Words: @oliverinstead • Location: PETRONAS Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur
Whenever my ethnicity is questioned, I am always “Malaysian first, Chinese second” Y’know, except for the times I go undercover or register for free airport Wi-Fi… but that tends to raise more questions than it answers; fo’ real, what does it really mean?
For starters, being Malaysian means your ancestors had probably done their fair share of travelling since about half the Malaysian population is of non-native descent. In my case, all my grandparents came from some corners in Mainland China… but I claim to be no Chinaman!
Because the country is so rich in cultural diversity, being Malaysian almost always means being multilingual. As someone who travels to live, I cannot stress the importance of this attribute enough. It’s allowed me to navigate my way around many countries with ease – whether it’s Britain or Brunei, I could speak at least one of the locals’ languages.
On the flip side of that, being Malaysian also means your physical traits shall be subjected to scrutiny in the form of “yeah… but where are you really from tho?” and at times even “if you’re from Malaysia, why do you look *inserts another Asian nationality*?”
In all fairness, it’s not unusual that I’m mistaken for a native when I travel to foreign countries neighbouring Malaysia. So it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that I could also be half-Thai / half-Filipino… with a pinch of Javanese somewhere down the line. #sarcasm
But I’m ok with that.
The fact remains : I’m still learning about my motherland and I probably learned more about it in the last seven, eight years since I moved away than I ever did growing up in this tropical melting pot. Nowadays, I build upon my understanding and appreciation by exploring a new region or six whenever I return… and truth be told : never had I realised more, that my home really does have so much to offer.
What about you? Have you ever been to Malaysia? What does being *inserts your nationality* mean to you? I want to know so spill it all in the comments below!! x