It has been forever since I sat down in the middle of the night to write. It’s probably because I was really busy and excited to get my life sorted out here in Taipei.
A life I couldn’t imagine having just 2 years ago. Back then, as an undergrad student, settled and comfortable in Copenhagen, I thought I go on an exchange in Taiwan, then come back and get a loan once I am done with my Master studies. I’d buy an apartment and slowly pay it off while working my consultant job and once I have more experiences, I hoped to be transferred within the company to Shanghai, sublet my flat and work there for a year or two and then go back to Europe. That was my plan, that was what I always imagined my life would be, that’s who I thought I wanted to be. I never really hung out with Asians, and my circle of friends and my partner at the time were all Northern European. I traveled around Asia but never felt like that’s my place or that’s who I really am.
So, this week I walked past a metro station here in Taipei and remembered that this was the first place I met a person, exactly 2 years ago. Many things changed after that, two of them I want to write about tonight. First, this person would refer to me as Vietnamese. Whenever it came up, he’d be like “Oh that’s Tuni, she’s Vietnamese” and I remember being so annoyed with it. I also responded “No I am German” to which he replied: No you aren’t.
I annoyed me so much. And when the person walked out of my life and didn’t stay my friend, I replayed the situations, lots of conversations and how I felt (because I was hurt and I wondered what I did wrong). No one did anything wrong, people don’t always stay in your life, it’s just a few chosen ones that you are lucky to have close to you for a long time. But what I realized from all the overthinking is: I was annoyed I was referred to as Vietnamese because it was one of my biggest insecurities. Besides the food and the language, I knew basically nothing about being Vietnamese. I spent summers visiting relatives but there was not much I could relate to. I couldn’t relate to the many rude and self-centered local people and I couldn’t relate to distant family in the countryside or show-off relatives in the city. There was nothing I saw myself in. For me, the life and family I have in Germany is what makes me “me”. If that makes sense.
The liberal and not traditional way my parents brought us up, the mixed German and Vietnamese language we speak at home, same with the food, and culture: it’s mixed. Most of my friends were German and there isn’t a big Vietnamese community in my hometown so I didn’t get in touch with being Asian much. And because Vietnam was so foreign, I just choose to identify as being German. Let’s be honest, I am not the typical German stereotype that comes to your mind when you think of one. But it felt safer and familiar. Its what I grew up in, its what I had around me from day one until I was 19 and left Germany. It’s the nationality of my siblings and parents and where I go back to visit them, where our house is and where I can drive as fast as I want to. Germany was and is home.
Anyway, back to walking by the metro station a few days ago. I remembered, that dude was right and it was good he said these things. Because it took me a while but in the last two years, I started to adjust my answers, explaining people that I am German-born Vietnamese, a mixture of two different worlds. Whatever scared me off by feeling Vietnamese just turned out to be a generalized perception I had of the worst experiences I made. There is nothing I can say to deny my heritage as I did in my teens. Man, I used to dye my hair blonde or light brown and said I was mixed, so people would believe I am somewhat genetically German. But I wasn’t, never will be, since both my parents are Asians. As in today, I love having both countries in my life. A lot of times, finding out who you really are, means facing insecurities and prejudices you have of certain aspects and experiences in your life.
The second thing that changed: I overthink, so a small conversation at the right time can completely turn the page for me, making me rethink choices or inspires me to try out something in the future. I love my friends for that. I am surrounded by many driven and kind people, that do inspiring things and share them with me, which makes me learn a lot from them. I met my best friend two years ago, and through all our deep conversations, we ended up moving back to Taipei.
Anyway, that specific summer two years ago, I had a random conversation, again with this person, about living in Shanghai and working in China. And as I am, I kept overthinking and realized the life I planned out for myself, isn’t a life that I would be passionate about. It’s a life I want to pursue to feel validated and more secure, in both financial aspect and career. The experiences and titles I hope to have in Copenhagen and Shanghai were a checklist in my head to prove that I succeeded in something. But that’s not really a way to live.
So within just the past two years, lots of small encounters at the right time, right place, I worked up the courage to face what I really love to do, knowing it’s exactly what I judged back in the past. Like.. who takes pictures, writes an article or posts on the internet and calls this a strategy. I do now – because I freaking love photography, I love branding, I love writing. I love it so much, its 3 am and it relaxes me to write a 1000-word blog post, unpaid, with no ads, so there is no financial gain from it. I simply do it because I love it and I know when I read it, tomorrow or in 10 years, I will appreciate myself to have written this down.
I gave “doing what I love, hopefully, every day for the rest of my life” a shot. Which makes me end up here, September 2019, in my bedroom in our Dongmen apartment, with my best friend next doors, building our business in Taipei, with many plans for the next years. And I am sure there will be lots of small and big encounters, random conversations and inspiration, that will make us change our plans. Because that’s how life works, you’ll find your way but its never the way you planned it. And whatever life throws at you, a friend that grows close to your like a sister or a toxic person that will leave, there are many things you can learn from it. Especially the ones that make you uncomfortable and insecure because as soon as you can face the fact why they make you feel that way, you’ll be ready to accept or change that aspect. Also.. Overthinking isn’t always bad. This all is literally what went through my mind on my way home when I walked past that metro station.
Thank you so much for reading ❤️
German-born Vietnamese📍 based in Taipei
Co-Founder @arn.gency + @ouran.studios
#TaipeiTuni #BeijingTuni #TuniTravel #CPHTuni