Multiple Identities

Defining Nationality in an International Community

Sameena Hakimi is 13 years old and Afghani-American
Sydney Struack, 17, is German but was born in Australia
Nanami Hasegawa is 15 years old and from Japan
Markus Tsang, a citizen of Canada, is 16 years old and from Hong Kong

Living in the international community in Beijing is like having the world at your doorstep. You can be exposed to a multitude of different languages and cultures, and a single household may accommodate three or four different national backgrounds. But what does this mean for kids growing up here? beijing-kids gathered together four students from the Canadian International School to discuss national identity, what it’s like to live in Beijing, and where in the world they want to be in the future.

When someone asks you where are you from, what do you say?

Markus: I come from Hong Kong. Most of the people think Hong Kong is a decent and crowded place. There are a lot of people in just a little bit of land. We can see many nationalities in Hong Kong. You often see foreigners on the street.

Sameena: Both of my parents are from Afghanistan but I was born in America and I grew up there. I’ve been to Afghanistan once, but I’ve mostly been in America, so I kind of feel like an American.

Sydney: I was born in Australia but I’m German because they changed the rules! I’ve traveled a lot, and every two to four years we’ve moved. I’ve lived in the Philippines, France and Germany. If someone asks me where I’m from, I just say Germany.

Nanami: I’m from Japan. Tokyo is kind of crowded with a lot of buildings but Kyoto is very different from everything like that. I feel like when I go back to Japan it’s like coming home – it’s very relaxing. It’s a little bit strange living in Beijing because I’m not that used to it.

When you go back to your “home” country, does it feel like home?

Sameena: I’ve been in China since 2006. When I first arrived, it was a total shock. I mean, I came from California to Beijing. The people were totally different, but I’m getting used to it now.

Sydney: I’ve gotten used to traveling around but I would say my home is in the Philippines because the people are really nice to you, and most of them can speak English. It’s not like in China where most people can only speak Chinese. It just feels like home.

Markus: I go back to Hong Kong every six months. In Hong Kong, everything ís convenient because it’s in such a small place, but in Beijing, everything’s so far away.

Where do you see yourself going after Beijing?

Nanami: Maybe I’d like to go back to Japan and live there for a while.

Sameena: I want to go back to America. I mean, I’ve grown up there and I’m used to it and all my friends are there, so that would be great.

Sydney: I’m not sure. Maybe Australia again, or maybe somewhere completely different.

Markus: I prefer Hong Kong, but I would probably like to go to Canada. I’m Canadian but I’ve never been there, so I want to go and learn about the culture and everything else.

What do you miss most about the countries you’ve lived in?

Nanami: Friends and family.

Sydney: I really miss the cinema, ice cream, people and pizza.

How long will you be in Beijing?

Nanami: Maybe for one more year, and then I think I’ll have to move because of my dad’s job.

Sydney: I guess I’ll leave when I finish the IB. It kind of depends on my education - that’s how we decide.

Sameena: It all depends on my dad’s job.

Markus: I want to go to university in either Canada or Hong Kong.

What are the best things about living in an international community?

Sameena: It’s good because you get to discover different countries of the world and you get to make interesting friends.

Markus: You get to learn new languages, because sometimes what you think about other countries isn’t the truth.

Nanami: It’s great to meet different people and learn words in lots of different languages.

Sydney: Yeah, and you get to keep in touch with people and if you maybe move to their country you can meet them again. It’s good to have somewhere to stay if you want to go traveling around the world.