Part 1 Life as an ABC: The Experience Growing up Ethnically Chinese
Growing up, I faced a bit of a dilemma. You see, I’m born and bred in Australia, but I’m ethnically Chinese.
In my primary school, I was one of seven others Asians in a school year of 90 students, the rest being white Caucasian Australians.
I’d regularly get made fun of for being Asian and would be called ‘yellow’ on countless occasions.
People would impersonate me by squinting their eyes, other kids would mock Asian accents in front of me, and lastly kids would laugh at my lunches for being too stinky.
For a period, I hated being Chinese. It was almost like all the cool kids were white.
To make it worse my parents put a lot of pressure on me as a child. I was expected to take Saturday Chinese School, Tennis, Taekwondo classes, Violin classes and tutoring classes for Maths, Science and English.
I loved Tennis and Taekwondo, but hated learning Chinese on Saturdays, tutoring classes and taking Violin classes
I thought I had no life. Other kids had weekends, but, really, I never had any.
Other kids had so much spare time, and were more involved in activities they wanted to do. I was forced to live with the expectations of my mother and father.
It got to the point where I’d skip Chinese classes on the weekend to go to the local shopping center with Chinese school friends. We’d sip on bubble tea, maybe see a movie, enjoy some nice food and bond over how much we hated the idea of going to school on a weekend. Once it got to the end of the school day, we’d catch the bus back to the school and wait for our parents at the gate for our parents to pick us up, all like we’d been at school the whole day!
Eventually my parents found out. To my surprise, their response shocked me! They asked me if I wanted to stop learning Chinese. I was 15, and all my life up until that point I’d grown up with them telling me to embrace my Chinese heritage and identity. I’d completed 7 years of Chinese school. It was like they were giving up on me, but I didn’t care. I hated learning Chinese.
Understanding my Childhood
It wasn’t until I grew older that I accepted my identity more and more. I think I was 19, and had just entered an Economics degree at Monash University.
Speaking with fellow Australian born Asian classmates, we’d share our experiences. We all grew up with some element of being outsiders, but really, we recognized the efforts that our parents put us through, and the hard work they put in. They worked odd jobs that we should never have to work.
My dad told me the first job he got in Australia, was a dishwasher cleaner in a French restaurant for $5 an hour in 1989. Eventually, my dad became a motor assembler at the Toyota factory in Melbourne, and then went on to start his own small business with my Mum.
They gave up on their dreams so that my brothers and I could achieve a better life. Even as my parents got older and were more settled, every decision was based around us.
They bought a house in an area, just so my brothers and I could attend the best non-selective public school in our state of Victoria.
They’d put us through Taekwondo classes because a bigger 10-year-old boy punched my then seven-year-old brother in the stomach.
I went to Chinese school because my parents not only wanted me and my brothers to retain the language of our cultural heritage, they knew China was going to become as important as it is today. The problem is, I didn’t.
They put me and my brothers through the various tutoring and extracurricular activities to cultivate our physical, and academic states and really prepare us for life.
Being young, I realize I overlooked a lot of things, I was probably too naïve to understand what was going on.
At this point, I finally understood the meaning of my childhood.