As an Asian Australian who speaks with a slightly tinged Singaporean-Malaysian accent, quite often here in Melbourne people ask me when we’re mid-conversation, “Where are you from?”.
This question is an ambiguous one. As Melissa Loh has discussed, it can mean: Which city I live in? Which country I was born in? Where I grew up? Which planet? Where my ancestors come from? Which languages I speak?
Each pair of shoes travels far and wide. Where are you from? Photo: Mabel Kwong
Pretty sure a lot of the time, many who ask me this question want to know where I call home and expect a simple, straightforward answer. Also, they are those whom I’ve met not too long ago and perceive as strangers.
A while ago, I chanced upon Banana Lounge’s trip-down-memory-lane post on Asian childhood foods. Reading it literally made me drool as all Asian food items mentioned here resonate well with me – I ate all of them when I was a kid.
Asian grocery stores in Melbourne never fail to stock heaps of childhood favourite junk food. Photo: Mabel Kwong
I was born in Australia and when I was seven, my dad moved the family to Asia. Most of my primary and secondary school days in the late 1990s and 2000s were spent in Singapore and Malaysia. Two Asian food-mad cities where people nibble on something roughly once every two hours of the day.
We all speak English differently. Some of us speak “Singlish”, “Chinglish”, “Manglish”, “Konglish”, “Frenglish” or “Spanglish”, variations of the language incorporating a mish-mash of non-English words.
I am no stranger to flitting around with the overseas crowd here in Melbourne. Whenever I latch onto one of the, say, Singaporean or Malaysian cliques, I hear them spout one of these colloquial forms of English among themselves non-stop.
English is spoken differently by different people of different backgrounds. Photo: Mabel Kwong
Funnily enough, on many occasions when a Caucasian friend or acquaintance joins us, I hear them drop their usual accent and immediately put on a Westernised English one. When the white person toddles off, they revert back to their normal way of talking.