Disclaimer: I call myself a third culture kid and being an egg. Also I write in a language that I use daily. If this offends you in any way, it’s not meant to.
What is an egg
An egg : white on the outside, yellow on the inside.
An egg is someone who is caucasian looking, and has asian culture deeply rooted in them.
I’m born in France, and lived there until I was nine years old. Both my parents come from European origins, and genetically that’s me.
My skin is white. Not a little, very white. I am also freckled, and have loads of them.
From 0 to 9 years old, I lived in France, with its culture and traditions. From my mother’s side, my grandfather is British and my grandmother is french. From my father’s side my grandmother is french and my grandfather was half french, half Spanish.
On the inside… hmm… it’s another story.
So far, easy to follow.
Let’s go a little further back. My grandfather was born in Calcutta, India. His father was a British soldier and his mother British too.
To my mother and her siblings.
My grandfather worked for an oil company as an engineer. He was an expatriate with his wife for many years.
On one of these trips, my mother was born in Beirut, Lebanon. The whole family then moved to Perth in Australia where my aunt and then my uncle were born.
Next Indonesia, Jakarta, for a few years.
During my mother’s mid teens, that’s when the family moved to France. They all spoke french at home, my grandmother still has a strong accent in english to this day. And the whole family is fluent english too.
It’s not finished yet…
By the time my mother was in her twenties she went back to Australia for a few years. Met my father there while he was racing for a sailing race.
They then moved to France later, stayed together, got pregnant with me 🙂 and later my sister.
Skipping over some details years went by and then we made the move to Hong Kong.
From 9 to 17 I was in Hong Kong, these are the years I started remembering my life. And the years where I learned who I am.
17 to 18, a year in Singapore. Keeping things interesting.
For university, three years in the UK.
And then back to Hong Kong. As I am writing this I am 31 years old. It’s been 22 years since I first moved to Hong Kong and Hong Kong is home. It took me a while to say this with certainty for many reasons.
When people ask me where I’m from I say Hong Kong. I receive funny looks and then saying: “yeah but ORIGINALLY from where?”
I realised two things.
- First the answer to that question will be personal to the person answering it.
Advice: when you’re given that answer, don’t dismiss it. It’s their life, not yours.
- Second this reflects more on the person asking the question, then the person receiving the question. Why? Well ask yourself why are you asking this question? Is it because you are interested in the person out of pure curiosity? Or is it because you feel like you need to put that person in a box, oh right they fit here.
If it’s the latter, check yourself, no one fits in one box, and guess what: NEITHER DO YOU.
If it’s the curiosity aspect. Try these instead:
Tell me your story.
What’s your story
Tell me more about you?
The “Where Are You From?” question
No matter where you are from, you can educate yourself on the world and others. It’s probably why you are reading this. You are curious.
Here’s why this topic is close to my heart. For years I struggled with where I was from. By the age of 20, I had done about 50/50 in Europe and in Asia. My mid 20s was a self discovery but still, something felt off by saying I was from Hong Kong. And now I say I’m from Hong Kong. Whether you like my answer or not, I don’t care. It’s my identity. And I choose it. Not you. Plus you might not even know the first thing about me, apart from what you just read above.
I have it easy compared to some others. And I mean easy as it’s been 22 years in one location (yes technically I was away for 1 year in Singapore and 3 years in the UK. But I’m sure you don’t count your university years as being from somewhere else).
For example where do you say this person is from:
British and French nationality
Born in Hong Kong
Left Hong Kong at the age of 2
3 years in Singapore
5.5 years in the Philippines
3 years in Indonesia
1.5 yer in Japan
Back in Singapore
And life keeps going.
Oh and I forgot, is Caucasian
Citizen of the world? Third culture kid? Sure all valid. But… You want to know the answer to where you are from. Haha good luck. Plus whatever that answer is, it won’t help you put that individual in a box!
People like this I meet more and more.
Reaction I have received from the question
Setting: Hong Kong by a tourist location
Individual – Chinese from Hong Kong
Chinese person: Where are you from?
Me: Hong Kong
Chinese person: You are obviously white, where are you originally from?
Chinese person: Oh I love Paris!
Me: (in my head: Cliche!!! Plus I haven’t lived there.)
Ps. How did this make me feel? Dismissed. I’m fully aware that this is a personal reaction to me. Still that’s how I felt.
Setting: Bali, Indonesia. Chatting with people met from a co-working space. I.e. an international environment
Individuals – American born Chinese. ABC
I’m simplifying this by putting both responses to one person
I’ve been talking to these 2 guys, and as much as they are Chinese on the outside, I can see that they didn’t grow up in Asia.
Me: Where are you guys from the States?
ABC: California (I think the answer was)
ABC: Where are you from?
Me: Hong Kong
ABC: No like really.
Me: Hong Kong, You guys are from the States right, you look asian
ABC: Euh…. oh yeah
Me: (in my head: DUH!)
Setting: When I’m with someone who I know the story. It’s not a short one. And we can’t be bothered to explain
Individual: Where are you from?
My friend and I, look at each other, there’s an understand, and comes out the simplest answer possible
The individual starts saying a few words in french and names a big city they’ve visited or would like to visit.
I’m aware I’m being blunt. Heck this is the truth. Anytime you’ve asked this question and you’ve received an answer like the above ones. The person in front of you thought like me. YUP that’s the truth.
Why am I writing this
Because I have struggled with this, and I have learned to manage it.
I also know there are people who are going through this right now. Plus they haven’t figured it out yet. They’re still figuring themselves out.
We all struggle with identity at one point in our lives. And others dismissing it doesn’t help, even when it’s not done on purpose. I hope you take away an alternative to asking this question. Or at least you take into account the person’s possible thoughts and feelings when you’re asking a variant next.
Your story matters. And it’s your journey. Let’s not shrink it to a “where are you from?” Country / city answer type of interaction.
You can know more about me, Tara HERE
You can also see what I’m up to living in Hong Kong on Instagram HERE