Tag Archives: culture

Lost in the cultural translation

There are many differences one can spot upon moving from an East Asian culture to a European ones. I was tempted to say western culture in place of european, but feel that Australia is not exactly geographically western.

I have a friend from Malaysia who’s recently moved to Japan. We’ve had a few great conversations regarding home away from home and how cultural adaptation can be a pain in the arse. It hit me one night that we’ve came from the same place but have ended up in two very different world. I asked her to take a picture of the night life scene of the bar that she’s at, but was quickly turned down that it’s not appropriate to take picture in public. That’s how much Japanese value their privacy. If it’s in Melbourne, everyone will be fighting to be in that picture.

I was struck by the fact that I’ve been adapting slowly without noticing it. Australian’s culture I would say is a very extroverted one. It is encouraged to share your thoughts all the time, and it is kind of ingrained and it’s not natural for one to be reserved. Even the more introverted people I’ve met have shown no drawback in expressing their opinions in a public settings.

I suspect that it all comes from the initial education system. Having none of the data to prove that, but by pure guessing only, I guess the school system in Australia encourage student’s participation from early age, removing the barriers of seniority and layers of authority. In contrast with the ones I’ve came from, students are thought to acknowledge the seniority and authority to the point where the people in charge are almost always right. I’m not arguing which one is better or which is right or wrong, it’s the matter of the results that interest me right now.

Australians talk to their teachers and bosses like a friend ( to some extends ), I couldn’t even look my teachers in their eyes while they were teaching. Their teachers are staffs, hired to teach. Our teachers are worshiped as a hero and are to be respected and their orders followed. Their parents job is to raise the children to be useful to the society. Our parents main priority is to make sure we will take care of them when they are old and useless.

I’ve written this with so much negative biases toward our side of the culture to the point that I need to defend them. Their parents have their government to help support their children, student loans, free educations. My parents have to work hard everyday to save up to my college fees. Their parents have retirements plans. My parents have almost no saving when I started college. One would have said that if our government was better at supporting my parents in the early years, they would not have to burden their children.

Their system have produced a relaxed, cool lots. We’ve grown up to be a fighter that will lose everything when we stop.


There are things, but no book

My parents are both illiterate. Well, to be more accurate, my dad do know how to read and write in Chinese. But, we lived in Indonesia, which means that we will find more Indonesian books that my parents don’t know how to read more than the Chinese books.

I have 6 sisters. But only 3 of them received a formal education to some extends. Two of them (first and fifth) managed to get a Diploma and I remember that both of them read a lot of books. My eldest sister reads Indonesian Novels while my fifth elder reads Manga that has been translated to Indonesian. My other less fortunate sisters ended up being busy working or taking care of their own family. But explicitly my third elder sister, which didn’t receive any formal education at all but managed to pick up Chinese in her 20s, reads Chinese Novels a lot.

I, being the most fortunate of all, didn’t like to read at all. I hated novels, so I’ve never touched my eldest sister’s books. And it’s funny to think that I’ve never really read any novels in Indonesian language before though my First Language is supposed to be Indonesian.

So, to answer today’s daily prompt question, nobody read me any story when I was a kid and I wasn’t that keen of reading anyway. I only started reading, and surprisingly in English, 3 years ago. But I do remember browsing through my father collection of Chinese books about Chinese traditional medicines and practices where they have pictures of dots around the body with its name. It was damn boring so it doesn’t count as my favorite.

50 Ways to say of OK

I’ve been noticing myself using a different ways to say “OK” over text messages to indicate a different motives and mood. But, there won’t be 50 of them, the title is just to catch your attention. Now that you are here, let’s see what I’ve got.

  • ok : the standard OK, no emotion, no motives. Probably just want to finish the conversation quickly
  • OK: probably auto-corrected by my phone.
  • Owkay : trying to sound sarcastic.
  • Okay: shorter version of Owkay, but sounds friendlier.
  • Okie: trying to sound cute
  • Ow… Kay…: Unbelievably sarcastic.
  • kk: being lazy
  • ok ok: I got it, bitch! Now, shut up.
  • Oh, k: a little surprised, but don’t want to ask too much

OK, that’s pretty much what I can think of now. If you have anything else, please fell free to comment. 

Indonesia, the Chinese, Names, and the Languages

If you’ve read my previous post, you are probably wondering why “The Lady” is the only person on earth to ever address me as Mr. Chai. It has everything to do with the culture of the Chinese community in Indonesia. In short, my surname is not Chai. In fact, I don’t have a surname or lastname at all.

First, let’s talk about the language system over there. Our national and official language is Bahasa Indonesia (which literally means Indonesian Language). All literate Indonesians must know how to speak Bahasa Indonesia. But besides the national language, most of us also speak in dialects such as Javanese, Sundanese or Batak. For the Chinese, we speak in Chinese dialects like Hokkien, Hakka or Cantonese. However, most of the Chinese in the Java island (one of the 5 main islands) doesn’t speak Chinese at all. They speak in their local Indonesian dialect instead. For us who live in North Sumatra, we speak Hokkien.

When it comes to naming, most Chinese will give two names for their child; an Indonesian name to be stated in the birth certificate and a Chinese name. The Chinese name is unofficial. But, since Hokkien is often spoken more than the Indonesian Language, the Chinese name is used more often. In fact, we only uses our official name during official stuffs like school and sh*t.

So, when I told “The Lady” that my surname is 蔡 (Chai), I was officially lying. Unless I lives in China (which I am not and I’ve never been), people will never call me Mr. Chai. Therefore, she will be the only person on earth to call me that.

And finally, as of having a surname at all, my official name has only one word, the first name. In fact, many of my friends doesn’t have a last name. That’s just how things works over here. So people, please, stop asking me why I don’t have a last name!.