Written in Hong Kong SAR, China on March 6th, 2018
Banana (n) – a discriminatory term aimed to humiliate westernized Chinese; descriptive of people who are yellow on the outside and white on the inside
I’ve always lived in Hong Kong, I’ve always been a banana boy, and I’ve had social anxiety.
is comprised of roman letters (like these letters) mimicking English, Cantonese, and Mandarin. As you might guess, many people have a hard time pronouncing my name correctly.
Like my name, my identity has always been a bit of a mess.
Back when I was in kindergarten, I was taught English and Mandarin. I went to an international school, spoke Mandarin at home, and watched a hella lot of Disney. And so for the inaugural years of my life, I’ve been living (playing) and breathing in English & Mandarin. Everything was fine and dandy. Andddd then primary school came along…
Social Anxiety Disorder (With the very ironic acronym SAD), also known as social phobia.
SAD is a mental disorder where people feel nervous and uncomfortable in even the most common social situations. I have social anxiety. I know it’s a bit hard to imagine for someone who doesn’t have it, but imagine the fear of heights or arachnophobia but with interacting with people. You are just standing in front of someone, frozen in place, arms stiff, not knowing what to say. Literally sweating a stream of cold sweat because of a mere interaction with a cashier. I used to find myself repeating what I’ll order over and over.
What caused my lack of social interactions, which perpetuated my SAD:
In efforts to expose me to the Chinese culture, my parents sent me to a public school in authentic Hong Kong, where children grew up with Cantonese parents. Neither I or my parents spoke Cantonese. Going into Year 1 was like going into a planet of social exclusion. I was a heavy introvert, and my classmates couldn’t speak English or Mandarin. I never really talked throughout my primary years, never had that many friends, and my Cantonese continues to be horrible (I picked up a tiny bit, but didn’t really speak). I honestly don’t know how made it to year 5 without getting kicked out.
During my time there, I formed quite a bond with a sort of idealism of Hong Kong culture, it’s an odd and almost indescribable feeling that is hard to put into words.
It just feels like the whole place was slowly chugging along, police officers are the invincible good guys there to protect us, the firefighters are always there to save the day. To me, all of Hong Kong has a bit of a homely feel to it, it’s all just sort of calming to think about.
After Year 5, I went to an international school nearby. Well more like literally the building next-door. I went there during the tail end of my primary career to reserve a spot in their secondary school (there is quite a waiting list). So now I was in a school that spoke almost 100% in English (minus the occasional Mandarin lesson). BUT on the bright side, I could finally talk to people mostly fluently! (Yay!) I never really gave up with English TV/videos.
But because It was an international school and my parents still wanted me to learn Chinese, they got me a Chinese tutor in a nearby city, Shenzhen. That tutor was probably one of the biggest reasons why I have even the tiniest bit of understanding of China and Chinese culture. In a way, them forcing me to study the Chinese language, culture and history made my love the country and my heritage. This also compounded with me going home to China during the Chinese New Years more often (It’s so big that it’s literally the world’s largest human migration), especially my father’s side who actually have people around my age. This was because they lived in the countryside and lets just say that the Chinese countryside wasn’t the most hygienic environment back then. So here I eventually learned to get better with my social anxiety, and voila! Here I am!
A work in progress!