Friday, 12 July 2013



The longer I live in Asia, the more I come to realize that Asians are… well, same-same but different. They’re same as us in that they love and spoil their kids, they’re determined to give their children a leg-up in life, and Dad works his guts out to buy a house and support the family. But I’ve noticed that there are a number of immutable differences in Asian beliefs and perspectives. Differences that no amount of persuasion from you or anyone else will ever budge.

Now most of Asia is hot – no-one will dispute that fact. A healthy sun tan is one of the beneficial side-effects of spending a few months in the region. Nice. But most Asians, especially those of the female gender, won’t agree. They hold that dark skin spells low class. Dark skin is for farmers and yokels; definitely not for any self-respecting girl of Korea, China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam or Laos. They’ll spend countless hours applying skin-whitening cream, and refuse to go outside in the heat of the day. (The exception is Cambodian girls. They’re dark, and proud of it.)

Next, beer. Asians haven’t quite come to grips with how to handle this Western innovation. Most drink it with ice. They drink it through straws. And they haven’t a clue on how to pour it; every glass ends up as an inch of beer and three inches of froth. Which may explain why the straw comes in handy.

Refrigerators are another Western invention which is grossly misunderstood. Leave the door open for three minutes while you potter about in the kitchen? No problem, the fridge will get cold again soon enough. The fridge’s main function is to cool drinks and make ice. As for storing poultry, meat, fish and all that, leave them on the bench rather than clutter up the fridge with them. And if you’ve defrosted something, there’s no harm in refreezing it, three or four times if it takes your fancy.

Oh, and MSG is good for you, by the way.

Another thing. If you don’t shout into a telephone, the other party won’t hear you.

Then there’s the matter of Asians’ perceptions of medicines. They will usually seek medical advice from a pharmacist in preference to a doctor. Most pharmacists go for the shot-gun approach to dispensing medicines. Here’s three blue pills, five little yellow ones, four green capsules, and four red pills. Oh, while I think of it, take this big white pill too. At least one of the medications might just clear up your ailment.  And the idea that antibiotics must be taken until they’ve run out is something that has never been accepted by your average Asian. The general consensus is: Why keep taking a medicine when your symptoms have disappeared?

Family ties. Asians have warm, close relationships with their families. And I’m not just referring to immediate family – I’m talking every aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, cousin, and cousin thrice-removed. In an Asian family, the eldest son is expected to support all his siblings for the rest of his life; that’s the Asian way. And when grandma gets the first hint of the tremors, she’s not shipped off to a “home” as she would be in the West; she’s drawn even closer into the bosom of the family. Yes, family relationships are something the Asians can teach us a thing or two about.


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