20 Signs You’re From a Culturally-Blended Family

Something I’ve always taken for granted is being biracial.  My mom is a Pacific Islander, and she was born and raised on Guam:


This is my mum, when she was in her 20s. Clearly she’s in her natural island habitat.

My dad, on the other hand, has Scandanavian and Irish roots and grew up in a Southern Baptist family.


This is my dad, looking happy because he survived living in California throughout the 60’s and 70’s.

I never thought about it much as a kid, not because I lived in a particularly diverse neighborhood (which I did from 6 to 16), but because no one made a big deal out of it.  Admittedly, I did have a short stint in 1st grade where I was absolutely convinced that I was 1/3 Korean.  Don’t ask me why.  I wrote about it in my diary, including drawings of pie charts for visual reference.  It’s no wonder people always said I was a “unique” child.

Then I started high school at a very small private institution where the other kids had no qualms about asking, “So…what are you?”  (Needless to say, this was again a frequent inquiry when I went to college at yet another very small private institution.)  Suddenly I was hyper-aware of my biracial status, and it took awhile for me to calm down and accept the fact that I’m as blended as a Frappaccino.  To be clear, I have never felt “discriminated” against for being biracial or being a “minority.”  Actually, one of the perks is that I have the exemption to make potentially offensive jokes about minorities because, technically, I’m one of them.  (Although obviously it’s always lighthearted and in jest.)  The biggest difference I’ve ever noticed has been at home.   Were it not for these telltale signs, I may have grown up thinking I was just your average suburban white kid.

20 Signs You’re From a Culturally-Blended Family


We don’t always take family photos, but when we do, we bring our pipes, cowboy hats, and foreign brides. Also, apologies if you, too, are traumatized by the mutton chops.

  1. There are multiple rice cookers in your kitchen.
  2. Strangers will try to guess your ethnicity.  Apparently these people do not consider it offensive.  You don’t see me trying to guess the natal gender of “Pat,” your sexually ambiguous spouse,” do you?
  3. As a kid, you were taught to call genitals by friendly euphemisms…in a foreign language.
  4. In any photo with your extended family, you stick out like a sore thumb.
  5. When you go to the beach with your white friends, you end up four shades darken than them.  Even though they were greased up with tanning oil and you slathered yourself in SPF 50.
  6. On the flip side, sunburns are a foreign concept to you.  But when they do happen, you feel like your genetics have somehow failed you.
  7. Fried rice for breakfast is not a strange concept.
  8. You are significantly taller than most of your relatives on one side of your extended family and/or significantly shorter than those on the other side of the family.
  9. As a kid, you always felt a special fondness for Pocahontas and/or Jasmine.  Mulan was so surrounded by traditional Chinese culture that you – with your cultural upbringing being so thoroughly mixed, like the product of a metaphorical Magic Bullet – found it hard to relate.  (And really, you were really more interested in the Spice Girls by the time Mulan came out on VHS.)
  10.    One of the biggest challenges in your life is teaching your parent(s) that SPAM is not a food group.
  11. You often find yourself explaining the geographical location of the obscure country/territory where your parent(s) were born.
  12. Growing up, anyone older than you was called “Auntie” or “Uncle.”  Later in life, you would learn that these people are technically second cousins, relatives by marriage, exchange students, and/or housekeepers.
  13. People are particularly shocked when you tell them you are from the South.
  14. You have relatives who do competitive hula dancing, and relatives who make coconut bras.  Yes, people wear them, and no, not in an ironic way.
  15. Your less-brown side of the family has sometimes remarked about how exotic you are/look.
  16. Your less-white side of the family has sometimes remarked about how “haole” (white/whitewashed) you are/look.
  17. People will often ask if you “speak another language?”  (Yes, because all brown people speak another language.)
  18. But really, you could be blindfolded and still tell which side of the family you’re visiting just by hearing the language and/or accents.  And the smell of SPAM cooking, obviously.
  19. Sometimes you wonder how people who are not biracial can tell the difference between both sides of the family.  Don’t they all look alike?
  20. And, of course….one of the most frequent questions you hear is, “So, what are you?”

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