Photo by Matt Popovich
NB: I’m not sponsored by Buzzfeed, but hey – if they see this, they’re more than welcome to speak to my PA.
I guess you could call me paradoxically Asian. In some ways, I am the embodiment of a stereotypical Asian, but other times, I’m surprisingly the whitest person in the room. I’ve had a discombobulated (what a word, by the way) experience growing up Asian, but it’s made for some pretty funny stories and many disapproving looks from my mother.
1: You’re an only child
This may only be applicable to me, because every other Asian family I know has siblings, but I’ll spin the China One Child policy joke to my advantage. In my Year 10 Geography exam, I was ready to answer ‘me’ to any and all questions regarding the policy.
**just to clarify, this is a mere coincidence and I’m not a
spoiled brat only child due to the policy.
2: Every remote control is covered in plastic
Plastic, plastic absolutely everywhere. I am unsure of why this is a thing – but I guarantee you that every old school Asian parent will insist on wrapping every single TV remote in plastic to protect it from dust. It makes little sense, but it’s a thing.
3: You bring shame to the family when you can’t use chopsticks
Here, I am not your typical Asian. I can’t use chopsticks for shit. I go out for dinner with my (white) girlfriends and they use the chopsticks provided, whilst I need to ask for a fork because I suck. Trust me, I’m used to the weird looks by now.
4: Chinese medicine fixes EVERYTHING
Forget Panadol. Antibiotics don’t exist unless you’re on the brink of death. Chinese herbs are the answer to every question you will ever ask. There is this particular concoction that I drink when I get sick – the only way to describe it is pure urine. It smells, tastes and looks like faecal matter but for some reason, it does the trick and I’m forced to agree with Mum on this one – white medicine doesn’t work on me.
5: They gotta know where you are every minute of every day
I know most parents are like this, but Asian parents take it to the nek level. Don’t even try being spontaneous and just ‘crashing’ at a friend’s place – your parents will need to know what postcode they are in, where their parents went to kindergarten and their distance in relation to the International Space Station. Every time you venture outside there must be clear and precise communication of where you’re intending to go, and if you end up elsewhere you’ll be praying you don’t end up with a microchip sewn into you the next day.
6: You will deal with the Asian flush
This is something I’ve really had to deal with in the past few years. In Year 12 when I started drinking (#scandalous), I realised that I always had this weirdly red, and slightly terrifying glow. Coupled with short breath and bloodshot eyes, I was a sight to behold after 2 ciders. It was until a little bit later on that I realised I was dealt with a bad, bad case of the Asian flush gene.
Now let me tell you, this is a legit thing. I’ve been tagged in so many scientific explanations of it by my friends because they all know I suffer from this debilitating illness. To make it simple, alcohol contains a certain enzyme. Most people have an enzyme in their body that is able to break down the enzyme in alcohol, however, for some people (and unfortunately, commonly in Asians), we don’t have that enzyme in our body. So what ends up happening is that this alcoholic enzyme keeps building up and up, to the point where it makes us red in the face. Essentially that means I’m allergic to alcohol and shouldn’t drink it too much, but that doesn’t stop me from having weekend benders!!!!!
My Asian flush is B – A – D. Impromptu drinking sessions are not a thing with me, because on my natural skin, Asian flush looks like Satan is glowing out from within. It starts from my eyelids and spreads out like leprosy. Every time I go out, I have to be prepared to wear a heck of foundation and makeup to cover up the flush. However, there’s only so much makeup one can wear, and there’s nothing I can do about the redness that spreads to my body. Some people will look down at my torso in horror, and tell me I have a rash on my chest!!!! I look down, and yes, my entire upper body is burning red, and is very hot to touch. Just another side effect of being Asian.
7: You will be met with surprised looks when you don’t learn chemistry
Unlike every other Asian, I had no intentions of becoming a doctor. You can’t tell me about your illness/injury without me feeling tingles in those exact same places. Luckily I have parents who let me do whatever I want (if I had pushy Asian parents this post would be VERY different), and didn’t force me into anything. However, in Year 10 when we had to make our biggest decisions of our lives and decide on subjects for Year 11, to the science department’s surprise, I didn’t choose chemistry and did the white girl version of science with biology.
It was at recess, and I was sitting on a bench with my friend when I heard the pitter-patter of little kitten heels on the tiles running across the courtyard. Our senior chem teacher had sprinted across and was now staring at me in alarm.
“Moya, you didn’t pick chemistry as a Year 11 subject! If you don’t pick chem, you can’t do medicine, dentistry, psychiatry or anything medical related,” she exclaimed!! I had to then tell her I never wanted to be doctor, nor have I ever said I wanted to be in the medical field. She was then quite taken aback and with a quiet “oh”, she tottered off.
8: Subsequently, when you realise you want to work in the media, you will also receive questionable looks
I recently attended my school’s alumni careers night, which was a joke in itself because I’m 3 years out of high school and hardly able to call myself an ‘alumni’ when I’m practically the same age as the kids in Year 12. However, I was there and pretended to know what I was doing.
Despite doing an Arts/Law degree, I’m probably the least enthusiastic law student ever and would much prefer pursuing the journalism/media side of things post uni. So, I was lumped into ‘media’ section of our careers night. One Asian father approached me and without a hello, his first words to me was: “You were the Dux of the school.”
Um…yes I was and thanking you for letting me know? (side note: that’s another classic thing of growing up Asian – you inherit some smart genes, but I’m not making that a standalone point because I don’t like tooting my own horn). So after I affirmed his statement, he asked me what I’m doing now? To which I replied, “Oh I work at a radio station and want to do journalism/media after I graduate!”
And I was met with a “huh”. Sorry buddy, apologies for not curing cancer just because I was the Dux??
9: Your house is filled with piles upon piles of random crap
I’m sure I am not the only family who has a bad, bad hoarder in the midst. For me, it’s my mum and even worse, she doesn’t admit she has a problem. However, just one peak into our garage/every room of the house and you’ll realise that she does. EVERYTHING MUST BE KEPT BECAUSE IT COULD BE REUSED. I’m talking about empty shoe boxes upon shoe boxes, the ribbons from Kookai shopper bags, plastic bags, Mecca tissue wrapping paper, receipts, boat tickets from your family holiday to Greece two years ago, and the list just goes on. In the event of a world apocalypse, feel free to come to my house because we have enough stuff to last at least a small island.
10: The food is bloody damn good
As a baby, there was no distinction between me and those sausage rolls you buy at the deli. I had roll after roll down my arm and didn’t lose the baby pudge until about Year 8. Bless my parents and their nimbly fingers. Their dumplings take me to another planet, and I think they’ve mastered every cuisine under the sun. To take their cooking levels, and our non-Asianess further, they have branched out into Italian, Mexican, Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. I swear my mum thinks she’s an Italian nonna due to the fact she makes foccacia on a weekly basis and kneads her own pasta dough. As I write this she is inspecting her pizza dough that needs to rest for 3 days so that she can achieve that perfect Napoli chewy base. Dad is a big fan of curries and we even have those authentic copper bowls to put the curry in.
Even as a young kid in primary school, my parents were one of the first to discover a thermos and those chicken nuggets you can buy from the freezers at the supermarket. As a combination, they were a match made in heaven and guaranteed me to be the most popular kid at lunchtime. Whilst all my white friends were munching on equally white bread with Vegemite, I had gourmet ‘chicken munchies’, topped off with a Yakult.
How good is being a minority.