Navigating Between Two Cultures

I’m sure a lot of people can relate with this but I’ve always felt like I’ve been pulled in two separate directions. Among family and most my friends (now that I think about it) are Korean and every other part of my life, I’m American.

Growing up, I’ve always been told “You’re Korean!”

Yet when I talk to them, they always feel the need to explain what they’re saying in Korean because they think I don’t understand what they’re saying – I do. And it’s not like I don’t agree with them because I’m actually really proud of my Korean heritage. I think this is true especially because I’m American and I’m surrounded by many people who don’t know their full heritage. There’s also the fact that no one looks at me and automatically assumes that I’m American. They look at me and one of the first questions they ask is, “Where are you from?” Like it hadn’t occurred to them that I would every answer this question as, “I’m from the United States.”

I’m also a really quiet person, even when I was growing up, and sometimes I would go through the whole conversation not saying anything – my sister would be the one talking – and they would ask her, “Does she speak English?”

When I was growing up as a child, my parents listened to Korean trot music. We didn’t listen to old 70s-90s Western music. I think it was last year but a member from Queens had passed away and at that time, I had no idea who that was. And when I told my co-workers this they were very, very surprised. And I remember one of my managers (just a little older than I was) who said in response to my, “I’m too young”, “So? I’m not that much older than you and I grew up listening to them!”

But a lot of this also comes from how I view myself, not just how others view me. I think that I’m still confused on what I should consider myself. Korean-American? American? I’ve spoken to a lot of people who feel the same way I do and they say that this confusion is temporary. There will be a moment when how I identify myself will dawn on me and I won’t be confused as to which culture I really belong with. I’m in a weird middle spot with no idea where I’m supposed to be at. But that was back in high school, and it’s already been 7 years since then. Is there a point where I’ll be comfortable where I’m at?

After thinking about this (numerous times and I think I’ve mentioned this in a couple different posts too), I think I’m too fixated on where I “belong”. I think it’s okay to be confused! And maybe I’m not being pulled in two separate directions but I’m a part of two different communities – two communities that occasionally intertwine with each other. And that’s okay!