I am thinking about writing a piece on “searching for a Chinese identity”, not just at the individual level, but also at a collective cultural level. The heart of the controversies surrounding the Beijing Olympics is the building of a collective Chinese identity, who we are, what we stand for, how we present ourselves to the outside. There are a lot of confusions in this aspect.
Here is a case of individual experience with cultural identity for Chinese living in the West. After years living and working in the environment, you acquire the language, behavior structures and subtle mannerism of the people you work with, simply out of necessity. In my line of work, you can’t survive a week if the students do not understand what you are talking about; they tear you apart limb by limb. Many Chinese individuals in America have encountered this type of situation. Your acquaintance looks at you and gives you a compliment: “you are quite Americanized.” My reaction depends on the way he or she puts it. Most of my acquaintances deliver this compliment out of innocence. I just have a vacant feeling of irrelevance and let it pass. Once in a while someone gives me this compliment in a patronizing and condescending manner, awarding me an alien identity that is supposed to be better than my original. Then I am quite pissy about it. As a Chinese, how would you react if an American tells you that you are “quite Americanized”?
I hope I am not offending anyone again. The internet is too civilized for me.