Queuing up. Lining up. Standing in line for something free, something new or something on discount. Most of the time we’ll see quite a few Asian faces in these lines. If not a few, then a lot.
I’ve been guilty of queuing on a few occasions. At one point while living in Singapore, I joined humongous Singaporean queues at McDonalds to collect all eight stuffed monkeys that came with McValue Meals during the Chinese New Year month. I did it, sometimes waiting half an hour to buy a meal. A few weeks ago, I saw a short queue in the Emporium shopping mall in the city. I joined it and after a five minute wait, got to the front and received a free macaron. I did notice there were some elderly Asian ladies in front of me, haggling at the top of their lungs for more than one sweet treat.
As an Asian Australian living in Australia, I get the question “Where are you from?” thrown at me quite a bit.
When I get asked this, I pause: it’s a confusing question. Where exactly is “from”? The place where we were born? Where we live? Our heritage? One of my favourite responses to this question is, “I’m from three countries. Guess” (I grew up in Australia, Malaysia and Singapore to Chinese-Malaysian parents; see previous post). It’s also an intrusive question that demands a very personal answer, maybe demanding that we give our life story away.
We usually feel the urge to ask the question when get the feeling the person we’re talking to has a different story than us, judging by the accent on the tip of their tongue, the colour of their skin, the way they dress.
As an Asian Australian girl who has lived Melbourne for nearly a decade, I’ve had quite a few local Caucasian guys hit on me.
These encounters are amusing and annoying. They give me the impression some Caucasian guys are attracted to me because of my ethnicity (maybe some have yellow fever). These moments also remind me of what it means to be Asian Australian, an Asian person living in Australia.
On a recent winter’s weekday afternoon, I had one of those random encounters in the city. Two hands plunged in the pockets of my grey Target jacket, I settled down on one of the empty benches along the glass panelled sky bridge linking the Melbourne Central and Emporium shopping malls. Tired from window shopping, I gazed at the traffic on the roads below, and sensed someone sit down beside me on the bench.
I grew up in a traditional-minded Chinese Malaysian household and am no stranger to Asian superstitions. My mum is a big believer in them, believing there are lucky Chinese numbers and that keeping pet turtles slows down fortunes, for instance. I always wonder why.
As Asians, many of us are respectful. We believe in the spiritual, believe fate controls our destiny: anger ghosts or spirits floating around and they may curse a dose of bad luck upon us. My parents pray at temples for luck at the start of every Chinese New Year. My relatives have small shrines in their homes, and and never fail to put an even number of mandarins – usually lucky eight mandarins – at the front as offerings to the gods.
That’s the first thing my mum asks when I land a volunteer stint or get a job that pays. Coming from the average traditional-minded Chinese-Malaysian family, I’m expected to be a filial Asian kid, working for the money and supporting the folks in their old age.