Finding The Asian Australian Identity In A Multicultural Oz

As a Chinese person living in Australia, defining who I am as an Asian Australian has always been tough. If you come from a mixed family or have moved around quite a bit, you might feel this way too.

Growing up in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, my fair-haired Caucasian classmates teased my brown eyes in the playground. These days, walking around Melbourne, I get asked “Where are you from?” a fair bit. And at home, I get nagged at by my parents for not having studied science or law at university. As Asian Australians, we ask ourselves: Where do we fit in? Where do we belong?

Sometimes we need to find that spark in ourselves to push on finding what we're looking for | Weekly Photo Challenge: Twinkle.

Sometimes we need to find that spark in ourselves to push on finding what we’re looking for | Weekly Photo Challenge: Twinkle.

Yet I no longer hate myself for being “too white to be Asian and too Asian to be Australian”. Living in multicultural Melbourne for almost a decade, I realise there are signs telling us it’s okay not to fit in – because we’re all different.

We all have different stories. Culture is a shared experience but over time stories change, and we’re always learning about our culture. And so it’s not a crime to not fit stereotypes in order to be fully “Asian” or fully “Australian” (two very broad terms).

Each year, watching lion dancers prance around Chinatown during Lunar New Year celebrations downtown Melbourne mesmerises me: crimson shades, dins of drums, dragons jumping in pairs – all speaking volumes to me about Chinese culture. I always smile, eyes drifting over the more-non-Asian-faces than I can count watching beside me too.

Being on the receiving end of racist and stereotypical remarks makes us Asian Australians feel like we don’t belong here. But everyone has their own opinions and different levels of education. A few months ago, as I was enjoying a leisurely weekend stroll in the city, a Caucasian guy came up to me and yelled in my face, “Hey chink. Chinky!”. Shocked, I paused, and walked on. Soon he was a block away from me. Then forgotten for the afternoon.

We have a choice to not take racism to heart, a choice to be proud of our culture while respecting others. As Grace over at Texan in Tokyo says, “No matter what you do…people will be personally offended. Always forgive.”

It’s uncomfortable, scary, lonely, embarrassing and confusing to be Asian Australian. Australia is still a nation typically defined by a white face and research shows Asian Australians go through identity denial because of this. At the beginning of university I avoided eating aromatic fried noodles for lunch with my non-white tutorial mates, choosing pizza instead: I longed to “be more white” and socialise with Caucasian Australians. I don’t talk with them anymore today. I was a racist against my own race, left red-faced and it got me no extra friends back then.

There is no one Asian Australian identity. We hold at least dual identities and some of us might feel closer to typical Asian values, some Western values, others caught in the middle. Some of us might be okay with this. But for some Asian Australians like me, we feel conflicted a lot of the time – the status quo Down Under makes us feel invisible.

A bit of courage, and standing tall, helps us sail through and weather the hard times.

A bit of courage, and standing tall, helps us sail through and weather the hard times.

Australia is a nation of migrants yet we don’t often get mentioned in mainstream media (Waleed Aly on The Project is a start), and in the public sector too. Then again, many Australians are shy talking about cultural differences – our Asian ethnicity, Australian nationality – out in the open. Maybe we’re afraid of racist insults. Maybe we fear certain races that we affiliate well with will think less us. So how can we Asian Australians begin to find the confidence to be, well, Asian Australian?

Perhaps we simply have to dig deep for the courage to stand up for ourselves and our culture. The more I blogged and shared stories about being Chinese Australian, the more I felt I could admit I am Asian Australian. The more I wrote about being Asian Australian and the great things about living in Australia, the more I repeated the stories I’ve lived back to myself – realising that they are a part of me and nothing can change that.

Confidence, comes from having self-worth, which comes from being positive and positivity is contagious. This year, it has been encouraging seeing a few bloggers jumping on my blog and championing this diverse world we live in, saying no to discrimination through sharing their own stories of who they are in the comments section.

Finding the Asian Australian identity. Or our cultural identity. It’s about learning to be comfortable with who we are. Believing we have a voice. It starts with us.

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138 thoughts on “Finding The Asian Australian Identity In A Multicultural Oz

    • I have no idea who that guy was, yelling that racist remark at me. From what I remember, he was taller than me by a head and he looked quite young, perhaps about 19, 20 years old.

      I don’t know why he would do that. He might have mistook me for someone else.


  1. Very good post Mabel, and I most like reading “I realise there are signs telling us it’s okay not to fit in – because we’re all different.” Although I must say I am biased towards American English and spelling: it should be realize…however, I am going to be tolerant 🙂

    There are so many differences in life, and while a dream right now, at some point in time I do think color will be irrelevant. Hopefully it will be due to the type of attitude you have which is through “confidence, comes from having self-worth, which comes from being positive and positivity is contagious…” that is just a perfect sentence that would solve so many of the world’s social problems. Wish you a great holiday season!


    • No, no, no! It’s realise with an ‘s’ for me! I get all riled up inside when I see American English in my writing…but of course, I respect that there are different conventions of English 🙂

      “…color will be irrelevant”. Hopefully one day. If we focus more on improving our character and helping others to achieve their best potential, then colour will be irrelevant. Then again, colour always tells a story, a story different from us – so we really shoudn’t not think of colour and its significance.

      Thanks, Randall. I almost didn’t publish this post. Worked on it for a week and I wasn’t happy with it all along, but I think it turned out okay. I might write a longer version of this topic someday 🙂 Best wishes for the season!


      • 🙂 I think this post turned out excellent ~ it is funny how sometimes we can write or do something that we want to be better but can’t quite get it to work out, until right at the last moment it ‘clicks’ ~ beautiful work, as always Mabel, and wish you a great holiday season!


        • Thank you, Randall. That is a very nice thing to say. Funny, I was trying to make this post thought-provoking, not self-centred and actually thought of your posts where you weave philosophy so seamlessly within words and in photos, writing and photos that makes us look closely at ourselves.

          Writing – like finding our identity – is like a puzzle. Rarely do we see the big picture clearly in our heads until the puzzle’s complete. Some pieces might not fit and so we rearrange them them until they do – similar to editing, and questioning who we are.


          • This post was incredibly thought-provoking! It really got me thinking about growing up, the diversity (and lack of diversity) of my home town…and having more international experience now, how would I have changed. It was very nice to reflect on myself then and now.

            Your las paragraph is actually a great piece of philosophy: as with what I wrote above, life is like a full-time job in editing who we are 🙂 I think that is one thing I like about writing, this constant fluctuation with what you write versus what you really want to say. Sometimes, I am frustrated when I write something ~ yet, it is not what I want to say (if that makes sense), and then the editing process is so painful…but a great process nonetheless. Cheers, I hope “Winter” for you is going well (cold and rainy here!) ~


            • I think with every experience that comes our way, we learn, grow and change. International experience hits us in a big way because a lot of the time we get culture shocks and come to know what rejection really means.

              You are right. Sometimes we don’t know how to put feelings into words. And so we go on what seems to be an eternal search to do so. The editing process is a great process because we get a chance to flesh out ideas even further from the bare bones-of-stories we’ve laid out. Writing is an unpredictable journey.

              Summer is going well. Though it’s raining a lot and temperatures have been unusually mild. I hope you’re keeping warm, and staying dry.


  2. Mabel, when I was reading this post, I started thinking about how we all try to fit in and be accepted. I remember when I was growing up, people would buy the latest trends and clothes to be accepted. They buy it to be cool but ultimately, accepted by their peers.

    I see some of my friends in Canada constantly trying to keep up with their neighbors and I guess, be accepted. One buys a new card, the other one does. One buys a dog, the other one does. And the cycle continues.

    So, the point I am dancing around and eventually getting at is no matter what, everyone is looking to be comfortable in their environment and to have self-worth. Self-worth costs some people a pretty penny but they are willing to do it so they are not judged and looked down on.

    But, some people think that being rude is a way to show how important they are, that they are better if they make someone else feel inferior. I wrote a post about how rude one guy was at a restaurant, so rude that I found myself apologizing because he was also a foreigner in Taiwan.

    (Sorry this comment is everywhere and all over the place but I hope you understand some of the points I am getting at)!


    • Being cool. Or perhaps rather, many of us want positive attention towards us. That is such a good example – us keeping up with the trends. I guess when you try to be someone else, like changing your speech and getting tanned/making your skin paler, that takes it to a whole new level altogether. In short, it is sad that some of us see (another) culture as a benchmark to attain in order to gain self-worth.

      That is an interesting story you shared on your blog. How rude of that man to demand to be treated like a VIP in an American chain restaurant. It’s very self-centred of him to act this way. It’s great that the wait staff let him be and not succumb to his every demand – they certainly are proud of what they do as wait staff and take no-nonsense.

      We’re all born into a certain culture whether we like it or not. Self-acceptance doesn’t come easy especially if we have conflicting views about certain (cultural) identities that we hold. The best we can do is to look for reason and significance, behind each custom/tradition/way of life, respect that and focus on our strengths and become who we want to be.

      Now, I’m not sure I’m making sense. Maybe I’m the one who’s not making sense here 🙂


    • What a beautiful second sentence, Lisa. I think that is a very worthy quote. If I do use it someday I will let you know 😉

      Confidence takes time to achieve. I think what helped me become confident is focusing on what I love doing – and when people see someone so happy doing what they love, they look past culture and colour.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I really almost didn’t want to publish this post. Wasn’t feeling it at all especially the end. But I think it turned out okay.

      You have always come across as very confident, Sue. Maybe confidence comes with age. Or maybe it’s your travels. Or it comes with being with your energiser husband 😀


  3. I think it is similar when a “white” person tries to live in an asian country. They might speak the language fluently, do all kind of good things for community, know each and evry single custom on how to behave proper but still will never belong there, the person will be perhaps in best case scenario be accepted but that’s it.

    This is also similar to my best friend from childhood years who has chinese parents but grew up in Germany. Back then here in my hometown were much less Asians then today so you can imagine his struggles especially during the cruel years of school. However toward his mid teens he found his own mid way, he was as geeky as any other guy that age here when it came to computers (maybe even more so), loved the local food but also stocked to his daily Chinese food from his parents restaurant. But always he and his parents felt some rejection and that is why they moved to Los Angeles nearly ten years ago, with the hope to be more accepted there.

    But as you may guess, they feeling in general more accepted there but this is mainly due to the fact that there is a huge asian community and that is where they are mostly living and working now.


    • This is a very interesting take on finding identity, Crazy. From your stories about visiting China and visiting MIL, you’ve certainly felt out of place at times there, especially with the customs over there. But from your funny stories about MIL visiting you, it seems like she feels like she belongs wherever she is: she always seems to have a good time anywhere she goes, embracing the cultural differences with a smile…

      That is so sad to hear of your friend and his family, moving to Los Angeles to feel more comfortable and a sense of stability but I can understand his decision. Discrimination always brings morale down and doesn’t benefit us. It’s sort of like this: we meet new people, we don’t like the way they treat us, and we don’t hang out with them.

      Hope the job is going well. It seems to be, since you are still blogging away 🙂


      • My friend will manage as well as his family. Over the years many of his relatives moved to the USA and few came back to Germany after a time. He indicated already that he might come back later again (I hope he does!)

        The job is fine thus far. Nothing too demanding but also not too boring yet 🙂


        • I hope your friend’s relatives settled down well over there in the States. Those moving back to Germany might not have liked it over there. I’ve lived in Melbourne for a very long time. It’s funny how none of my relatives in Malaysia want to move over here.

          Looking forward to hearing about your upcoming holidays, Crazy 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • Many of his relatives didnt like the life there in the long term view. Now few of them are back in Germany and are happy about it 🙂

            Oh, the holidays will be interesting for us. Especially I have a little side project now and perhaps I will write about it during these weeks 🙂


  4. Great post Mabel. As always, your thoughts are brilliant and provoking 😉
    There is nothing wrong to keep our cultures and personal traits, I agree, we all different as per individual – no matter what. What matters most we can integrate to the place where we live in and be part of the society, perhaps contribute in local society in positive way. If I may, from my experience as an Indonesian immigrant or expat living in the Netherlands, although the Netherlands is not a nation of migrants like Australia but some cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam have almost 50% of its population come from all over the world. I don’t have Dutch nationality but since I live and work here, I feel that I have to integrate to the Dutch cultures and condition, I respect the Dutch and other immigrants without fear of losing my identity as an Indonesian and myself as a person. Maybe that way we will enrich each other, in positive way 🙂


    • “nothing wrong to keep our cultures and personal trait” Spot on. Stereotypes aren’t all that bad too, and I hope to write more about this in a future post.

      I feel like I’m learning more and more about the Netherlands every day from you 🙂 I didn’t know it was so diverse in its cities over there. It sounds like you are having a great time living in the Netherlands, I am assuming they are very accepting of many cultures, including Indonesian cultures, and have a variety of food too.

      Is it hard to integrate Dutch culture in your life? I have found that overtime I have to integrate typical Australian culture in my life. For instance, when I’m at work I have to cut out Asian slang in my speech or else my colleagues/clients will find it hard to understand me. Also, being social or going out for grog/beer/after work drinks is a big part of Aussie culture. So I’ve had to adopt this culture and have been to a few of these, though I don’t drink 🙂


      • I had culture shocks of course..but I overcame very well I guess. One thing for sure, it is not easy to enter the Dutch friendship circles. I am lucky to have a Dutch partner who has own friendship circles..Dutch friendship is quite complex..and also strongly bonded because usually it has been developed for years…hm, maybe next time I will explain it in a post..have a wonderful weekend Mabel!


        • “cultures shocks” That is certainly very familiar to a lot of us who have moved and traveled. I would definitely love to hear about Dutch friendship at some point 😀

          It’s also not easy to be friends with certain groups of Asians too. Like I’ve always found it hard to make friends with Asian-born Australians when I moved back to Melbourne and couldn’t identify with them. I think each race/culture has their own intimate bonds. After all, many of us feel comfortable around familiar people.

          Have a good weekend too, Indah!


  5. Racially, I am half white (Dutch) and half Asian (Indonesian). I was born and raised in the Netherlands, as was my fully Indonesian (by blood) mom. We both identify as Dutch people. We’ve never even been to Indonesia, when I was younger we did visit Indonesian relatives living in the Netherlands and there we did pick up a fondness for Indonesian food, at least.

    I am much paler than my mom because I am half white, and other Dutchies seeing the Asian on my face often assumed I was Chinese. I have been called a few derogatory terms, like “ching chong” or something. But somehow I never let it get to me. I like being half-half, I feel it makes me a bit more interesting. I’m also excited about our upcoming mixed baby (Japanese-Dutch-Indonesian), we’re not worried about an identity crisis, since I never had one, and we’re not living in either of our countries. I think we’ll try to give our children an international identity.

    Btw in Japan, no one saw my Asian-ness. To them I was superwhite. I always enjoy being different though so I enjoy not exactly fitting in ;).


    • Very interesting family you come from and so great to hear that you proudly call yourself half Dutch and half Indo. It sounds like you are very familiar with both cultures too and both side of the family are very accepting of who you are – very loving ❤

      I am sorry that you have been called "ching chong". That is awful but you have thick skin for not caring. People can only bring us down if we let them 😀 "an international identity" – love how you say it. With such a positive attitude, I am sure your baby will grow up very healthy and happy, and of course experience the best of the cultures around him/her.

      Out of curiosity, did you speak Indonesian at home while growing up? My parents spoke to me in English at home growing up, but when they spoke to each other it was always in Cantonese. Of course, everywhere in Australia English was the main language of instruction. As a kid, because of this I thought I was weird 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hello Mabel, thanks again for your comment on Beauty Along the Road. You are the second blogger I know from Melbourne who has written about racial harrassment (do you know Robyn of Jambo Robyn?). While I am not so much surprised when I hear about older people being prejudiced against people who are racially different from themselves, I am always shocked about young people acting like ignorant fools. After all, they are being raised in a more cosmopolitan climate than their elders were and still….
    You may be interested in studying the concept of cultural identity, there is a definite progression in how we perceive and then proceed through different phases (reflecting different emotions and awareness) as we move along on this fascinating continuum of cultural awareness. Thanks for writing this post.


    • I’ve actually never heard of Robyn or her blog before. I did a quick google search and wow, what an amazing voice she has, writing poetry and speaking up about her culture. Though I’m an Australian blogger, I really only know a few bloggers from Australia. Thank you for the connection.

      You are so correct. These days many young people think that they are always right and are intolerant of other opinions. It’s not as bad as it used to be in Australia – today some suburbs do boast culturally diverse schools and that’s talked a bit in the media.

      Cultural identity is something I’ve always wanted to explore more. Interesting that it can be entwined with emotion, language the people around us and our experiences. It’s constantly changing.

      Thank you for stopping by Annette, and for reading and commenting. It’s hard to get people to chime into the conversation about culture and ethnicity.


  7. I can see how that would be a difficult situation. I can’t really imagine what it’s like for you, but I have some small idea. I was born in Florida, which is a state filled with people from all over the country, so it’s not the same as the other Southern states. Then my family moved up to Georgia when I was five. In Georgia, I feel like an outsider. People treat me like I’m from the city. When I visit Florida, I also feel like an outsider. People down there treat me like a redneck. I don’t really fit in either place.


    • So sorry you felt on the edge of things in Georgia 😦 I hope it’s better these days and you go about your own business without carry about those who bring you down.

      I always thought Florida was a pretty diverse state, that isn’t nice to hear they treat you like a redneck. I hate saying this but some people are just so ignorant – they think they know about the people around them.

      Does it bother you that you don’t fit in? I am always bothered by that. Hope your week has been okay too? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Good post, Mabel. I can’t help thinking that the person who was so racially insulting to you, is most probably rude to many people he comes into contact with, and also for no particular reason. Next time something like this happens, just say, “Well thank you for sharing that with me. Have a nice day, in spite of yourself.” 🙂


    • You are probably spot on the money there about the guy who racially insulted me. He probably has no manners and is very stubborn. I LOVE your suggestion of fighting hate with politeness and a bit of love. If I said something like that, they will probably be stunned into silence. And maybe learn their lesson 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post Mabel. I love that you are becoming more comfortable being you…thats just all any of us can be….ourselves. If we attempt to be someone else, as you learned hanging out with the white college friends, it simply doesn’t work.
    As a lesbian I’ve certainly struggled with “fitting in” but I know I am the person I was made to be….and if I don’t honor that then I am being unfaithful to myself.
    You are a wonderful person….I am so glad we met out here in the blogging world!
    As for the guy that yelled at you….wow, I know that had to be hurtful. I’m glad you were able to move beyond his ignorance quickly.


    • I’ve heard from many people that being comfortable with oneself comes with age and time. Is that true? 😉

      Part of “fitting in” has to do with HOW we think of ourselves. That is, it’s all in our heads. I am so happy for you that you have found the confidence to be who you are. The more unfaithful we are to ourselves, the more we won’t like the person we are.

      So glad to have met you, Tree. I have learnt a lot about your part of the world from your blog and our chats here and there. I think you are a force to be reckoned with 😉


      • I do believe comfort with oneself does come with age and time (for some). Sadly I think there are some people that never learn to love themselves….so it isn’t automatic. I believe you have to actively work toward happiness. Its a choice!

        Its easy to be miserable…no effort required. But to like yourself and live a happy life we must choose to see things in a positive way and see ourselves in a positive way.
        Don’t give the haters any free rent in your head!!
        You are an awesome young lady…I enjoy our chats!!


  10. Although I’m not Asian, having family members who are half Asian has helped me learn a little more about the Asian culture, in particular, the Chinese and the Korean. I have a niece who is Euro-American and Chinese. She’s going to be 11 years old in March. Do you have any ideas on how her life can be made a little easier as a teenager. If you write any posts about this, I’ll be sure to send them on to my brother.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds like a very interesting interesting family you come from. Very diverse and it must be eye-opening to learn about different cultures. Though there are some similarities between Asian ethnicities in terms of values, their customs can be vastly different.

      Happy Birthday in advance to your niece. Being a teenager is never easy, at least I don’t remember being too happy a teen. I lived in Singapore and my classmates gawked at me because I couldn’t speak Mandarin (my mother tongue is Cantonese).

      Did you have a particular topic on being a multicultural teenager that you wanted me to write about? Or which part of a young person’s life can be made easier? I’m always looking for topics to write about 🙂

      Thank you for stopping by, Glynis. I really appreciate it.


  11. It’s moving to read about those painful experiences you’ve had, especially trying to change yourself to fit in. I guess everyone does that to some extent, tries to modify themselves to fit in with their peers or community, but of course it is a whole other story when racism is in the mix and you appear to not ‘belong’ to the dominant culture. Thanks for your courage in talking about it.

    I’m glad that blogging and sharing your story has helped you gain confidence and acceptance of who you are.

    On a positive note, too, I’ve seen a lot of change already in my lifetime – there are far more Asian role models out there now in the community than when I was young in the 70s & 80s – comedians, authors, chefs, people like Penny Wong & Dr. Victor Chang. It may not be a lot of people who are so highly visible, but I think over time it is making our society much more inclusive and will reduce the levels of racism.


    • I will admit that consciously dropping Singapore-Malaysian colloquial terms from my speech has got me less weird looks from other Australians when I’m chatting with them. You can certainly call that assimilation. But whenever I hear someone use these words, I smile – and am reminded that…that is a part of me. Or is it still?

      Sometimes when we’re from the minority culture, we have to work (much) harder to get noticed. Sometimes it may not pay off because opportunities tend to be given to the dominant racial group.

      But you are right. Australia has come some way in becoming a multicultural nation. Great to see more Asian faces in the public eye. Waleed Aly will be a permanent host on The Project next year. Another step forward. It would be encouraging to see other Asian and Indigenous Australians stand up too and share their voices and stories to keep the momentum going.

      Thanks for stopping by and chiming into the conversation on what it means to be Asian in Australia. It’s definitely an emotional topic both for the writer and readers.


      • Yes, it’s that thing of having to do better than everyone else in order to be noticed /bypass the inequities of a system that favours the dominant culture.

        Even though things are a bit better than they were, our society is still far from equitable, so voices like yours that point out discrimination and share experiences are vital.


        • Thank you, Maamej. Fighting discrimination has to start somewhere. Hopefully one day there will be more education on this subject in the classroom, either through languages or humanity. Maybe even sport. If we grow up learning about diversity, I’m sure we’ll champion it for the years to come.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Mabel, It must take a lot of energy and thought to write up this sensitive topic. The amazing part is that you are able to apart from your own emotion and present this issue and the challenging you face in such a gracious, yet intelligent manner. I responded to your previous post that racism is difficult to deal, for some is almost impossible to overcome, forgive, and forget, because racism takes away the person’s or people’s identity and pride. Being nice is not going to change the rudeness.
    Thank you for sharing your insights. I really like this photo, it expresses much of the loneliness, courage, impact, and more…


    • This was a very hard post to write and it took me a week to finish it, and at the end I thought I could do a better job 😦 You are right. It’s hard to revisit difficult times as they are confronting and putting it out there it’s scary- and when it’s racism or something to do with culture, you always fear of being judged and put down.

      Sometimes we have to get lost to find our identity. Or maybe travel a bit and meet new people – experience both the good and not-so-good experiences. We learn the most about ourselves when we find ourselves in the most challenging of times.

      Thank you for your nice words, Amy, post, photos and all. It’s hard to draw people into taking about all things identity and racism. You’ve said a lot of insightful things on my blog this year – thank you for taking the time to pop over when you can ^^’


      • We learn the most about ourselves when we find ourselves in the most challenging of times — you nailed it. Life is journey… (but it doesn’t mean people should put up with racism.)
        If I have shared my thoughts with you, it’s because of your inspiring post and eloquent writing. Keep writing, Mabel 🙂 ❤


        • No, you nailed it, Amy. “Life is a journey…” When we look back on the things we’ve done, I don’t think the end product is what we’ll stick with us – it’s how we change, grow and the stumbles and fun times we had we’ll remember most clearly.

          Racism is part and parcel of (today’s) life. A lot of us like hanging around the same people of the same culture as this makes us feel comfortable. We really need to put ourselves out there and get to know more diverse people.

          I hope you keep posting photos, Amy. They always inspire me to take a closer look at the world around me ^^’ 🙂


  13. Another thoughtful post Mabel. I especially like this: “Confidence, comes from having self-worth, which comes from being positive and positivity is contagious.” One hopeful sign I see is the number of editors looking for books with more diverse characters (the movies need to take a lesson from that). And, you are a good writer with many stories, so, keep writing!


    • Thank you, Sandy. I’ve been thinking lately that confidence comes with experience and age – which is something you might be able to confirm with me 😉

      I hope there are editors and publishers in Australia that are looking fore diverse stories and authors. I’m a very picky person when it comes to writing stories – I need all the sentences to flow nicely and a strong message within the story.


  14. This is an excellent post, and very thought provoking. You are a great writer, and I thank you for sharing this! I, like many others, really connected with this piece, and I truly admire your confidence and strength to write this.


    • Thanks, Monica, for the nice words. Great that you connected with it. It sounds like you are very confident with your identity, culture and who you are, hats off to you. Maybe you gained that through your travels and meeting new people 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting piece you wrote for HW. I remember reading it a while back. It seems that you share similar experiences with me growing up – being outcast in school and being shy at speaking until much later in life.

      It is interesting to read that not all parts of Canada are equally diverse. This is the same in Melbourne, and wider Australia too. There are many Asian-populated suburbs in Melbourne (think Box Hill, Glen Waverley). I’ve been there numerous times and got the impression “Asians like to stick together”.


  15. Wow – so beautifully written!

    As an Australian-born Asian, (so this is obviously Le talking) the following sentence resonated with me a lot – “It’s uncomfortable, scary, lonely, embarrassing and confusing to be Asian Australian. Australia is still a nation typically defined by a white face and research shows Asian Australians go through identity denial because of this.” I did struggle while I was finding myself especially living in a part of Sydney where it was very multicultural.

    I have been called a “banana” – yellow on the outside and white on the outside & I find that disconcerting somehow. But I think you summed it up beautifully in your finish paragraph. And once we find ourselves, it really is no longer too confusing!


    • I am sorry to hear that you struggled to find yourself in a multicultural part of Sydney sometimes ago. Doesn’t necessarily mean the more we’re around multicultural Australians – say more Asians – that we’ll fit in. I’ve met Westernised Asians in Australia who are intolerant of the less-Westernised Asians. It’s sad, and fuel to identity crisis’s for some of us.

      “Banana” isn’t a very nice term to describe us. Very stereotypical. But very glad to hear that you don’t let it get too you! Once we know who we are, there’s no stopping us what we want to do and can achieve!


  16. I love how you write about identity crisis and the issues related to it. But most importantly you share with us how to combat that through your personal experiences! My hats off to you for your brilliant efforts Mabel, you are helping us all one way or another to understand the problems and how to come off triumph on the other one step at a time.

    P.S The photographs are spectacular ! I love how clouds are rolling from one side to the other, slowly encasing the whole sky. you are a fabulous photographer 🙂

    Much Love,
    Zee ❤


    • I think we all go through identity crisis. For some of us it might be a long struggle to find ourselves and for others it might just be a certain point in life. I don’t know if I helped you, Zee. You always sound very confident and even when you’re down you express your feelings very clearly – I am sure you’re the one who is more in tune with their emotions!

      Thank you for your kind words. I am very glad to see you back in the blog world and your meaningful posts 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well the only reason I’m so in tune with my emotions is because I don’t have another choice. I’m not a very vocal person about my feelings so writing is the only escape I get.Thank you for reading whatever I write and being so supportive all along.
        Know this that you help us all one way or another. Your writings are always a food for thought. Happy holidays ❤


        • You write so well, Zee. And from your writing I can see your identity and who you are – a very strong person who isn’t afraid to speak up and share stories when the opportunity comes up. I think I’ve said this before, but I love your gravatar pic. It looks like you are flying up high, going to reach your dreams 🙂

          Thank you for the nice words as always ❤


          • Aah well yes, you call me an opportunist ! lol I never miss a chance to write especially because I can only write when when I feel like it, very moody you can say.

            And thank you so much for the compliment about my Gravatar. I never thought of it as that, just me flying through air but you gave me a very positive thought. I hope to reach my dreams, so thank YOU for that ❤


  17. Deep down inside, I believe people still remain their most natural instinct: marking territory. Those who were born in a particular land will confirm their own rights of being natives. Others from different places who come to their land always are guests (or even uninvited guests).


    • “marking territory”. That is a very important point, and now that you mention it, I guess we all want a place to call ours. When we make a place our home with all its customs, languages and food, it’s a comfortable place – and we want things to remain the way they are if we were to find peace there.

      I don’t know if this is the case in Vietnam? I am thinking so because there are quite a few different cities in Vietnam, and I believe some towns speak Vietnamese and others Cantonese. Or both.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There are two sides we should consider about the deep connection between people and where they live. In term of good results, we can reserve the original cultures of our ancestors. However, ultra racism can occur naturally. The understanding between different races is very necessary. All I want to say when mention “marking territory” is that we should learn to be sympathy even with those who disgrace us because each of us were born with an instinct which mother nature gave us so long ago


        • What deep, wise and meaningful words, Khan. You should be a philosopher 🙂 “…an instinct mother nature gave us”. Such a profound thought and you are so right.

          Sometimes others might call us “racist” because they don’t know better; they might feel threatened because of our presence, and we just want to look after those who matter to us, those who tend to be of the same culture as us. The job market is one example. In Australia some Western locals feel threatened by Asian migrants who tend to have great skills in engineering and science.

          Liked by 1 person

          • It’s a pity that some companies would feel unsafe with employees who have great skills. The world is flat and people should be identified by their abilities to create profits for societies not by the colors of their eyes or the shade of their hair. Everything you’ve done have a great meaning, Mabel and you are not alone in the battle of anti-racism ❤


  18. Growing up Jewish decades ago gave me a head start on racism, not of face, but of identity, religion, culture. Not only are you not alone having a dual identity, Mabel, but you are in a large and growing minority in the world. My young Japanese friend, who grew up mainly in the US but then lived in Australia and currently lives in Germany, wrestles with this same issue you are posting about. We talked on Skype about it, and she sent me this link to a TED talk by Pico Iyer, one of my favorite travel writers, who is Multicultural with a vengeance! I found it very interesting and think if you have time, perhaps you will also:


    • I am sorry to hear that you’ve faced racism, it isn’t a pleasant thing at all. I hope your Japanese friend will one day find the confidence to be herself. It’s great to move countries and travel around in life – you learn more about the world and other cultures. At the same times, the longer you are away from “home” (a relatively vague term) or the motherland, there’s every chance we become more distanced from our heritage or our culture we were taught by our parents growing up. Which leads to confusion a lot of the time.

      Thanks for that link to the TED talk. I love these talks, I will check it out. I am sorry about your previous comments disappearing, and I take it that you meant to post here. My Spam Folder was very hungry today, it seemed. But not too worry, I check it every day 🙂


  19. It’s interesting to read of your experiences, Mabel. While belonging to an identity might give us a feeling of comfort that there are others like us, it can also restrict us by binding us to certain choices that we must make in order to continue to conform to and belong to this identity. I think that ultimately, it needs to be transcended in order for us to be able to live lives that we are happy with. For me, the lack of a cultural identity as I grew up made this process a lot easier.

    On a somewhat related note, I wonder how older immigrants struggle with issues of identity. My father came to Australia just before China’s great economic transformation and to this day, he sees himself as Chinese. However, China has changed vastly not only economically but also socially and culturally. The Chinese identity that he embraces belonged to a China of a past era, so he is also in a sense neither quite Chinese or Australian.


    • You summed up the notion of identity very well there: belonging to an brings us comfort but at the same time restricts us to being who we really want to be. I am glad you use the word “transcended” – I plan on naming one of my book chapters this.

      I don’t feel like I had a lack of cultural identity growing up. As a kid, I was very aware that I was Chinese and didn’t associate myself as Australian at all although I lived here. But as one gets older and you have more experiences, you start to realise cultural identity is never static.

      That is a very good point – what do our elders identify with? My parents have lived here for a while and identify as Malaysian. I think a lot of migrants in their position hesitate to take up Australian citizenship and they are happy to be identified as an “outsider” – they are very proud of their culture and roots.


      • My issues with identity were probably a bit different to what most other people experienced. When I came to Australia, I did so with a fairly strong sense of being Chinese. On my first day of school here (a school entirely of migrant kids who were there to learn English), I sought out a couple of Taiwanese boys, thinking that we shared a common identity and thus could more easily be friends. But identity both binds and divides. I saw in us common ties of ethnicity, language and culture, while they saw in me a mainlander who was a much loathed enemy of Taiwan. One of them did become my friend later on, but in the meantime, the only friend I had was a Sri Lankan boy. So I had been bullied by those with whom I thought I shared an identity and instead found a strong sense of commonality with someone from a country I had never even heard of. It made me wonder what it meant for me to identify as Chinese. It seemed to not matter at all.

        I found it fairly easy to embrace Australian culture, possibly because the prevalence of sport makes it relatively straightforward for boys to do so. That I don’t see myself with an Australian cultural identity owes far less to any feelings of being an outsider than to reticence at adopting any cultural identity at all as a result of my previous experience.


        • “identity both binds and divides”. Spot on. I am sorry to hear that your classmates weren’t too welcoming towards you growing up. It sounds like Chinese-ness – or qualities that pertained to being Chinese – weren’t that prominent when you were younger. I guess that’s the case for some Chinese living in Australia. When I was five years old living in the eastern suburbs, one of the few classmates I got along with was Chinese. We even looked similar with our short, bob-like, dark hair (…hairstyles…which is another story for another day…). She always looked like she fitted in with my Caucasian classmates – talking as loud as them and eating snake lollies. Like you, I wondered what it meant to be Chinese. Back then I thought, maybe keeping quiet about your culture was how you were Chinese.

          I don’t mind sport actually. Don’t play it but love following along. A few years back I followed the AFL, and each year I visit the Australian Open (tennis). Sport has the power to foster multiculturalism.


  20. Mabel I plan to do a post over the holidays highlighting those that at one time through the year were in the top 6 commenters on my blog as declared by WordPress. You are one of those. is it all right to high light you with a link to your blog in the post?


    • I’m one of your top 6 commentors? Thank you for letting me know, and for wanting to link me an one of your posts. Go for it, I don’t mind. So generous of you to thank your readers from all over the world 🙂

      Thanks for always stopping by my blog and chiming into the conversation about culture 🙂


  21. How old where you when you moved to Australia. Here in Spain (ok you and me and have already had plenty of these discussions about the more or less racism I’ve gone through), maybe I just don’t care anymore but if someone says something weirds and a tad racist, I just think: your ignorance, your loss.


  22. As usual, you and I are thinking along the same lines 🙂 I have been spending time with my mom and it’s been making me re-think the American Asian experience. The words and thoughts are swimming around still and have yet to settle, but I enjoy hearing about your experience and what is going on for you. It’s a bit of a wonder that at the end of 2014, we are still having this conversation, you know? C’mon folks! It’s time to get beyond appearances…

    In any case, I’m looking forward to this new sitcom on American TV called, “Fresh off the Boat” which should hit upon the AA experience. If you have time, take a look at the trailer. Does Australia have much in the way of Asians in the media? (I think I know the answer to that already).

    Keep writing my Asian sister 😉 xxoo


    • I too am surprised many of us are still talking about why we all can’t get along in 2014 because of our heritage and background. Preposterous. Then again, most of the time we’re curious about each other’s experiences or lifestyles and so I guess we talk about identity and culture in this way.

      I’ve heard of that show Fresh Off the Boat and it’s actually going to be screened in Australia too. I wonder who it’s going to appeal to – the Asian population? I don’t know if many Westerners know what “FOB” means.

      You are right. There isn’t much Asian representation in commercial media in Oz, though it has improved over the last decade. Getting there. Asian sister 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • No, I don’t know how many non-Asians know about FOB. I’m just hoping the show is good and that it lasts! The TV show Selfie was killed before the first season ended! Gah!

        I remember when the popular TV show ER came out and my brother astutely said, “You mean to tell me this is a show about a hospital in Chicago and there isn’t a single Asian doctor?”

        Of course, much later, well into the run of the seasons they introduced a female Asian character….but man, oh, man, it’s been a slow progress for representation of our kind.



        • Can you believe it, it NEVER occurred to me that there weren’t any minority doctors on ER until the later seasons 😀 But these days more American TV series have Asian actors, which is a plus. Think Hawaii Five O, Elementary. Finally.

          Liked by 1 person

  23. The world is a multicultural place. At the same time, different people have different backgrounds with their own stories to tell. There can be a balance between maintaining your cultural identity and still function as a citizen of the new country you live in.

    In America some people use the term “new world” to refer to the ‘new country’ that descendants of immigrants live in. Several people of various backgrounds have written books about their experiences of “growing up ethnic” in America.


    • Balance is always hard to achieve, especially when it comes to cultural identity. There are always many influences around us that affect our choices and the way we live our life.

      Thank you for mentioning “new world” I’ve always wondered about this term ever since I first watched the Disney movie Pocahontas as a kid. Back then from the movie, I got the impression that leaving our native land was something that had to be done in order to be “successful”.


  24. I appreciate that it can be confusing being who you are, MK. In my own contribution to the Race, I mentioned the epiphany from years back that those who didn’t care to try Korean food revealed they didn’t care for the culture. It’s funny. I’ve written on how we shouldn’t take things personally, but it hits me right now that food is quite personal bc it’s cultural.


    • Always will remember the Race, D. A great series on culture and identity all over the world. Food is definitely personal – each dish has it’s place in a certain culture. Same goes for the ingredients in each meal. I’ve had my fair share of Korean food over the years – Korean fried chicken, Korean BBQ, the wheat flour noodles…all very much delicious.


  25. Holy smokes Mable, you certainly stirred up some conversation w this one. I guess it must be pretty darned-thought provoking after all, right?! Lest you feel alone out there, I’m a white American from a small town with almost no diversity, and I STILL struggled with fitting in; I think we all do. It made me want nothing more than to see and experience the world and ALL of its cultures, and with each country I visited, I grew a bit more open-minded and appreciative of the world’s diversity. I think (and certainly hope) there are more like me than like the racist idiot you encountered. Happiest of holidays to you and yours!


    • Anything to do with culture is thought-provoking, I suppose, since each culture is different. Thank you for sharing how you feel in a small white town in the States. We all have our own quirks – sometimes very odd quirks that it’s hard to blend in.

      Love how you bring your travels to us through your blog. We can all certainly learn from your experiences and see the beauty in other cultures. Thank you for championing the diversity in this world, Tina 🙂


  26. Mabel, Another thought provoking post from you, on a topic, which is very sensitive and universal…

    I could very well relate to your story, and let me share my experience,

    I was on a short trip to Kochi, a historic city in South Kerala, for last few days.

    The city is the commercial center of Kerala and a major port in India.

    The local people around the port area(not a generalization anyway) are a bit notorious for their attitude. This is one place where many a gangs are based and quite a common story in movies.

    I went there with a bit of fear in my mind and my approach towards people around me was a bit cold.

    I turned off my characteristic smiles ( as you know) and put on a fake “seriousness” mask.

    I wanted to look serious and the only way people could make out that I am not a local is from my accent. So I didn’t talk to anyone, or whenever required, I changed my accent, which I could do with some effort.

    I went on with my exploration and taking photos and got a sense of the people and place.

    As I grew in confidence and felt comfortable, I just became me, and started talking to people with my own accent and even let others know where I am from.

    Even I could manage a few thugs who just wanted to let me know, that I am in their zone, with a smile.

    The whole essence of my story is very well summarized by your sentence “Confidence, comes from having self-worth, which comes from being positive and positivity is contagious.”

    I know, there is a huge difference, when you look different and people with no brains easily targets you… and I am sure, you would be able to handle it, more than anyone else 🙂 (new record for the least number of smilies )


    • When I was writing the sentence, “Confidence, comes from having self-worth, which comes from being positive and positivity is contagious”, I thought it was very cheesy. And wondered if I got my point across with it.

      Thank you for sharing your story, Sreejith. It goes very well with this sentence 🙂 I can understand why you had to pretend to be someone else while you were visiting Kochi – for your own safety.

      Good to hear the thugs didn’t give you too hard of a time. I suppose if you don’t get in their way or pay too much attention to those who discriminate against us, they’ll leave us alone eventually.

      As per your story, I reckon it takes time for us to be comfortable with ourselves in a new place. When we’re wholly confident with who we are, it’s then we’re not afraid of others bringing us down.

      Record number of smilies indeed. On a very serious topic. Thank you for stopping by and reading, as always 🙂


    • Chink, or chinky, is a derogatory term used to describe someone of Chinese descent (or who looks Asian). It has a similar spelling to “China”. It’s a term that’s also common in America, I think.

      It’s not a word we use to describe ourselves.


  27. I am both sorry and embarrassed that a citizen of my country would do something like this to you. I wonder if he was drunk, or just impulsive or rude? Whatever, I don’t think he represents the Australia I hope we can be now, or in the future. There are many racists and naivete among us, unfortunately. Most likely there are people with these opinions in most places, around the world, but there is also a lot of people who embrace multiculturalism and welcome people from all cultures here. After all, unless you are indigenous, everyone here is a migrant at some point in their family history. Some years ago, an interesting perspective was revealed to me by a refugee who was settled to Australia (who had applied to immigrate to Australia after initially becoming a refugee and being re-settled in Europe). He himself did not approve of expanding immigration to Australia, despite his own refugee status and experience; so frightened was he of his new country possible descending into an ethnic type war, and a repeat of his own displacement. Perhaps this view is more widespread than first thought?


    • “drunk, or just impulsive or rude?” Like you, I wonder what someone’s intentions are when they say something discriminatory to someone of a different race. Chances are they are actually aware of what they are doing if it’s face-to-face confrontational.

      That is an interesting perspective indeed. “an ethnic type war”. I’ve never considered that. I wonder what his reasons are for thinking that of Australia. It could also be a reason why some ethnic groups choose to stick together.

      Glad that we have connected, Amanda 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, that could be it. In a sense, immigration involves stepping on someone else’s land and trying to make oneself comfortable there. Sort of like you’re an “intruder” if you’re the immigrant and sometimes you don’t receive the welcoming treatment. Perhaps another reason.


  28. It is sad that the human race somehow still can not accept the fact that we are diverse. I hope the guy that insulted you gets hit by a bolt of enlightenment lightning. Being black in Vienna brought this home to me. I was walking past Stephansplatz (the heart of the center) where there are always a lot of tourists. I walked past three young men and one of them said “I did not realize that there are so many ‘N’ (using the ‘n’ word) in Vienna. I was shocked out of my socks!


    • That is shocking indeed that those three young men said that. Maybe they reckon ‘N’ is a cool word as opposed to an offensive one…I hope not and that they are just being ignorant. They didn’t sound very nice, in my opinion.

      Always hard to talk about racial slurs and words as not all of us understand the significant and emotional context behind them. Thanks for sharing, Zambian Lady. Much appreciated.


  29. Dear Mabel, never feel ashamed about your origins… you are lucky and awesome for have had the chance to have so many different cultures in your life. And for the racist guy I can only say: he should be the one be ashamed of who he is and he is certainly the one losing something here, not you!
    You are awesome… and whenever you feel like you dont belong, just think that in front of God we are all the same, it doesnt matter where we were born, which colour is our skin and which language we speak!
    I admire you 😀


    • Thank you dear Allane for being an awesome support and cheerleader in my corner. “I admire you” – I am beyond flattered 😀

      I’m definitely lucky to have experienced different cultures in my life – and here in the blog world too. So glad to have met many bloggers from all over the world who are so accepting of me being Asian Australian, and all cultures. Like you 😀

      Thank you for teaching and showing us that there is beauty in this world and each one of us (including sea animals) through your travels! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  30. I love your blog, Mabel. I identify with so much of what you talk about.

    I’m black, born in England to Jamaican parents, raised and educated in Canada. I’m a visual artist, love the martial artist and long-distance street cycling. I hike, think about nature, astronomy, science fiction and fantasy often, I read a lot and I’m married to a white woman. I haven’t played basketball since I was a kid, and although I work out a lot, stay in pretty good shape, I’m not a major player of football or baseball. I don’t drink alcohol, have never done any kind of drug, and I never will.

    I have never fit into black people’s, white people’s or any one else’s stereotype of what a black man ought to be. I know that I’ve pissed off many for not allowing them to squeeze me into their little identity boxes. I just be me.

    Thank you for being you, and have a great 2015!


    • I love how you confidently shared your story and who you are as a person. “I just be me”. Such a strong, powerful statement that a lot of us should believe in. Stereotypes do have their place in our culture and it’s beneficial to know about them and learn their significance. At the same time, the only way to learn, grow and become our true selves is to break boundaries and shatter expectations.

      I don’t drink alcohol or do any sort of drug too. It’s refreshing to hear that from someone, and it’s a topic I want to revisit at some point on the blog. Thanks for being confident and proud of who you are. Best wishes for the coming year!


  31. Hi Mabel,
    I am silent reader for all the time but this post just hit on me.
    Talking about identity, racism and being minority, I don’t want to waste my energy and time to think about it or make it get into me. Living in Indonesia, I learn about diversity and toleration in religion, culture, life style and etc.
    born as Chinese-Canadian and living in Indonesia, I am count as minor. just like you mentioned, “Where do we fit in? Where do we belong?” I did asked myself before when I was little but as time passes, I decided to live as I AM WHO I AM.
    Again this is one of great post 🙂


    • What a strong spirit you have, living as “I am who I am”. A round of applause to you. You raise a very important point there – that we can’t waste so much time thinking about not fitting in and feeling different. Yes, culture and getting in touch with our native culture is important – but so is building our lives in this world and our personalities. Maybe once we’ve found confidence elsewhere, we can come back to discover our heritage. This is something I’m planning on writing about in my book 🙂

      Thank you for the kind words, Azurro. And for sticking around 🙂


      • Mabel, You are right about finding confidence and come back to discover heritage.
        It not easy to make oneself being accepted and comfortable in multicultural society.

        As a kid who born “mixed-blood” I and perhaps, other children in Indonesia may raise question about their identity, background, where I belong? where do I fit? etc (I made a post about it : because Indonesia is multicultural country.


        • So true – it’s not easy to be accepted in a multicultural society. I think part of the reason lies within us. We tend to judge others at face value, and it’s something we need to step away from.

          Thank you for sharing your post. I have checked it out. A great read on the different cultural identities within Indonesia. I think a lot of Australians don’t realise how diverse Indonesian is, and correct me if I’m wrong, there are many languages and dialects within the country too.


  32. I feel like I have so much to say, but will keep it at two things.

    1. Great post! Thought provoking and interesting, as always.

    2. <-reminded me of this cartoon, which features Mark Twain's quote about travel and what it does to us. I like how he talks about being exposed to different people, cultures and places makes us embrace them. (Or at least understand them, for the exceptionally hardwired.)
    Having said that, I think it's harder when people see others as encroaching on what they consider to be "theirs", however silly it may seem. Entitlement comes hand in hand with racism (and sexism for that matter) and it can be hard for people to "give up" their own perceived benefits (even when it doesn't require it!). <-I think I went on a tangent, but basically I get you with the not feeling like fitting in, and people need to calm down about there being a "norm" (which, there really isn't). Oh, and I have hope that people can, will and do change for the better. 🙂


  33. This was a good heartfelt piece, but personally I think ultimately “multiculturalism” is a fallacy. People just really want “their kind” to be the majority and remain uncomfortable until that’s true. You can see this the world over. Discomfort only goes away when a majority is achieved. Hence even in the supposed multicultural utopia of Canada you have no genuine integration at a local level. More just a federated collection of monocultures with the liberal white monoculture currently holding voting majority. Should that majority shift to some other group you can bet on sweeping change dramatically in favor of that group. History has shown time and again that majorities always impose self interest and minorities always cry for equality but really pine for majority.

    Will a blog entry like this ever exist in India or China? I’ll guess no. To the two strongest nations on earth “multicultural” just means slight variations on the monoculture. I truly believe this is their strength. India isn’t too worried about a lack of black or white movie stars and China isn’t too troubled by the absence of non-Han Chinese CxOs.

    I’d give AUS maybe 50 years tops until it’s effectively a Chinese territory. “European” descended cultures are marching towards extinction purely by the numbers, so the whole point will likely be moot soon enough. Europe, Canada, Australia and the US will come to simply be extensions of Asia and the Middle East with the dwindling “white” populations increasingly marginalized. Not sure where this will leave progressive ideology, but if modern ME and Asia are an example, it doesn’t look good.


    • You raised a number of insightful points there. “Discomfort only goes away when a majority is achieved.” Very straightforward way of putting it. I think we are all uncomfortable to a certain degree when we’re around those who don’t share the same mindset and lifestyle choices as us. At the end of the day, we do what we need to do to perpetuate survival and the way we want to live.

      “Will a blog entry like this ever exist in India or China?” I have to agree with your answer, and having lived in Singapore and Malaysia where different races live side by side, I’d have to give the same answer.


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