Indonesian | Chinese/Jamaican/Scottish
I identify as mixed-race - Other, spiritual & straight. My mum is Indonesian, and my dad Is mixed Chinese, Jamaican & Scottish. He immigrated to the UK in his 20s. They met while my father was working in Indonesia.
I was raised in Saudi Arabia until I was 13, then we moved to the home counties until I moved to London after university. In 2011 I moved to Malaysia where I met my partner, who is from Brighton originally. We moved back to London 3 years ago. He’s a mix of northern European. We’re quite keen to see how many ethnicities show up if our son were to take one of those DNA tests!
I don’t think I ever consciously acknowledged my mixed-race heritage because nobody ever made a big deal about it. In Saudi I went to an International school where ethnicity was never an issue and the area where my parents live in the UK is pretty diverse ethnically. It was only in my early 20s when I started working and people would ask me about my background that I recognized how diverse my ethnicity is. So, I guess you could say I always recognized that my parents came from different cultures but terming myself mixed-race didn’t really happen until I was older.
My father having worked and lived in Indonesia for a significant time helped him gain an understanding of Indonesian culture. I think it’s only when we moved to the UK that my mom had an insight into British/Jamaican culture. To date we’ve only been to Jamaica once, though that’s probably more due to the fact that a lot of my father’s family immigrated to the UK, the US and Canada. Though there may be some differences – at its core both cultures are more similar than you may think.
I haven’t experienced any challenges that would impact my life, however there are definitely pre-conceived notions of how people expect you to behave e.g. Chinese heritage – you must be subservient or incredibly academic!
My social environment does play a small part in how I choose my friends/partners, but more so when you’re younger. As you get older you meet a wider range of people due to work/studies etc. I think having a mixed-race background makes you more empathetic and that can only be an asset in both your professional and personal life.
I do feel that there is bias towards mixed-race people, though I do believe there is both positive and negative discrimination due to bias attitudes. For example, sometimes you feel like people are just ‘ticking a box’ to ensure that they adhere to ‘diversity’ requirements.
I’m able to speak Indonesian, though not at a business level. I’m able to communicate easily on a conversational level. My father doesn’t speak Indonesian but pretty much everyone in my mother’s family speaks fluent English. I feel closer to Indonesian culture as I see my Indonesian family more frequently and have done since I was a child.
When asked where I'm from I say that I’m British/from London, but this is inevitably followed with the question 'where are you really from', so I end up telling them about my parents and where I grew up (to explain my non-British accent).
A negative aspect is that you’re never really considered part of any cultural group. That can be lonely and isolating. I’ll never be considered 'really' Indonesian nor Jamaican. On the flip side, because you don’t belong to a single ethic group, people in my experience are more open to you and vice versa.
I can’t speak for anyone else but for me being mixed-race in today's society I’d say it’s generally positive. The future is mixed-race, you can see that everywhere you look. Just from comparing media from 20 years ago to today. It’s not just ticking a box to be diverse but having representation. As a young person you compare yourself to the images around you and from what I can see it’s moving in the right direction.
If I had the opportunity to be born again I’d want to return exactly as I am, I wouldn’t want to change anything!