In the post Zhang describes how, despite having been born here and spending "10 out of 14 years in China," her half-British, half-Chinese daughters not only seem to identify more with their father’s culture and less with their Chinese roots, but also consistently act as though Western culture is inherently superior to Chinese culture.
What concerns me is the fact that my children seem to think the Western culture is superior – though they may not make such statement[s]. If they describe something, for example, someone’s outfit, hairstyle or manner, as ‘very Chinese’, it usually contains negative connotation.
She goes on to point out that other bi-cultural families in China appear to have similar issues with their kids, which is something I’ve also noticed in overseas Chinese families.
Growing up in Texas, I didn’t have too huge of a chip on my shoulder about my Chinese ethnicity (at least I like to think I didn’t), but I knew other Chinese-American kids who seemed to go all out (through drawling "y’alls," cheerleading, football jockdom) to fit into the dominant culture (drawling "y’alls, cheerleading, football jockdom) and seemed out of touch, if not outright ashamed, of their Chinese ethnicity.
Of course it’s only normal for kids to want to fit in and it seems that most kids from dual culture and even multiple-culture backgrounds eventually learn to accept themselves as the sum total of their varied backgrounds.
In my own experience I, too, have often felt conflicted between the cultural norms of both China and America, and frankly speaking, still harbor many ingrained cultural prejudices: To this day I still can’t cope with uncouth manners, "Chinese driving" and mainstream Chinese pop music.
On the other hand I now find myself tut-tutting more and more at American society, politics and pop culture – so it seems that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more "equal-opportunity" when it comes to my discriminating tastes.
Developing a more nuanced view has come naturally with age, but I also attribute my worldview to the fact that I was privileged enough to travel and live in different regions of the world as a child.
I’m far from the most open-minded person of the world and I wouldn’t even claim to be all that well-adjusted, but I do feel immensely fortunate for having a bi-cultural background and all credit is due to my parents for taking the risks and opportunities they did for our family’s sake.
I think the same should apply to most kids born in similar circumstances – they may have a tendency to rag on one culture or the other (as we all do) – but given time and a more complete sense of self-awareness they become all the better off for it.
Chinasmack has an interesting and related series about the experiences of ethnic Chinese born overseas here.
Buy David C. Pollock’s seminal book, Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds, on Amazon here.
Get in touch with the Bicultural Family network here.
Learn more about how to raise bi-cultural children on parenthood.com.