By Nathalie Mintjens’21
Volume 1, Issue 1
The question ‘Where are you from?’ should be fairly easy to answer. However personally, it has always been a very conflicting question; are they asking for my race, my ethnicity, my nationality, where I was born, or where I grew up? For me, the answer to all these questions are different.
I was born in Kenya and soon after moved to Tanzania, then Qatar, and finally to Hong Kong. I come from a biracial family, my mom being from Swaziland and my dad from Belgium. As a result, I’ve been exposed to many different cultures from the moment I was born and I always found it difficult to box myself into one cultural identity.
I lived in Hong Kong for 12 years before moving to the US to receive my college education. Hong Kong is one of the world’s leading financial cities, and I always found it to be the perfect blend between traditional Chinese culture and modern western influences, especially from Europe. I consider Hong Kong my home, as most of my family and childhood friends still reside there. My fondest memories and experiences growing up happened in this leading world city, whilst simultaneously being exposed to a completely culture that wasn’t my own.
When I say I’m from Hong Kong, people that don’t know me well often have a confused look on their face. This probably pertains to the fact that I am not Asian by race or ethnicity. If I receive the confused look from someone, I will add that I’m originally from Belgium and Swaziland. I have a confusing relationship with these two countries because while both my parents were born and raised there, I have never lived in either one. So by blood and according to the nationality on my passport, I am Belgian and Swazi, however I have no emotional attachment to these places.
My family and I travel back to Swaziland at least once a year to visit family, usually during Christmas. While it’s nice to visit my mom’s childhood home and meet her friends from when she was younger, my sisters and I can’t help but feel out of place whenever we visit. This stems from a multitude of factors, for example that we don't speak siSwati fluently and our family members have to use their broken English to communicate with us. Additionally we are mixed race and often stand out in public places.
While confusing and frustrating at times, I’m beyond grateful for the multicultural life I have lived thus far. I believe that living in such diverse countries and coming from a bicultural home has made my sisters and I extremely tolerant, independent, and versatile individuals. My experiences have allowed me to make friends for life across the world in every continent so that wherever I travel to in the future, I know there is a home waiting for me.