“The shocks didn’t stop coming for my parents”
Kaz Tanaka, 37, hairdresser at Hair by Kaz
“I was born in Tokyo to a Japanese father and a Korean mother, but my mother didn’t tell me she was Korean until I was 18 years old. Japan and Korea have never enjoyed the best of relationships so she was worried I’d be bullied if I told anyone about her background. I didn’t really think anything of it; in our house, we celebrated Japanese traditions, spoke Japanese and ate Japanese food. That’s just the way it was – even with my mum.
I’m the youngest of three, and I think we’ve all given our parents – who I must say are quite traditional – shocks over the years. My brother married a Japanese-born Korean girl, but my parents struggled with the fact that he’d brought home a Korean girl which is a bit ‘pot calling the kettle black’. My sister married a British guy with an African background, and I came out when I was 30. My partner Matthew was born in Auckland, is half Kiwi, half English and speaks Japanese fluently. We’ve been together for 11 years.
As generations pass, it becomes more acceptable to marry someone from a different culture and I think that’s great, but it’s also nice to remember your own.
Every family has its challenges, but when you have so many cultures under the one roof, things can get interesting. It took my parents a while to come to terms with my brother-in-law for example – probably because the only thing they knew about ‘black people’ was from the poor portrayal of African Americans in gangsta movies. Once their babies came along though, my parents were smitten and they soon got over the fact that he wasn’t Japanese. That said, communication could be tough - my now ex-brother-in-law doesn’t speak Japanese and my parents don’t speak English so we always had to have someone standing in to translate. Obviously, it’s been easier for my brother and sister-in-law and for me having a partner who is fluent in the language.
I think my family is probably the way we’re all going to be moving forward. As generations pass, it becomes more acceptable to marry someone from a different culture and I think that’s great, but it’s also nice to remember your own. For me, I’ve been living in Australia since 2002 but I still feel very Japanese. I love the food, I love the culture and I go back every year to refuel and remember where I came from. I think secretly my parents are happy that no matter how it looks from the outside, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
“We have two young children and we’re trying to raise them with knowledge of their background”
Alana Weirick, 36, owner of Moi Moi Fine Jewellery
“When my Australian mum married my Chinese Malaysian dad, it was almost unheard of that such a pairing could take place. Things are different now of course, but back in the 70s, I’m sure they got their fair share of comments and looks.
Dad is originally from Kuala Lumpur but my sister and I grew up in a household that was probably more Australian than anything. Dad ensured there were the odd touches of his culture in there for sure, such as delicious Chinese food – particularly noodles every Sunday for lunch, and we always celebrated Chinese New Year where my parents would throw a huge party at their house.
I liked growing up with both cultures; it really did feel like I had the best of both words at times – particularly since we also got to celebrate Easter and Christmas!
Dad taught my mum a lot of Chinese dishes too and she’s a great Chinese cook, but other areas probably didn’t go as well as my dad would have hoped. When my sister was little, he tried to teach her Cantonese but it didn’t go well and he gave up soon afterwards.
I liked growing up with both cultures; it really did feel like I had the best of both worlds at times – particularly since we also got to celebrate Easter and Christmas!
My husband’s background is just as exotic as mine – his father is Australian and his mother is Indian but again, he grew up in a very Australian household. His mother’s heritage didn’t have much hold on him growing up, and he’s still not a huge fan of Indian food, but as he’s gotten older, he’s embracing it a bit more. When we got married, we had a Western ceremony and touched on both cultures, having a Chinese tea ceremony, but also exchanging the floral garlands that are common in Hindu ceremonies. It was a nice nod to both of our backgrounds.
Today we have two young children and we’re trying to raise them with knowledge of their background. We celebrate Chinese New Year of course, but we also take them to the Hindu temple with my husband’s mum so that they can feel connected to that side also. It’s as they get older that I think things will get interesting.
We talk about visiting both countries regularly and also teaching them Mandarin, but I think more than anything we just want to keep things in line with how our parents raised us. They did such a great job and I feel like it’s such a wonderful balance. It would a shame to ruin that. “