When we speak of introverts, we often think of those who are quiet. There’s the common stereotype that if we’re Asian, we’re quiet and passive, and perhaps introverted too.
I’ve been every bit the introvert my whole life. As a Chinese Australian who feels too Asian to be Australian and too Australian to be Asian, countless occasions I feel I don’t fit in – but ironically I love being on my own.
‘I love you’. Just three words. But three words some typical Asians like those of Chinese heritage find hard to say out loud when it comes to dating and romantic relationships.
There’s this common stereotype: Asians are reserved about expressing romantic sentiments towards each other. In a progressive world where traditional and modern perspectives collide, sometimes this is still true, and sometimes not.
There are different degrees of love, physical and emotional. Different ways of expressing romantic love during different moments – depending on our personality, the ways we are actually comfortable expressing it and what we believe in. Personally, I’m reserved about my love life and won’t be sharing my serious relationships here; it isn’t the whole world’s business.
Choosing and giving someone a gift can be hard. It could be a thank you gift, something for someone at their wedding, a parting present for someone on their last day at work or a birthday gift. To some of Chinese background, some gifts might be better than others.
Next week is my birthday. About a month ago, my Chinese-Malaysian parents asked me what I want for my birthday this year. That annoyed me – I don’t celebrate my birthday and don’t like attention. But I suppose they want to, and they know I’m a fussy person.
All around the world, a good number of us are obsessed with stuffed animals and toys. If you’re Asian or have been to Asia, chances are cute, kawaii-looking toys are something you might be familiar with. Maybe even love.
I love stuffed animals, especially stuffed monkeys. In my apartment I have a shelf full of them collected over the years. I’m particularly fond of this one that I call Mr Wobbles: knitted with light brown wool, long skinny arms and legs, fat belly, sans tail. One of the more odd-looking toys around.
We might be obsessed with teddy bears. Or obsessed with stuffed lions or penguins. Hello Kitty, Sanrio and Rilakkuma plushes are ever so popular in Asia. But no matter the toys we’re fond of, usually the stories of our past, and our desire to find our place in this world, play a part in why these inanimate objects often matter to us a great deal.
To trust or not to trust? That’s the question we often ask ourselves when we meet someone for the first time or encounter strangers. Trust: it’s about believing others, taking their word and seeing the best in them.
I’m not one who trusts easily. The number of friends whom I hang out with regularly can be counted on one hand. Generally, I avoid talking to people I don’t know outside of work, be it at social occasions or on the streets. It takes a while for me to warm to someone.
Trust. It’s embedded within the unconscious rituals of everyday life: walking to work, we trust passer-bys won’t stab us. We trust shopkeepers will give us the correct change at the cashier. We trust no chef spat into food we ordered. Trust. It’s about going forwards: we trust and travel to get on with our lives. And whether we trust others usually depends on where we’ve been and where we’re from.
Eating together at home as a family. It’s important to a lot of us. A tradition. Saying no to having meals together at home, especially dinner, is usually hard.
When I was a kid, my parents insisted my dependent younger brother and I all ate dinner together most nights, which we naturally did. These days it’s a different story. Some days when I finish work, I eat dinner in the city and then make my way home. Later on in the evening when I’m engrossed in touching up photos to share on Instagram in my room, mum or dad usually come in and quietly ask, “Are you eating dinner with us at home tomorrow?”
Family dinners are still quite the norm in Australia. According to a survey in 2012, 77% of Australian families eat dinner together at home five or six times a week, albeit a proportion of this in front of the TV. There’s certainly something significant about eating with family at the dining table. It’s more than just a habit.