• Ann K.


Updated: Feb 26

@Himeji, Japan

*Enculturation “is the process by which people learn the dynamics of their surrounding culture and acquire values and norms appropriate or necessary in that culture and worldviews.”

How do you belong?

I often find myself relating to people from a plethora of different places but realize very few can relate to ALL of me.

Even in my passport countries, I sometimes can't help but feel like an alien. Sometimes it just seems like I'm floating between worlds. You do your utmost to blend in, even as on the inside, everything about you is screaming "other".

When I was a little girl growing up in Tokyo, I remember visiting a Japanese family friend and being invited into their Tatami (a traditional type of mat made with rice straw) room. My siblings and I sat down posed in a seiza style (kneeling on the floor, folding one's legs underneath the thighs, while resting the buttocks on the heels) for the entirety of our visit. So much so that our host was super impressed that we behaved much better than the ordinary Japanese child. This was just one of our attempts to prove we were equal to our Japanese counterparts.

There was also this time when I was helping some Caucasian friends at the Great Wall in Beijing trying to barter down the price of some souvenirs using Chinese. Then as an experiment, my Chinese friend walked into that same store a few minutes after we had left, asked for the price of those same souvenirs and was given a starting price two-thirds less than what we had bartered down to. It doesn't matter if you speak the language, it always matters what you look like.

I was working a part-time job at Starbucks in Fukuoka during college. On random occasions, I'd be graced by the presence of a Japanese customer who would say something like, "Wow, your Japanese is so good!" (in Japanese). Should I have complimented him/her on their Japanese in return? In these instances, they assumed I wasn't Japanese merely because I'm mixed; based off my looks that are Asian but not Japanese enough.

This same situation happens in the U.S. as well, especially when working customer service jobs. I often get complimented, “Wow, where did you learn English so well?”. Am I allowed to compliment them on their English?

In Japan, when I'd mention I worked at Starbucks, specifically the one near the main station in Fukuoka, sometimes acquaintances would say, "Oh, that's you! I thought I saw a foreigner working there!" (in Japanese). Did it never cross their mind that I'm Japanese just like them?

Living in Japan, even though I have a passport that says I’m Japanese, I still look, feel, and act like an alien most days. Like that time when I went to visit Korea and entered through the port of Busan. The immigration official stared at my Japanese passport, then at me, then at the passport and finally said, "Is this really you?". Looks matter.

Not belonging has been a lifestyle for me because I'm sometimes very different and can’t avoid feeling like a fish out of water.

However, throughout these past few years, I have become more accustomed to assimilating and fitting in and when I simply can’t fit in, I’ve been learning how to cope. Enculturation doesn’t happen overnight; it will always be a lifelong pursuit that never ends.

So, where do you belong?









この同じような状況は、特にカスタマーサービスの仕事をしているときに、米国でも起こります。 「おー、どこで英語をそんなによく学んだの?」(英語で)と褒められます。わたしは彼らの英語を褒めてもいいのでしょうか?







*文化熏染“指 “人的一生中为获得文化教养而学习的过程,常用作“社会化”的同义语,但后者使用更广泛”






我上大学时曾在福冈的星巴克打零工。在偶然的情况下,我会为日本客户的出现感到高兴,他会说:“哇,你的日语真好!” (日语)。作为回报,我应该夸一下他/她的日语?在这些情况下,他们认为我不是日本人,因为我是混血儿,基于我的亚洲面孔,但又不完全像日本人。