Sometimes, when I look at my reflection in the mirror, I’m almost surprised to see that, indeed, I have a big nose and dark eyes that are much too wide to be mistaken for most Asians’ almond-shaped eyes. I’m almost about twenty inches too tall and forty pounds too heavy to be your average Asian woman.
I guess I’m not Chinese.
So what are all these pairs of chopsticks doing in the sink? Why is a Chinese calendar hung on the wall in the living room? Why does the table look like a mini Chinese confectionery store, complete with White Rabbit Creamy Candies (大白兔奶糖)? Why are there Chinese knot decorations (中國結) in the hallway? Why do we stack little trinkets in old mooncake (月饼) metal boxes? How do steamed buns with cabbage end up in my lunch box? Why does the only thing that seems to grow in the tiny patch of soil on the side of the house is Chinese leek (韭菜)?
Fun fact, when my Caucasian family visited in July, we rushed to IKEA at the last minute to buy cutlery. We had more pairs of chopsticks than knives and forks.
Feng, on his side, could legitimately wonder why there’s so much stinky cheese in the fridge (FYI, it’s imported from Italy or France and I triple-wrap it so that it doesn’t actually stink up the fridge). Or why we had to buy more bookshelves for all these English and French novels I hoard.
At times, at home, it feels like a United Nations Security Council. France and China. We are permanent members with the power to veto decisions made by other members. Like “no more Chinese food for a while, I can’t take any more white rice!” and “pasta with four cheese sauce with parmesan on top, really?”
Good thing we are living in neutral territory—Canada.
It’s fun to live in a multicultural home. Little by little, we adopted cultural behaviours and products from each other’s cultures. When my muscles hurt, I grab the tiny glass bottle of Eagle Oil we bought in Singapore. I rub a few drops of the chlorophyll-green liquid on my skin and it feels great (even though I smell like a Chinese herbal pharmacy afterwards). Feng learned that “going for coffee” didn’t mean “going to Tim Horton’s and ordering from the drive-through” but involved sitting around a table and talking or reading.
People are sometimes curious about us. Some ask whether his family was okay with the fact I wasn’t Chinese—as far as I know, they were and they’ve been feeding me various delicacies for about nine years now. How about my side of the family? No problem on this side, although they weren’t exactly thrilled at first when it became clear that I would not live in France but thousands of kilometres away.
In Canada, interracial couples are fairly common, but I noted there are more Asian girls with Caucasian guys than the other way around. Anywhere else in the world, like in Latin America or in Australia, we are both outsiders so people see us as travellers and foreigners. They forget that his eyes are smaller than mine and that my hair isn’t as black as his. In China, people stare because that’s what most Chinese do when they see something unusual, may it be a disability, a funny style or a non-Asian person. But it’s usually clear to most Chinese that Feng is an “overseas Chinese” (even though technically he is not since he grew up in China) so we don’t draw that much attention.
But sometimes, people’s reactions are funny.
Earlier this year, in Thailand, the owner of an Internet café where we were checking our emails congratulated us loudly when he saw us arrive: “Asian man and white girl, good, very good!”
Feng and I hugged and smiled somewhat awkwardly.
“I think he assumed I rented you for the night” I whispered—we were in the middle of Phuket’s famous red light district!Share this article!