Nov 11, 2011

Different is beautiful

Had a long chat with my bro, about travel, race, culture, identity. He was travelling in Europe, and he said never knew there was such a thing as the Malaysian accent until he heard it, even without the Manglish. And I said, yes, I've never known how distinct I am, until I became a minority. (Unlike many of my peers who went overseas to study, I've never lived abroad before)

It's interesting how you need to take a step back sometimes, to see the forest. In Malaysia, we have three distinct races and cultures - Indian, Malay and Chinese. Thus I always identified myself as Chinese. But here, I am Malaysian - and am relearning to appreciate what that means. In food, and familiarity with many cultures and language, Malaysians are unique. The diversity here, in a sense, isn't alien to me. I used to change the tilt of my voice to suit the accent of the person I was talking to; I wouldn't try and imitate the accent artificially or consciously but  there would be a small change in my speech. Indians have a more singsong way of speaking and go at a faster pace, Malays have a soothing tone, while Chinese have a sharper, flatter edge. I caught myself doing it here too the other day!

In case you aren't familiar with him, check out Canadian comic Russell Peters. He exaggerates the essence of a race to create an easily identifiable - and funny - factor. In an almost contradictory way, he makes these traits natural and even cool.  We laugh because he is spot on, and we can admit it to ourselves without being insulted. (Well, most of the time anyway, as with any comic that uses stereotypes as material, he gets it wrong now and then)

I have to disagree with him on this one though - Chinese people, not Indians, rank number one in this area!



  1. Hello,

    it seems like everyday is yet another opportunity to learn something new not only about yourself but about people around you. I have some experience in this matter myself, due to the countless moving from one country to another and constantly being given a different "label of my origin" after my accent. I have plenty of stories about it. Nevertheless a surprise every time.