Caught Between Two Cultures

"There is nothing weirder or more ostracizing than the feeling of looking exactly like someone else, only to realize how different you are." -Trevor Noah, Born a Crime

This is how I feel in The Philippines. Caught between two cultures. I look like everyone here. Although I don't know the language, I understand the mannerisms, the slightest move of the lips, the sharpest wiggle of an eyebrow and the messages all of those motions send.

Culture is a weird thing. From the outside, it may seem easy to pick up on, but on the inside, there is so much more going on.

For example, being in The Philippines is weird for me because I don't know my role. I was born here, yet, I grew up in the States. So, when I come back I'm the "American Princess returning to her people."

In The Philippines, since I don't understand or speak Bisaya, I only understand half the story. Sure, as a Filipino-American in The States, I grew up on the Manny Pacquiao parties, the karaoke nights, the rice, and the fish, the vinegar, and the non-utensil eating style. I love it and now as an adult, I embrace it even more. While I don't know the language fluently, I have had my fair exposure to the Filipino Aray!  and the Pisti-ka! -s.

Don't get the wrong idea here: Of course, I am proud to be a Filipino-American. SO SO SO proud. However, when it comes to being Filipino-American, I live in the middle of these two cultures constantly.  Interestingly enough, when I am in America, I feel the most Filipino and when I am in The Philippines, I feel the most American.

The reality is, however, I don't know what it means to be a native Filipino. I only know what it means to be Filipino-American.

Language is such a powerful thing. Learning one language unlocks an entire world. But even if I did fluently learn Bisaya, it's too late for me. I'll never entirely become part of the clan.

My Filipino family lovingly laugh at me as I struggle with the coconut leaves. I can only eagerly observe as they tie them into elegant and beautiful rice holders.

Sadly, my American toilet-paper-loving-self and western taste buds aren't suited for more than 30 days in this beautiful country. I love it, but it's not home. Truthfully, the only way for me to feel more Filipino is to go back to America. It's a weird controversy, but it's the truth.

I wonder if others feel caught between their two cultures. It is a strange sentiment to feel like an outsider in your own culture. To feel like you have one foot out and one foot in. I guess, on the bright side, I am grateful to have an understanding of multiple cultures. It definitely opens my spirit and my mind, which is never a bad thing, in my humble opinion.





Edwina Koch