“Local,” or “International”?

March 21, 2012 / by / 1 Comment

I never know what to say when people ask me if I’m “international,” and that often puts me in a weird position.  I would tell them, define “international.”  More often than not, they would comment on my accent, which, I would say, sounds like a British-American hybrid.  They would then enquire where I’m from.  Singapore, I would reply, and wait for them to ask why I don’t have a Singaporean accent.  They always ask.

On a rare occasion, someone would ask if I was “local.”  I always reply, yes, I am.  He, or she, would say something along the lines of “but you don’t sound local.”  I would explain that I went to an international school, which would then encourage my companion to comment on how funny my Cantonese sounds.  At that point, I would get slightly defensive, and tell him / her how I spent five years at a local high school, which pretty much makes me “local,” although I don’t sound like one.

It appears to me that the preferred method of categorization is sorting people according to their accents, which is just silly to me.  I’ve always considered “international” and “local” as nothing more than labels that serve an administrative purpose, like “Non-JUPAS” and “JUPAS.”  At a social level, “international” is such an inclusive term, I’m surprised we haven’t done away with the term “local.”  If Hong Kong-born, Chinese kids (like myself) are considered “international” just because they went to school with people of different ethnicities and nationalities, so should the “locals” at HKU.  I mean, just take a look around you.

At the end of the day, none of it matters.  We may have grown up against different cultural backgrounds, but it is within the same environment that we continue to flourish.  Labels are obstacles, because they are based on stereotypes.  I don’t think I need to mention what these stereotypes are – pretty much all of us are guilty of making rough generalizations.  So, go forth, and show some love!  If you weren’t “international,” you are now, just like everyone else.

But, then again, who cares?