Kathy Mak – A Honkie Kiwi
Kathy Mak was born in Hong Kong. But since the age of 7 she has travelled between HK and New Zealand. So like many TCKs she is conflicted when it comes to identifying home. For Kathy her nationality is both Hong Kong and New Zealand. To her she is “a Honkie Kiwi”. We catch up with her to share her thoughts on identity and belonging.
I am currently a Digital Marketer but have been performing all my life. My aspiration is to continue to entertain others and bring laughter to those around me.
Out of Place or Best of Both Worlds?
Kathy, like many TCKs, is faced with standard TCK questions:
Often I am asked, “Where are you from?”
I reply, “Here, Hong Kong”.
This is followed up with, “Oh really? But have you lived somewhere else before?”
To save him from asking the next series of 4 or 5 questions, I take a deep breath and answer: “I first went to New Zealand when I was seven. I studied for a few years and came back for secondary school. Then, I went back to New Zealand for sixth form until I graduated university. So, in total, I have been there for 9 years…And yes, there are more sheep than people but I don’t see them strolling down the streets every day.”
“I am so thankful for the unique mixture of experiences that has shaped me into the one-of-a-kind individual I am today”
Sure, being a Third Culture kid has its frustrations. Things like long introductions, misunderstandings, and feeling like you don’t completely belong to any certain race or culture all your life. But now, I am so thankful for the unique mixture of experiences that has shaped me into the one-of-a-kind individual I am today, to be able to be immersed in the best parts of being a local Hongkonger and so much from the English speaking world.
Sense of Community
Apart from race and origin, a sense of community can be developed through any common passion, values and interests. For me, those includes dancing, singing, being active and really enjoying life. Being bi-lingual and have a cross-cultural background vastly broadens the scope of people with whom you can interact and connect with. It’s what allows me to dance in local studios and productions. I am able to perform in English musicals and theatre productions. To work for local as well as expatriate companies, and celebrate Chinese traditions with my relatives, just to name a few of the perks.
Of course, there are times when you feel lost in conversations about certain cultural references. One has to deal with misunderstandings, like when your Asian relatives just do not understand why you often go to the “hell-hole” that is Lan Kwai Fong. Anyone else been in fights with your folks over this? That is why there are unique bonds between HK TCKs when they meet. There are instant connections as experiences are so relatable. When you meet someone who can sing along to Mr Brightside AND hits from Leslie Cheung, you know this is a friend to keep because you can relate on so many levels.
Schooling struggles – Toughen up!
Before getting to enjoy the buffet of multiculturalism, I had to go through the struggles of adjusting to different schools in different countries just as most TC kids do. Moving back and forth since I was a child has forced me to adopt to the surroundings because quitting and leaving is simply not an option.
For instance, when I used to say, “Excuse me”.
Other kids thought I was saying, “Kiss me! Kiss me!”
I quickly learned to pronounce it correctly! In a way, things were easier as a child since I felt no shame and I adapted to situations more quickly.
Things got a little tougher when I returned to Hong Kong and had to study in a local school. I literally cried over learning Chinese literature because it felt like forcing you to learn Shakespeare when you can barely form full English sentences! Looking in hindsight, I am so glad I persevered. It is extremely useful knowing Chinese. But I also find that developing the skill of adapting to my situations has caused me to build a resilient character. When I moved on to studying actual Shakespeare back in “the land of the long white clouds” (NZ), I didn’t have to cry this time.
“Sometimes it takes for you to be in a foreign place to discover your individuality”
As a kid or teenager, we try so hard to fit in and make changes to be like other people around us. The older I get, the more I love and appreciate the uniqueness my upbringing has brought me. Sometimes it takes for you to be in a foreign place to discover your individuality. I’m happy to make the most out of what’s been given to me.
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