An introspection by anonymous TCK with Korean, German, Mexican and American background, now living in Kansas, USA (for the sake of privacy, I won’t link her blog nor reveal her name):
Even before my family moves to Germany, I wasn’t the most popular kid on the block. So I guess my being of TCK wasn’t the only reason of me kept being alienated by others. But I think being a TCK acted in a way strengthening the isolation.
Some things I remember before moving to Germany: kids on the block would come to me as if they are my friends. Then steal my toys. Then bully me. Consequently I became a bookworm so maybe I should thank them…?
In Germany: German kids were not the most friendly kids, but they usually left me alone. That was when I first realized the benefits of individualism. I still do not get why the kids at Korean church bullied me so much. Girls would pick on me, and boys did not play with me because I am a girl. So again, I was a bookworm.
After Germany, in Korea: First, Korean kids would come to me out of curiosity. Soon the drill repeated. Steal my German toys and bully. Sometimes kids would throw rocks or balls to me. By the time of my junior high, someone slapped me without a particular reason. Interestingly, they’d be my “friends” when exam was close. So touched, I would help them with everything. After exam, I was bullied again…One day we went to a school trip. The instructors would make us to pick a class representative and introduce his/herself in front of everyone. All of sudden, that kids who bullied me, pushed me to be the representative, saying “you speak English! You can do it in English!” I did my self-introduction in German. Basically, the people used me for some flashy display of bragging, without any knowledge of the language I speak.
…compared to some other victims of bullying, my experience is nothing. Maybe my grade helped. Some teachers gave me special treatments because I was a good grade student. Still, the damage done was pretty big – I started to think “well, people dislike me here, so I’d better disappear.”
So I did disappear to another continent. By that point of my life, I already had a default belif in myself: people s do not like me. Repairing this took a long, long time, involving a great host mom whom I met in college, a very kind professor and now my loving husband. Lots of depression and pain and good-for-nothing acts were there, and I am still not totally free from it.
Of course, not all Koreans were bad to me. The Koreans I met here are very nice. But still, at some corner of my brain, I don’t let my guards down, saying to myself they are different kind: wealthy enough and know things enough to come to study abroad. Maybe it is because I saw so many Koreans who were complete opposite. Many Korean immigrants in Mexico came to South America, because life in Korea was tough for them. I have no rights to say anything, because maybe they were simply struggling to survive. But still I’d rather not make friends with them – and I bet the feeling is mutual.
I have some affection to Korea. I tend to watch sports games if there is a Korean player, even if it is something I am normally not interested. I tend to cheer for Korea. I do feel happy when meeting a fellow Korean here (and of course, minutes later, my guard-instint follows). I am happy to hear news about Korean did something big. But where does this affection come from? Is it because of my passport? Or because I still speak in Korean with my family and eat Korean food a lot? Or read too much Korean history book? I still can’t tell.
Nevertheless I don’t doubt the fact I am Korean. I do get upset when gringos treat everything south of the border as Mexico; I advocate Germany against accusation of German language having way too strong pronunciations. But honestly, they are all “other countries” compared to Korea.
But if any one of you ask me, “so would you want to go back to Korea and live there?” I say no. No matter how I claim I am Korean, other Koreans won’t accept me as fellow Korean. Or, there will be lots of annoyance from others, commanding how I should change this and that to be true Korean, viewing me as someone a bit retarded. And possibly they will take advantage of me as a flashy display, just like my childhood experience. I don’t have much trust to Koreans in terms of that.
I can see some of you ready to say, “well then, never come back to Korea and hang out your Yankee friends using Yankee language!” Well, I did so for some time in my life. I rarely socialized with Koreans and rarely looked into Korean websites. It wasnt’ too hard, except the food. My offline life involves very little Korean anyway…
I don’t want to extinguish the Korean in me. I know I”ll never be another Banana, white, or Mexican. After all I still think I’m Korean, not Mexican or American. Does that mean I want to be 100% Korean? no. I don’t even know what it takes to be 100% Korean. All I am saying is, I’m just me. I admit I have precaution toward Koreans. But whenever someone asks for a help I do my best to help. To others who treat me well, I try to do the same. I’m just another human being.
I can’t say American society is the most open-minded one – at least the central America, where I live now. But here, as long as you don’t harm others, others leave you alone. Even if you are geek, as long as you give some decent output, people respect it (alright, you may be made fun of a bit but that’s about it). On the other hand, that “America rocks!” attitude is uncomfortable.
So I am fortunate to have an American husband, also a TCK grew up in Guatemala. We grew up in different environment but that is what we have in common. We don’t belong anywhere fully, thus we understand the insecurity and damages from identity crisis. So we can embrace each other.
Someone told me to be strong – whatever others say about you, just reply “it’s none of your fu**ing business.”
How much strength do I hold now to stand against all that outside forces trying to deny my identity? Back in the old days, I would just run away and hide. But now I want to be strong and say I am still Korean. And I really do not want to be afraid of living in Korea, and do not care about how my babies will be “mixed blood.”