Growing Up Eurasian
As a kid, the most common question I would ask my mom was “What am I?”. While she patiently explained my genetic make-up, I never understood why I had to have lighter hair and thicker eyebrows.
Although I’ve come to fully embrace my ethnicity as an adult, it doesn’t stop people from asking me the same question “What are you?”
Don’t get me wrong, I love being Eurasian. But as part of the 0.4% population in Singapore, growing up as a minority was nothing short of a constant identity struggle.
1. Sticking out like a sore thumb in school
As a kid, I detested the first day of school because of the mandatory introduction we had to give. For most people, it’s effortlessly easy. But for me, it always turned into a 3-minute Q&A about my life.
“Why is your name so long? Which one is your surname? What do I call you? How do you pronounce this? Where is your dad from? Is he blond? Does your mom have yellow fever?”
Not only did my name attract unwanted attention, but also the way I looked.
For the longest time, I was jealous of everyone’s thin noses and jet black hair. I even went to the extent of shaving my naturally bushy eyebrows because someone said they looked like caterpillars.
Well, jokes on you now Rachel, I hope your big, blank, eyebrow-less forehead is doing well.
2. Being mistaken for my dad’s wife
Looking older than I actually am is probably one of the worst things about being Eurasian. Although I got away with underage drinking, it’s poor consolation for being constantly mistaken as my dad’s wife.
When it first happened to me at 15, I shrugged it off as the waitress’s misjudgement. Eventually, I Iearnt about the yellow fever, and I never went out with my dad alone again.
3. Being called ‘big’
For as long as I can remember, my feet have never been smaller than a size 40. And at 9 years old, I was wearing jeans meant for 14 year olds.
Aunties would casually describe me as ‘big’, which seemed more hurtful than being called ‘fat’.
Every Chinese New Year, my relatives would talk about how I was bigger than all my petite aunts and uncles because there is obviously nothing more interesting than criticising someone’s body right in front of them.
4. Being told I “don’t look ang moh”
If I had a dollar every time someone said this to me, I’d be able to afford plastic surgery to look like J-Law.
5. Then being accused of “step ang moh”
Every time I hear this, it low-key #triggers me.
Growing up with an English father, I naturally picked up his British accent but it never fully developed because my Asian ‘Tiger’ mum generously sprinkles her speech with “lahs”, “one” and “KNN”.
My resultant accent is a fusion of theirs, so it’s easy for people to assume I’m ‘faking it’ when that’s how I speak in real life.
6. People assuming I can’t speak my mother tongue
For the first few years of primary school, my teachers would assume I couldn’t speak Mandarin very well and even suspected me of cheating when I got As.
It only stopped when I topped the school for writing the best Chinese composition in Primary 4.
7. The clashing of culture and religion
Unlike what most people believe, growing up Eurasian isn’t always a pleasant harmony of East meets West. Rather than having the best of both worlds, it felt more like the clash of two civilisations.
As an inbetweener, learning the customs and traditions of both cultures was a must in order not to offend my parents.
This means I’m a Christian on Sundays until I have to be Buddhist for Chinese New Year or Hungry Ghost Festival.
Oh, I’m also forced to eat pasta and quinoa with chopsticks.
8. Embarrassing Chinese name
My full Chinese name is seven characters long, and it roughly translates to ‘beautiful salad’.
9. Cultural stereotypes according to both races
As kids, we made racist jokes because we didn’t know any better. But for every racist joke thrown at my monoracial friends, I get double the dose because I’m mixed.
So according to stereotypes, I’m Asian-level smart but also one bleaching session away from becoming the “dumb blonde”.
10. Feeling like I don’t belong to any racial group
Being an introvert, socialising was a pain especially when there was a tendency for primary school cliques to be segregated by race.
While this isn’t to say my classmates of different races didn’t mix or become friends with each other, I noticed the Chinese, Indian and Malay kids would sit separately on the long recess table.
As the only Eurasian kid in my school, it made me wonder, “Where are the ‘Others’ like me?”
Living The Half Ang Moh Life
In all honesty, it’s wonderful being able to grow up in a household where two different ethnicities are not just tolerated, but celebrated.
With an increasing number of mixed relationships and marriages in Singapore, it gives me hope that with better understanding, our society will someday be able to truly embrace our differences, regardless of race, language, and religion.