Thursday, August 23, 2007

Are you Chinese?

I am asked a lot since I got here.

Like Malaysia, Australia is also a multi-cultural country, but at a much larger scale. And in the recent years, Asians are the top migrants as compared to the Europeans.

When someone ask me this question, my answer is always I am from Malaysia. But yes, I'm a Malaysian Chinese. And if I answer only 'Yes, I am Chinese', their next question may be 'Oh, which part of China?'

Now some angmohs will nod their head to acknowledge my answer and got excited, saying they have been to Malaysia for a holiday, yadda yadda yadda. Others who doesn't know much about Malaysia will get a little confused, because their 'Oh, so you are a Malay' would get a negative response from me.

It is like:

America - Americans
Australia - Australians
Greece - Greeks
Japan - Japanese
Singapore - Singaporeans
China - Chinese
Malaysia - Malays.

No?? !

They never thought it will be so complicated. So, Chinese are everywhere? What do you call the Chinese in Vietnam then?

I don't know. Vietnamese Chinese, perhaps? Why not Vietnamese-born Chinese, or Malaysian-born Chinese, just like ABCs i.e. American-born Chinese or Australian-born Chinese? What makes of Aidan then? What will people ask him in the future? What are you? I'm an Australian.

Huh? Aren't Aussies angmohs? Oh, I am Australian-born Chinese.

Hang on there! Too confusing!

After somewhat a brief explanation, the Aussies usually will get the drift.

Yet there are Hongkies who doesn't know what to call us! My FIL for instance. To him, everyone from Malaysia is 'Malai mooi' (Malay girl) or 'Malai jai' (Malay boy). Friends in Hong Kong are the same. I am a 'Malai mooi' to them. So when they start referring to a certain 'Malai jai' I will need further clarification as to whether they are Chinese or Malays. Funny how they never refer Indians the same way. They will correctly say the Indians are Indians. Interesting.

Are you Chinese?


Edward Foster said...

Are you Asian?!


Sweetpea said...

haha... that's great ed. that's the best thing to ask! then your next question can easily be 'which part of asia?' no confusion then :)

U.Lee said...

G'day Sweetpea, ha ha, love your this post, and your great sense of humour.
Toronto has 127 peoples from 127 countries at last count. Second language here now is Cantonese, before long will be Mandarin at the rate the Chinese flooding in. 47% of people here from another country. Formerly 2nd language was Italian.
Yes, I get asked that question too. Lots of people tend to ask where I'm from, I guess from my height of 6'1", weight a shapely 195 pounds, ha ha. So I answer, "English no speak, come Mongolia". If they enquire my name? Ahhh, I say 'Genghis Khan', ha ha. Habis cherita.
When the Americans or Russians land on the moon they'll find a Chinese restaurant there selling bak kut teh, ha ha.
G'day mate. UL.

Simple American said...

I half Chinese. My better half. :)

My kids are whatever will get them the advantage in gaining admission to school. Right not being an Ang Moh or Asian seems to be the most disadvantaged. Blacks and Latinos tend to get the preferences.

But I hope my kids just think of themselves as American. If they have to define themselves more then they can assert they are Texan.

I would call you a Malaysian of Chinese ethnicity. Though two years ago before I became so involved with Asian blogs I would have just called you Chinese, even though I knew you were from Malaysia. Life is complex. LOL!

mott said...

Actually..I have a friend who is a Malaysian born Vietnamese. HOW????

HA HA HA!!!!!!!

We are all mixed up inside..something special, I guess.

Sweetpea said...

U.Lee - wow! descendant of Genghis Khan :) but u'll fit the pic perfectly. the tallest man in the world i read is a mongolian at 7feet plus. can't imagine if i have a boyfriend that tall :)

SA - seems a getting to know you better a little bit more :) i didn't know u are 1/2 chinese. wow! your children sure have some explanation to do :P

mott - i guess there are always more complex ones. i can imagine aidan one day explaining mother malaysian chinese dad hongkie he ABC :)

slavemom said...

Vy interesting topic... hilarious too. :D With multi-country, multi-racial relations, it's getting more and more complicated to explain one's origin.

Sweetpea said...

slavemom - thanks to big ships and aeroplanes :P

NomadicMom said...

HI! First time here...hopped over from Mott's blog. Interesting write-up. True about how ppl from HK refer us a "Malai" just because we are Malaysians. I find it really frustrating trying to explain the multi-racial make of Malaysia!

Sweetpea said...

nomadicmom - hi, thanks for the peek here :) yes i know. they seem to have this misconception that we malaysian chinese DO NOT speak cantonese. when i first met my hubby's (the bf) friends, they were VERY surprised that i speak cantonese fluently.

and the expats there, were amazed at my english! haha.. can't please everyone!

LA My Home said...

I always tell ppl whom ask that I am from Malaysia but I am Malaysian born Chinese. Ancestors were from China but moved to Malaysia in the early 20th century. Luckily, they dun call me malaimooi. hhee

Simple American said...


I have no Chinese blood in body. You missed my joke. We refer to our spouse as the better half. So my missus is my better half. That is the half I claim of me that is Chinese. haha

Get it?

Sweetpea said...

Anna - that's exactly the same case here, heh, don't u think we have lots of explanation to do? :P

SA - i am sorry. i did miss it, didn't i. am not thinking straight! blame it on you know who :) yes, we do refer our partners as better halves, i don't know why i wasn't thinking. ok, so she's chinese. where from? :P