Posted by Alice Xin Liu on Monday, March 14, 2011 at 3:40 PM
Adrian Da Silva
I was born in Hong Kong, my mother is British and met my Macanese Chinese father here when her family moved to Hong Kong.
As a child, being Eurasian had no real impact on me. I went to an international school and everyone was different. Now I am older, I appreciate the ambiguity of being Eurasian, I kind of like not belonging to any particular ethnicity. It’s good to not be defined by any nationality and its accompanying stereotypes (although it has to be said that sometimes Eurasians have their own stereotype of being smart and good-looking!). Saying that, I think that this ambiguity is not the preserve of Eurasians alone. Being such a cosmopolitan place, people in Hong Kong generally have a choice to take what they want from each culture. Even if you belong to a nationality, it doesn’t mean that you have to be immersed in that nationality. A lot of Asians identify with other countries, for example in following football, or being fans of different music.
I play and sing in a band and although sometimes it seems a bit weird to be playing English music to a mostly local crowd, I feel that music is truly international – it doesn’t matter about language. Everyone knows who Michael Jackson is.
Being Eurasian has not really affected my music career. The only time it really comes up is during interviews when I’m always asked how I can look kind of Chinese and have lived here for 29 years and not speak Cantonese. The only answer I can give is that in the international school bubble, many if not most of us couldn’t speak Cantonese regardless of how long we’d been in Hong Kong or even if we had been born here.
When I meet other Eurasians, I don’t necessarily connect with them. There are so many types of Eurasians. I don’t like being labelled but I don’t mind being labelled Eurasian – to me, Eurasian is opposite to a label because it is something so undefined.
Within all cultures and nationalities there are so many divides, so the divide within myself is not important. I’m just proud to be from Hong Kong, to have grown up freely in a multicultural city.
Gillian Sadler née Wong
My father is Chinese from Malaysia and my mother is English. My father came to England in his early twenties. My mother first saw my father at a bus stop when she was just sixteen and they married when she was seventeen. My father used a whole year’s salary to buy her an engagement ring and he has devoted his life to making her happy ever since.
We were the first Chinese family in Perivale. Although it was a very multi-cultural part of London, there were no other Chinese there. I was born in England and lived with my family in London until about six years ago. I never faced any discrimination or racism at school but there was one family on our street who were very jealous of us and they used to shout things like ‘go back to China!’.
My dad is Buddhist and my mother an atheist. That’s not the least of their differences but they’ve agreed to disagree! Only one of my dad’s brothers took issue with their relationship and as Eurasians, my twin and I were well accepted by the family – especially by my grandmother with whom we would have dinner twice a week. When I was growing up, it was my dad who did the cooking so we always ate Chinese food. We also celebrated all the Chinese festivals and always had a close association with Asia, going to Malaysia three times a year.
Although I do have some family in Hong Kong, I actually came here for work. Because of my Chinese background, despite having lived all my life in London, I didn’t experience any real culture shock. My outlook has always been quite Asian – I’m somewhat superstitious and believe in karma. It’s interesting: although my twin sister was brought up in the same place, in the same way, I would say that I have always been more Chinese than she is.
When I was modelling a few years back, Eurasians were an extremely popular choice for their appearance. Saying that, people often cannot tell that I’m Eurasian. In New York they think I’m Hispanic, in London they think I’m Italian. In Hong Kong, it is rare that someone guesses that I’m half Chinese.
I love being Eurasian. In my mind, Eurasians are exotic and beautiful and can have an effect on places and people. I think we have a presence.
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The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
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