Sam de Brito at the Sydney Morning Herald has written a very good read, “How do you say ‘yobbo’ in Vietnamese?”
It’s a piece about how Asian Australians have changed and are still changing the Australian cultural landscape, about how we are perceived and how most of us have managed to assimilate. It speaks to me very much so even though I’m not Australian (still got my Malaysian passport) but I am nonetheless, an Asian living in Australia.
I’ve spoken previously about trying to balance assimilation and acceptance, and maintaining an Asian identity:
Sam touched on the issue about how Asians in general have a problem of not being viewed as truly “Aussie” unless they adopt certain “Aussie” characteristics.
Then maybe fishing would come up and Peter would tell them about the bream he caught at such and such a beach or the smoko he got off this tiler at the pub and, well, it’s hard to hate a bloke who likes fishing and a smoke and surfing and a beer and a punt, isn’t it?
I can understand where he is coming from but I am one of definitely many exceptions out there.
I don’t like fishing, I don’t surf and I don’t watch footy or cricket. I do however swill copious amounts of alcohol on occasion. And my accent is neither here nor there, and it wavers depending on whom I speak to. Yet I don’t have a problem of not being accepted. My extended family in Perth and Sydney can also attest to this.
Racism? It does happen occasionally. But as far as functioning and moving around in Australian society is concerned, I’m completely at ease and so are my family members. If you stop viewing things purely in colour or racial terms, then it doesn’t even matter anymore.
Having an open mind and a willingness to buck typical Asian attitudes now and again is the key to fitting in. For me, I’m also fortunate to have liberal parents who themselves have experienced life in Australia previously.
For a start, one can start smiling and saying “thank you” more, which I have noticed to be an inexplicably difficult thing for some Asians to do when they are dealing with other Aussies. Another easy thing to do is to enjoy the food of other cultures more: Italian, Greek, Lebanese, and even English or Irish pub food, or a good old Aussie steak. Food, like music transcends culture.
My point is this: you don’t have to forgo your Asianess to be accepted as a valuable part of Australian society. That we add colour and vibrance to this country is a given. But it’s a two-way street. How can non-Asians accept you if you don’t accept them to begin with?