Meet Janet Kim – 20, born and raised in Canada by immigrant parents, English only, aspiring artist, foodie, family peacemaker, love seeker, and above all, a typical Canadian. I think there’s something we can all relate to here. She’s the archetype of the “2.0” generation; that is, children who are born natively from oversea immigrant families. Here’s why we relate to her:
1. We seek to please our parents
To an outsider, they might seem like an oddball. Our parents speak in a foreign dialect, and their mannerisms are anything but normal. But to us, we love them. We’ve gotten used to their quirks, and we understand how they think. We recognize and honor the sacrifices they have made to give us the benefits of a free society. We seek to honor our parents because the Bible commands us to do so (Deut. 5:16).
And our parents love to hear this. Especially immigrant parents who come from Asian backgrounds. For these cultures put a high premium on family honor and respecting your elders. It’s been seared into us since childhood. Janet does a great job portraying this; managing her parents expectations in a way to not overstep their boundaries.
2. We seek to find our own lives
As much as our identity has become entwined with our parents, people forget that we don’t come from the ‘motherland’. We seek to find a new identity, one that says, ‘I am distinctly Canadian’. Just because our skin is of a certain color, doesn’t mean we should be stereotyped as those type of people. Self-identity is a big struggle of the 2.0 generation.
In episode 4, Janet takes her friends to a Korean restaurant for the first time. She brings along her cousin, who is natively from Korea. It’s a conflict of two worlds, that ends up in a giant mismatch of expectations and frustrations. I especially love the scene (at 21:53) where the waiter asks everyone how the food is (in English), to which Janet attempts to reply in poor Korean. The waiter is befuddled and simply says, ‘sorry… what??’ Janet’s cousin boldly steps in the gap and give a clear Korean reply. Disaster averted, but Janet slumps to her chair back in shame.
That’s exactly the struggle of the immigrant generation. Do we embrace the culture of our parents, even if we never lived in that land? What if we don’t speak the language, or our friends and environment are not of that culture? Our quest for acceptance and belonging is always ongoing.
3. We want the best of both worlds
Unlike the ‘1.0’ generation, those who are direct immigrants and usually choose to live in a world similar to where they came from, and the ‘3.0’ generation, those children who came from the 2.0 and embrace a bold new world apart from anyone else, the 2.0 put their feet in both worlds. While this choice creates difficulty, it also generates preference. In the end, we just take the best of both worlds.
There’s a lot of things the 2.0 generation learn and distance themselves from. And for good reason, after all some of the old traditions might not be culturally acceptable or unbiblical at the worst. Take ancestor worship for example; burning incense and bowing to idols, not cool today. Yet many of our parents adhere to these to the tee, regardless of what makes sense to us. Our generation are the people of transition, living in the old and adapting to the new ways of life. And it’s never easy.
From the get go, Janet is constantly criticized by her mother for her singleness and urges her to choose a “cool Korean boy”. Janet however ends up dating a man that would arguably be perceived as opposite to her mother’s wishes; “bad Black cop”. I really liked how this was setup. For this challenges the stereotype that immigrant children only socialize within their own racial setting. It’s quite the opposite! We prefer to have a diverse setting, one that is reflective of the communities that we live in.
Cross-generational studies get even more spicy when we consider how Canadian Asians and American Asians differ. It’s a whole different world on the other side of the border, for they are now into their 3.0 to 5.0 generations, when self-identity becomes less of an issue. But for now, I give a huge thumbs up to Kim’s Convenience treatment of the Canadian Asian perspective. Janet is only one side of the coin, for her brother Jung showcases the other side – the 2.0 generation that does not get along with their parents and wants nothing to do with that world.
This post is actually part of a larger-series of Kim’s Convenience reviews. My Colleague Dr. Daniel Wong has several similar posts including How We Connect with Jung on Kim’s Convenience, How We Relate to Ins Choi, Creator of Kim’s Convenience, and How I Relate to Umma in Kim’s Convenience. I highly recommend you take a look.