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.

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

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

Living In A World That Is Always Busy

Culture

A cat is a wonderful example of taking life one day at a time. Do you ever wonder how common it seems that when we ask people “How have you been?”, often the response is “I’ve been very busy”. At least, for many of the times when we have had a hectic week, a lot has been happening or because it has simply become socially accepted and almost encouraged and praised to be a busy person. It is something that has become admired for sounding productive, hard working and always on-the-go. I felt the need to write this, because I feel there is an incredible need to embrace the art of relaxation (as the ginger cat appears to show).

Relaxation is an art of living, breathing and soaking in life. Truly there are weeks where we simply are very busy and it is inescapable, and there are other times where we cause ourselves to feel busy. At the same time, time is something that is often a term loosely thrown around. The truth is there is always time. Busy has become an excuse, over exaggeration, over used and a term made to make us feel a sense of business so to speak. As a country girl at heart, I deeply felt that sense of business when I moved to the city. Everything was always moving, going and never stopping. Many strangers faces looked stressed or occupied. Where as in the country side, people took the time to say hello, good morning and have a chat.

How much work do we really achieve when we are busy? You may of heard of the words: Quality not Quantity. The term busy, actually increases the chances of feeling stress and imbalance in ones working and private life. Life requires balance and ultimately enjoyment. A schedule and lifestyle is very often something that comes from our choices and attitudes towards it. A messy wardrobe can become easily minimal and simple if we make the choice and time to clean it out.

A few years ago, I was working at a lovely cafe. Each Saturday, a co-worker would ask me “What are you getting up to this weekend?” and most of the time I would reply with “I’m just relaxing” or “I’m doing nothing”. She would look concerned and say “Just nothing?”. However, when I made the effort to ask everyone, there would always be an exhausting list of things that many people plan. It’s a simple example, but there is a wonderful enjoyment in doing nothing or just relaxing that we often overlook.

Many people believe time is always running out and money is there to make, therefore adopting a busy lifestyle is expected. Yes, we all need to survive through work, but there is always a part of me that feels the need to escape into an adventure and live, truly live life. Even just taking time to read a good book or spend an afternoon listening to music. Everything is possible, when we make the time for it. The world feels non-stop especially with the rise of technology and living a life online and offline.

The decision to live a life that is simple and enjoyable is always in our hands. Take moments to reflect what the little things you enjoy in life. The early morning sunshine, quiet moments to rest, daily walk outside or the meal you had for lunch. Living a life by putting importance on peace, relationships and inner well being is far more important than running a never ending schedule. Believe it or not, we are the choice makers in our lives. Bask in the wonderful things you enjoy, such as the hobbies one makes time for. Life needs those moments to step back, take a deep breath and pause.

cat via