At the Crossroads of Culture and Career – Part 2 of 2

Interview with interculturalist--Mishell Hernandez
Photo of Mishell Hernandez
Interculturalist — Mishell Hernandez

Interview with an Interculturalist —  Part 2

Cross-Cultural Kid (CCK), Immigrant, Expatriate, Third Culture Adult (TCA) and Interculturalist — Mishell Hernandez describes her career as an Interculturalist in her own words.

If you missed the video interview with Mishell and part 1 of this interview you can view it now.

When asked what it is it like to bean Interculturalist and an Asian-Latina living in the U.S. And later becoming an Asian-Latina living in Asia the weight and complex nature of her answer seemed to weigh on Mishell.

“Whew … I think in the U.S ., we’re such a melting pot it was interesting, but it was also common.

In Asia because in China we’re so … there’s only a group of you know, a group of people from China, that’s the way that it looks like to us for example.

It’s one race and then you have the foreigners — basically we’re grouped as the foreigners.

For me I’m what I guess you would call an invisible-immigrant.

I look Asian therefore people assume that I’m Chinese either from Shanghai or somewhere else. And, I’m spoken to in Chinese [and] expected to be Chinese. [When] I’m like no I’m an American — I’m a foreigner as well”.

Being a foreigner in China

When Mishell self-identifies as a foreigner to a Chinese person she says:

“They’re very confused … with surprise a lot of the time. The most lovely thing though is that among all of that confusion they’re really happy to just receive me as one of their own. You look Chinese that’s good enough for us”. They say to Mishell.

Mixing career and culture

Mishell’s cultural fluidity shaped how she shows up in the world. She said this about her global perspective — “It’s made me much more patient and understanding. I try my best to think twice before I make a judgment. I try to look at it from every angle before I decide that it’s this [prejudice or insensitivity].

So when it comes to being offended by something — for example we live in a political climate right now where everything is offensive. There are people that make fun of that, there are people that resent that, there are people who are very happy because we’re talking about these issues. But I think now more than ever it’s really important to take a moment to think about a lot of the judgements that are at play before we make a judgment or have a [negative] feeling [about a comment or question]”.

U.S. immigration— thoughtful words from an Expat

These uncomfortable exchanges seem to take on new meaning as Mishell admittedly takes care not to spend too much time on all of the negative rhetoric around the U.S. and Mexico immigration policies and practices.

“What’s going on in the U.S.  is stressful. I try to keep the news that I digest to a minimum. I’m an immigrant to the united states I’m a naturalized American. I came to the U.S. an immigrant at the age of eight from [Mexico City], Mexico. I can look at it as objectively as I can from an academic lens but I also play a part in that story. The issues aren’t black or white”.

Lessons from my parents

However Mishell seems to expertly straddle three cultures—Chinese, Mexican and American.

Mishell says that her strength and compassion came from what she learned from her parents.

“[In the] … Mongolian culture we respect and value our mother in a way that is very much the same as in the Mexican culture. —Mishell Hernandez

“In an attempt to understand my parent’s background I really had to understand their cultures”.

This is why Mishell approaches communication with the idea of asking herself—

“ … How do I start this conversation so that we have something in common?”

Perhaps Mishell’s approach is one that we all might adopt.


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