My culture is what I choose

MERaquela Petre,
San Francisco, CA.

I am half Filipino and half Swedish, Swiss, and German. However I was born in Hawaii and grew up around second- and third-generation Japanese friends. I decidedly learned Japanese in school and studied there for a year, yet I know close to no Tagalog. I also studied in England, where I found myself a little lost with the lack of an Asian presence. There I met my boyfriend who is from Mumbai, which is why I started learning Hindi to be able to speak to his parents. My life has always been a weird mix of cultures, and I feel I have never really felt ‘biologically’ connected to any one ethnic group of people; however when I travel outside the country I definitely understand how American my mannerisms are and can at least define myself in that way. My facial features are such that I can “blend in” to some societies if they decide to view me that way– in Japan I could pass as half Japanese, and in India I looked Indian if I wore traditional clothes. In England I wasn’t noticed until I spoke, and after moving to California from Hawaii, I’d sometimes get the question “you sound a little different, where are you from?” I can’t really relate to my Filipino roots because I wasn’t raised in that culture, nor to my European ancestry because that was several generations ago. Heck, even in a Chinese restaurant my white dad chooses to eat with chopsticks when my mom picks up a fork and spoon– I suppose there are some things you need to decide on your own in life, and my culture is honestly what I choose it to be.

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