Little Fleeting Moments of Our Bicultural Identity

by contributor · 3 comments

By Irène Nam

People commonly define culture by the customary beliefs, social forms, food and political inclinations of a country.

So for a very long time, growing up in a bicultural environment did not mean anything more relevant to me than eating rice with a fork.

What I realized though was how a Korean television program made me laugh so loud I could physically locate my vocal cords or how the subtle scent of a particular wood or a simple postcard from my cousin sprung a sense of belonging that I was incessantly longing for.

And I understand now that raising my sons in two cultures doesn’t just mean teaching Korean words or how to properly use chopsticks.

It is truly about opening their minds and letting them sway freely from one culture to another so that they expand in curiosity without experiencing fear or inadequacy.

It is about letting them experience, love, select and reject to eventually acknowledge and embrace.

I know very little about the history and economy of Korea. But I know that I love the brilliant and creative minds that this country fosters, the music, the wide variety of candy and stationery, and the feel of traditional fabrics.

And I believe these little fleeting moments that trail off as soon as I pick up my sons at school or make a phone call to my banker harvest the fragments of my identity, of who I am.

© Irene Nam

(This originally appeared in the 2006 Bilingual/Bicultural Family Network newsletter.)

Irène Nam, the daughter of first born Korean parents, grew up and lives in France. Irene is an avid writer and photographer.  You can find her at her blog as well as her photography website.

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1 Marta July 31, 2010 at 5:43 am

I love this article, and this part defines perfectly what I would love to give to my son too: ‘It is truly about opening their minds and letting them sway freely from one culture to another so that they expand in curiosity without experiencing fear or inadequacy. It is about letting them experience, love, select and reject to eventually acknowledge and embrace.’

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2 Corey July 31, 2010 at 12:30 pm

I love that quote too, Marta! When Irene first sent this to me back in 2006 a resounding YES came out from my depths. I felt like she had captured so much in so few words – leaving the reader able to resonate via their own meanings. All of these avenues of multilingual living that we experience in subtle yet profound ways – they rise and fall unexpectedly and brilliantly.

Thank you so much for your comment!

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