Taking A Break From Facebook And Instagram

Culture

Connection is an important part of relationships, and having a sense of community can affect our well being. True connections are incredibly valuable. It’s been a few months since I stopped using Facebook and Instagram, and the relationships that are the closest are the ones where you are engaged and in contact regardless of your online presence. They are the ones you will message or call on the phone every day. I really value close and long-term friendships, and I found that often on social media we are viewing and sharing to people we don’t have a close connection with. The aspects of privacy, mental health, phone use and what value it has on my personal life were just some of the areas that made me remove several social media apps.

The people who care about you will make the effort to be in your life. The people that really matter will make the effort to call you and personally invite you to events or to catch up. It’s not the frequency of contact or quantity of friendships, but the time spent. A natural part of life is that people come and go in our lives. Those who are meant to be in our lives will be there.

Your productivity levels will increase. The ability to sustain focus for longer periods of time will become a habit. Social Media can be distracting and take away our attention. Phones have caused us to have shorter attention spans. I remember as a student how distracting social media can be, and how much time can go by if we spend our time on it.

Decrease in anxiety and online noise and distraction. My mental health greatly improved, and so much time will be in your hands for things that add value in your life, rather than scrolling mindlessly. There was something about Facebook and Instagram that really triggered my anxiety. Our phones can be a form of escapism. There is an overwhelming amount of information online.

Spending time doing the things you love. Time spent on your favourite activities, hobbies and time spent with the people you love. In the past few months, I love to spend the early morning going for a jog or reading a chapter of a book, whereas in the past one of the first things was to turn on my phone. Time offline means that I put more conscious time in achieving my goals.

Conformity, validation and acceptance. I think about how I really value the opinions and views of those close to me, regardless of if I agree or disagree with it. However, I find on social media there is a lot of external validation from strangers which can have an impact on ones authenticity. True validation and acceptance is through accepting yourself.

The time spent on my phone is minimised. More or less the phone is mostly used for texting, calling and replying emails. I check my phone far less, whereas when I previously had several social media apps, I’d check it more often because there would be notifications that most of the time weren’t important. Excessive screen time is unhealthy, and takes us away from the present.

The value of privacy, and realising that most people don’t truly care about you. We are essentially the products on social media platforms. It’s hard to define privacy in one definition nowadays. I am quite a private person, and would rather spend time sharing certain things with those close to me. Most people are friendly, but there really are only a handful of people in our personal lives who truly care about us.

Body image and unrealistic expectations. There is a layer of social media that can feel unrealistic. We only catch a glimpse, and even then we can’t really know someone without engaging in conversation and spending time with them. To an extent, social media can shape perceptions of body image.

Being present and focused in my own life. I’m not sure if I’ll be back on Facebook or Instagram, but it feels good to be fully focused on my own life. I do miss the days before social media where there was a sense of mystery in our lives. No one’s life is perfect, even though it can seem that way online. Spending less time on our phones can create space for us to be present in our daily lives.

Art by Lisa Perrin

Living Between Two Cultures

Culture

After watching The Farewell at the cinema last year, it was an emotional film. It also made me reflect the thoughts that came after watching Crazy Rich Asians, and how powerful films, books, photography and art can really tell these stories that make us reflect on our own personal experiences. There have been many interesting stories growing up in New Zealand, and knowing that often I will first be viewed as an Asian woman. I was reading from Old Asian, New Asian, the words: As the ethnic makeup of New Zealand continues to change, the nature of our race relations will continue to impact the very real everyday experiences of those who live here. We are in a position to build on the rich exchanges that have already taken place, but we need to keep talking.

Being born and raised in New Zealand, I grew up feeling never quite fully Kiwi, and yet when I visit Taiwan, I’m never quite fully Taiwanese. I also didn’t grow up in the city, and lived on a farm which meant that I was often one of the only Asians in most settings. New Zealand is very isolated from the rest of the world. However, I do find that the understanding of Asian culture and knowledge is limited in many ways despite the population of Asians being significant in New Zealand. I hope this will change. In understanding, truly understanding, we create empathy, we have an open mind and we can learn from one another.

There are aspects of values from Asian and Western culture that I can and cannot relate to. In being open, we have to have respect, compassion and be there to listen to stories. I think in sharing experiences, it can allow one another to have a sense of connection and understanding. I can appreciate conversations where you do not feel assumptions, judgments, prejudice, stereotypes and false beliefs, but rather a genuine interest in wanting to understand more about Asian culture. Some things I’d like to mention, is that it’s okay to reach out for help in terms of seeing a counselor, doctor or psychologist for your mental health. There is a stigma in mental health in general, but also in Asian culture it tends to be something that can be kept quiet.

From my personal experience, it helps to see someone who can have the cultural understanding. It’s also important to connect and have conversations with people from all walks of life, because this creates a sense of open mindedness and understanding. I find language is also really important in connecting with people. That’s why it’s so important to treasure and speak your mother tongue. The beauty of living in New Zealand, especially in cities such as Auckland and Wellington, is that there is a diverse mixture of cultures. Living between two cultures is a blessing, as I am grateful for growing up in a household filled with Asian food, language, customs and traditions while growing up being surrounded by nature, lakes, mountains and never ending skies.

Photography by Sun Jun

What I Love About Taiwan

Culture

Taiwan was once known as Formosa, which means beautiful island. If you ever have the chance to travel and explore the island, you will see its beauty in nature, culture, and people. It is really somewhere you need to come to see and experience for yourself. When I was younger, when I said my family is from Taiwan, there was often a response of you’re from Thailand? When I was in Taiwan as a child, some people weren’t sure where NZ was on the map or would think New Zealand is a place in Australia or part of Australia.

New Zealand is definitely far more well known now among tourists. I really really hope Taiwan can be more and more well known among tourist destinations in Asia. There is definitely a significant lack of knowledge about the country, compared to say Korea or Japan. It is a hidden treasure for many, as I really feel that it’s not quite so well known globally as it could be. This has been the longest period of time I’ve stayed in Taiwan, and I would definitely love to live here someday.

1.Friendly people. Taiwanese are some of the most friendliest, helpful and polite people in the world.

2. Convenience. It is one of the most convenient places to live, especially if you are living in one of the cities.

3. Transport. Similarly, the transport is incredibly convenient and efficient. For example, in Taipei, you can use the MRT, Bus, Bike, Taxi or Drive.

4. Recycling. The sorting of rubbish here is taken seriously, as the rubbish is sorted into food, plastic, paper, etc.

5. Food. You haven’t had the full experience in Taiwan if you haven’t tasted the food.

6. Busy but also not. Taiwan is pretty slow paced in many places, and even in the larger cities such as Taipei and Kaohsiung, it is more slow-paced compared to cities like Shanghai and Beijing.

7. Biking. It is a wonderful place to bike, and you can actually travel the whole island by bike!

8. Efficiency. Food is usually delivered quickly to your table and even when I got my wisdom teeth removed, I made a last minute booking on the day and got it pulled out.

9. Safety. I never feel unsafe in Taipei if I ever happen to walk on the streets after 11pm.

10. Nightlife. From night markets, cafes, bars, parties, arcade, movies, events, exhibitions and so on, there’s always something happening.

11. Mountains. It doesn’t take too long to travel to beautiful mountains and go hiking. The nature in Taiwan is breathtaking.

12. Fruits and Vegetables. It is one of the best places to be vegetarian or vegan. There is a plethora of options.

13. Cafes. Most cafes have their own personality and vibe. There is usually a certain feeling or theme.

14. Cute things. There is definitely a lot of Japanese influence. But, if you love cute things, Taiwan has a lot of cute things!

15. Cinemas. If you love watching movies, there are different kinds of cinemas in Taiwan. You can also go to ones where you can watch several films in one day.

16. Tea Culture. If you love tea, there is no shortage of tea in Taiwan.

17. Bookstores. I feel like you can spend hours sitting in a bookstore in Taiwan, just reading.

18. Random things. I was biking to the grocery store today and biked past a park where an owner was walking her cat on a leash.

19. Insects. I love creepy crawlies, and when I go hiking up the mountains, if I look around there are caterpillars, butterflies, dragonflies, and other beautiful insects.

20. Chinese Culture and Taiwanese Culture. The Aboriginal Taiwanese culture and Chinese culture.

21. Hotsprings. Winter is my favourite season, and it’s the perfect time to go to the hot springs.

22. Walking. As someone who walks most of the time in Auckland, for me, anywhere that’s walking distance within 30 minutes is very close.

23. Creativity and arts. There are so many activities in Taiwan to do from crafts and workshops.

24. Natural beauty. It’s truly one of the most beautiful places. I think it’s always good to go out of a city to really see a countries natural beauty.

25. Internet. There are many areas with Free wifi and the internet is fast.

26. Umbrella. This is something I really like because I like to use an umbrella in NZ when it’s sunny which still gets a few stares, but in Taiwan, it is a norm.

27. 7/11.You can do so much at 7/11 from buying food, paying your bills, ATM machine or sending parcels. Plus It’s opened 24/7.

There is definitely more than 100 things I love about Taiwan, but there are also areas I hope that will improve. Every country has its pros and cons. Some areas I hope will improve include the economy, politics, architecture, traffic, driving, pollution, education system, tourism, the number of scooters, low paid jobs and the number of stray dogs.

Adventures In Taipei

Culture

48058879_2079400948973175_2495150650631913472_nTaiwan holds a special place in my heart. I still remember my first trip to Taiwan, I think I was around 3 or 4 years old. The airplane seat felt big and spacious, there was a kids set with colouring in books and games, and I had my red dragon toy. I cannot count the exact number, but I have been back to Taiwan maybe around twenty times. It is my second time traveling to Taipei this year, as I came earlier this year with one of my close friends. If anyone is ever interested in traveling to Taipei, I always like to give similar advice to those who travel to Auckland. Always make sure to travel outside of the city.

There are so many exciting things to do in the city, but it’s good to see the sights, go for a hike and surround yourself with the natural beauty of the land. Some of the things I love in Taiwan is the immensely large amount of creative souls, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and the amazing amount of cute things that fills my heart. Taiwan is truly one of the best Asian countries to be Vegetarian or Vegan in, as there is such a vast variety and many vegetarian restaurants. Most restaurants also have vegetarian options.

Taipei Fine Arts Museum had an interesting exhibition called: Post-Nature. I love the feeling of being in a museum, gallery or bookstore. There’s a certain stillness that is good to experience within the fast pace of the city. Something a little amusing that I noticed, is the number of English signs or labels that have the wrong grammar. One of my dear friends came to Taipei to visit for ten days, and we had such a great time. When we were in Jiufen, there was a store that sold Chi Pao’s at a reasonable price, and my friend suggested that we buy one and wear them. It was so much fun.

I was intrigued at how many people thought I was Japanese, and how many people said I have a gentle demeanour and a soft voice. It’s always interesting how cultures are vastly different in their own ways and similar in other ways. In Taiwan, I find people are very friendly and helpful and also very direct at times. Although, most of the time it is out of kindness and honesty. The great thing about the Summer break (although it’s Winter here in Taiwan, Summer in New Zealand), is that there is more time to read! The feeling of reading a book that is not a textbook truly gives me great joy haha.

A thought that’s been in my mind lately, are these two sayings: You don’t need a lot to be happy and that beautiful things in life cannot be seen with the eyes. It really is the simple moments and the small things in life that give us the greatest joy. The most beautiful thing in a person is the kindness and love that they radiate, it’s those feelings felt from the heart. The moments that give us the greatest happiness, is really doing the things we love, enjoying the day to day moments and spending time with the people we love. I think it’s easier to be unhappy if we feel we are always in need of more and focus on the feeling of lack.

You create the world you live in with your thoughts. I find this incredibly important to remember. I feel that if I hold negativity in my heart, I start feeling bitter and send out bad energy into the world. If I allow myself to accept and be open, I can be more positive and focus on the moment. Believing in oneself and having faith, really takes positive self-talk. You are your own motivator. What we feed our mind, affects the person we become and it affects how we treat those around us. You are here for a purpose. The only self-doubt and judgment comes from yourself.

There are so many delicious fruit in Taiwan. From Dragonfruit, Guava, Mangos to Bellfruit, Pineapple and Starfruit. Although, I haven’t been back here in the Summer in years. During the Summer, there is an amazing abundance of fruit. It’s a blessing to be surrounded by the culture and to immerse myself fully in speaking Chinese every day. Being 22 years old, the journey of my 20’s has been an exciting one so far. I think of when I left home at 16, and how much we change over time. Our experiences are so valuable, and how we choose to use our time.

Have you been to Taiwan? What are some of the favourite things you did?

The Importance Of Keeping Your Mother Tongue Alive

Culture

Growing up as a bilingual child, I remember my Father telling me that I would speak to the neighbours in Mandarin with a Kiwi accent! It was before I started learning to speak English, and I could only get a grasp of what English sounded like. Mandarin is the first language I grew up listening, reading, writing and speaking. It’s also common that some Asians that grew up in New Zealand may prefer speaking in English with their friends. Language connects us with one another. It allows understanding, embracing one’s culture and communicating with more people.

The most common Chinese dialect is Mandarin (Putonghua), and it is the most widely spoken language in the world with over a billion speaking Mandarin. Growing up in a Western country, it’s easy to speak English for predominantly most of the time. Exposure is important. When I was younger, my parents would read books to us, and my favourite were the ones by 幾米. They had these beautiful, colourful illustrations, and moving stories. The more we speak a language, the more we connect with those who speak it. Your mother tongue can strengthen your cultural ties and allows you to communicate freely with your family.

English was one of my favourite subjects growing up, as I’ve always loved reading and writing. I like to joke that English runs in the family, as my grandfather and Uncle were English professors in Taiwan. In the article by Amy Tan titled Mother Tongue, she talks about her experiences of the Englishes she grew up speaking. I highly recommend reading it, as it allows us to understand the power of language. I truly feel that if we don’t keep our mother tongue alive, we may risk losing a part of ourselves.

What is your Mother Tongue?

Photography by Sun Jun

Being Asked The Question ‘Where Are You From?’

Culture

la vie design studio_2Curiosity is often one of the main reasons one asks about a person’s ethnicity. ‘Where are you from?’ is one of the most common questions that many cultural minorities are asked. When I was younger, I would always respond with ‘I’m from Auckland.’ As I got older, I began to respond with ‘I’m from New Zealand, but my parents are from Taiwan.” As it saved time with questions such as, ‘Where are your parents from?’ ‘Are you an immigrant?’ ‘What are you?’ and ‘Were you born in New Zealand?’ I remember writing about how it is better to phrase the words ‘What is your ethnicity?’ if you are truly curious to know someone’s background and ancestry. Auckland is a multicultural city, and there are many individuals who were born here, moved here or have been here for several generations.

I have a friend who is Chinese and has been in New Zealand for three generations. Where are you from, can in a way, also be asking where do you belong, what is your history, what is your culture, where do you connect with, where do you call home, why do you look the way you do and an endless array of questions that can really go deeper in ones background. Stereotypes, assumptions, and generalizations are sadly often drawn from a race. I was recently asked ‘Where are you from?’ and when I mentioned Taiwan, I often hear ‘I’ve traveled to Taiwan!’ which is exciting and great. However, when I’m asked a lot of questions about Taiwan, I cannot always answer them, as I didn’t grow up there, acquire an education there and have not lived there.

In a post here sharing about Helene Wong’s book Being Chinese, I said how when the nineties arrived, there was an increase in immigration. Wong talks about how during this time, she really became ‘Asian’. She talks about the media stories in 1989 about immigrants, which used the phrase ‘Asian Invasion.’ She writes that “White New Zealanders were suddenly seeing more Chinese faces on the street…They did not say the same of the South Africans who were also arriving in the country under the same immigration policy. Chinese were too different – in looks, speech, behaviour.” She continues to write that “The Sinophobia also came from longstanding beliefs in the West that Chinese were inferior.” When people deny this, they roll everything under the carpet to keep it quiet.

When the question is asked, although most of the time it is a harmless curiosity, it can be asked in a way that makes one feel they are being defined. I’ve had mostly older white men say ‘Ni Hao’ to me once they’ve asked me enough questions to say ‘What language do you speak?’ or ‘It’s hard to tell what sort of Asian you are’. However, where are you from? is also asking where is home? Taiwan is home to me as well, but New Zealand is my natural response since I spent my whole life here. I think it’s absolutely okay to ask someone’s ethnicity if you are simply curious, but try not to ask it as a first question when you meet someone for the first time. I’ve had customers ask me up front when I worked in hospitality and retail, and frankly, it can be quite rude.

Where are you from also asks us to share how we identify ourselves. If I say I’m a Kiwi, it’s because I was born here and call New Zealand my home. Growing up, I’m grateful to have been brought up in a home where Chinese culture was a significant part of my life, and so I was able to stay in touch with that part of my culture. I was reading Mabel’s post here and she writes No matter how polite the conversation, when we get asked, “Where are you from?”, often there comes a case of mistaken identity, a case of “othering” in the sense of “Us” and “Them”. There often leads to a lot of questions for example in my experience ‘Why did your parents move here?’ and ‘Do they speak Taiwanese in Taiwan?’ and other questions.

Mabel writes Some time ago I was window shopping in the city. A white (presumably Australian) guy who looked around my age approached and striked up a conversation. It was pretty evident he was trying to pick me up as I wrote in this blog post. “So, where are you from?” he asked barely five minutes into the conversation before trying to invite himself back to my place. I was not amused. Don’t see myself as purely someone’s toy of affection. It’s a question that at times brings to the surface disconcerting patriarchal, gender stereotypes. I’ve been ‘hit on’ by white men before, but when it’s been those around my age, it’s mostly harmless, but unfortunately, when it’s been from old white men, I feel this huge sense of discomfort, ‘othering’ and being placed in a box of what an Asian woman is ‘stereotyped’ to be.

Where are you from also asks one ‘where did you grow up?’ and naturally, the response will be where you spent most of your life. There are many people who are surprised when I say that I grew up in the countryside, as I didn’t grow up in an environment where there were many Asians, and most of my friends growing up were Caucasian. We all have our own experiences, and everyone has an interesting journey. I think that it’s important to have sensitivity when we ask these questions, as they can run deeper than one may realise. In The Guardian it states ‘People move an average of 12 times during their life. The notion of a ‘hometown’ or culture can be complex.’ It can be a personal question, that sometimes we may want to share more with those we feel close with, or once we’ve opened up and had deeper conversations.

This is why sometimes being asked upfront, can seem quite direct, which is why we can ask different questions when we are getting to know someone. Sometimes I feel that there is so much more I could share about my own life experience, but it can be limited from being asked about my race in the first question. The article says ‘We seem to want to put people in boxes, to size them up quickly.’ When we are asked the question predominantly because of the way we appear, it can make one wonder about the intentions behind the question. Perhaps, if you ever want to know someone’s ethnicity, ask once you have talked to them more, share about your own background and be sensitive, curious and interested.

Photography by Sun Jun

How Do You Identify Yourself?

Culture

This is a thought that’s been on my mind, ever since I’ve been curious to discover more about my cultural roots. My family background originates from China, with my grandparents originating from Shanghai, Hunan and Xiamen. My parents were born in Taiwan. However, it’s interesting how there is always this desire to identify oneself. We are all so unique as individuals. These ideas of identity are social constructions, yet they often help us feel a sense of belonging in a group.

Taiwan and New Zealand are where my family are. Taiwan is where I’ve visited once or twice a year since I was four years old. New Zealand is where I was born and raised, and so both places have a special place in my heart, and are where I call home. Growing up, I didn’t have any close Asian friends, and most of my friends were White/Eurasian. When I moved out of home and into the city at sixteen, I realised that there was a huge Asian community in the city.

When I meet people, I introduce myself as Katie. My Chinese name is 郭天仁, and the 郭 ( guō) literally means a wall surrounding the city. It’s one of the most common Chinese surnames. Many of the people who have the surname are descendants of Han Chinese. The word 天 (tiān) means sky, heaven and God. The word 仁 (rén) means kindness, benevolent and righteous. I was named by my 奶奶 (Grandmother), and even though I’m not often called by my Chinese name, it holds a special place in my heart.

My Chinese name is considered quite gender neutral, or maybe a bit tomboy because it’s not a very feminine name. Some of the ways that I identify myself: a woman, daughter, sister, niece and friend. I’m a Taiwanese New Zealander, but I’m also Chinese because of my family background. I’m a creative, independent, understanding, caring, kind and empathetic person. There is a way that people perceive one another in the public, but I always feel like there’s this mystery in each person.

We don’t really know anyone, really. It’s not until we dig deeper, spend time getting to know someone and opening up to friends that we can see beneath the layers. No matter what, it’s only you and you alone that holds your identity. It goes for our attitude in life, and whether we identify ourselves as a positive, hardworking and engaging person or the opposite. Identity can have huge affects in our daily life, because they can affect our thoughts and actions.

The importance is not to limit yourself. I think of New Zealand, and how anyone who calls it home here are a Kiwi. It doesn’t matter if you moved here a year ago or have spent a life time here. It’s also small things, such as when I hear someone is vegetarian or don’t eat much meat, I feel glad that they may share similar values in that respect. I don’t think our job title, income and materials define us. I think it’s our actions, how we treat one another, where we call home and the language we speak that can be parts of our identity.

Most of all our personality, because that’s something that’s completely different in every person. I love being in nature, and consider myself a sensitive person. I used to be painfully shy when I was a child, but I was completely myself at home, and was silly, cheeky and laughed a lot. But it sort of shows how it’s so easy for the outside world to see one another a certain way, but there are certain parts of ourselves that won’t always be revealed to everyone.

Photography by Sun Jun

The Common Stereotypes About Asian Women

Culture

I remember being asked for help in Maths, but Maths and Science were my worst subjects at school. When I gave help to other classmates, I knew my explanation could be wrong, but I knew that I was singled out for help because of the stereotype that Asians are good at Maths and Science. When I sat in Music, I remember a classmate would always sit beside me and try to look at my answers when we had tests. It’s common that Asians are thought of as the passive minority, in where many racism directed at Asians are often quietly tolerated or ignored. The general stereotypes about Asians that are very common are: hard working, studious, nerd, intelligent, striving for top marks, bad drivers, rich, musically talented, a doctor, engineer or lawyer and the list goes on.

However, there are also a lot of stereotypes of Asian women. I did a lot of research and readings on the perspectives of the East last semester at uni, and I feel that there are many stereotypes of Asian women (and men) from the West’s perspective. Many of these stereotypes become perpetuated, exaggerated and repeated in the media. Although, I would agree that there are many, many Asians that work very hard, but that goes for anywhere there are hard workers and lazy workers. The way Asian women are portrayed in films, literature, art and media can have a significant influence on how people view Asian women.

Asian Mother’s being strict and overprotective. You may have heard of the term Tiger Mum. It’s a parent that pushes their children to pursue academic excellence and excel in their career and life. They can be very demanding and over bearing. This is a common stereotype in Chinese parenting. Unfortunately, true for some, but definitely not for all. My sister and I were never overly pushed to be high achievers. We just did our best, and pursued what we’re passionate about.

Dating a white person means you have white fever. There is a stereotype that if an Asian woman dates a White man, she has white fever. Vice versa, if a White man dates an Asian woman, he has yellow fever. There are cases where that is indeed true, or the individual has a preference. However in most cases, such as my Mum and my Stepdad, it’s because they both love each other for who they are. The attraction is simply on personality, but unfortunately because Asian stereotypes can be so strong, some people will make assumptions quickly based on ethnicity.

Being quiet, submissive, mysterious and exotic. Unfortunately, I’ve had strange experiences of old white men talking to me for the wrong reasons. This is one of the most common stereotypes of Asian women. It’s also common in the sexual stereotype of Asian women, that we’re submissive and obedient. Sadly, this has been one of the ways the media views us. This is one of the reasons I feel put off by men who do have yellow fever, because they want to find an Asian woman who fulfills their Asian fetish of the stereotype of an Asian woman.

Slim, long black hair and almond eyes. Picture an image of a slender frame, porcelain skin, long thick black hair and brown almond eyes. The description makes me think of a Singapore Airlines or Thai Airways advertisements. It’s true that many Asian women are petite, but everyone comes in different shapes, size and shades. However, growing up I would often hear “How do you stay slim Katie,” and sometimes someone would say “because she’s Asian.” Genetically Asians all have black hair and brown eyes.

Always being seen as an “Asian” women. As a woman, I won’t ever be just viewed as a woman. I will always be an Asian woman. This is something I’m proud of, but I’m also aware that it comes with a lot of labeling, generalisations and stereotypes. I remember talking about how people seem to have to mention when someone is Chinese, Indian, Black etc when it’s not always necessary. It also means dealing with people from time to time who say certain things to you because you’re Asian, that can be insensitive.

In Asian American Women Faculty: Stereotypes and Triumphs by Celeste Fowles Nguyen, she writes “The model minority stereotypes Asians as hard workers who quietly achieve high results. The lotus flower, or geisha stereotype, defines Asian females as feminine and passive.” Asian women are viewed as uncomplaining, tolerant and passive. However, I want to challenge this view, and encourage people to speak more about it with friends of different ethnicity. We rarely see Asian women in the news media, and many other areas. Representation is important, and I hope that we will see more diversity and conversations about these issues.

What are some other stereotypes of Asian women? Feel free to share your experiences down below.

Photography by Sun Jun of Nini for L’Officiel China March 2016

When You’re Asian And More Fluent In English

Culture

Bodil-Jane-Illustration-Characters-Japan-Modern-Gaaru-2-768x543@2xI was born and raised in the beautiful countryside in New Zealand, and even though my grammar still has room for improvement (note my use of commas), English has always been one of my favourite subject at school. I love writing essays, reading novels and have always had a love of the language. My mother tongue is Chinese, as I grew up learning Chinese first before English. We used to go to Saturday Chinese school as children, but I was quite lazy and didn’t feel any motivation to learn it since I was speaking English at school. Perhaps it was because all my friends spoke English, and I wasn’t living in a place or going to a school that had many people speaking Chinese.

However, now that I’m older I embrace the fact that I’m both Taiwanese and Kiwi. They are both important aspects of my identity. I realise how important it is to keep your mother tongue alive and to speak it, surround yourself with it and absorb it. Chinese is a beautiful language, and it’s important to remind oneself what a blessing it is to speak Chinese and English. When I look back, I am incredibly grateful that my parents only spoke Mandarin to my sister and I, because language is such an important part of us. I appreciate growing up being surrounded by books and building a huge interest in reading. Now that I’m older, I put more effort into writing, reading and listening to Chinese. I used to feel guilty because I am Taiwanese, but my English is far more fluent, however my physical identity says that I should be fluent in Chinese.

I’ve also had experiences where it’s assumed that my English isn’t good. I remember in high school, my English teacher said that it’s okay that my essay had a few grammar mistakes, because English is my second language. Most of my classmates said I’m lucky I had that as an excuse, but to me it seemed quite stereotypical, because I was more fluent in English and when other classmates made grammatical mistakes it wasn’t focused on what ethnicity they are. Although I must note I grew up going to a school in the countryside, and was one of the only Asians there. English has always been one of my favourite subjects because I feel so much passion for it. The beauty of language is that it is a wonderful form of self expression and allows us to communicate to different people.

I’ve been asked many times if I’m an international student or what country I moved from to New Zealand. It’s understandable, because Auckland is quite a multicultural city and there are people from a vast majority of different countries. However, it does remind me of my identity and being asked these sort of questions many times has made me more assured of my own cultural identity. I suppose in writing this, I’d love to encourage you to embrace your mother tongue. Having that is such a precious part of you that can never be taken away from you. If you are also an Asian that is more fluent in English, know that you can improve your mother tongue through self motivation, practice and patience.

Artwork – Modern Girl by Bodil Jane

How To Improve Your Chinese Language Skills

Culture

7c71991f-36da-44d0-b63f-ff3239bb87cc.pngChinese is one of the most beautiful languages in the world. When you see the words themselves, each of them are like a picture. It is the most spoken language in the world by more than 1 billion people. I remember my Grandmother explaining to my sister and I the way each Chinese character are like a picture of the object. 火 means fire, 人 means person and 山 means mountain. If you look at them, they appear very much like the character itself. According to the NZ Chinese Language Week Trust, Chinese will be the third most common language spoken in New Zealand.

In order to improve a language, we must consistently speak it and expose ourselves to it. If you don’t speak the language with your family, it’s a good idea to find opportunities to speak it with someone. Try speaking it with a friend, language partner, on the phone or attending a Chinese event. The more you speak, the more you remember. A great app to add on your phone is Pleco. It’s a wonderful dictionary that’s easy to use. Try reading a small section of a book, text or magazine article and translate the words you don’t know by using Pleco (or your own dictionary).

Writing words down can also help you to remember what they look like. Learning and expanding your vocabulary is ultimately one of the ways to improve your skills. Listening is what we’re first exposed to when we’re a baby. We listen to the way our parents talk, and we imitate the words they speak. You can listen to Chinese music, watch a movie that speaks Mandarin, listen to a podcast or watch a Youtuber who speaks Chinese. Finding what works for you is important. Some may find certain Chinese language apps better than others. Some may work better by following a text book, taking lessons in class, having a private tutor or using an e-book.

Growing confidence in your skills is a wonderful thing. Improving is extremely rewarding. As something beneficial as Chinese, it can be encouraging to know that you will definitely be applying the language in many places. It’s a language that has a long history behind it. It is one of the oldest written language in the world. If you grew up reading Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah (I highly recommend the book!), she mentions: Chinese is a pictorial language, not a phonetic one. Our words come from images. The meaning of many characters is subtle and profound. Other words are poetic and even philosophical.

Photography of Ling BingBing by Sun Jun