Hong Kong Chinese | Sri Lankan / Saudi Arabian

Arina Udom_pp.jpg

I identify myself as British and Danish despite my mixed background, I guess it stems from my upbringing. I went to an international school where most of the teachers were from the UK, Australia or New Zealand. My mum also grew up in the UK, so she is also British at heart even though we lived in Denmark for most of our lives. I’m a student that is about to start their master’s degree in London and have previously lived in Bath for my bachelor’s degree.

My mum is from Hong Kong and my dad was born in Bangkok, Thailand but was Sri Lankan and Saudi Arabian. They met in Plymouth, England when they were living in the same student dorm building. I grew up in Bangkok, Thailand up until the age of 6. After that we moved to Copenhagen, Denmark and I spent most of my childhood years there. It’s been interesting to be exposed to both cultures of the East and the West.

I think I was probably around 4 years old when I slowly began to understand that there were different races as that was the first time I left Thailand. I didn’t quite grasp the concept that I am mixed of different cultures till I was about 6 years old even though my parents looked very different from each other. I went to an international school in Copenhagen and there were kids in the class that were from different countries across the world. Despite the international environment it was obvious that fellow classmates did not approve of my mixed heritage, which is extremely bizarre when looking back at my time in school. I would express that I am mixed of all these different cultures, but I would be told that I was a liar and doing it for the attention when what I told them was the truth. I used to be ashamed and avoided telling people where I was really from until I started a different school and people were way more accepting.

I am the type of person who loves meeting new people and try to understand other cultures through my friends. Whenever moving to a new city or country I tend to befriend locals, expats and mixed-race people. It’s very interesting to understand people’s perspective of the place they live in and how they view the world as well. I like to have a balance with socialising between these groups as for the most part I don’t feel I can’t identify with the locals, but there are certain things that I feel more comfortable sharing with expats and mixed-race folks. I feel I can relate more to expats when discussing about home sickness while being abroad or how it can be difficult at times to navigate the culture and norms of a host country. When I have friends that are culturally similar to me, I feel most at ease and it gives me a sense of belonging as they tend to understand things like dysphoria without having me to explain what it is. It’s very comforting to know that you aren’t the only person who feels like they don’t completely belong to a certain culture or country. They also don’t view you as exotic or mysterious but just someone who had the opportunity to experience the best of various cultures. It’s also fantastic that you can share knowledge of different cuisines or experiences that you both had tried and also moan about cravings of certain dishes or things that we don’t have access to in the country that we both are currently living in.

I think backgrounds do not really affect my choice of who I date as I tend to go more for the personality of an individual. I am currently dating someone who is not mixed, and our relationship is great, but I do see that our perspectives on things are very different from each other. He is the only person I have ever dated so I do wonder sometimes how it would be like to date someone who is mixed-race as maybe we could have more things in common and see a lot of things in the same light. I find it can be very difficult for me to express my feelings on being mixed-race and subjects like racism to a partner that can’t relate to these experiences. It can be slightly frustrating to discuss things such as cultural views, cuisine, politics, etc. as I have the gained knowledge and perspectives on these areas from different cultures where as my partner is more set on his views.

I definitely still think there are bias attitudes or stereotypes towards mixed-race people even though you would not expect that in 2018. From personal experiences and from incidents that my friends have been through, we all need to work on being more tolerant towards people of all races and cultural backgrounds. A common theme that I have come across when being mixed-race is the lack of acceptance from the people that you share cultural roots with. Despite having lived or even assimilated into the root culture, you are still viewed as a foreigner by fellow countrymen. On along the same note, you can face a similar problem when you are mixed-race and living in an entirely different country. For example, I am mixed Hong Kong Chinese, Sri Lankan and Saudi Arabian but grew up in Denmark. No matter how much you try to assimilate, the locals of the host country will still see you as an outsider which can be heart-breaking and fuel the sense of dysphoria. These attitudes can make you feel like a ‘racial imposter’ as you are struggling with different cultural identities and find it difficult to be yourself around others that aren’t mixed as they may judge you or cast you as different/foreign. It is bizarre that I feel Danish as I have grown up there, but most locals would say I’m not Danish enough. This was not the case when I move to the UK, British people had dubbed me as ‘honorary British’ since I integrated quite well in both Bath and London. It gave me hope that one day I may find a country that I can call home despite being mixed. I hope in the future mixed-race people would face less biased attitudes from non- mixed-race people, so they would not have to doubt or question their cultural identity.

I think I have had both positive and negative experiences with being mixed-race. As I have mentioned earlier about being mixed-race and growing up in another country where the locals class you as a foreigner was a really negative aspect. It gave a sense of division and that no matter how much you try, you won’t belong or fully integrate into the society. I think this also really depends on which country you live in as well, I had that negative experience in Denmark where as in the UK I definitely have had positive responses from the locals. In both Bath and London, I have felt more comfortable and at home as the people there are super welcoming if you are open to integrating into the society. I have also had bad experiences that some mixed Asians may relate to, when you are accused by strangers that your parents have gotten their citizenship through marrying a western foreigner. It’s really uncomfortable to think that despite your family having worked hard to be a part of the community and contributing to the society, there are still very narrow minded and racially biased people in the modern age. In regard to fellow countrymen that are from the countries you are mixed with can either be very curious and positive about your mixed background or they can be very negative/rude about it. I’ve been lucky where I have met people that are really curious about my cultural background and find it interesting but there is the occasional bad egg or two that sees me as someone who is not deserving of claiming my heritage. People also ask me about how I grew up and tell me that I am very lucky to grow in such a diverse household, this does make me feel unique as I feel fortunate to be exposed to so many different cultures. Being mixed-race has opened many doors for me, I feel that it made me adaptive so when moving abroad I don’t experience culture shock too much and it allows me to experience the best of all cultures that I am mixed of. I also believe that by being mixed- race, I am able to make friends from all sort of cultural backgrounds and we exchange our customs/cultures with each other. I like to think that it has made me more open minded and that there is so much to learn from other people and their cultures. Another benefit is being multilingual, it is such a great skill to have when travelling or working in a multicultural environment. My only regret is that I could’ve learned more languages as a child and had my parents to practice with, but I was too stubborn and lazy unfortunately. With regards to my background affecting my relationships to others, I think it has had a positive influence on my friendships. I feel that I am more tolerant of people from different backgrounds and that I adapt easily to different social groups. I think the friendships I have with people from different backgrounds tend to share our knowledge of our own cultures and learn something new. I feel that I can relate to different people and cultures, so I always have someone to talk to if I experience homesickness for a specific country. If I were born again, I hope that it does not matter what culture I was born into. I’d love to be mixed-race again as I believe that you get to experience the best of different cultures as well as being open minded. I hope by the time I was reborn; the world would be a more tolerant place and there are less racial biases.

In the future, I see that there will be a growing population of mixed-race people and hopefully that’ll allow people to be less biased towards people from different races as well as people with different racial backgrounds. I understand that in my parents’ generation, society was not as accepting as it is now with mixed-race people, but improvements are still needed. I hope over time, people will see being mixed as something beautiful and that these people can lead the way to create bridges between cultures. It is difficult to imagine a biased world when we are so connected to each other through globalisation, the world should be more accepting and tolerant as there will be more mixed-race people in the next generations.