How do you define culture?
It’s one of those tricky words, like love, that everyone understands but few can articulate. Is culture a series of familial traditions? Rituals? Rites? Shared beliefs and value systems? However you define culture, it is something that we are all inadvertently a part of. From social culture, to your personal heritage, and even the professional culture of your workplace – it’s a ubiquitous phenomenon.
In fact, in many circumstances culture dictates how we act, think, and behave. Most of the time these governing rules of interaction serve to help rather than hinder us, providing a framework for acceptable behavior. But, how do you react when the culture you belong to becomes stifling and repressive?
For Vietnamese-American, Kimchi Chow, the answer was simple: you speak out.
Nearly forty years ago, as Vietnam fell to the communist regime, Kimchi’s family immigrated to the United States in search of a better life. After settling in, her parents both took jobs working long hours for minimum wage, while Kimchi and her eight siblings attended school. Of her household dynamic, Kimchi recalls that, “My father was always critical in his comments, chastising us about how we were dirty, useless, and stupid. He also didn’t respect my mother, treating his wife as a second-class citizen.”
She went on to add that, “This type of behavior isn’t considered abusive in most Asian countries, and might be acceptable as a traditional approach to parenting.”
Years later, now in a marriage of her own, Kimchi realized that she was battling the same issues that she had once criticized in her parents’ relationship. For two decades she continued to search for an answer as to why she remained so unhappy, if she seemingly had everything she had ever hoped for – a healthy family, a business, her own home. What was the wedge that continued to drive her and husband further and further away from one another?
Kimchi told us that within the Asian communities, there exists an inherent expectation that women should be demure and timid, shrinking themselves below the men in their families – especially their husbands
“Most Asian women, we don’t feel heard,” Kimchi told us.
Determined to break free of the cyclical nature of her unhappiness, Kimchi did something that defied all her Eastern Principles: she confronted her husband. By silencing her perceived sense of shame, and releasing herself of her ingrained cultural norms, Kimchi was able to stand up for herself and find her voice once again.
Today, in her successful podcast, Asian Women of Power, Kimchi helps other Asian-American women confront their own hardships and learn to take back their power. Through insightful and engaging interviews, Kimchi chronicles the inspiring stories of other first, second, and third generation Asian-Americans that have overcome racial prejudice and cultural barriers to become successful, powerful, and influential business professionals.
As an immigrant herself, Kimchi is acutely aware of the discrimination and personal identity-crisis that can come from simultaneously belonging and not belonging to two different cultures. “It took me a long time before I was able to stand in public and say, ‘this is who I am and these are my scars’…. to show all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly.”
In our conversation together, Kimchi informed us that harmonizing her two diametrically opposite belief systems, and identities, between the East and the West was one of her hardest things she’s ever had to do. “There was a long period of time where I would think to myself, ‘I don’t want to look this way, I don’t want to be Asian’ and so I was denying myself.”
Only after coming to terms with her blended identity, was Kimchi able to fully leverage her potential to help others. These days Kimchi’s mission is to “remind other Asian women no matter what we look like, what color our skin is or where we come from, it’s our character and our values that we display that define who we are.”
Kimchi was excited to share that recently her podcast is now available and viewed in 18 countries worldwide! Talk about making an impact!
When we asked Kimchi about why she decided to use a podcast over an alternative means of spreading her message, she explained that it came down to accessibility. Whereas, blog posts and video content would require her followers to go to her website or another media platform like YouTube, podcasts allowed her to share content with a much wider audience and in such a way that it was remotely accessible.
“A podcast is like an amplifier; it amplifies your passions and your purpose…I am using my podcast to start a movement.”
While Kimchi’s audience is primarily Asian-American women, the tools and practical insights she offers can be enjoyed by men and women alike, regardless of age or cultural background. To find out more about Kimchi and her inspiring message check out her website or view her introductory episode, Welcome to the Asian Women of Power.