Hook'em Heritages: Part 2

Hook'em Heritages is a series sharing personal stories of Asian/Asian-American students at the University of Texas at Austin. 

By Jolene Chao 

Halfie. Wasian. Mixed. Although these conversational terms are meant to describe anyone of mixed culture, people usually picture someone who is half Caucasian and half Asian. But how does one go about describing someone who has three cultural identities? Yoann Dequin is a freshman business major and is of both French and Taiwanese descent.

Born in France, Dequin's French identity comes from his dad while his Taiwanese identity comes from his mom. He spent seven years in France before immigrating to America due to his dad's career. Although Dequin does not remember much about the move, he does remember the fear he felt.

Photo by Pixabay
Photo by Pixabay

"I didn't know if I would be able to make friends. Also, I didn't want to leave my friends behind," Dequin said. "I was about to submerge myself into a culture I didn't know about at all so I was just worried they would do things a lot differently."

After moving to the States, Dequin attended a French private school. He credits the bilingual education he received there for easing his transition into the English language and culture. He also credits the friends he made with teaching him English.

"They spoke predominantly English so when I didn't know a word, they could translate it, but they led the conversation in English," Dequin said.

Dequin also attended Chinese school in America, where he began actively engaging in the Taiwanese community. Through interactions with friends from this community, he began to gain a greater appreciation for his Taiwanese culture, even becoming a Taiwanese ambassador.

Photo by Pixabay
Photo by Pixabay

Due to the multicultural composition of his family, Dequin grew up speaking and alternating between multiple languages in his household.

"I grew up speaking Mandarin to my mom, speaking French to my dad, and then I was in the States so [I spoke] English," Dequin said.

Oftentimes, Dequin found that he could not distinguish differences between the various cultures.

"The thing is, when you're multicultural, everything kind of blends together, so I don't really know what was what," Dequin said. "When you're outside of it, you'll see it as two different things. For me, you could put an Asian painting next to (French) flags and it wouldn't bother me too much."

"The thing is, when you're multicultural, everything kind of blends together, so I don't really know what was what."

In Dequin's communities, he also found that his cultural composition affected the way people viewed him.

"Whichever community I'm in, I'm also something else," Dequin said. "And people will usually view you as the thing they're not. So if I'm in the French school, they'll view me as more Taiwanese. If I'm in the Chinese school, they'll view me as more French."

Having so many cultural identities also come with its own set of difficulties.

"Because I'm so many things at the same time, sometimes it's hard to know exactly how you should act," Dequin said. "Some people will reject stereotypes, but then again, at the same time, it's something you can fall back on."

Dequin gave the example of joining cultural organizations in college. Whereas many Asians automatically join Asian organizations due to their background, he finds himself with more options, making it harder to determine what exactly he should do. Student organizations are just one of the many things in which he finds making a decision is difficult. However, in time, he learned to overcome that obstacle.

Yoann Dequin sees his three cultures as pieces of him. Photo by Jolene Chao.
Yoann Dequin sees his three cultures as pieces of him. Photo by Jolene Chao.

Now instead of doing things to fulfill expectations of his culture, he makes decisions based on what he wants for himself.

Despite his multiple cultural identities, Dequin has come to embrace each one in different ways.

"There were times when I hoped that I wasn't a culture or another because it's never easy always being an outsider but now I'm more proud of who I am and it defines who I am as a person," Dequin said. "It's a part of who I am and once I accepted that, I wouldn't want to lose any ones of my identities ... all these groups represent a little part of me."

All photos are copyright free

Jolene Chao is a freshman journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin.