Living Between Two Cultures

Culture

After watching The Farewell at the cinema last year, it made me reflect on how powerful films, books, photography and art can tell stories that make us reflect on our own personal experiences. There have been many interesting stories growing up in New Zealand, and being aware that often I will first be viewed as an Asian woman. I was reading from Old Asian, New Asian, the words: As the ethnic makeup of New Zealand continues to change, the nature of our race relations will continue to impact the very real everyday experiences of those who live here. We are in a position to build on the rich exchanges that have already taken place, but we need to keep talking.

Being born and raised in New Zealand, I grew up feeling never quite fully Kiwi, and yet when I would visit Taiwan, I’d feel never quite fully Taiwanese. In New Zealand I would often feel that I didn’t fully belong because of the common questions asked on where I was from and when did I come to New Zealand. In Taiwan, I would often be asked if I’m a foreigner because of my mannerisms and appearance. Sense of belonging and having a strong sense of one’s cultural identity can be a struggle when you grow up between two cultures.

I grew on a farm which meant that I was often one of the only Asians in most settings. The experiences of being treated a certain way as a result of stereotypes was something I was aware of from a young age. I witnessed how people would speak to my parents and I witnessed the contrast of how incredibly kind people can be and how deeply rude people can be. There have been aspects of my personality and who I am that are often associated directly with my ethnicity or with a stereotype. There are aspects of values from Asian and Western culture that I can and cannot relate to.

Our family grew up interacting with the Taiwanese community and family friends were predominantly friends we spoke Mandarin Chinese with. When I was in primary school, I struggled in my first few years as I was adjusting to learning in English. The students and teachers thought I was mute until I started singing in a musical one day and everyone was shocked that I could talk. My parents were surprised and told the teachers that I was a chatterbox at home. Despite growing up in New Zealand, I spoke Chinese at home but now my English is more fluent than my Chinese now. Our environment and interactions have a significant impact on the language we speak.

Language is important in connecting with people and building empathy. That’s why it’s so important to treasure and speak your mother tongue. The beauty of living in New Zealand, especially in cities such as Auckland and Wellington, is that there is a diverse mixture of cultures. Living between two cultures is a blessing, as I am grateful for growing up in a household filled with Taiwanese and Chinese food, language, music, media, books, customs and traditions while growing up being surrounded by nature, animals, lakes, mountains and beaches.

Photography by Sun Jun

What I Love About Taiwan

Culture

Taiwan was once known as Formosa, which means beautiful island. If you ever have the chance to travel and explore the island, you will see its beauty in nature, culture, and people. It is really somewhere you need to come to see and experience for yourself. When I was younger, when I said my family is from Taiwan, there was often a response of you’re from Thailand? When I was in Taiwan as a child, some people weren’t sure where NZ was on the map or would think New Zealand is a place in Australia or part of Australia.

New Zealand is definitely far more well known now among tourists. I really really hope Taiwan can be more and more well known among tourist destinations in Asia. There is definitely a significant lack of knowledge about the country, compared to say Korea or Japan. It is a hidden treasure for many, as I really feel that it’s not quite so well known globally as it could be. This has been the longest period of time I’ve stayed in Taiwan, and I would definitely love to live here someday.

1.Friendly people. Taiwanese are some of the most friendliest, helpful and polite people in the world.

2. Convenience. It is one of the most convenient places to live, especially if you are living in one of the cities.

3. Transport. Similarly, the transport is incredibly convenient and efficient. For example, in Taipei, you can use the MRT, Bus, Bike, Taxi or Drive.

4. Recycling. The sorting of rubbish here is taken seriously, as the rubbish is sorted into food, plastic, paper, etc.

5. Food. You haven’t had the full experience in Taiwan if you haven’t tasted the food.

6. Busy but also not. Taiwan is pretty slow paced in many places, and even in the larger cities such as Taipei and Kaohsiung, it is more slow-paced compared to cities like Shanghai and Beijing.

7. Biking. It is a wonderful place to bike, and you can actually travel the whole island by bike!

8. Efficiency. Food is usually delivered quickly to your table and even when I got my wisdom teeth removed, I made a last minute booking on the day and got it pulled out.

9. Safety. I never feel unsafe in Taipei if I ever happen to walk on the streets after 11pm.

10. Nightlife. From night markets, cafes, bars, parties, arcade, movies, events, exhibitions and so on, there’s always something happening.

11. Mountains. It doesn’t take too long to travel to beautiful mountains and go hiking. The nature in Taiwan is breathtaking.

12. Fruits and Vegetables. It is one of the best places to be vegetarian or vegan. There is a plethora of options.

13. Cafes. Most cafes have their own personality and vibe. There is usually a certain feeling or theme.

14. Cute things. There is definitely a lot of Japanese influence. But, if you love cute things, Taiwan has a lot of cute things!

15. Cinemas. If you love watching movies, there are different kinds of cinemas in Taiwan. You can also go to ones where you can watch several films in one day.

16. Tea Culture. If you love tea, there is no shortage of tea in Taiwan.

17. Bookstores. I feel like you can spend hours sitting in a bookstore in Taiwan, just reading.

18. Random things. I was biking to the grocery store today and biked past a park where an owner was walking her cat on a leash.

19. Insects. I love creepy crawlies, and when I go hiking up the mountains, if I look around there are caterpillars, butterflies, dragonflies, and other beautiful insects.

20. Chinese Culture and Taiwanese Culture. The Aboriginal Taiwanese culture and Chinese culture.

21. Hotsprings. Winter is my favourite season, and it’s the perfect time to go to the hot springs.

22. Walking. As someone who walks most of the time in Auckland, for me, anywhere that’s walking distance within 30 minutes is very close.

23. Creativity and arts. There are so many activities in Taiwan to do from crafts and workshops.

24. Natural beauty. It’s truly one of the most beautiful places. I think it’s always good to go out of a city to really see a countries natural beauty.

25. Internet. There are many areas with Free wifi and the internet is fast.

26. Umbrella. This is something I really like because I like to use an umbrella in NZ when it’s sunny which still gets a few stares, but in Taiwan, it is a norm.

27. 7/11.You can do so much at 7/11 from buying food, paying your bills, ATM machine or sending parcels. Plus It’s opened 24/7.

There is definitely more than 100 things I love about Taiwan, but there are also areas I hope that will improve. Every country has its pros and cons. Some areas I hope will improve include the economy, politics, architecture, traffic, driving, pollution, education system, tourism, the number of scooters, low paid jobs and the number of stray dogs.