We sat at lunch chatting. It was because I had asked him a question; "How did you decide what culture to become?" He was calmly eating his pizza with his fingers as we wrestled with reality. Everyone else at the table, including me, was eating European style with our knife in our right hand and our fork in our left. And cutting our pizza. We were after all, in Germany.
I grew up in three very different cultures and even more subcultures of those cultures. Each country and culture is a like separate life and I can live each equally well. Though from the outside I look like an American, and I am an American, my heart is part Chinese. For whatever country I'm in, I just adapt and blend in. And I have never left without picking up some mannerism from that culture that gets added to my own. But no one culture feels like "mine." It's not as easy as what passport you have. No, it's something inside - the values, mindsets, worldviews, and habits subconsciously ingrained - they are all twisted and confused. And all my life, deep down, I have been wondering, questioning, which one is me? Which one is the real me?
Am I the stylish, fast-paced, confident, business minded, efficient, perfectionist city kid of Hong Kong? Am I the proud, patriotic, carefree girl in America? Or am I the bold, daring, adventurous teenager of China, testing her wings?
CJ picked up his fork and started eating his salad - with just a fork. Confident. That's what it was. He didn't feel like he always had to be checking himself to make sure he was doing the right thing and blending in. Eating pizza with your fingers and salad with just a fork definitely wasn't European, but it was part of his culture, and it was okay. I wondered if maybe it would be okay if I changed back to eating my food with just a fork too. I don't have to have separate lives for each country. I don't have to change all of my behaviors to try to blend in with the current cultural system. I am free to be me.
I have a culture, but my culture is a mix of all the others, and for the first time I feel like I am finally all of them AT THE SAME TIME. And I am free to be who I am.
Thanks CJ. :)
Sorry, this post probably doesn't make sense except to other third culture kids.