Not all of us can speak our mother tongue. Just because we look a certain way doesn’t mean we speak or write a certain language.
The dialect Cantonese runs in my Chinese-Malaysian family. My parents, great-grandparents, uncles, aunts and generations before me speak it fluently every day (and Mandarin too). While I have no trouble listening and understanding a conversation in Cantonese, the language doesn’t come easy to me when I speak it.
Defining mother tongue can be tricky as I’ve blogged about here. It can be what we call our native language. Or first language. It could even be our second language. For this post, let’s refer to it as the language from the motherland – the land(s) where our family are from, the language(s) our ancestors spoke throughout centuries.
It’s a fact that many Chinese like to eat dumplings. Chinese people eat dumplings during the Lunar New Year. They eat dumplings for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And countless others around the world regardless of background like eating dumplings too.
Growing up, when my Chinese-Malaysian family went to out to yum cha, that was when I got to eat Chinese dumplings. These days, whenever I catch up with my Asian and non-Asian friends here in Melbourne, Chinese dumplings are usually on the menu.
There are so many reasons why we like eating dumplings.
Defining ‘dumpling’ can be tricky. All over the world, there are dumplings of all shapes, sizes and fillings. Dumplings can be loosely thought of as ‘small pieces of dough…often wrapped around a filling’, either sweet or savoury, steamed, fried or boiled. They are often thought of as an easy, simple meal. But different dumplings have different origins, and each of us has our own reasons for eating dumplings.
Come December, many of us around the world celebrate Christmas, or at the very least acknowledge this festive occasion one way or another. This includes my Chinese-Malaysian family for as long as I can remember.
No one in my immediate Asian family goes to church or follows the faith Christianity. We’ve never put up a Christmas tree at home. Never went caroling. But when I was a kid growing up in Australia, my parents wrapped presents for me and my brother in the lead up to Christmas day. They did pretty much the same when we later lived in Malaysia and Singapore – among other things too around this time of the year.
Not all of us commemorate the history behind Christmas or the birth of Jesus Christ but still get into the spirit of this season. Different cultures around the world have different ways of celebrating or spending it, or even similar ways of celebrating.
Time and time again, some of us get the question, “Where are you from?” We might dislike this question, or we might not. It’s a matter of perspective, or rather how we’re feeling in a moment in time that we decide if we like or hate the question there and then.
Chances are if we’re migrants, immigrants, refugees, third culture kids, expats or find ourselves part of a cultural minority community (think an Asian Australian in Australia, an Asian American in the States, we’re much more likely to hear the question. So too if we’re some place where our skin colour, accent or hair style sticks out from the rest.
A while back I wrote a blog post on the different answers to this question. It’s a question carrying quite a few assumptions, a question I’ve been asked all my life as an Australian-born Chinese living in different countries such as Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. Sometimes it rubs me the wrong way. Sometimes it amuses me.
Some Asians are hoarders. That is, some of us Asians like collecting things, accumulating things over time up until we struggle to find somewhere to put away all that we have.
Most of my childhood and adolescent life, my Chinese parents were fond of bringing things home even when we didn’t need them. Our house was always rather full – every shelf was never empty. I suppose I was partially to blame as I liked collecting some things back then too. But these days, not so much.
Hoarding is not only about collecting things, but it’s also about putting aside these things and not touching them for who knows how long, maybe for a few weeks or never ever again. Often, hoarding is about collecting things that we don’t really need or don’t have a use for, and over time these things can become junk to us.