'Asian American' includes so many national origins and cultures that it’s impossible to define our collective heritage. The diversity of Asian American heritage can be found in our food, celebrations, and languages. The Us Two TEAM has roots in China, Korea, the Philippines, and India. So to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, we share a few traditions, activities, and phrases that are unique to our various Asian cultures.
Share a word/phrase from your culture
吃了吗 (Chi le ma)? means "Have you eaten yet?" In China, this is how we greet friends and family. Chinese culture is centered around food so this is our way of saying, "How are you? I care about you."
"Utang Na Loob" means inner debt of gratitude. This Filipino term indicates deep gratitude towards the person who has extended kindness and a heartfelt wish to repay the kindness.
In Cantonese, 靚仔 (leng zai), which means handsome man, is a way of ordering white rice in restaurants.
눈치 (noonchi) is a person’s ability to read the room/other people and act in a thoughtful manner. You either have it or you don’t. Having 눈치 is especially important in Korea because it’s a hierarchical society with many social cues that are indirect or unspoken.
Share a tradition from your culture
Kada is a silver (sometimes gold) bracelet that Sikhs in India wear. It is a symbol that we are linked with the supreme power (God/higher power).
In Korea, we follow both the solar and lunar calendars. The lunar calendar indicates the beginning, middle, and end of the four seasons and on these days, we eat special foods rooted in Korean customs and traditional medicine.
When it's our birthday and/or Chinese New Year, we eat 长寿面 (chang shou mian) - a.k.a. "longevity noodles" - with an egg (fried, pouched, or boiled) in a very rich duck and mushroom broth. We do this as a sign of good luck and to live a long life.
In Cantonese culture, dim sum is a huge thing and I love the communal aspect of gathering around with family over food. Surrounded by people who I care about the most, these gatherings make me feel at home.
Plan a day for your friend to experience your culture
I would bring them to my house as we would set up a kamayan, which is a communal-style Filipino feast, composed of colorful arrays of food that are usually served on banana leaves and eaten without utensils. We would then go to karaoke where we would all sing and dance. Just doing these demonstrates the traditional value of family.
I would take them to play some sports that I grew up playing like badminton and jianzi. Jianzi is a sport where players keep a shuttlecock in the air by kicking it or using their bodies except their hands.
I’d start them off with a cup of iced americano because it’s unofficially the national drink of South Korea. I’d take my friend to a subway station to experience the underground shopping malls where you can buy so many cute things for cheap. Then I would hit up an open air market to experience the bustling crowds and shop owners who yell at you to haggle before sitting down for a fresh, delicious meal at one of the booths.
I would want them to experience one of the festivals: Diwali (the festival of lights), Holi (the festival of spring/color), or Lohri (the celebration of harvest).
I would definitely start the day with dim sum because it's such an iconic and unique way people of my culture eat breakfast. I'm from Fuzhou so I would then have them try authentic jasmine tea and tieguanyin. Last but not last, I would love for them to try homemade Fuzhounese food such as ginger and scallion lobster, fried rice cakes, and so much more. These dishes always remind me of home and are often eaten on special holidays.