The Euro-Asian Dilemma

I met my husband, Olly, when I was 19. I thought he was 21 for a good long time (I guess those anti-aging Asian genes are to blame) and when I found out he was 25 I pretended I had graduated high school a year later than I actually did. He was just so incredibly handsome and I thought that I might have a better shot with a five year age gap instead of a six year one.

I remember going for a nice long afternoon walk with my mum years ago, just when things were starting to get serious between Olly and I, and suddenly out of nowhere, she starts talking about what my future with Olly might look like (good on ya, mum!). “You know, I’m all for you staying with Olly. But you do have to keep in mind that when you have children, they’re not going to look like you, they’ll look like him. Are you okay with that?”

I’d truly never considered it and I don’t think there was any malice in her question, but suddenly it was all I could think about.

She had just highlighted how different my partner and myself really were, based on nothing but our skin colours.

It was true, we were of different backgrounds with two different skin tones. The east and the west. I got thinking, did that somehow mean our children were going to be immediately on the back foot? Would they have an identity crisis? A cultural crisis?

I became obsessed. Every time I saw a family with an Asian dad and a white mum I tried to analyse the family’s dynamics. Was their child considered Asian, or European? Were they speaking English or mandarin? And as a side note, how was it that these children looked incredibly beautiful, regardless of how attractive their parents were? Seriously.

Fast-forward about six years. I’m married to the same handsome Asian man and I am the mother of a beautiful baby boy, my own little hapa child.

I realise now that I had looked at it from the wrong perspective. Having two distinctive cultures might not put my child on the back foot. If I raise him well, it might actually put him on the front foot, or many feet ahead!

I still have questions about what it might mean to raise a euro-Asian family. Will my child feel more connected to his kiwi culture than his Asian culture? What if he feels like he belongs to neither culture? Will he ever be discriminated against because of his origins?

No matter how things pan out for him, he is loved absolutely beyond measure. I hope that regardless of where he feels he fits in this world, he always comes back to that knowledge.

My husband will play a big part in this as well. He is considered kiwi-Asian, having moved to New Zealand at three years old. He is made up of the most beautiful blend of kiwi and Asian culture that I have ever seen. In fact, I found him so interesting I married the guy.

He’ll smoke you on the rugby field, then cook up the most kick-ass batch of dumplings you’ve ever tasted. He has the voice of the typical kiwi bloke, but once you’ve heard him speaking Mandarin you’ll fall in love with that language in ways you never thought possible (okay I get, it I’m a fan girl).

As parents, I believe it is our duty to teach our children all sides of their cultural backgrounds. I intend to be speaking fluent mandarin along with my son (eeek one day!) and I hope to one day show him the beautiful green lands of Scotland where his ancestors came from (I am also actually yet to see them myself).

In our family, having two distinctly different cultural backgrounds will simply mean you’re extra lucky.

In our family, you will value others not by the origin of their background but by the calibre of their persons.

My son will know that he belongs to two cultures, rather than not belonging to either.

Because in my eyes, family culture trumps ethnic culture. Every. Single. Time.

Rachel Chen