Decolonising the Arts Curriculum: Perspectives on Higher Education
An Answer to Your “Nihao” & Your “Where Do You Come From?”

Eva He, Student

I cannot count how many times I’ve been “Nihao”ed at by strangers, sometimes “Konnichiwa”ed as well. Giggles came after I ignored him or them. It is even harder to count how many times people ask me where do I come from? I tried to explain to some that one place does not define me as who I am; I tried to lie to some others. But most of the time, out of capitulation, I simply replied “China”.

How can I justify myself for hating being obligated to answer this question? It is as if they won the battle in this little exchange of information— I’ve finally been grounded to this word of connotations of eating rice, drinking bubble tea, fancying luxury goods, and other stereotypes that can be a lot worse.

How can I justify myself for hating being obligated to “commit” I am Chinese? It is not my intent to reject my Chinese-ness. Instead, I am revolted by being OTHERed, by being forced to admit that I should not know the language they speak, and I do not belong to the land I am staying at.

Was I posing a rejection on my past, my country, and my heritage, then, when I ignored the hail and lied about the question? I did not want to. From inside-out I cherish MY past, My country, and My heritage, I full-heartedly appreciate the culture that nurtured me. But this package of everything, named identity, is within me, I carry them. I carry them out if I want to. This identity is not to be projected on me as You will. I do not like that. I do not want my Chinese-ness to be hailed at.

I want to let them/you know, that their/your words restrained me, their/your words chopped me off and their/your words overthrew me. The Chinese-ness in me is not the one they/you have in mind. And the answer you will get is a withdraw!


This article was originally written and published in Decolonising the Arts Curriculum: Perspectives on Higher Education Zine 2 (2019).

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