Growing up is never the easiest for anyone, especially if you're different. Kids are unintentionally cruel. Imagine coming from another country, not knowing anything about its culture. Well , here with me now is Richard Yoeun, who moved to America with his parents when he was only 2. He had a few years before school started to learn english, but his parents did not teach it to him that well. They still wanted their native culture to stick to their son. When school started for him, things were more difficult than he expected. This is Richards story on belonging to one culture, but having to fit into a new culture as well.
Originally from Cambodia, Richard immigrated to The United States at the age of two with his parents, who wanted a better life. A few years went by, and his family was doing pretty good for an newly immigrated family, at least financially. Socially, his family was an outcast. "They couldn't speak very good english, so they couldn't even teach me", he said. Time went by and next thing you know, Richard had to go to school. He still knew very little english, so he had to learn in school ,when all the other kids already knew it. Just like his family, he was an outcast, and had to steadily learn the American Culture while keeping his Cambodian culture. to
As Richard continued to learn the American culture, he surpassed his parents' "American culture knowledge". He began teaching them everything he learned, yet he still wasn't as fluent in the language as he could be. As he entered middle school, he was bullied for not being "normal" , whatever that is . He couldn't say each and every word like the rest of the kids could. Kids aren't used to variety, so being different could lead to bullying. He wasn't able to even practice english at home unless he was teaching his parents. He was in a "No English" household. Just because he was learning one culture didn't mean he could forget the other and his parents made sure that he didn't. He home was a traditional Cambodian home, where he would speak Khmer, not english. And through all of this, he was still bullied for years in middle school although he was trying his hardest to fit in.
Has Richard's constant years of struggling with two cultures put him to same of one of them? or maybe even both?
"I love having two cultures," Richard says, " It makes me different." Instead of trying to fit in now, he's embraced it. He's at his expected level of english and khmer as well. He still continues to live in a "No English" household and keeps both of his cultures close to him.
Being double cultured has its ups and downs. Adjusting to new cultures can be difficult. Home, school, being social. These are all adaptations that take time to get used to. Richard's struggle was in school and although he was given hell for having two cultures, he is not ashamed of it. He's 16 now , so he doesn't have to deal with immature kids teasing him because he is Cambodian. Older and slightly wiser , he accepts both of his cultures and wishes to continue to pass both down to his children .