As an Asian person living in Australia, being Australian has always confused me. It’s something I’ve struggled to put into words. What is “Australian” exactly?
When I was a kid and up until university, I remember my Chinese-Malaysian dad saying to me countless times, “You were born in Australia. So you are Australian.” The older I get and the longer I live in Australia, the more I realise being Australian is more than just having an Australian citizenship certificate in your name.
The longer I live in Australia, the more I notice certain things about Australia and Australians around me. Being Australian is about being laid-back, easy-going with the ‘she’ll be alright’ attitude. Many places where I’ve worked here I’ve seen my colleagues run out of the door 5pm sharp to live life.
Nicknames. Name-calling. Sometimes they’re funny. Sometimes offensive. And other times we have mixed feelings about them.
Nicknames take on some kind of character or thing. Recently at work, my colleague Julien added to my long list of nicknames. Coming over to my desk one afternoon, boisterous Julien said, “Since you love monkeys so much, I’ll call you Cheeky Monkey Mabel. Cheeky Monkey!” I looked up from my desk, wondering if he was serious. And if the name would stick.
When we know someone well, we might give them a nickname out of friendship or love. Nicknames liven up the day, and sometimes it’s why we call each other by nicknames. When I shuffle through the office door in the mornings, eyes semi-closed, it’s actually quite entertaining to hear Julien chirpily say and smirk, “How is Cheeky Monkey today?”
Staying up and going to sleep late at night is something I’m all too familiar with. And so is getting a few hours of sleep each night.
I go to bed around midnight or one in the morning on most weeknights, setting my alarm to ring at 6.30am. I thought many others did this, until I mentioned it at work. When I did, my blonde-haired, twenty-something colleague Simone exclaimed, “What? I go to bed at nine. Nine thirty!”
It’s a habit some of us have: being neat and tidy. A neat freak. That is, some of us like things to be in a certain order or place.
I’m one of these neat people, always making sure there’s no rubbish on my desks at work and at home, putting away things I don’t need for a while. My Asian colleague Mandy the Magician is a neat person too. The other afternoon she finished all her work for the day and decided to tidy our office – sorting a plastic tub full of paperclips, a plastic tub the size of your average rectangular pillow, sorting silver paperclips from the coloured ones.
Standing in front of a bunch of people you don’t know. Feeling like a million pairs of eyes locked on you. Forehead sweaty, palms shaky. Speaking to an audience we’ve never met, or even to a group of friends, can be scary if we’re not too confident at public speaking.
Recently I got interviewed on a radio podcast on SYN 90.7FM and talked about the Asian entertainment scene in Australia (radio is public speaking – talking to an audience you can’t see, but can feel…). Although this podcast was edited, I thought it didn’t go too bad as I did string coherent sentences together. But I was never this eloquent speech-wise. As a kid, I always stuttered when I gave presentations in front of the class.