Sunday, 14 March 2010

You know, being born and bred in a certain place makes you do some things subconsciously.

For example, when I first came here, when I walked around and see signs above doors with green background and white letters, I expected to see “Keluar” (I’m short sighted) before realizing, upon closer view, that it’s in fact, “Exit”. It means the same thing, but it is amusing.

A funnier example would be when I was at the market, and I saw several packets of Maggi curry instant noodles. As many products, like Milo, have Australian made versions as well as from other countries, I immediately grabbed the packet of Maggi to inspect whether it was made in Malaysia. A friend asked me what I was doing. When I told him, he said “Duh! Can’t you see it’s PERENCAH KARI?” It then hit me that I had just automatically interpreted the sign, not realizing it was in BM.

I guess this means that sometimes we don’t really think about something we read, because we understand it. I see perencah kari and I immediately interpret it to mean curry flavor, and thought it was in English because, well, Australia’s national language is English.

And this wasn’t an isolated incident. It has happened to me several times after that, but I realized what happened soon after since it’s already happened before.

Speaking of being Malaysian, I find that I don’t really tell people where I’m from. Most Australians I meet don’t ask me where I’m from; one even asked me which school I was from! I’m thinking it must be because they don’t want to draw attention to the fact that I’m different, as that would be discriminatory (which I read in a book), or that… I’m picking up the accent? I don’t think that’s the case, because I still have a lot of lahs and mahs in my sentences, even though it doesn’t crop up when I speak to the locals.

But I did notice that one habit I’m picking up from them is I keep saying “Yea”. Like when you say something, and the other person replies, they go “yea yea…” to show that they understand what you’re saying. I’ve noticed that I’m starting to say it too, and sometimes in their accent!

The reason is pretty clear. Adelaide is not as popular with migrants as Melbourne or Sydney or Perth, so the majority of the population is still locals. Granted, in the city you’ll find a significant number of Asians, especially in the universities, but in my campus Asians are a rare breed.

I don’t know whether I’ve mentioned this, but I’ll say it again anyway. In my campus, I’m the smallest minority- Asian males. Good? Bad? You tell me.

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  1. Randa Abdel-Fattah's novels seem to show lots of racism in Australia. She's an Australian muslim. But my dad says racism can be found anywhere. No one is spared XP

    That being said, where I am (psst Melaka) no Chinese wants to speak to an English speaking Chinese. Do you realise Malaysians call themselves Chinese/Malay/Indian/etc instead of Malaysian? Sad.

  2. Jerrenn says:

    Yup. I agree, you can find racism everywhere.

    It's so true the way we identify ourselves by our race back home, but once you're overseas you start calling yourselves Malaysian.