Nepali Times Asian Paints
Nation
Hyphenated children


NINA PINE


Mixed race children have to deal with the issue of identity all the time but being called 'cultural cocktail&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#̵'216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;', 'global nomads', or even 'a bum between two chairs' doesn't help.

Every day, they face problems from language barriers to identifying with one culture or another and therefore with divergent social beliefs and values.

"My mother is English, Irish and Indian and my father is American and I've lived in Nepal my whole life," says one student, then she asks with a smile, "so where do you think I'm from?"

Most individuals who are of mixed race like to think of themselves as global citizens, they travel the world, have attended international schools and because of their exposure feel comfortable in any cultural milieu. The most direct problem is one of language, they have more than one to learn and bilingualism among mixed parent children is common.

Just as individuals who have grown up in a country other than their own learn that country's native language, children of mixed race often embrace both of their parent's languages. A German-American student explains that the reason he speaks both his parents' languages is because he grew up being constantly exposed to these two cultures and languages.

On the other hand, there are factors that can determine whether a child is bilingual or not. Children will tend to speak whichever language their parents speak, as that is what the child is exposed to (therefore, if parents speak in English with each other, then English will most likely be that child's first language).

The country where they spend their young years can also determine what languages the child will learn. "My parents always spoke in English while I was growing up because we were living in the US," said a Nepali-British student, "so naturally English was my first language."

At the same time, parents can make a positive impact by making sure children don't forget their culture even if the family lives a nomadic life. Says an Indian student: "Even though I have never lived in India, my parents made sure that I learnt how to speak and write in my native tongue."

Multilingualism among dual culture children makes it easier for them to fit in wherever they go and learn extra languages if they want. And as today's youth become increasingly international, being able to speak a number of languages is not only useful but in many cases an essential skill.

Some mixed race individuals are better at dealing with the cross-cultural pull of their parents countries than others. This will include everyday dealings with people: social beliefs, etiquette, cultural rituals, religion and even food.

"Since I am both Nepali and American, Nepalis don't consider me Nepali and Americans don't think of me as American. I'm either a kuiri or the 'Asian kid'," says one teenager in Kathmandu.

Being an individual of multiple nationalities can be challenging at times as the children find themselves either choosing one of their parents' cultures or identity with a daring mixture of both.

"I've lived here most of my life, so I feel more Nepali than I do American. I just can relate to Nepali culture and customs more than those of the US," admits another student.

Religion is another area that children of mixed-race have to deal with and most end up keeping the faith of both religions or not being very religious at all. A student whose father is Jewish and mother Buddhist grew up as a Buddhist although the family did take the occasional Jewish holiday. "I am asked if my beliefs conflict," she says, "but such a concern never really occurred to me-I've never looked for the contrasts."

Despite the difficulties of being a mixed race individual, most tend to enjoy their mixture of cultures because it gives them a unique perspective. "It's as if I can look at the world with two pairs of eyes," says one Nepali-American, "I'm a living contradiction I guess - and I'm loving every minute of it."

Nine Pine is herself a Nepali-American and lives in Kathmandu.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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