A Child of Two Worlds

Sarek: "You will always be a child of two worlds. I am grateful for this, and for you."

I am of mixed ethnicity. Shock horror. I know. So really, I’m a bit like Spock here, only I’ve got just the one slightly pointy ear.  Now, I’ve ranted a little elsewhere about my various issues with how I get treated, so I won’t really go into that here.

Suffice it to say, I’m Chinese and Caucasian. Or actually more specifically, Malaysian Chinese and White British (randomly, it’s kind of interesting how the  word order goes in both of those phrases).

There are attitudes, habits and tastes that seem prevalent in the British/English world and there are others that are prevalent in the Malaysian Chinese world.

As a child of two worlds, I’ve pretty much grabbed a handful from each pile. One of these is that I don’t really get the real aversion to going back to live with your parents after university (or for that matter, the perceived eagerness of parents to watch their kids fly the nest as soon as they hit 18). In the Chinese side of my family, going home to live with Mum and Dad is totally expected and normal. In the English world I grew up in? Not so much.

There’s also other things like how the elderly are treated (they seem to be put out to die more in the English world), how extended family relates to each other (possibly just a personal thing, but as soon as my English grandparents died, we stopped really seeing the rest of that side of the family) and smaller silly things like taking your shoes off when you enter someone’s house (in Malaysia, you ALWAYS take your shoes off).

So while there’s a lot of sort of English things I don’t get, I don’t think I could ever live in Malaysia. Buying clothes there is a pain in the neck, possibly because I’m just looking in the wrong places but mostly because I’m twice the size of nearly all the women on that side of the family (I’m just built differently). The mosquitoes. I am allergic to the damn mosquitoes. It’s not a good thing. The bruises left over from the bites I got last December have just about faded. The weather! I am not a hot, humid weather person. Give me cloudy, overcast, cool days ANYTIME.

Tea. Oh God. As much as I enjoy Chinese tea and Teh Tarik in all its forms, making a decent cup of “English” tea has proved almost impossible unless I’m in a hotel. It might be the milk. It might be the water. It might be the teabags. Who knows?

The traditional Chinese family structure is also kind of out for me – with the father as the dictatorial head of the family, especially now that I’m an adult. I’m pretty easy-going, but there is only so much being told what to do that I’ll put up with. There’s also the expectation that I’ll get married and have children (but I suppose, that’s a universal thing) – as someone who has seriously considered entering the religious life (and it’s not something I’ve totally ruled out yet), I am content with the idea that I might never marry or have children.

Oh. There’s also the small issue of all the bands I like not visiting Malaysia. I don’t think I could live in a place where I’d never go to see live music. What little I’ve seen of popular culture in Malaysia…seems to be all the stuff I avoid at home in the UK.

There’s also attitudes to sexuality (and the issue of homosexuality being illegal in Malaysia), to women, to race, to censorship and the corruption seemingly rife within  not just the political system there. There are complex issues there.

In the end, despite being a child of two worlds, I’m pretty much English/British with the occasional moment where  I identify as Chinese.

Author: Rachel

half-girl, half-robot

5 thoughts on “A Child of Two Worlds”

  1. Hmmm. I suppose that because I don't have the obvious contrast I don't have as solid an image of English culture – the Venn diagram is more "How I am"/"How they are", which leaves me unable to say if it's a cultural thing. What I see as the modern "English" culture (that is to say the "chav" culture, for lack of a better term) I reject wholeheartedly. You seem to be describing "traditional English" culture though.

    1. I suppose by "traditional" it's pretty much the English culture I've been exposed to over the last 20 years. Some of what I see is from my mum's dealing with the elderly – who often have perfectly otherwise reasonable children and other relatives that treat them appallingly. I don't know how much people in their 40s and 50s can really be part of "chav" culture as that seems to be a more recent phenomenon that I tend to apply to people in the 30s and younger.

      Aside from that, there has to be a better word than "chav" to describe what I'm referring to. I dunno. That would take work that is not what I am supposed to be working on right now. Bah,

      1. I could have sworn my comment was longer than that. You editing me, or did Intense Debate fail me again?

        Yeah, I was disappointed by needing to use the word "chav" too – it doesn't convey what I'm trying to say. "Disposable" culture, maybe? The notion that which is not useful is discarded, and what is useful is usually of one-shot or short-term benefit.

        I imagine you got a lot more exposure to the negative side of elderly familial relationships than me – I only have my two grandmothers, and one of those has already passed away (both my grandfathers died before I was old enough to remember). The one that passed away did so in a nursing home, and not a very nice one, but her illness and violence made anything else impossible (and we couldn't afford better). My other Nan (and her brother) are very much still part of the family. I don't think we'd have it any other way – and now that my Dad is retired he'd rather look after them than send them away.

        1. BAH IntenseDebate fail

          I think most of my exposure to elderly familial relationships comes from spending a higher than usual amount of time in nursing homes because of my mum\’s job. With my own grandparents, on both sides they were lucky enough to be able to stay at home for as long as possible and only right near the end, when physical sickness meant that they could no longer be at home did they go to hospital. In the case of my mum\’s mum, even though she had poor health for a long time – being in Malaysia meant that she could live with one of my uncle\’s and his family and they hired a second maid, dedicated to looking after her.

Comments are closed.