How Can You Be From Two Cultures At Once? American Born Chinese Essay Example

Being from two cultures at once and not wanting to completely forget the other half seems like a troublesome task to have. Implementing two cultures into someone’s regular life may almost seem like a glorified form of multitasking. However, by spending time equally with both cultures, taking pride in each part of their cultural identity, and mixing both cultures together, being bicultural will almost seem secondhand. It may sound like a difficult concept to comprehend, but Amy Tan’s short story “Fish Cheeks, Fatima Reyes’ article: I Negotiated My Identity Between Two Cultures and Two Generations, and Camille A. Brown’s TED talk: Visual History Of Social Dance In 25 Moves, can help anyone who is having trouble with their bicultured identity. 

Visiting both sides of their family can give them more insight into their culture as well as fulfillment to spend time equally with both cultures. In Kelly Simpson’s painting The Power Of Hope, they’re two women holding a girl’s hands up, they are all from different cultures and the girl appears to be a mix of both of them. From this painting, seeing the split of both cultures, but also the blend of two cultures is apparent. In the description of the painting, Kelly Simpson says, “I love painting different cultures and colors all together, celebrating life and hope”(Simpson). Different cultures all together can justify that someone can visit both sides of their family equally and not have to give up one side of their family for the simplicity of people around them.

Furthermore, taking the time to learn about the cultures around them can also be very beneficial for spending time with their family equally.  In Serge Mounague’s, accompanied by Karen Frances Eng, blog post: A Deft Beautiful Blend of West African and Japanese Design and Culture, Serge discusses how he fell in love with the Japanese culture when he moved there and wanted to incorporate Cameroonian culture with Japanese culture. This displays that Serge is able to fuse both cultures together while having enough obvious contrast to show which is which. In his blog post, he explains that “He fell in love with the country and became inspired to fuse aesthetic elements of Japanese and West African culture into a unique endeavor” (Mounague and Frances Eng). Serge was able to explore those cultures around him and was able to create them into something new to fulfill his lifestyle and creative mindset. Serge is able to take the time to learn about the culture around him and implement Japanese culture into his regular life shows that anyone can make being bicultural a subconscious addition.  

Someone taking pride in each part of their cultural identity is extremely helpful towards acceptance as well. Taking pride in customs seems to be the first step. In Amy Tan’s short story Fish Cheeks, Amy is embarrassed by her Chinese heritage and customs at Christmas dinner. Instead of stereotypical American food, Amy’s mom made fish, squid, prawns, and tofu. During the dinner, Amy was afraid that the minister and his son would judge her family and culture. In the end, Amy becomes proud of her Chinese and American identity and is able to accept her customs as well as her individuality despite her community. Her mother hands her a gift for Christmas while telling her, “You want to be the same as American girls on the outside,” while handing her a miniskirt in beige, “

But inside you must always be Chinese. You must be proud to be different. Your only shame is to have shame” (Tan 2). Amy’s mom telling her to be proud supports being proud of customs because being able to accept the types of mannerisms is incredibly beneficial in taking pride in each part of cultural identity. Later in the short story, it’s easy to notice Amy becoming more understanding of her mother’s lesson as she says, “That I was able to fully appreciate her lesson and the true purpose behind our particular menu” (Tan 2). Her understanding of what her mother displays that she is ready to accept being a Chinese-American and that she also doesn’t believe in the stereotypical ‘American girl’ standards.

Additionally, someone being proud of their bicultural individuality is another layer towards taking pride in each part of cultural identity. In Camille A. Brown’s TED talk: “ A Visual History of Social Dance in 25 Moves,” she examines the individuality of African dances from when the African people were unwillingly shipped to the Americas and coerced to adopt the American culture. Dancing was one way to express their culture while being stripped of their origin.

They may have not been proud of their American culture and were most likely irritated by it. However, they were proud people who weren’t going to sacrifice one side of their identity of the basis of pressure. One dance that the Africans created from their experience was called the Juba dance. “The Juba dance was born from enslaved Africans' experience on the plantation. Brought to the Americas, stripped of a commonly spoken language, this dance was a way for enslaved Africans to remember where they're from” (Brown). Dancing was one way to express language and traditions for African people stuck in an era of forced culture. Instead of adhering to only one side of their now bicultural identity, the African people were proud and wanted to remember where they were from.

Although being from two cultures at once can seem like a normal thing in many peoples’ lives, The most difficult thing to make a reality is mixing two cultures together. Nelli Ferenczi and Tara Marshall explain in one of their articles about being in an environment of two separate cultures “What Being Stuck between Two Cultures Can Do to a Person's Psyche.” That being bicultural can often make people feel incredibly lonely because of little to no acceptance. Being from two cultures is definitely more difficult than being from one. Most bicultural people choose to only identify with only one part of their identity to avoid ridicule for being only half of one culture. As said in the article, “Bicultural people may experience their upbringing as the collision of multiple worlds.

They sometimes face criticism for stepping outside the bounds of what’s normally acceptable in their heritage culture” (Marshall and Ferenczi).  Naturally, for a bicultural person, they’re bicultured physically but some don't feel that way mentally or emotionally. Criticism and ridicule from peers or people from their family can cause someone who is bicultured to abolish one part of their identity just to fit in and seem normally acceptable. However, according to research, bicultural people are more flexible and understanding people and being bicultural is an incredibly beneficial trait. Mixing traditions and activities is the easier route to being able to mix cultures together. Especially if they aren’t near family. Fatima Reyes talks about her experience of mixing her Salvadorian and Canadian culture together in her article I Negotiated My Identity Between Two Cultures and Two Generations. Even after longing to fit in with the majority in her community, she was proud of her bicultural identity and didn’t want to change it because of her peers.

For example, Reyes says, “Despite my longing to fit in at school, my parents raised me to be proud of our culture and our language.” As well as, “ I would happily explain my cultural food or traditions to anyone who asked” (Reyes). Even though Reyes’ parents had a major influence, she slowly started to become proud of her own of her bicultural identity on her own and stopped trying to fit in with the white majority around her. Reyes was able to accept herself, and she was also able to mix traditional foods with her daily life. Carrying out daily activities into one culture while living in another can be incredibly helpful and beneficial in the long run of mixing cultural activities and traditions.

Mixing cultures together, taking pride in each culture, and spending time equally with different cultures may seem like the three most important things to accomplish in being from two cultures at once. However, those three are only a small portion of the many things someone can do to make being bicultural seem secondhand. Fish Cheeks by Amy Tan,  I Negotiated My Identity Between Two Cultures and Two Generations by Fatima Reyes, and A Visual History Of Social Dance In 25 Moves are great resources to aid in adding cultural traditions into regular life. Acceptance in being from two cultures at once may take a long time to achieve, but in the end, acceptance of identity is one of the most important parts of life.

Works Cited

Brown, Camille A., director. A Visual History of Social Dance in 25 Moves. TED, June 2016, 

Ferenczi, Nelli, and Tara Marshall. “What Being Stuck between Two Cultures Can Do to a Person's Psyche.” The Conversation, 13 Jan. 2019, 

Mouangue, Serge. “A Deft, Beautiful Blend of West African and Japanese Design and Culture.” Ideas.Ted.Com , 2017,

Reyes, Fatima, and Fatima Reyes. “I Negotiated My Identity Between Two Cultures And Generations.” HuffPost Canada, HuffPost Canada, 31 Oct. 2016, 

Simpson, Kelly. The Power Of Hope. 2016. 

Tan, Amy. “Fish Cheeks .” Short Stories for Students. Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, by Kristen A. Dorsch, Gale, 2018, pp. 22–23.



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