Different customs, harmonized to create one unique identity

June 14, 2012 1 comment

Pamela is biracial Korean and Caucasian and grew up in a predominately white, small town in Northen California. She experienced culture shock when she moved to the very diverse Orange County, which lead her to examine society’s differing perspectives of her as a mixed woman.

Whilst at UC Irvine she helped run an on-campus organization for multiracial/multicultural students, which explores multicultural identities in a society that has a difficult time finding a “category” for them. Read on to find out more.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How would your friends or family describe you?

I am described by friends as an honest person that stays true to my character no matter the situation. My family describes me as outgoing, focused, driven and caring.

Where do you live? Where are you from? If those are different, can you tell us a little about what inspired your move?

I live in Orange County, CA. But I grew up in Placerville, CA- a small town in the foothills and mining county of Northern California. I moved to Orange County to attend UC Irvine and have decided to stay because it has become my new home. I love the diversity of cultures within this bustling Southern California area, which is quite the opposite of my hometown.

If you would describe yourself as multi-cultural, tell us a bit about what culture you most identify with and why.

I am multicultural for multiple reasons. Mainly because I am biracial. My mother is Korean and my father is Caucasian, and that is why I identify as Hapa, or mixed. Growing up where I did, I was always categoriszed as “Asian” since I looked different from everyone else, and my “other” half was Asian. Yes, my mother ran a Korean household, but I would spend a lot of time with my white grandmother who was from the mid-west, so the customs I grew up with were very different, but harmonized to create a unique identity.

I embrace both cultures that make up who I am. I am fortunate to be able to embrace my multicultural identity since I live in such a diverse place. I enjoy learning about other cultures as well. Unfortunately, not everyone has this luxury as there are still many parts of the U.S. and around the world that treat mixed people differently, or punish them for their parents having had a mixed race relationship.

What books or films would you recommend someone who’d like to know more about your country?

I recommend watching Chasing Daybreak, a film about mixed race in America. This film helped support a movement among colleges in the U.S. to start mixed race, multicultural clubs that investigate and support identity exploration for mixed race individuals. I joined the one at UCI, M.I.X., and it really helped me be comfortable and embrace my mixed identity.

Tell me about your favorite holiday, and what cultural traditions you practice to celebrate on that day.

I celebrate Chinese New Year, which a lot of my friends didn’t understand, they’d say, “but aren’t you half Korean?” they didn’t know that many Asian countries and cultures follow the Chinese Lunar calendar.

So this holiday is always a wonderful one for our home since my mom cooks up some of the best Korean food dishes.

Describe a favorite typical meal from your country

Let me describe at typical Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner in my home. We do the turkey, or roast, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, all the usual trimmings. But without a doubt, there will be kimchi on the table.

What’s something that visitors are often surprised by when getting to know your country/culture?

I think most people are surprised to find that I am comfortable in my mixed identity. A common stereotype heard throughout the mixed community is that we should be confused about who we are. Sure, there may have been a phase here and there, but for the most part, we know who we are, and we embrace it. After all, as cultures continue to diversify, there will be more and more mixed race individuals.

Read more:
Black and white: portraits of interracial couples
Afro-Argentineans: where are they?
Sudanese impressions of US culture

About the author

Lucy (Liz) Chatburn
Lucy is English and first ventured out of the UK she was 19. Since then she has lived in 4 different countries and tried to see as much of the world as possible. She loves learning languages, learning about different cultures and hearing different points of view.
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1 Comment

  • Ellen

    Pam very well written,I am so proud of the young lady you have become.you are a very caring,loving and strong young lady.You have worked so hard all your life and I always knew you would make something of yourself in Life.You deserve only the best in life.Sweetie keep up the good work.
    We all Love you very much.
    Ellen