haze.884 New Zealand. September 21 2012 02:00. Posts 188
I am technically a 1.5 gen Immigrant...but .. I am not .. but then I am not really NZer.. Its hard to express this sentiment.
I have no social ties with Korean communities in where I live. Sure, I know people by name who I greet with "안녕하세요" if I meet them on the street, but our family don't go to church or participate in any annual events. So, I have no Korean friends ( I have one or two but they dont speak Korean) in NZ.
However, I still regard myself as a Korean. I think like a Korean. I like Korean food. I like Korean culture.. but then, I also really want to be part of NZ. So, I don't know how to place myself in that scale of (2.0gen~ visa student)... I am technically 1.5, but I dont know/ hang out with any other 1.5 gen kids (I see them always socialising by themselves in town sometimes) But things get weirder, when I visit Korea, I completely become Korean.
So, in NZ I try to be a kiwi. And in KR, I try to be a Korean. I don't even know what I was trying to say now. Its really hard to express this feeling into writing... harder than any of the essays I wrote for uni. Sorry for random mumbling.
Last edit: 2012-09-21 02:05:36
TriO United States. September 21 2012 10:49. Posts 178
I had this "cultural identity crisis" problem going up. Growing up I was ashamed of being Asian(being half chinese). Everything I did I tried to not be Asian(white washing myself). I gave up my identity(everything from my native language, culture, and etc) trying to be American. I betrayed my Asian friends(I was rude and ashamed towards them, getting older and thought about it I shouldn've done it) to be American. But America never accepted me growing up. America gave me so much hardship/hardtime(from girls to so called friends). To everyone else I was never one of them. As I got older(after finishing my undergrad) I realize they were never going to accept me no matter what I did/do because of my ethnicity.
However, the last few years I'm making up for lost time(had alot of time to think before going to grad school). I'm learning everything about Asia(China,Korea, Japan, and etc) from the languages, to the culture, and my family history(pretty fascinating because while I was researching I found out I could be Japanese/Korean too from my great great grandfather) . I love everything about Asia. After grad school I'm moving back where I'm from, get married and raise my kids there because I don't belong here. I don't want my kids going to the same phase like I did.
I'm happy and proud to be Asian and I'm truely deeply sorry to all my past Asian friends for what I did to you. Asians unite!
My dream is to tear up your dream.
krndandaman Mozambique. September 21 2012 14:06. Posts 4448
I've also went through identity crisis/going through it now. I was born and raised in America and was pretty white-washed as I lived in predominantly white communities with <1% asian population until 8th grade. However when I moved to a new school all of a sudden I saw a group of asians hanging out and for some reason it seemed like they were having so much fun and I wanted to join them. In the beginning they were quite unaccepting of me and sometimes even mean (they were very cliquey). But I managed to win them over and I left my original white friends who were really welcoming to me when I first moved to the school (I feel bad about it still but they were such nice people that they were chill about it later). I transitioned into more of a 2nd gen Korean-American in high school until I started attending a boarding school and lived with Korean international students for 2 years. That's when I really started to pick up Korean really fast and became immersed in Korean culture. I loved it so much to the point and adapted pretty much my whole lifestyle to a Korean one that if people met me for the first time they assumed I came from Korea. Now I'm in college and I'm friends with mostly 1.5/2nd gens and it's a bit confusing... am I American? Korean? Korean-American? I'm somewhat not fully Korean yet not fully American and I am not like the other 2nd gen Korean-Americans. Some people tell me that they thought I was from Korea from the way I talked, my fluent Korean, how I looked, etc. Others tell me they knew I was from America from the way I talked, my not native Korean, how I looked, etc. It's all very confusing. But the short term answer I've reached is that I'm none of the above, but at the same time all of the above. I'm a walking talking melting pot of American, Korean, AND Korean-American culture. I like to pick out the best from each and make those qualities my own. Though it may be confusing at times, it's an awesome thing to have a multi-faceted identity.
WOW, thanks for this MightyAtom. I've read the first few paragraphs, skimmed through the latter half, and it's amazing even from a quick glance. I'll come back to this soon, I swear! Thank you for the writeup
Random for life!
GoSuChicken United States. September 25 2012 01:05. Posts 1352
As a canadian who is interested about learning about japanese and korean culture, it's always interesting to see things from the perspective of someone who is more in tune with those cultures.
Also, the whole binge drinking thing... Lots of us drink like that here in canada! Most of the time, if you hear someone talking about getting together and drinking, they don't mean have 2 glasses of wine, they mean get downright drunk. While it's beginning to be seen as not necessarily a good thing by some people, many people (myelf included) don't have a problem with it at all.
jax1492 United States. September 28 2012 09:01. Posts 1400
nice post, its hits home on a lot of points and made me think of somethings about my background (Indian) that i had not thought of in a while. I felt American growing up but later realized how awesome it was not being "American" ... I think once i figured that out it i was able to understand more about being Indian and the culture better than when i just kinda pushed it away.
SNSD YoonA ++ KT Rolster Flash ++ EG Jaedong
GT350 United States. September 28 2012 12:33. Posts 270
Hey guys =) well if you guys have any more indepth questions let me know, but I can see that most comments are really focused on that confusion. keke.
You know, I've been traveling for 3 months straight, finally got back to Korea for thanksgiving (Chuseok) and man, I'm just so comfortable here, can't explain it, but its just home. ^^
But I do want to make the distinction of 'cultural assimilation' and 'core cultural identity'; sometimes, even if you're culturally assimilating, your core values don't change, whereas when your core cultural identity is screwed up, it's hard to define what is actually a good or bad cultural trait because that aspect of judgement needs to be grounded in one thing or another. Most times when I do meet someone who says they are 'all cultures' of whatever they are exposed to, are actually saying they are 'open to' learning and understanding all cultures, but to say that they are- it's just not possible. Just because many cultures have conflicting views on some key social topics and those views are fundamental to the culture's general protocol.
Well I don't want to get it more into it, but in any case, I hope you all find peace in wherever you end up. ^^
Last edit: 2012-10-01 15:02:42
-I am the universe- Morihei Ueshiba
T0fuuu Australia. October 04 2012 14:34. Posts 2264
On September 20 2012 12:34 GoldforGolden wrote: being a Hong Kong-er, identity crisis is a big problem to me.
The problems that local Hong Kong people are facing, such as Chinese immigration problem because I spent so little time in Hong Kong (I am studying at Aus right now) and as these problems become a bigger of a deal in Hong Kong, I feel more and more distanced away from the Hong Kong society.
I am a second generation Australian with roots in hong kong. I can tell you the whole thing is fucking ridiculous the origins of hong kong as we know it is mass immigration and assuming an identity. Over 70% of the population are immigrants. Unless you are actually a native "hong kong-er" and your skin is darkish and you can trace your family back more than 3 generations and aren't actually from Guangzhou, shanghai or a far off village. So pretty much nobody is "hong kong". When you consider the background of the civil war/cultural revolution and hong kong being the only sane place in china its not hard to see why its literally a city of refugees that gladly surrendered themselves to being british subjects and focused on building a new city and identity. The city itself actually doesn't have a single culture. Everything we identify with as being hong kong has only existed for the last half century. Hell half of what my parents identify with in hongkong is already gone in the space of one generation.
The fact that newer generation hongkong people such as yourself have such a nationalistic view of who/what is hong kong and why Chinese immigrants don't belong in your society is very fascinating to me as an outsider.
Anyways I find the whole thing ridiculous and am pretty banana so I have a twisted view of things. So when I meet a Malaysian friend who is surprised at me the second generation Asian guy who only identifies himself as Australian, I am equally surprised that him a second generation Chinese Malaysian who immigrated to Australia, only identifies himself as Malaysian.