What do I say when people ask me who I am? I say, “I’m Isabel,” but really, I’m a state between being Korean and Canadian. As a Korean who lived in Surrey her entire life, I adopted some diverse cultural traits from both Canada and Korea that make up my diverse but unusual ethnic state.
The Story Behind My Ethnicity
Long story short, I was born six months after my parents moved to Canada for a job, which means I technically came into existence, as a fetus, in Korea. In other words, if my parents had moved just 6 months later, I would have been born in the Korean city, Daegu, instead, where I would have grown up in true Korean culture, which makes me want to think I’m more Korean than I really am but… I didn’t. As a result, I don’t have all the cultural traits a domestic Korean have.
Isabel V.S. Haeun
Language is one fraction of Korean culture that I fail to comprehend time and time. Unfortunately, as a Korean Canadian, fluency in Korean is a daily life struggle. That’s excluding the times when I am Haeun. Haeun is my Korean name. I almost always only hear that name from my parents. Consequently, I’ve come to consider myself as Haeun only to them.
Peculiarly, Haeun can speak fluently in Korean. Everybody else, who call me Isabel, can only ever hear me speak in English. Why? For some unknown reason, my Korean only leaves my mouth naturally and nearly flawlessly to my parents. I had the rather persuasive theory that it depends on how comfortable I am with who I’m talking to but my alien Korean to my two siblings, Halam and Sua prove me wrong. Linguistically, it’s as if a Korean and a Canadian are separate people in me. How convenient is that?
My Korean Side
Despite only ever living in the same old city of Surrey, some Korean cultural traits I did adopt are my interests in multiple forms of Korean entertainment and music. Though it is harmful to my physical well-being, I love binge-watching kdramas. Once anybody watches a single episode, it’s nearly always a mandatory nature to finish it. Unfortunately, over the past few years, my standards for a good kdrama rose to an immense extent in which kdramas no longer have my patience, breaking my once, inevitable nature to finish every drama.
I have pretty high standards and minimum patience for kpop as well. Skipping to the chorus and offering the song ten seconds to impress me is a given when a new song is released. In general, I have limited generosity to media, even when it comes to my favourite YouTube channels. Obviously, my time isn’t easily used sparingly when it comes to entertainment.
My “Not So Korean” Side
Describing a majority of my Korean side, I probably don’t seem to fit the definition of Isabel I mentioned before. The state between being Korean and Canadian was my meaning of Isabel. Let me break it you again, I’m really not as Korean cultured as it seems.
Korea is recognized for a strict and prioritized education. Having wondered about my life as a domestic Korean student, though I feel that I would enjoy it more than despise it, I know that some parts of me wouldn’t exist if that were the case.
Personally, rollerblading is one of my most cherished hobbies but also an interest that I feel would not develop if I lived in Korea.
Nurturing your hobbies is definitely supported but difficult to do in the academic-oriented life of Korean students. I feel that swimming, rollerblading around my complex with my neighbours, and playing intense tennis games at Fleetwood Park with Halam and my dad would not be the childhood memories they are today if I were a domestic Korean student. Korea is also very much polluted unlike Canada. This discourages outdoor activities, which is the reason for why I consider my active self, a part of my Canadian identity.
As for my other Canadian qualities, I’m not too big of a fan of maple syrup or maple leaves like a stereotypical Canadian would but I love poutine. Poutine is one of my minor but strong reasons for my pride in Canada. Lets be honest. What Canadian wouldn’t? Speaking of poutine, it might as well serve as a nice conclusion to this blog post.
Isabel: the metaphorical state of being poutine
Like a bowl of poutine, I am a state of mixed parts. Like cheese, fries, and gravy in a bowl, I am Canadian, Korean and Isabel in the city of Surrey.
What’s the definition of your name?