by Devina Gunawan
I call people who grow up in multicultural families ‘hybrids.’ It could mean anything, really. It could mean that one is metis, or what in Harry Potter world would be ‘mudblood.’ It could mean growing up in two or more countries. It could mean a lot of things. But I know those who read and can relate, whoever you are, you must be a hybrid. And these are some things to understand about the hybrids, and why they flock together.
1. For certain hybrids, this applies: “You look different.”
It is not the best feeling in the world to know that you are not a part of a group, especially growing up. There is something about you that is just, odd to the other children, and at the time, there was no good way to explain it.
I remember when I was a little girl, some of my friends would walk up to me and tell me, “You and your sister look different from the rest of us.” We stood out in class photos, I still remember. Our hair few shades lighter and our complexion much more fair than the rest. My mother had it worse. She grew up with bright red hair and light brown eyes among raven haired and dark eyes. They mocked her, because well, she was very different. And it sucked. In our own country people would ask for our ID cards or passports to confirm that we belong there.
2. Parents speaking in different languages.
You know how horrible it is to be summoned into your parents’ room knowing that there will be two languages in the argument? One parent speaks one language and the other another? And you don’t know in which language you should respond to them? My best friend Daniella has three languages in her house, and I cannot imagine how confusing that must be during family arguments. I know she loves the diversity, but still. When I stayed at her place, I had to deal with two languages, and it was cool – because I understand dealing with two languages at once. But apparently when I wasn’t around, they had it in three languages! Merde!
3. You are neither here nor there.
“No you’re not [race/ethnicity/nationality/etc].” Wherever you go. You are neither here nor there. And it’s sad, because a lot of times, the one thing we want is home. A place where people look at us and say, “Oh look, one of us is home.” You are either too conservative or too liberal. You have hard times understanding one culture, because you will have preferences over which traditions or cultural aspects you are more comfortable with. You can never be 100% of anything. But over time, you get over it and accept the fact that the world is your home.
4. You face questions of, “Where are you from?”
I got a lot of, “Where are you from?” wherever I go. People know you’re different, especially if you’re like my sister – who’s got thick Texan accent. Sorry girl, it’s just not going to be easy for you. You look like you’re from Mars and you sound like you’re from Pluto. You act like you’re from Jupiter but some of you seem very Mercury. And people get confused. And to be fair, so do you.
My other best friend is a Korean who grew up in Russia. You can tell from one glance that he isn’t from South Korea. He dresses differently, he acts differently, he sounds different, and well – everything about him screams Russian, except for his face.
5. You don’t know if you’re considered attractive or just strange looking.
It’s really hard to tell. You know every place has its own beauty standards, and heck you’re probably not it – you don’t even look completely their type. You grow up in a place where beauty standards mean different things, but you look different there. So you feel weird in one place and definitely weirder in another place. Either way you know you can’t win.
Most of the girls don’t even know if they are actually pretty or not. It’s just, too confusing.
6. Cultural shocks back and forth.
You can easily say, “Yeah, I move back and forth and I am used to the different ways of things.” But we know that’s not true. At some point you will struggle. “Why can’t they do this the way we do this?” “Why do they see this as a bad thing? This isn’t a bad thing.” Because people from different places have their own rules and standards and other things – a lot of them clash, and you cannot find a midpoint and say, “Ahah, I’m good!”
7. You carry accents here and there.
I remember the worst nightmare was having people tell me, “Wow, you got the Brit accent.” And this was growing up in Texas – and getting rid of 70% of it was the greatest accomplishment ever. Daniella has – what I believe to be- the sexiest accent of all. And as horrible as it is to sound weird wherever you go, I don’t think we should ever get rid of what we grew up with. Someone out there might find my Brit outburst as sexy as I find Daniella’s accent. Someday, someday.
8. People make assumptions.
“You must be so liberal.” “So you dyed your hair, right? You must have.” “You probably don’t understand this stuff. You grew up outside.” “Did your parents teach you our cultures? Probably a little, right?” “Wow, you must feel superior.” “Are you sure you’re from here? You’re just trying to blend in.” And many more. I know a lot of you have heard these.
One time I was visiting some family in Singapore, and when I checked into the hotel, the receptionist didn’t even bother to check my passport or any document and wrote a huge print on my room agreement papers: “AMERICAN.” I vowed to never return to a place where assumptions ran freely and background check wasn’t done properly.
9. You smile when people ask, “So, where are you really from?”
Daniella and I would smile and say, “Guess.” Because really, we got tired of people going, “Ooh that’s really cool. Yeah, where is that really on the map?” or “Really? You’re American?” And after awhile we grew tired of having to explain ourselves that we would tell people to guess and well, let them deal with whatever their guess was.
10. “Aren’t you too fair/dark to be from here?”
Degage-toi, racist! Do you not think that we too might be confused?
11. It’s so hard to get along with a date who doesn’t understand your conflicts.
More than that, it will be different opinions, ideas, and whatever else there is. Unless you find another hybrid, chances are your love won’t last. A lot of people who date hybrids struggle because well, it’s difficult to understand hybrids and their ways of thinking.
12. You can’t really say “My people.”
Because who are your people? Do you even know?
13. Cultural clashes happen even at home.
Because parents are not even sure which cultural aspects to teach us. They are so confused. For instance, some of my American friends who grew up in Indonesia had their parents tell them, “When you’re 18, get out of the house.” But since their parents had seen so much of the Indonesian ways of parenting, they said, “But you know… you guys should stay at home with us, just like our friends’ children stay with their parents.”
Not saying that getting out of the house at 18 is specifically American, because I don’t see it as it. But it is a common thing that people believe only the Americans do.
But a lot of the times, what ends up happening is compromise. Parents cannot control what their children pick up and cannot impose the traditions on the children who do not even live in the countries where the traditions come from. So they compromise. Whatever is the best option and seems like the safest midpoint, that will be it.
14. People judge the person you date.
Date someone black and they’d say, “Oh, you are so multiracial/international, we’d think you’d date someone from different race.” Date someone different and they’d say, “Oh you are so ashamed of dating blacks?” Apparently there are hierarchies.
Please, we all know relationships don’t base on something that shallow.
15. You click with another hybrid – so easily.
It is hard for you to be best friends with those who haven’t experienced what you have. And you guys will clash on views and other things. But to click with another hybrid is one of the easiest things to do. Which, should pretty much explain my closest friends list.
16. You appreciate foods from, all over the world.
Because there are many types of foods your parents cook for you growing up. You miss whatever you don’t have the immediate access to at the moment, and because of that, you appreciate your meals wherever you are and whenever. You have a list of restaurants you want to visit or dishes you have been dreaming of, and you are ready to hand that list to your parents when it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, or even better, Summer.
17. When you find yourself in a place where people sound foreign, you feel at home.
Because that’s home. The diversity. The fact that there is no specific place you can call home is the most familiar feeling you have to a home. And you are so used to it, that you actually feel happy when you know you don’t understand what people are saying. It’s like, “Oh, here we go again.”
18. You feel left out when you are hanging out with one of the groups.
You hang out with the African group and something is lacking. You hang out with your American friends and something is missing. Sometimes, the most comfortable place you can go to is a group of international students, where everyone is from different places and has different ideas. It is sad, a lot of the times, to have other people look at you and classify you into another group. But know that you aren’t alone. There are tons of other people who are just like you. Just like us.