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.
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?
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.
There are lots of reasons to love a food festival. Whenever there’s one happening in Melbourne, I think about going.
A few weeks ago I went down to the Night Noodle Markets after work with my colleagues. An outdoor food festival at Birrarung Marr, a grassy patch at the edge of the city, serving up all kinds of Asian street food you can think of. When the eight of us twenty-somethings arrived at a quarter to six, a sea of people greeted our eyes. Tables packed. Queues in front of food stalls where chefs dished up food right before our eyes.
We go to food festivals because it’s a chance for us to give in to our love for food. A time to indulge our food cravings. We go to food festivals for the food, for our old favourite foods and the foods we’ve always wanted to try. As my colleagues and I made our way past the entrance, a dozen different gastronomic aromas hit us in the face left, right and centre. Vietnamese pho. Korean fried chicken. Chinese baos. Japanese ramen. Mouthwatering Asian street food. What shall I eat? Everything.
I’m no stranger to racism in Melbourne. As an Asian Australian, racist encounters have been a part of my life here for as long as I can remember. But I don’t remember doing much about this.
Over the years, I learned there are different types of racism. I’ve had insults about my non-Aussie accent and yellow skin thrown verbally in my face by non-Asians. There have been times where I met new people who immediately assumed I wasn’t Australian and asked, “Where are you from?” That is, there is direct racism and casual/everyday racism, one of them more subtle than the other.
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.