alyssa lau
alyssa lau
alyssa lau
alyssa lau


Some time at the end of last year, my three-hundred-and-something day streak on Duolingo was ruined (I was being lazy, I’ll admit), prompting me to delete the app from my phone out of sheer frustration. As a result, I didn’t practice any Mandarin until COVID-19 turned the world upside down and suddenly everyone who was privileged enough to stay home started competing in the Productivity Olympics. Fast forward to a few months later where I’ve once again fallen off the path leading to the future version of me that’s completely fluent in Mandarin (at least she exists in a parallel universe).

Like many millennial children-of-immigrants who were embarrassed and ashamed of their cultures and so thus adopted whiteness as a way to fit in, I had virtually no interest in learning Mandarin or learning about what it meant to be Chinese. My parents spoke English at home (they had no choice, my mom speaks Cantonese and my dad speaks Foochow) and aside from my brief stint practicing Wushu as a teenager, I didn’t have too many ties to my Chinese-ness.

Now that I’m 28, I can say with full confidence that I am proud to be Chinese (although let us not conflate this with pride in the CCP) and have a firm one-handed grasp on the invisible tether that anchors me to over 5000 years of history and culture. But my pride in being Chinese is most-times accompanied by memories of shame in being Chinese-Canadian and not just Canadian (aka white because white has always been the standard). I was fortunate enough growing up to not have experienced any instances of overt racism laced with hate and hostility, but the messaging was still raining down all around me – no matter how many times I chose to disown my otherness by hating Kpop or my flat nose and wiry, black hair that would never backcomb the way I wanted it to, I still looked other and therefore lesser.

Thinking back, I don’t think I truly figured out how to love my Chinese-ness and thus my own self until I was well into my 20s. I’m still trying to unlearn what years of internalized racism instilled in me! But alas, reclaiming my Chinese-ness is a process that inspired me to restart my Mandarin lessons after a decade and a half, and letting an app ruin that for me would simply be a pity. Now, excuse me as I practice reading “我一共要买6个”.



  • I feel everything about this post. I also grew up hating my Asian-ness growing up in America, but I feel like the trendiness of K-Pop (and Asian culture in general now) actually helped me feel a little better about being Asian.

  • These are the exact same feelings I had except that I grew up Australian-Chinese. Pushing away my identity is one of my biggest regrets in my life, I can’t even speak to my Nana since I can’t speak a single sentence of Cantonese. I rejected speaking canto all the way until I was 23 (I am 26 now). I can only try to unlearn this internalised hatred. It’s frightening how we can experience the same thing in different countries , thanks for writing this Alyssa. I’ve been a silent follower for a long time (I found you originally on lookbook lol) and will continue to support you!

    • Hey Emily!! Thank you so much for sharing your experience (and for finding me on Lookbook and continuing to support – it truly means so much!). I completely understand you and hope that we can together unlearn our internalized racism and eventually speak our mother tongues, although I can only dream that I’ll be as fluent as a toddler who can utter 10 words. Sending you love!

  • I really loved the way you described in such a plain honest way of how you are feeling between 2 cultures/identities. I’m a international student studying in Canada and 18 years of my live was born and raised in China. I felt deeply rooted in my culture but I do feel the need of dressing to fit in. Partially perhaps influenced by BLM movement, I also felt the need to connect more to my Chinese-ness. I know Chinese people embrace modesty. But I do feel like Chinese ppl. (including me) need to advocate and represent our culture more with pride. There is soo much richness, I can never have enough of it!

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