Vol 2 Part 5 : The Identity Debate

Posted by Andrea Bang & filed under But Where are You Really From?, Identity.

Andrea Bang - But Where Are You Really From?
Bang: Amused at the confused.

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To be honest, I can’t remember the first time someone questioned my Canadian-born butt. Why? Because it’s happened SO MANY TIMES! I no longer respond with a blank stare but with something that usually goes like this:

But where are you really from?

Huh? Oh, my parents are from Korea.

Oh, so you’re from Korea. I thought you were *insert Asian nationality*

No, actually I’m from Canada.

Sometimes the person will even attempt to say hello in Korean, comment on my perfect English or tell me their best friend’s brothers’ girlfriend’s aunt’s doctor is Korean. But that’s a whole different story.

My Vancouver roots were so unbelievable.

Yep, both my parents are from Korea, but I was born and raised in Canada—Vancouver to be exact. Vancouver is the city often referred to as Hongcouver, but my identity rarely sparks curiosity here.

It’s usually when I am in the presence of non‐Vancouverites that my Canadian‐ness comes into debate. This is no surprise. Everyday people are bombarded with images of what a Canadian person looks like and it usually looks less like Sandra Oh (or the Asian girl on Degrassi: the Next Generation) and more like the token Canadian guy on NBC’s 30 Rock. Even when I think of Canadians in the media, I think of entertainers like Michael J. Fox, Pamela Anderson, Celine Dion, Rachel McAdams, and Hayden Christensen. Yes, people who look nothing like me. If instructed to circle the object that doesn’t belong to the group, I’d be circled, removed and then probably placed in a group with Jet Li and Yuna Kim. Once someone thought my Vancouver roots were so unbelievable that, to them, I must’ve been half-Caucasian.

He waved his hand over and said my face looked Asian.

The fact that I don’t fit the stereotypical mold was best brought into light when I encountered a European last year in Prague. We exchanged the typical “where are you from”and when I said Canada, he waved his hand over his face and said my face looked Asian. This action may sound offensive but the look of genuine confusion on his face was priceless and I knew his comment wasn’t made out of ignorance but pure curiosity. The guy knew nothing about Canada and was basically referencing the media as his Canadian encyclopedia. I’m almost 99.9% sure he had no idea who Sandra Oh was.

My Canadian‐ness is still questioned every day, but I have noticed that I’m getting questioned less and less everyday … Or perhaps people simply assume that I’m from some Asian country. I’d like to think it’s the former rather than the latter. Next time someone asks me where I’m from, I’m going to say “my mother’s womb”.

No one can debate that.

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