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  • Writer's pictureCheukYiu

My Hyphenate Experience

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

Have you ever been asked, “Where are you from?”. My parents were born and raised in another country, while I was raised in a different country. You are familiar with both countries, but also you feel like you are not fully welcomed in either.

My personal hyphenate experience started when I came to the USA with no knowledge about the culture or the language. My parents are from Hong Kong, and of course, I have a Chinese name. They would call me, “Cheuk Yiu.” When I first moved to the states, at school, people would call me “Cheuk Yiu” in a funny way. They would give me nicknames like “Turkey” or sometimes inappropriate names, “F- you”.

After being bullied at school and tired of people calling me names, I ended up asking my teacher to call me “Rene” instead. The thing is, I did that so that my classmates would stop making fun of my Chinese name. Here is another thing, I came here when I was 10 years old, without any knowledge of what is the American culture is like. It was hard for me to fit in. However, I slowly adapted to the environment and the culture in this country.

The fact is, no matter where you are from, what your name originally is, what your culture is, accept yourself for who you are. The fact is you should never feel weird about telling your friends your real name or your other name. Embrace your own culture and be proud of who you are. It is such a blessing for one to have knowledge of other’s cultures. Connect yourself with your two cultures, instead of dividing yourself into two different people. Welcome yourself to the new culture, instead of isolating yourself from the culture. This is the meaning of being a true hyphenate.

Some of us are Hyphenates from the day we are born, while others become a Hyphenate when we go somewhere new or experience something different. We retain our old identity—our roots—but we also take on something new—our branches and leaves. When we are nurtured at both levels, we grow—and we become more than either of those separate identities. We become that hyphenate, we become a connector, and we become connected.

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