What do you identify yourself as?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Being Hmong-American is complicated

Part of the fundamental core of who I am is that I'm both Hmong and American. I was born to Hmong parents, raised in the Hmong culture, and I'm expected to abide by Hmong traditions. However, I was born in the United States and have also been immersed in the American culture all my life. I've been schooled in the American K-12 system all the way through to graduate school, and now as an educator, I work alongside mostly white American colleagues.

As you may already know, the Hmong and American cultures are different in many ways. For me, it's a bit like living one way during the day while at work or school, and then going home to live in another completely different manner--from language, mannerisms, food, etc. This was very true for me as a kid growing up, as my parents were somewhat traditional. Now that I'm an adult and in my own home, the difference is not as drastic.

All my life, though, I've been trying to figure out what it means to be Hmong-American. I've been trying to make sense of both worlds to find some middle ground, but there are clashes. Not ALL the time, but from time to time, yes, there are issues.  

I think of it in terms of this fairly common metaphor for life. Both worlds (Hmong and American) have threads that constantly weave in and out of my life. They intertwine together but not always well...I haven't found a way to weave them together seamlessly.

It's complicated to live in between both worlds, and I don't think I'm the only one. What have your experiences been like, and how would you describe it?


Dannyboy8 said...

Great writing!!!!!!...

MK Chang said...

Thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

Great writing and it is hard to live in both world. I am Hmong myself and I never exposed to Hmong Culture while growing up. I've been gone to American school K-12 and rarely have any Hmong friends. The people I meet, and even my siblings and my white friends, I mostly speak in English and I never learn how to speak Hmong.

There are issues I came across with Hmong ppl telling me the importance of Hmong culture because I am Hmong and that's what defines me.

Every time I hear this, it pisses me off. I kept my distant from Hmong ppl and said shit behind their backs. Soon, I learned that it's their own values and it would not be my problem. I will accept my way of life in American culture. That's what defines me and who I am.

MK Chang said...


Hi there! Thanks for stopping by and visiting my blog. It sounds like we have had a similar upbringing. Even now today, I'm still much more Americanized than I am Hmong.. but the older I get, I'm finding that I'm slowly warming up to the Hmong ways also. I don't know yet where this will lead, but I'll have to see.

Hope to see you stop by again.