Meet the Neighbors

Meet Tami McHenry, the “Canadian-born, Chinese-Jamerican” Corporate Engineer

 Tami McHenry

Name: Tami McHenry

Occupation: Corporate Engineer

Education: BS Industrial Engineering

Country of Origin: Born in Canada raised in USA

Current Neighborhood: Northern Liberties

City/State: Philadelphia, PA

Number of years in the U.S.: 22

The first time I realized I was different than my North Jersey neighbors was the summer my family moved from Canada to Mahwah, NJ.  I was riding bikes with my neighbor, when she said: “Why do you say ‘ax’ instead of ask?”  I was only 7 at the time so I didn’t know how to answer her – I think I was too embarrassed to say anything.  I remember thinking – that’s how I thought you said it, is something wrong with me?

It took a while for me to understand that I had an accent because of my parents’ influence – and that was the difference she was questioning.  You see, my parents are both of Chinese descent, but were born and raised in Jamaica.  When Jamaica became dangerous, most of my extended family migrated to either Toronto or Miami. My parents met in Toronto and started their family there.  However, a job-transfer landed my immediate family in North Jersey in 1991.  This resulted in a good chunk of my childhood and teen years spent struggling with understanding my differences from my peers – no one else was like me.  I eventually got over it.

Thanks to my darling husband I now have an Irish last name to really mix things up. My Dad absolutely loves it – his name is Astor and his Jamaican accent often gets mistaken for Irish as is.

These days when I’m asked where I am from, my response varies depending on my mood.  If I’m feeling lazy I’ll just say I’m Chinese – that response usually satisfies strangers’ curiosity to confirm if I’m Korean or not.  But if I’m feeling chatty, playful, or confident my best-friend from college coined a phrase that now rolls off my tongue with the greatest of ease. I am a Canadian-born, Chinese-Jamerican!

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  1. Yay Tami! Gooooood true story. And well told:).

  2. wai hong shek says:

    am british born chinese….
    sometime i just cant be bothered to explain myself…..
    why shd i?

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