Being Asian in Australia

August 17, 2006 8:13 PM

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?

[tags]Australia, multiculturalism[/tags]

7 thoughts on “Being Asian in Australia

  1. herman

    One dude came in subway, saw me behind the counter. He wanted to order the italian bread, instead the first word he said was ” chinese “.

    I just laugh. so does he and his gf. It was funny.

  2. girlstar7

    “But itโ€™s a two-way street. How can non-Asians accept you if you donโ€™t accept them to begin with?”
    well said. I have friends of all different races and like to think I don’t discriminate. yes, sadly there are many aussies here who DO discriminate against asians (or other minority groups, but I’ve noticed particularly asians). however, there are also asians who I’ve noticed will only hang around with and talk to other asian people. they won’t even make an effort at all if you’ve got white skin. so yeah, it goes both ways…

  3. Cynthia

    Beside ‘Thank you”… Asians need to say more “Please”, dont you rekcon?

    Im one of the Asians here. But, I love footy/rugby thou; Nice arses ^_* doesn’t matter what color they are, still nice arses =)

  4. Leonard

    “you donโ€™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.”

    well said, we need not change for them, it dun seems to be a racist problem there.

    they’re friendly people! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. damion

    sometimes it’s just the character of people…
    and pleasant words like “thank you” & “please” is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to being friendly and well… well mannered?
    to say the least..

  6. mooiness Post author

    herman: cool story. Heh. Thanks for sharing.

    girlstar7: I know the type of Asians you are talking about. They hang around in their little cocoons of Asian friends, don’t speak English, don’t eat anything other than Asian. I don’t like them myself. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    cynthia: yes, more “please” wouldn’t go astray.

    Leonard: that’s right. And you are the one who’d be missing out if you stick to only “Asian” things.

    damion: I don’t know about you but I find some Asians snobby looking. They are probably not but it’s because they don’t smile. So yeah they wouldn’t come across as friendly.

  7. damion

    i think its because they act that way..
    they carry themselves in a manner like they’re really exquisite or high class.. which more likely turns out that they’re simply pretending to be something that they’re not…
    the real high class people don’t act that way.. they have it in them in the way they speak, walk and talk… as in humble and firm.. ๐Ÿ˜€


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