I’ve often felt a bit awkward about the July 4th holiday. You’ll understand my ambivalence when I say I was born and raised in England of Chinese parents, who immigrated to the United Kingdom from Hong Kong in the early 1960s. Love, marriage and a sense of adventure brought me to a new life in the United States. Having lived here for well over a decade, I still make a joke of the fact that I’m originally from the country of the losing side!
Joking aside, moving to a new place is a complex process and I can testify that it takes longer than the average of two years that the books say it takes to feel like you belong. It’s taken me nearly as long as the years I’ve lived here to feel and call the US my home.
I equate myself to being a pioneer here, just as my parents were in England. I’ve lived and learned new cultural norms, just as they did and, everyday, I feel the enormous weight of raising my children without extended family support, just as my parents did.
There are many practical considerations to making a new place feel like home. Oftentimes, you have to start from scratch with your networks, from finding doctors to babysitters, and there’s nothing more challenging than having difficult access to all that’s familiar.
But, underlying all the practical details are the emotional realities, like missing family and the loss of your previous worldview. It’s not for nothing that, sometimes, I gravitate to people who understand my love of Marmite, real fish and chips with malt vinegar, and authentic Cadbury’s chocolate!
With the birth of my two children, I understood why my parents instilled in me the mantra: “To know who you are, you need to know where you come from.” Knowing this, you then have a choice of what and where you call home.
Through my example, it’s my hope that my American-born children will carry forward a strong sense of their Chinese heritage and values (the respect for family and hard work, and love of good food), along with an open-minded attitude, and my British sense of humor. Ultimately, I want them to know they have my love, support and guidance, whatever they face on their life’s journey and wherever they chose to call home.
So where is home? I’m a citizen of the world, who chooses to make her home and raise her children in Franklin, TN.
Happy Independence Day!
Susan Shifay Cheung has turned her hand to many forms of writing in her various roles, over the years, as corporate trainer, management consultant, journalist and writer. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.