One day the angmoh boyfriend of my cousin asked me a question: Why do Chinese ppl always ask “How much?”
Me: Dunno. Hey this is a nice table. How much…oh f**k.
Hmmm, why indeed. I have no idea. I’m guilty of doing that all the time. In fact I once did it whilst switching between my M’sian and Aussie-fied accents.
To Peter*: Heyyyyy, nice jacket. How much is it?
… then …
To Uncle: Eh tua-koo! Not bad har this wine?? How much?
Why why why??? Maybe we have been taught from small to be frugal and that’s why we’d like to know how much anything is worth.
“Wei, boy…don’t waste that soap har? Put it together with all the small pieces of soap and squeeze them together. Can still use one!”
Perhaps the only thing that has stuck to me since I was a little kid is this. I was struggling to finish a bowl of kway-teow-tng at a kopi-tiam. My grandma said to me:
“Cannot finish is it? Never mind, never mind. Don’t eat the kway-teow. Just make sure you eat all the pork and fishball, ok?”
Or this when I went back to Penang a few years back and I bought some goreng-pisang from a street vendor:
My Uncle: How much did you pay for that?
Me: 50c each.
My Uncle: Aiyah! You didn’t bargain ah!? I pay 40c each only!
Sheesh. Then there’s this…Plastic containers cannot throw away lah. KFC refresher towelettes don’t use, put in fridge lah. Go McDonalds, sapu all the serviettes lah. Like preparing for war like that. Wah lan eh. How to not ask “how much” when everyone around you from small so damn kiam-siap har?!? Does that answer your question!?
* Name has been changed to protect the angmoh, or “gweilo” as he prefers it.