Diaspora and me

Rebellious Arab Girl wrote about her diasporic discontent a few days ago. That set me to ponder about my moving experience. I immigrated to New Zealand from Taiwan in 1996.

I am glad that I move to New Zealand. Growing up here provided more opportunities. Asian students are pressured into academic achievement. It is not only competition from over-population, but a cultural hang up. We are programmed to work hard but some fail to understand more stress does not correspond to better performance.

My early days in New Zealand were amazing. I did not speak English but primary school was a lot of fun. The teacher put labels on everything in the classroom e.g. door, desk and cupboard so I can learn what they are as I used them. Everyone got to do proper sports (barefeet!), art and there were camping. I hope Taiwan has a less intense education system now and wish all kids could have as much fun.

The problems I encountered was you can go anywhere in the world but you are still the same person. The mould for my identity changed, but it was difficult to fit into new expectations. Am I a New Zealander or Taiwanese?

Some New Zealand attitudes I fail to grasp are 'she'll be right', 'toughen up' and concepts like No. 8 wire and kiwi ingenuity. I can be creative to a point but laid back plain worries me! What comes naturally to young New Zealanders such as the rites-of-passage Overseas Experience scares me. That is what I admire most and hope one day my future kids will set out to do.

It was hard to change the food you eat, the clothes you wear, and other daily habits. What to study, even what to do for fun came into question. Even though assimilating into New Zealand society is possible, I choose to retain most cultural practices. I have been away for so long that I am losing my heritage.

When I returned to Taiwan to visit relatives it was like travelling to a foreign country. The nostalgia only deepened. What happens to migrants and refugees is that as we leave our homeland, we no longer belong anywhere.

I guess the only times when I am angry is when other migrants behave badly. It makes the rest of us look bad. It takes decades if not your whole life to finesse that low profile presence in New Zealand. It's easy to say be pleasant to everyone. The truth was migrants represent their country of origin. What if I embarrass myself and turn out to be the only Taiwanese they ever meet?

I have lived in New Zealand more than half of my life and will always look like a visitor to the country. You can say I am an outsider. I reckon I can observe clearly where I am and I like what I see.


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