Scottish | Hong Kong Chinese
I’m Cantonese/Scottish, Female, Buddhist and Straight. My Mother is from Hong Kong, Dad from Scotland with an Australian mother. They met at work in Hong Kong when my Dad was an expat in Asia. I grew up mostly around China. I was born in London, then I moved to Texas, then Macau, Hong Kong, Beijing back to Hong Kong. I recognized I was mixed-race from a very young age, but it was never a big deal as there were many mixed-race children around especially in Hong Kong. I knew I was different in Hong Kong especially because me and my sister looked very different. She was the more Chinese looking one and I was the more western looking. However, it wasn’t until I arrived in the UK did being mixed-race feel different. The issue of race and identity and knowing who you are and defining it became more prevalent. Subconsciously, I was always identifying myself as different because I didn’t feel like everybody else.
We combined Chinese New Year, the full moon festival and Christmas and Easter. As a child I thought I was having the best of both worlds. I also believe my Dad was very good at integrating into the Chinese surroundings even as a large Scottish guy. He always made an effort to learn bits of the language depending on where we lived. When in Hong Kong, my Dad would make an effort and thoroughly enjoyed the Chinese culture, I remember when my Father would be the one asking for a bowl of Lai Tong before the main meal came as this was always the best was to fill your stomach. My Mother tried to instill as many Chinese values in us from a very young age with Chinese New Year being one of the main holidays. We would go around to all my Auntie and Uncles all around HK and as I’ve grown up, I’ve missed the way my Cantonese side use to spend time with each other, each fighting for the bill and talking loudly but always about fun times. Only as I’ve got older have I felt different towards my western side, seeing how much mother had to instill the Chinese core values, of respect, honor and understanding.
It wasn’t until I started applying for jobs in the UK did being mixed-race feel like something I had to tackle, there were lots of diversity schemes and after the application I was sent an email saying I wasn’t Asian enough to be considered for this scheme. Even though I felt very much more Chinese than British. Also, having worked in film for 4 years, it wasn’t until my last project did I see how casting directors and other actors saw East Asian/mixed-race actors. Working with the casting director to find a mixed-race girl that could speak some Cantonese I was told to get off my high horse as they were going to hire a full Chinese person to play a mixed-race person. I took this as a personal hit against me and what I grew up being. Then to be taken out of conversations because they were taking about how to make a Chinese actress come across more ‘White’, only to be told by the director at a later date for confirmation, that they were going to be highlighting the hair and using eye lids covers. The same thing then happened when we tried to hire a Chinese mother, to a young mixed-race child. I was told after seeing 40 Chinese women that they would be hiring a Caucasian actress as none of them were ‘right’. This is the downfall of film when it’s easier to pay for something you know rather than challenge yourself to see the truth.
I have found that some of my closest friends have come from a different cultural background that we can connect with. With any social environment, you gravitate to something you know and feel comfortable with. The only thing I could say is being mixed-race has made me see both sides of what the spectrum on work and mixed-race people are never really considered as its own subsection of race but more of you are either ‘this’ or ‘that’.
I’m able to understand and speak some mandarin and Cantonese and my languages get better when I’m home. Speaking a little bit of Chinese does make me feel closer to my Mother’s family and allows me to ask questions to the older generation of what is was like when they were growing up, something I would have never really asked if I hadn’t lived in the UK and thought about identity. Within the past couple of years I’ve been saying I feel a lot more Chinese than British. This is probably from growing up in Asia and having certain aspects of Chinese culture being instilled in me at a very young age.
When asked where I’m from I would say I’m international. I have always said this, since I was 8 and having to move a lot it was easier to say I was international as people would always ask why my accent was different from the way I looked.
Being mixed-race allows me to experience the best of both worlds in terms of food, culture and family styles. I have a full understanding of the differences and similarities of British and Cantonese culture. Mixed-race, biracial, Hapa whatever you want to call it, people will look at you and want to put you into a box. That might be because of your accent, the way you look the way you dress but we blend. We are able to fit into whatever world we want to, mold ourselves to other people as they aren’t going to understand where we have come from. Or stand out because of how different we can be. We are anything we want to be.
If I had the opportunity to be reborn I would want to return as a mixed-race, international girl. I grew up knowing two cultures and as my family has got bigger. It is the best of both world, eastern and western where things can be so different and yet you learn from so many of your differences.