I never really fully embraced my Chinese culture and background. Sure, some of it makes up who I am, but some of it just doesn’t make sense. I do understand that some practices and myths in any culture can stem from something long ago. Like, many Koreans can’t sleep with a fan on at night because they were told it could kill them in their sleep. There’s no concrete origin, but there are conspiracy theories surrounding that. I learned recently that it’s not an uncommon practice for Latino people to toss their used toilet paper in the trash bin (as opposed to flushing it). And that stems from normally poor plumbing in the mother land. In Arizona, a Navajo teen told me that he’s not supposed to tie knots during the day because then the spiders might eat him at night (or something like that). I’m sure you’ve heard or seen your fair share. Sometimes its not culture based, like who made up the myth that storing batteries in a refrigerator makes them last longer? At a young age, I was told that I shouldn’t eat sashimi without wasabi, cause the germs might give me an upset stomach and wasabi kills the germs. I believed that for the longest time too.. Probably my favorite difference between Western and Asian culture is the concept of waiting in line.
Some of these things are just plain silly, but the thing that bothers me the most is the way Chinese culture revolves around stoic acceptance, saving face, keeping quiet and shame. As you can probably gather from my previous posts, I’m not the most talented individual, I just put effort in and take the time to learn from failures and mistakes. Obviously, growing up in a Chinese household, there was a high standard for academics and achievement. A standard so high that I still don’t think I meet it. I’m not just saying that either. I wasn’t the type of kid that complained about getting an A- in high school. I was the type that celebrated getting a B-. So, as you could imagine, there was a lot of disappointment directed my way. Maybe it was just the way I perceived it, but my parents made it a point to make me feel ashamed for my below average grades, for getting into a cal state (rather than a UC or quality private school), for taking 5 years to graduate college, for not having a job immediately after graduating, for being unemployed for a small period of time, and recently, for being single (still). But despite it all, I turned out okay, and am still okay. The worst part of it is I’ve bought into this thinking process. I’ve caught myself many times judging someone based on what they haven’t achieved or have yet to achieve. And I feel that’s a pretty toxic way to think. Yeah, you can use it for good and the betterment of yourself, but when that becomes your only purpose, It takes a toll on you. It’s definitely not the safest environment in which to learn how to fail.
I was taught and told to withhold my struggles from my friends or trusted counselors. As if the problems in our lives were something to be faced alone. I mean, what is there to hide anyway? If I was going through a season of difficulty in school or unemployment, should I not be able to present them to my friends such that they could pray for me or encourage me? Illogical in my eyes. This was more apparent when my mom tried to shield my sister when she was initially diagnosed with leukemia. I was told not to talk about it at all, and even to only pray about it in secret. I did some research, and this is apparently a common practice; there’s something shameful about cancer in Chinese culture and the need to tell no one. Again, illogical in me eyes. We are all broken as human beings anyway, right? No need for masks and facades.
As we learn in the book of James, there is joy in suffering. It tells us not necessarily to be happy in our pain, but rather rejoice in the blessings that accompany suffering. Why should we ever feel ashamed while going through tough times? Just my scattered thoughts.
“..Hemmo our shame, an let us go
Fo all da kine bad stuff we do to you,
Jalike us guys let da odda guys go awready,
And we no stay huhu wit dem
Fo all da kine bad stuff dey do to us…”