Finding Home

siliconvalleyWe’ve covered in previous posts and comments on 8asians the topic of labels and self-identification. Some of the opposing points of view have caused some heated debates, specifically around one label that I use myself, Taiwanese-American. While I won’t justify my use of that label here, I did find the topic of how a person identifies oneself rather interesting, especially in relationship to the place he or she calls home.

Self-identification and finding home came to my attention again this week in a letter posted on Inside-Out China by Drifting Leaf. Drifting Leaf currently lives in Singapore, and is of Chinese descent. Her family moved to Singapore two generations ago, and she has never been to China. As Singapore evolves, Drifting Leaf, finds herself alienated from the country she’s grown up in and is considering migrating to another country. In the end, she wonders how to self-identify herself if she moves to say New Zealand. She wonders: A Singaporean New Zealander, Chinese New Zealander or just plain New Zealander???

While she may find comfort in putting a label on herself, I wonder if she’ll find her new home one that she’s comfortable in, given how uncomfortable she is in Singapore. She knows she can never fit into Chinese society, and doesn’t even consider moving to China. So she’s looking for home where others of Chinese descent have found homes for themselves outside of China.

I wrote a piece back in 2004 for my family blog on finding home, and am sharing part of it below:

All my life I’ve felt like I was an outsider. It wasn’t hard to feel left out, being one of the few Asians, much lest Chinese, growing up in suburban Long Island. I was different, and it showed up in my face, in the food brought to lunch, the holidays I celebrated, and other more subtle ways.

So it wasn’t all that strange, that when at the age of 20 I flew to Taiwan for the first time (after leaving at the age of 3), I felt extremely comfortable in my surroundings. I blended in, I spoke and understood most of the language everyone was speaking. I finally felt like I found the place where I belonged. But sure enough, as soon as that feeling came, that feeling left. Although I felt protected in Taiwan, it was obvious that I was different, too American for Chinese surroundings and culture.

Landing at CKS Airport in Taipei this morning [16 years after my first adult trip to Taiwan], made me reflect on all these thoughts again, about where home is, whether there’s a place in the world that I feel like I belong, that is indeed my “home” town. Although I will always feel like a certain part of me belongs in Taiwan, a certain part of me in Fuzhou, and even a part of me in Holbrook, LI where I grew up, I think “home” for me will always be Silicon Valley, California, my adopted home town, where I’ve been living and working for 14 years now.

Silicon Valley, California, where it’s normal to be Chinese and speak perfect English, where it’s normal to be a geek, into computers, and more interested in the latest digital gear rather than what the score was in last night’s game, where it’s normal to say you need to get some chips, and mean the latest DRAM, and not a bag of potato chips, where it’s normal to be both Asian and a Democrat, where it’s normal for a liberal to have a healthy discussion with a conservative, where it’s just as normal to go out and have a bowl of noodles as it is to go out and have a hamburger and fries, and where it’s normal to have a conversation about stock options, IPOs, and derivatives.

It’s good to have found a place to call home. There’s no place like home.

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About Tim

I'm a Chinese/Taiwanese-American, born in Taiwan, raised on Long Island, went to college in Philadelphia, tried Wall Street and then moved to the California Bay Area to work in high tech in 1990. I'm a recent dad and husband. Other adjectives that describe me include: son, brother, geek, DIYer, manager, teacher, tinkerer, amateur horologist, gay, and occasional couch potato. I write for about 5 different blogs including 8Asians. When not doing anything else, I like to challenge people's preconceived notions of who I should be.
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