Celebrating our Asian diversity…

Tina Lee and Soyoung Jeong, Korean

Tell us about yourself

Tina (Mother): 20 years ago, I had my daughter and son in Korea and when I thought of a good environment for children to grow up, moving overseas was my option.  Whistler is one of the biggest ski resorts in North American, and also I love skiing, so I decided to move to Whistler. I was working in the engineering industry before moving to Canada, now I am a ski instructor.

Soyoung (Daughter): I came to Whistler when I was just one month old (yes I was that crying baby on the plane). I am extremely grateful I grew up in whistler, the most beautiful place on earth!

 Last year, I graduated from high school and I am now going to UBC. When I was 13, I got my first job. Now I work as a ski instructor, and lifeguard.

How is Canadian culture/life different from your home country?

Tina: For a typical high school student in Canada, the official school day may end at 4 p.m. In Korea, however, even though school ends at 4pm as well, we would go to study rooms and study till 11 pm. The competition is fierce and the expectations from society are sky high.

In Canada there’s a lot less societal pressure. Korean parents have lots of expectations for their kids to study hard and lead a successful life. For me, I think my kids growing up in Canada was the best and healthiest option, where their growing years were spent outside of school enjoying life as well.

How do you think being Asian has coloured your life?

Soyoung: Even though I grew up in Canada, I was raised in a Korean household. I feel very grateful to have experienced two different cultures. It made a huge impact on my outlook on life. I am a lot more open, and always interested to try  new experiences and learn new cultures.

One thing that is very different is the food in Korea compared to the food here.

Korean food is amazing, it  tends to be intensely flavoured, spicy and extremely seasoned.  It also differs in many ways such as the tools they use to cook/eat with, cooking styles, and table manners.

Which parts of your home culture do you try to keep (in Canada), and why?

Tina: When Soyoung turned 1 year old, we had a child’s 1st birthday ceremony, Doljabi for her. The primary purpose of the ceremony is to bless the child with a prosperous future and a healthy life ahead.  There are various items or objects (Usually 3 – 5 items) placed in front of the child. Then, the child is encouraged to grab one or two items from the set of objects where each choice represents a certain future of the child with respect to his or her career or a lifestyle. I remember Soyoung grabbed a pencil and thread. Pencil believed she will study well

What specific parts of your Asian heritage do you try to keep?

Soyoung: I love Korean food! We eat kimchi and rice every day, if not at every meal. It’s also common to have traditional Korean breakfast like rice, soup, and a full array of side dishes.

I also like the trends the younger generations in Korea are following,  Such as make-up, K- pop, and Korean movies. I share Korean culture with some of my non-Korean friends, and they like it as well!

 I try to speak as much korean as I can to my family and other Koreans to not lose my korean I worked hard to learn.  Up to when I was 14, my Korean was so bad that I couldn’t even hold a proper sentence… but my interest to Korean culture( and with the help of K- pop and K- drama) my Koreanspeaking dramatically improved.

There has been a significant increase of hate crimes against Asian in Canada since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. How has that affected you personally?

We never experienced any hate crimes against us personally. I(Soyoung) think social media reporting the hate crimes that are going around do make me feel very worried for my friends who live in more populated areas, like the city.

Why is it important to recognize/celebrate Asian Heritage Month? This year?

Soyoung: This year, the celebration of Asian heritage feels especially important, because it allows us to acknowledge the rich history of Asian-Canadians and their contributions to canada. I’m Thankful for all the opportunities they have created for us.

We are in a multicultural country, the anti-Asian hate crimes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have been devastating. More than ever, we need to stand forward together against racism, and celebrate diversity in our communities.

Tina: I think it is a good way to offer Canadians an opportunity to know about Asian culture and history. Especially since we are living in Whistler; we have a better chance to build good relationships with people from different cultures.