CELEBRATING OUR AAPI HERITAGE

There is nothing more important than celebrating racial and cultural diversity amongst individuals. May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and what better way to celebrate the month than to celebrate our Asian coworkers! I took time this month to survey some of the Asians at OS to get a bit more insight into their culture and backgrounds. What’s fascinating to me is that while we are all a part of the AAPI community, there is much cultural and ethnic diversity amongst the Asians at Original Shift.

April Zhao

April Zhao
What type of Asian are you?
I am mostly Chinese with a smidge of Korean from my maternal grandmother’s side. I am first generation AAPI and immigrated to the US when I was almost 5 years old.

How much of your culture have you retained while living in America?
Quite a bit, I’d like to think. I’m happy that I am still able to speak my native tongue fluently and able to communicate to my parents. Growing up in a primarily Asian community, I never felt like I was an outcast or a minority and I think it really helped solidify my cultural roots.

Do you practice any traditions that are specific to your culture?
Chinese New Years is hands down my favorite part of being Chinese. It’s a time for family gatherings and celebration of the new year as of the lunar calendar. Traditionally, in China, you get the full 16 days off that starts with the night of New Years’ Eve and goes until the Lantern Festival. You eat the most delicious foods and expect to gain a minimum of 5 pounds. Not to mention if you’re single, you usually also receive red envelopes from the adults and married people in your life!

How many languages do you know other than English?
Fluently, just Mandarin Chinese. But I also know some Korean and Cantonese.

Swapnil Pingle
What type of Asian are you?
I am a first-generation
Indian.

How much of your culture have you retained while living in America?
As much as we can! We try our best to retain our Indian culture and values while also taking the best of the American culture. I always had a strong sense of culture/religiosity when I came here in the States which was very natural since I was brought up in the original environment back in India. We mostly prefer to speak in our regional language when around kids & family while also encouraging the kids to do the same. We actively celebrate all the big festivals which sometimes includes participating in community celebrations during festive seasons. And a lot of Bollywood dancing when it comes to celebrations!!

What is one thing you would want people to know about your culture?
I would say the “Indian People”. People of India have good vibes, they are warm, welcoming, kind and always seem happy around visitors. Indian people are filled with respect and most importantly they “do not judge”. In India, you would feel this everywhere around you, whether in local transportation, in the marketplaces, in the parks, or at the tourist spots. People believe in Savings – You would see Indian people looking for different ways to save money wherever they can. It’s in the genes. :)

How many languages do you know other than English?
3.25 languages: Marathi (my Mother tongue), Hindi, Sanskrit, some basic French (which I learned during my schooling days in India).

Ronald Mendoza
What type of Asian are you?
I am a second-generation Filipino. My parents were both born in the Philippines and immigrated to the US.

What is your favorite or most unique part about your culture?
My favorite part of my culture is the food. The Philippines was previously conquered by Spain so a lot of our cuisine/dishes have Spanish and Asian influences. Our language also was heavily influenced by Spain and we use a lot of spanish words as well. My favorite dish is called Kare Kare which is an ox-tail stew with a peanut butter base and eaten with shrimp paste and rice.

How much of your culture have you retained while living in America?
Even though I was born in America, I am still moderately influenced by Filipino culture. I regularly eat/cook filipino dishes at home or at restaurants. I don’t often speak Tagalog but I can still speak it if needed. A lot of the filipino culture still impacts my life through my family, even though American traditions tend to override some of them. For example, calling family members by their respective titles Ate/Kuya (older brother/sister) or Tita/Tito (aunt/uncle).

What is one thing you would want people to know about your culture?
Filipinos and filipino culture tend to be a very caring group of people. A large portion of Filipino Americans work in health care for that very reason.

How many languages do you know other than English?
Tagalog. And some German from high school.

Donald Lee
What type of Asian are you?
I am a second-generation Chinese American. I was born in the US.

What is your favorite or most unique part about your culture?
It’s difficult for me to separate out what is uniquely cultural vs the immigrant experience. I’ve always valued by parent’s ability to save money. Perhaps that’s not cultural. Maybe something uniquely Asian is the emphasis on family structure or societal hierarchies. It’s got pros and cons, of course, but it forced me to understand that there were/are considerations/people outside of myself that I had to take into account in my decision making.

How much of your culture have you retained while living in America?
My parents always wanted for us to be American. There wasn’t a lot of emphasis on retaining cultural norms. Obviously, I didn’t escape the values and viewpoints that my parents grew up with: hard work, dedication. I cherish those values.

How many languages do you know other than English?
0.75 – I can somewhat listen to Mandarin and somewhat fumble with Spanish.

Supriya Venkatesh

Supriya Venkatesh
What type of Asian are you?
I am first-generation and Indian.

What is your favorite or most unique part about your culture?
I love Indian food because it uses the whole palette of flavors—spicy, sour, sweet, and hot. Also cooking is considered an art and mothers usually begin to teach their daughters (I started cooking at age of 4!). There are hundreds of desserts in each region which is my favorite part.

Festivals as well. India is a land of festivals and fairs. There are more festivals celebrated in India than anywhere else in the world. Each festival pertains to different occasions, some welcome the seasons of the year, the harvest, the rains, or the full moon. Others celebrate religious occasions, the birthdays of divine beings and saints, or the advent of the New Year. A number of these festivals are common to most parts of India. However, they may be called by different names in various parts of the country or may be celebrated in a different fashion.

What is one thing you would want people to know about your culture? 
Indian Mythology contains stories of courage, adventure, compassion, love that inculcate good values and ethics in children. Religion also plays a vital role in India. Hindu mythological stories include Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Bhagavad Gita. During our childhood my grandmother used to tell these stories every day before we go to sleep. 

How many languages do you know other than english? 
Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam (I can understand but speak only a bit).

Marissa Plume
What type of Asian are you?
I am South Korean, born in the Chungbuk province. I was adopted by my Caucasian family when I was about 5 months old. I arrived in the United States on a plane with lots of other South Korean babies traveling to their new families. I was raised in Edina, Minnesota, and am extremely grateful for the opportunities and experiences I would not have had otherwise.

When did you realize you were adopted?
It seems like I always knew I was adopted, so my parents must have explained this to me very young. No surprises! While Edina was not very diverse back then, I don’t remember feeling different in a negative way.  

Marissa Plume

Did you grow up with any other adopted Asians?
Yes!  There were several adopted Asian girls in my high school graduating class. The Minneapolis / St. Paul area had a significant concentration of adopted Koreans, so programs like Korean Culture Camp (KCC) developed. KCC’s mission is to give children exposure to their Korean culture and heritage, instilling a greater sense of their cultural identity and ethnic diversity. I attended KCC a couple of summers and remember learning the fan dances, Korean history, and exploring the cuisine. This exposure to my ethnic culture helped fuel my interest so that I jumped at the chance to travel to South Korea in my 20s. 

Author

  • April is a full time senior consultant and part time designer/illustrator with a knack for putting smiles on people’s faces. She is based out of San Francisco. Connect with her on Linkedin!