We are Asians… but we are NOT the same.

“NI HAO!” “KONICHIWA!” While it is cool that one can say hello in the language of the two most obvious Asian nations, it is not cool when you say it to someone who isn’t from either nations. I get that a lot. From cars passing by, people that walk by on the streets, even students … Read more

“NI HAO!”

“KONICHIWA!”

While it is cool that one can say hello in the language of the two most obvious Asian nations, it is not cool when you say it to someone who isn’t from either nations. I get that a lot. From cars passing by, people that walk by on the streets, even students on campus. I get it. I come from a relatively unknown country in South East Asia. But it really isn’t being smart if you just scream out one of the two greetings above to someone just because they look, how should I put this… oriental?

Bear with me here. For this is not a rant. I want to enlighten people.

Asia is the largest and most populous continent on the planet. It has a total of 48 countries and also home to about 4 billion people; 60% of the world’s population (give or take). But the most amazing part about Asia is that it has over 2,000 spoken languages. Yes, you read correctly, TWO THOUSAND.

Nearly every Asian nation has it’s own language, making it difficult to communicate among each other. That’s why we use English as the common ground. China alone has over 200 different dialects and India has over a 100. It is a crazy world over there in Asia. Even in Malaysia, being multiracial, we speak different languages. Malays, the majority race, speaks Malay. Indian-Malaysians speak Tamil, one of the Indian dialects. The tribes in Malaysia all have their own languages. Chinese-Malaysians, my people, speak at least three Chinese dialects in Malaysia. In Penang where I am from, we mostly speak Hokkien (Fujian in China) dialect. In other states, the Chinese speak Mandarin. Others speak Cantonese. I can speak in all three dialects, for the most part.

Crossing any border in Asia is like walking into an entirely different world. Asia is so diverse in culture, history and language that it makes it virtually impossible to group us under one umbrella. The fact that we are categorized as “Asians” is also not accurate. How do you group over 4 billion people into one little category? We are guilty of doing that to ourselves too.

Generally, when one mentions “Asian,” the image that will probably appear in your head is an image of a Chinese or Japanese man. Admit it, you are doing that right now.

The point I’m trying to make here is clear. Do not let ignorance make you look like someone who is insensitive. Surely it would seem ignorant if a foreigner came to America and screamed “HOWDY PARTNER” at every American? The same applies to Asians.

Fact of the matter is that we are all really different people. Asians are not all alike. And to be honest, not all Asians get along either.

So the next time you see someone who is of Asian heritage, refrain from screaming “NI HAO” or “KONICHIWA.” Instead, really get to know where they come from before trying something like that. Who knows? You might even learn a new way of saying “Hello” in a new Asian language. Now THAT would be cool.

Pearl of the Orient

Pearl of the Orient

Cheah Clan House When I wrote my introductory post, I mentioned that I would love to tell everyone more about my home. Here it is. I am from Malaysia, a Southeast Asian country located between Singapore and Thailand. Somehow that description works for most people. Yes, we are that big piece of land between those … Read more

Cheah Clan House

When I wrote my introductory post, I mentioned that I would love to tell everyone more about my home. Here it is.

I am from Malaysia, a Southeast Asian country located between Singapore and Thailand. Somehow that description works for most people. Yes, we are that big piece of land between those two nations. My home state, in particular, is called Penang. It is mostly an island with some of its state land being on the mainland (Malaysia) itself. Penang is located in the northwest part of Malaysia.

Living on an island (a really small one, in fact) is one of the best things in life. Penang is one of the most developed states in Malaysia. I would say we are second to the capital city, Kuala Lumpur. That being said, it means that Penang has close to everything you need. Malls, beaches, hangout spots, the airport and anything you can imagine is never more than 20 to 30 minutes away. That is of course without traffic playing its evil hand.

Kapitan Keling Mosque

George Town, Penang’s capital city, is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage City. That means that the buildings and cultural events and craftsmen within the city is considered to be an important cultural treasure to the world and needs to be protected for future generations.

The city features colonial architecture, currently being restored to its former glory. Thanks to the UNESCO endorsement, Penang has been through an extensive transformation. Going back there during the summer break was eye opening for me because after being away for over a year, going back to a restored Penang makes me feel like a tourist.

I had the opportunity to do a “Heritage Trail” when I was back there over the summer. It seems to be a trend these days among youths in my state. The World Heritage status has given us youths a renewed sense of interest in our hometown. More of us are going out to take pictures and just visit the places that were specially shortlisted by UNESCO to be restored.

Master Lee: The last joss-stick maker. Joss-sticks are incense sticks used for Buddhist prayers. Master Lee is the last person in the country to still do it by hand.

If you happen to be in Southeast Asia and are thinking of visiting Penang, do take an entire day (or two) to embark on this Heritage Trail. You’ll find something different every time. I’ve personally been on the trail three separate times and I have always found something new, whether it be a new concept cafe (we have a lot of these), a new heritage building or just an old craftsman working on his artwork. George Town, Penang is full of surprises.