blogging gobbledygook and such

Coming Out Of The Closet

Working where I do now makes me realise how un-Chinese I am.

1. I can’t speak Chinese.
2. I prefer Western cuisine over Chinese any day, even though I do like some Chinese food.
3. I don’t watch Chinese movies – though I would if a good one is on tv. I’d rather watch a mediocre English movie than I probably would with a notable Chinese one.
4. I don’t listen to Chinese songs – unless I happen to listen to one by chance and like it and so I’d download the mp3.
5. I dont really celebrate Chinese festivals.
6. I feel more at home with English-speaking people, regardless of race, than I would with Chinese people who generally speak more Chinese than English.
7. I think in English.
8. I am more interested in English civilization or Greek mythology than I am in Chinese culture, ancient or popular.
9. I have to tell fellow Chinese people that I can’t speak Chinese each time they speak in Chinese to me.
10. I’m more attracted to English-speaking men than I am with Chinese men in general (unless they happen to speak English well enough).

You know how a transsexual might describe himself as being a man on the outside but feeling like a woman on the inside? Well, I feel like a transracial – I am a Chinese on the outside but I feel like a Westerner inside. And like all transsexuals must have once gone through in their lives, I feel bad for feeling like this.

Unlike transsexuals, my inclination is all nurtured. I grew up with Archie comics, not Lou Fu Chi (a funny Chinese comic). I read Enid Blytons and sang along to whatever Sesame Street showed. I loved My Little Pony and Jem & the Holograms and The Care Bears. I played with Barbie and Lego. All my characters have English names and surnames. I loved The Spice Girls and all sorts of boy bands.

I could do something about my situation, I do know that. I could start learning Mandarin. I could start watching more Chinese tv shows (there are Malay subtitles if I need help understanding) and I could start listening to Chinese radio (or Cantonese, at least, since I understand a smattering of it). I could read up on Chinese culture – written in English, of course. I could start trying out more Chinese restaurants other than Kim Gary (a famous Hong Kong-style restaurant chain in Malaysia). I could…

But I don’t want to. I’m just not interested. And that’s why I feel bad, because I have barely any interest in my own culture. A culture rich unlike any other, intricate and detailed and beautiful beyond any other, probably. Chinese civilization is one of the most majestic in its time. And yet I rather read Phillippa Gregory’s novels about English royalty…

Meh, I just feel like I’m a pretty poor excuse for a Chinese.

ps. I know I don’t have to beat myself up about this, since I’ve written a similar post in the past and had readers saying that race doesn’t matter! Just a pity post as a result of my inability to fit in current office… (not that will be a problem for long, heh)

*

Edit: Even though I’m not exactly proud of my un-Chinese tendencies, I am proud to be Chinese. (Though I’m not sure how exactly can one be proud of or show one’s pride in one’s race without seeming, well… racist?) And I also believe that I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for all my “English”-ness. I don’t think I’d speak English as fluently, nor would I be having a job like I have now, nor would I have friends like you because I would be a different person altogether. That’s what I believe, anyway.

I don’t like many things about myself, but this “English”-ness… I like. I like reading chick lit. I like eating Italian and Tex-Mex cuisine. I like that I speak the world’s lingua franca fluently enough that the majority of the world can understand me. I like the fact that I speak the world’s lingua franca fluently enough is reason enough not to worry about getting a job because my work requires me to be good in English and only that.

So it’s not all bad in the end, huh? 🙂

Comments on: "Coming Out Of The Closet" (29)

  1. Oh dear, I got into Phillipa Gregory on holiday after my 12-year-old book-hating sister read The Other Boleyn Girl in two days. I don’t think you can be blamed for that… they are good, English or not. 😉

    It’s not really the same, but I started learning Welsh out of a feeling of guilt (mixed with the fact I have a poorly-concealed desire to be Welsh myself), because – I don’t know if you know – in England there’s a lot of anti-Welsh feeling; every country has a country they make fun of (you know, the French have the Belgians as the butt of their jokes, the Germans have the Swedish) but England makes fun of the Irish. It’s not nice, friendly mocking; it’s plain Wales-Hate.

    And I felt so bad that other English kids put on their stupid fake Welsh accents and went round saying they hated Wales and that the Welsh were stupid sheep farmers when the closest they’d ever got to Cardiff was never – that I got obsessed.

    Is that just the opposite of you? That I feel guilted into it and you won’t let ourself be guilted?

    Hey, whatever it is, it’s a loooong comment. 😉

    Suzy x

    sulz: i haven’t managed to get my hands on the other boleyn girl. 😦 i’ve read the one about katherine of aragon (henry the viii’s first wife) and queen elizabeth the first. wish i read it during my english civ class!

    good on you for embracing your welsh side! (whether you have relations or otherwise) maybe you just want to be different. 😉 like me! (seriously, even though i feel bad for being so un-chinese, i’m sort of stubbornly clinging on to it – to show that i’m not like them, haha)

  2. Wow, I feel like you just described me to the last detail…at least in Malaysia. When I went to the US, I started noticing the Chinese in me popping out of places. I actually took an interest in all things remotely have to do with the Chinese culture whether it be the food, or the Asian markets, or people. I started to cling on to whatever bit of Chinese I was…how I acted and spoke. It’s crazy, but I found myself doing that.

    Maybe you’re in a place where you don’t feel the need to hold on to your culture.

    Just my two cents lah.

    sulz: that’s why i loved class man – i wasn’t the only banana! 😀 yeah, going overseas definitely makes you embrace your culture. in macau, i spoke malay almost all the time with malaysian or indonesian friends, even though all of us could speak english fine! i suppose if i were in some western country with a cantonese-speaking friend i’d speak it too, even though i suck at it. 😆

  3. hmm… I don’t think you should feel so bad. as you said it’s not really your fault, you were raised with more exposure to western culture than Chinese.

    and since people feel most comfortable with what they are used to, you don’t feel interested in Chinese culture because it’s sort of “new” to you.

    anyway, I wouldn’t worry too much on not fitting in at your new job, I have a feeling your personality will overcome any language barrier or cultural differences you come across. 🙂

    sulz: i was, but i’m an adult now and i could do something about that, but i don’t want to – that’s the part i feel bad about. hah, after this job, i’m really not holding my breath! a little wary about that… but i’m crossing my fingers tightly! 🙂 thanks for the vote of confidence, though.

  4. I have a lot of common with you in this aspect. I’m a poor excuse of a Colombian. I am a westerner (well, I do live in the west, literaly, but you know what I mean). I think in English, and my childhood was nurtured by Little Pony, Barbies and Lego, just like yours. In the nineties I lisntened to the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys, later Britney and Christina, and in the XXI century, rock and metal baby! I know nothing about the local music. I am more interested in the outside. Ironically, the person who keeps me updated of the Colombian news is Diego! (who as you know is NOT living in Colombia – he is just a Colombian at heart).

    The only difference I guess is that I don’t feel guilty about it and I wouldn’t do anything that would make me more Colombian. I have nothing against Colombians, I just don’t feel like one.

    sulz: oh, i didn’t know diego isn’t in colombia… good that you don’t feel guilty though, ‘cos you shouldn’t! i think i’d love a stint in a western country, like what i did in macau. 🙂 sadly, the cost of living in western countries are all higher than malaysia – would spend a bomb on a holiday there, should think!

  5. a lot in common*

  6. I have to admit that all this Coming Out Of The Closet and Transexual talk made me think of an entire different confession.

    sulz: haha, anything i know? maybe you can blog about it. 😉

  7. lovelyloey said:

    Hey, biological ethnicity is not equivalent to cultural ethnicity. Then next time someone says something about you being Chinese and not knowing Chinese languages/culture, etc, call them essentialist like you’d call someone racist or homophobe. 😛

    sulz: not same meh, feel like it is. what is an essentialist? haha. they would think it’s a compliment instead!

  8. Ah!! And I thought I was all alone. 🙂

    sulz: what, you don’t speak your mother tongue too? we need a transracial anonymous or something. 😀

  9. Ah! I totally know what you mean… all my friends say that I don’t belong here(India)… my thoughts, my style of speaking, everything is just western-ish..
    maybe we all r incarnations of people from west still hung up on our past life 😛

    sulz: haha, i’m sure you’d love to believe that! 😀 what we need is a new country – like how australia was a place the english sent criminals to, we need a country where transracials like us can go to. we’d be the most multicultural and awesome nation, i’d think! 😆

  10. hi sulz

    been a long time sinice i came by, apologies, good to see you writing great stuff as always.

    this transracialism is a pandemic, it is painfully common to see youngsters in india not being able to manage simple conversations in their mother tongues, I speak well in mine, malayam, but reading and writing are a torture.

    Migrations, english medium education, technology, wonderful things, but with serious side effects. most are preventable fortunately.

    I am making an effort to read about india, kerala, and the cultures i am supposed to be an offspring of.

    hope you take time to reconnect.

    ciao
    schizo

    sulz: hey, long time, doctor. 🙂 some malaysian indians have this problem too, as well as other races bar the malays since malay is the national language in malaysia. good on you for trying to get to know your culture! time isn’t a factor for me, but rather interest. 😦 i hope i will want to some day, though.

  11. That is so much the way I would think about myself.

    To top this I have one more aspect, my parents keep trying to bring the whole cultural bit on my so many times, that in itself gets depressing. Its like this is so not what they wanted me to turn out to be, and now they are at a loss what to do.

    But I also agree that race and culture is still different. I might be Indian in a lot respects but Keralite(- from the south Indian state of Kerala), I am not too sure!

    sulz: oh, good point. i’m malaysian, definitely feel malaysian. just not very malaysian chinese!

    good luck handling your parents! i have a feeling this culture bug may strike me if i’m lucky enough to go through the “joys” of parenthood. 😀

  12. No, I mean I thought you were confessing something different. 😛

    sulz: haha, like what? never mind, you can tell me on msn! 🙂

  13. You know, I sometimes feel guilty that I don’t know more about traditional English culture. And I’m right next to Wales and there are lots of Welsh people around here, so like DBAH, I feel a bit guilty about not knowing more about that culture either (although unlike DBAH, clearly not guilty enough to have actually done anything about it).

    I have a friend who’s studying Mandarin. He says it’s fairly difficult, but not too hard, and you can already speak some Cantonese, which is much closer to Mandarin than English is, so you could probably learn it if you tried.

    So if you wanted, you could probably be more Chinese, while still being Western-ish. Then again, I could be more traditionally English and Welsh than I am, so you mustn’t think I’m preaching. I’m in no position to preach!

    sulz: i’m just like you, guilty but not doing something about it. yes, sometimes i can understand phrases of mandarin but i haven’t even mastered cantonese, so all chinese languages/dialects to me are difficult! i have a feeling if i’m overseas in a western country, my chinese side will come out. or if i am thrown into the world of parenthood!

    haha, pastor bobby. 😆

  14. B0bbyG – the other day I was called ‘typically English-looking’.

    “As in a trackie-clad chav?”

    She thought about it and rephrased it as ‘traditionally English-looking’, but I don’t think I am – I just look Dutch. So I guess the moral of that is England’s changed so much it’s impossible to try and be English, unless you take up Morris dancing. In which case people may take up their guns. So don’t. 😉

    Suzy x

    sulz: what’s a chav? is that bad? who’s she? dutch people are pretty, no? rebecca romijn comes to mind. 😀

  15. Interesting discussion, sulz. I’m a mix of ethnicities, but the most prominent (by a little bit) is German. I learned some German in school, but, I thought, “Who am I going to speak German to, really?” I was more attracted to the Scottish part of my background, so joined a bagpipe band rather than a brass band 😛 But, the Scottish part of me doesn’t require that I learn a different language, just a few unique words (like “haggis”). 😉
    Where I grew up, most people learned a second language in school, and most schools only had French, German, and Spanish to choose from. If ones culture didn’t include those, kids went to Chinese or Japanese or Hebrew school after regular school; I’m glad I didn’t have to do that!
    I don’t have any Spanish, Mexican, or South American background, but should probably learn more Spanish as I’m only an hour from the Mexican border, and it’s the second most spoken language in the US.
    As for YOU—most of my Asian friends in childhood were called “bananas” by their relatives, and didn’t want to learn language and culture any more than you do. Depending on where you go in the US, you MIGHT become more Chinese there, but I bet if you went to San Francisco you wouldn’t because it’s just normal there to be an English-speaking Asian with an English name.

    sulz: you can pick which to embrace?? no fair! hmm, bagpipe, can it play music that doesn’t sound mournful or/and proud? 😛

    oh, so that’s where my kind are, in san fran! 😛 actually, i use my chinese name. which is very ironic since i have an english name but i insist on the chinese one to refer to myself. which in turn makes it ironic too because many chinese people here have english names too but they don’t really speak english… 😕

  16. Ooops – sorry, sulz! A chav is a member of an English subculture – like a fashion clique. They generally wear tracksuits/shellsuits, scrape their hair back, and look like this:

    http://a.bebo.com/app-image/6452645501/6452632381/PROFILE/i.idlestudios.com/img/q/u/08/03/18/Chav.jpg

    Did you mean Morris dancing? That’s a kind of traditional dance, where you leap around in stupid costumes with bells on your ankles, waving sticks. Like this:

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=RZjLATAUwao

    There!

    Suzy x

    sulz: thanks for the links! chav, haha, funny word.

  17. Oh no, I got spammed because I linked… can you de-spam me, please? Thank you! 🙂

    Suzy x

    sulz: done and welcome!

  18. Aw no, I’m carrying on commenting for too long again… but I forgot, there’s a lot of stories about how the word turned up – for example:

    Council House And Violent

    CHeltenham AVerage (there’s a very expensive, very posh girls’ school in Cheltenham)

    Oh, I’ll shut up now.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chav

    Suzy x

    sulz: don’t worry about that, i don’t mind, honest. 🙂 i’ll go read the link now.

  19. I m somewhat similar too…cuz even if I m a bengali (one of the castes based on language and culture in India) I really dont like many things of our culture. But I know how to speak and read my mother tongue. Poor in writing though.

    sulz: and it’s very ironic when westerners are fascinated with our culture and know more than we do, isn’t it? 😆 globalisation has major cultural effects!

  20. I feel for you dude. I’m in a very similar situation over here, but it is never late to start learning Chinese. Be proud of your heritage.

    sulz: good to know i’m not the only banana, haha. 🙂 are you doing something about your situation too? i’ll try… one day. 😛

  21. Well, similar to Reema; I am and Andhrite ( from one of the southern states), but I can only speak a little of telugu (the language associated with the state) and that too in a different dialect (rather it would be a literal translation of english/tamil). I don’t like being called Andhrite – well I just like to be Indian (that is a whole different topic altogether! ) I cannot read or write the mother toungue either. So, can totally relate to what you have written here.

    sulz: ah, an indian banana. 😛 they call chinese like me banana because we’re ‘yellow on the outside but white in the inside’! yeah, i’d rather be thought of as malaysian than malaysian chinese… at least i speak malay fluently. 😀

  22. I can relate! I’m a different ethnicity, but I can’t really speak my native language either. I mean, I can understand what they’re saying most of the time, but I can’t respond in the language. It’s kind of embarrassing because I used to be fluent as a child.

    sulz: welcome to the party. though this isn’t one people want to join exactly, lol! 🙂

  23. People like me are neither accepted as tamilians nor telugu 🙂 (state identities in India)
    And I keep wondering why be so sectarian, while we have a totally different adjective of “Indian” that encompasses all?! Well, I guess sulz, we all are global citizens and should not bother about regional trivialities 😉

    sulz: we need a new country where ‘bananas’ like us can go to – oh wait, it’s called america… 😀

  24. First a cheerleader, now a pastor! Clearly, I have many guises!

    Don’t worry DBAH, I’m not going to take up morris dancing! 🙂

    There’s nothing wrong with morris dancing, except that we English are prejudiced against our own folk culture. Of course, if I became a morris dancer I’d be laughed out of the country, but I wouldn’t want to be called a chav, either! “Townie” I wouldn’t mind so much…

    sulz: a man of many talents, sexy. 😉

  25. Yep. Yes I am. and learning another language while I’m at it! 🙂 Keep at it when you get the chance to. it pays off 🙂

    sulz: good for you! 🙂 i don’t think that day is coming anytime soon for me. 😛 maybe if there are more people like you around in my life to guilt me into it… lol.

  26. princessproblematic said:

    LOL! I’m not Chinese, but I speak Chinese. Total opposite! lmao. Please do check my blog as well. I’m new. lol. Have a good day.:)

    sulz: haha. well i’m chinese but i speak malay, though that doesn’t really count since i’m malaysian. 😛 i could understand a little portuguese!

    i’d love to but there’s no link to your blog. 😦

  27. Reading your list, I never realised how whitewashed I really was…it’s weird. I’ve always thought of myself as Chinese, despite the lack of fluency in Mandarin (I can sort of speak it) and my inclinations towards western art/music/movies etc. Compared to the Caucasians I know, I’ve always had this awareness of how much I wasn’t like them, as if there was this clear line between being Canadian and being a Canadian citizen (there probably is).

    sulz: in this modern age, everybody is a little whitewashed. 😆 we’re the in-betweeners. we’re neither white nor chinese.

  28. In your case, the same could be said of most Chinese-Filipinos. I study in a school where most of the students are Filipinos of Chinese descent. They studied in several Chinese highschools in the Philippines BUT they pride themselves in being fluent in Tagalog and other Filipino languages (like Ilokano, Cebuano, Bikolano, etc.) without being fluent in any Chinese dialect. They don’t care about being fluent in Chinese (in the Philippines, Chinese is called as Lan-nang-loe, a Philippine dialect of Hoklo) and Mandarin.

    I guess there’s a term for that? Yellow on the outside but brown on the outside, interesting speculation. LOL

    sulz: sounds like you are not one of them? i wouldn’t say i’m proud of not being able to speak chinese. it’s the opposite. that said, i am who i am today because english is my mother tongue.

    • It’s quite ironic because I have some Chinese blood but I am proud to have one. My schoolmates (well most of them), on the other hand, simply don’t care eventhough they’re pure Chinese.

      Well at least you care that you’re not fluent. Some of my friends in school don’t even care whether they’re fluent in Chinese or not. Sorry for judging you anyway.

      sulz: i suppose it’s nurtured, their lack of interest in their heritage. mine is too – my parents aren’t very chinese in their everyday lives. it’s okay, i hope you understood my point of view. 🙂

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