"Where are you from?"
"Hi Mattia, Where are you from?"
I stood there completely dumbfounded, staring into the eyes of my freshman english teacher Mr. Casarez, having no clue what to reply. I hated being asked "Where are you from?" and you may be wondering why "why is that? It's a simple question, just reply with your country of citizenship." However, what most people fail to realise is that whenever we respond the question "Where are you from?" we are immediately tied to the stereotypical ideologies that people believe to exist in our countries, and for me it never felt like I belonged to either.
Being the product of a Taiwanese mother and an Italian father, my sense of identity had always been a hazy one. Growing up in China I always saw the disparities between myself and the general population. My skin is darker, hair is curlier, and I am about a foot taller than everyone else. Visiting Italy during the summers, I was always referred to as the kid who had a Taiwanese mother, not the kid who was also half Italian. When we visited Taiwan during Chinese new year, my sister and I were always the outsiders as everyone was under the impression we identified as Italians. I was an outsider no matter where I went, nowhere felt like home, and every time someone asked me "Where are you from?" it felt like the words were a spell, summoning all of my insecurities of being a biracial child who wasn't able to find a sense of belonging no matter the country.
To add fuel to the fire, I attended an international school for the majority of my life. It was an environment where everyone was a foreigner. An environment where we formed connections with people who shared similar upbringings, and whenever we had conversations about our homeland everyone had a destined place to call home. However, I was left to be an outsider not having a concrete perception of where to call home.
As I matured and grew older gaining experiences with my mom and sister, traveling the world and learning their culture, I realised how lucky I am. It is not a burden to be biracial as I had thought for the first fourteen years of my life. Visiting New York City for the first time, I had noticed something I have never experienced before, no glaring stares when I was interacting with the locals, no head turns as I walked down the street and no strange feeling that I was where I did not belong. I started using the ability that i was a biracial and multilingual person to my advantage. Walking down the street and purchasing chamangoes from a local vendor in Spanish. Visiting China town and asking if they had baozi as I was craving a taste of china for breakfast. It helped me realise that it was not a bad thing being a biracial multilingual individual. As I was able to find and form connections with a vast amount of cultures and people who resided in New York City. Every year when my family would visit friends residing in Barcelona, Cebu, Tokyo and London. I learned to accept that people were allowed to view me as the foreigner. As being a foreigner meant that I was able to learn from locals about their way of life, the national foods, and the best local spots; instead of being secluding myself as I believed I was an outsider. I began to understand that being bicultural and multilingual never meant that I a foreigner no matter where I resided. It meant that I was able to form new connections with people no matter where I was. Being a biracial multilingual person no longer meant that I was an outsider, it means that no matter where I am, I am and always will be able to find comfort in the uncomfortable.