Growing up Asian American

May 11, 2021

Erin Hung smiling in forest setting Erin Hung smiling in forest setting

by Erin Hung, Senior Manager, Digital

I was born in Los Angeles and I am a first generation American. When I think of home, what comes to mind are  memories of a sun-drenched pavement, cruising on the ‘405 freeway, graffitied walls, palm tree-lined beach boulevards, and belting out Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” in the passenger seat of my mom’s car. I am a California girl at heart and I loved growing up in a cultural melting pot of people, food, music, traditions, and influences.

My mother and father met in the United States; both had immigrated from Indonesia and were introduced through mutual friends. My grandparents, like them, were also children of immigrants from China. This is  why answering questions about my background is a bit complicated. My responses require further elaboration so that all the pieces fit together.

It wasn’t always like this though. When I was a child, I wasn’t aware of my identity as an “Asian.” It was only when I grew older that my race became a topic of inquiry, with questions like, “Where are you from?” and “Where are you really from?”

Despite these challenging moments, I’m proud to be Asian American. The term represents so much — it means Thanksgiving dinner is a mix of American, Chinese, and Indonesian dishes. It means at home, rooms are always buzzing with laughter and banter in a mixture of languages – English, Cantonese, Indonesian, Javanese and Mandarin.

At times, living in an Asian American household felt like information overload – I spent a great deal of time deciphering and absorbing what was going on and being said around me. But, while sometimes puzzling, my upbringing made me more curious about the world and the people around me.

After college graduation, my curiosity drove me to pack my bags and register for a semester of Mandarin study in Shanghai. My dad tried to persuade me to move to China several times before, but I always hesitated. This time, I was ready to take the leap.

Immersing myself in Shanghai opened my mind and my heart. Even though I barely spoke a word of Mandarin, my one semester eventually turned into four years. Then in 2012, I bought a one-way ticket to Hong Kong and have been living and working here ever since.

My time in Asia has been a journey of rediscovery and a chance to retrace the footsteps of my parents, grandparents and relatives. It has taught me patience, the importance of listening and the value of empathy that comes with meeting people from different walks of life. Living abroad has not been without its challenges, but I have learned to appreciate both the struggles and the victories – and the importance of getting back up after every setback.

My “reverse immigration” often makes me wonder about my family’s experience moving to the US, my American upbringing, and my Asian roots. There is no tidy or easy conclusion to our story; our collective memory is made up of a patchwork of influences passed from generation to generation. We are only one example among the many diverse AAPI stories that exist today – and I am so grateful to work for a company that is eager to share them with the world.

In memory of my great-uncle Frank, who passed away on May 4, 2021. Without his encouragement and sponsorship, my dad would not been able to move to the United States so many years ago.