Four Asian Traits Proving You Can’t Take Asia Out of The Girl

By Marie Tan

Just the other day, I realised that I’ve lived more than half my lifetime away from my homeland of Malaysia.

My eighteen-year-old self would not have in her wildest dreams imagined that a whole lifetime later she’d be planting roots, literally, in rural southwestern France. Nor would she have imagined that she would end up working in more than ten different countries after completing her higher education, or end up raising a bi-cultural child with a partner who speaks a different language from her.

Gem biscuits, Proton Persona and of course with someone in ‘I love KL shirt’!
Photos credit to Marie Tan

I used to seek out home externally when I was working abroad. By externally, I mean, compiling a photo album of all things that reminded me of Malaysia that I saw outside of Malaysia. Examples included: Gem biscuits (the little round ones with coloured icing swirls on top, which for me, I would always eat just the little round bits and save all the icing tops until the end and then eat them in one fell swoop!) discovered in a sundry shop in Burundi, betelnut trees and Petronas oil drums in the Central African Republic. Or a rare sighting of a Proton car on the streets of Baghdad, to seeing someone wearing an “I love Kuala Lumpur” T-shirt in a hilltop village in Yemen.

These days, however, as I start to establish a life and routine that is more stable in France, I find myself reaching inwards to find home. These are the following “Asian” traits that I realise I’ve come to hold fast to:

Chopsticks for everything!
Photo credit to Marie Tan
  1. Chopsticks for everything 

Eating with chopsticks and a bowl. I eat almost everything, not just Asian cuisine, with chopsticks. 

From spaghetti bolognaise to steak tartare, popcorn, melon slices and raw oysters…I’ve also taken to attending potlucks with my own pair of chopsticks in my bag! It might just be my imagination, but I do feel like everything tastes better when eating with a pair of chopsticks (or by hand, it’s a close tie!)

  1. Being a rice addict

Rice rice rice. I never used to be much of a rice girl. 

Growing up, I used to ask for smaller servings of rice at mealtimes, preferring to have more of other dishes on the table. But these days, I find myself physically craving rice if I don’t have it after a few days. 

So much so that I finally bought a rice cooker recently. My non-Asian husband probably eats more rice than the average person living within a 50km radius, luckily, he likes rice just as well as anything else!

  1. Outside shoes are forbidden indoors

Taking off ‘outside shoes’ upon entering the house. Ideally, my feet scream to be barefoot when at home, and the thought of shoes worn outdoors traipsing around the floor leaving filth from outside makes me go “eeyeerrrrrr!” but here, compromises have had to be made – we have “inside shoes” (read: house slippers) and “outside shoes”, and a little seat that’s made just for sitting down and facilitating that change in footwear upon entering the house.

  1. Not-so-subtle Asian auntie traits

Taking bad produce back to the vendors to be exchanged. Whenever I do this, it brings me back to days back home at my mother’s side whenever she’d go to the market with a bad mango or orange or whatever it was to be exchanged and ‘tsk tsk’-ing in my head over why my mother would bother doing something like that. 

I think the fact that I’ve taken to doing so now is linked to my being closer in age to when my own mother did so, and is also due to my having “regular/loyal customer” relationships with certain vendors at the market/grocery store that I feel like this is perfectly acceptable and normal. However, I will admit that this totally is such an “Asian Auntie” kind of thing to do – I am not sure just how many of my fellow non-Asian customers indulge in such ‘right of returns’.

Get excited every time I saw things related to Malaysia.
Photo credit to Marie tan

Who knows which hidden Asian trait will rise to the surface next, but whatever it is, I’m ready to have a good laugh at myself and it will be interesting in the future to see what I end up passing on to my kid!

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