Not for all the tea in China..

Cultural clashes are a daily norm for me. It doesn’t happen in a major way; it’s not like I whip out the chopsticks in preparation for a three course meal. It is the tiny trivial things which stands out the most to me, which causes my paranoia that others misinterpret my actions as rude or hostile.

Take the ol’ tea and biscuits scenario for example. No matter where I am, be it in a work place, family gathering or anywhere that involves a kettle, my auto response when offered a drink is “no I’m fine thank you”. I forget making tea is an ice breaker and a British norm, so I will nearly always decline out of politeness of not putting the other person out. This often results in an awkward situation where I have opted out, ignoring my dehydrated brain signalling that I am dying of thirst, to five minutes later decide to fetch myself the drink.

When I do get over myself and remember social etiquette, I allow others to make me a drink, or even food, to which I try my hardest to finish it all. To me, scoffing my food in no way resembles the class hierarchy that is very much alive today; we pass judgment on the poor who presumably lick their plate clean, but the very wealthy tend toy with their food, making sure a standard amount is left over on their plate. I do not clean the plate because I am starved and poor, I just simply disagree with trivially leaving waste. From my perspective, someone has taken the time and effort to make that food, so you better show gratitude by eating it.

I am not sure whether this is inherent from only my family or if there is a bigger cultural picture, whereby most Chinese people behave in this way. I do hope it is the latter.

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Your Revolution is a Joke.

I remember a few months ago watching Aljazeera news with a slice of toast, observing the riots spread across Syria, Egypt, Jordan and many other African countries, unaware and unfazed; it was not that I did not care, but as an outsider watching events unfold felt very surreal. I turned to DH and said, “I can’t imagine this would ever happen in this country, the British just moan and move on”.

Make sure you stock up on that basmati rice; not that you understand Mr Prole, but as you loot, the market is crashing. This will probably cost more in the future.

Of course the riots over the past few days in London are nothing by comparison, they are malicious, unmotivated and undoubtedly disgraceful. Watching the news this time was not a surreal experience, it was very real, it was 40 odd miles away. I have been obsessively checking various newspaper websites, Facebook and BBC News 24 is continuously in the background to ensure I do not miss out on anything significant. I spent the majority of yesterday in a constant state of panic as DH insisted on going to work. Luckily I was just paranoid and nothing actually happened, I would hate to be proved right.

These teens from deprived areas of London speak of ‘fighting back’ against the government and the ‘rich’, however there is no substance in their cause. They are children and do not fully understand why they are angry, blaming others for their despicable behaviour and joining in with their fellow criminal chums. Although increasing police numbers on the street last night proved a success in London, I fear as we move into next week and the streets are left unsupervised, hell will break loose again. These children have the idea planted in their heads after the Tottenham incident, but why do they think it is now acceptable to burn down buildings and terrorise local residents? Nothing has changed, this could have been done last week, last month, last year.

We all live by a mutual agreement set by society and its norms. I do not burn cars, steal or create social disorder because by being a part of this society I have agreed not to. There is nothing physically stopping me from doing these things but I understand right from wrong. The problem we have with these degenerates, is that they live in a society that does not encourage these norms. Written across the television last night the BBC advised parents to keep their children at home; what makes you think the parents are not cheering them on? These children behave in this way because of their upbringing and their surroundings. Who better to teach them the tricks of the trade than their beloved parents.

I am angered, upset and disgusted by the events in London, which have spread like a pandemic all over the country. These youths have no understanding of the consequences of their actions, nor do they care. They cannot be fully blamed because they have been conditioned to behave this way, however this is no justification. If we did not have such a corrupt government, I would probably support Marx’s idea to remove parental responsibility and allow children to be raised by the state. Maybe we should just enforce this on the proletariat, the rest of us are doing okay.

Cooking up a storm.

Over the weekend, I have become quite the cook. Over the years DH and I have mastered British and Italian dishes to perfection; our dinners varying from stews to roasts to lasagnes. This weekend however, I decided to take it one step further and try my hand at the Chinese dishes I find so daunting. I am so used to visiting my Grandma’s house for my weekly Chinese fix, but now I am a mother, I need to learn the tricks of the trade myself, if I am to have my son familiar with his Chinese heritage. Hopefully if I start now, he will never know how unskilled his mother once was.

We started off with prawn crackers, how very stereotypical. This was not very experimental at all really – It involved heating up oil in a pan and dropping small discs we bought from a packet in Tesco for 59p. They would expand and open up into an editable form. Simple, yet an effective start to what was to come.

Next I made an attempt with Thai green curry. Even though I followed a recipe, it went slightly wrong. I am one of these pedantic obsessives who insist on following instructions word by word, and because of this, I did not question ‘four tablespoons of curry paste’. If I had consulted DH, I would have discovered that in his previous attempt two tablespoons was too hot. Alas, I did not consult anyone but Felicity Cloake (founder of the Guardian recipe) and my curry went down in flames. All in all, with the consideration of it being excessively spicy put aside, it was very flavoursome and tasty. Luckily it was accompanied with fragrant jasmine rice to soften the blow. My second attempt will only have one tablespoon of curry paste and I imagine it will be superb.

I did not intend to make starters, main and dessert, this just happened by accident. My next experiment was Vietnamese Black Eyed Beans and Rice Pudding, with the recipe taken from this website. I wanted a way to include black eyed beans in DS’ diet for its nutritional value; it is very high in protein, carbs and fibre to build him up big and strong. Coconut is also very high in the good kind of fat, not saturates. I am obsessed with feeding him goodness, but I will save that for another blog.

As you can see my version does not look as appetising as the one pictured on the recipe, or maybe I am just not a photo genius. Either way, it was delicious. Almost as scrumptious as my Grandma’s, which is good enough for me.

If the shoe fits.

There is a simple rule which should be known by all, that is, to take your shoes off at the door. The host should not need to make this request explicit, but presume that all share the same etiquette. However, this is not custom in British culture; guests tend to leave their shoes on upon entering someones house, and so the awkwardness of asking the guests to remove their shoes arises.

I understand the reasons behind keeping shoes on; people feel exposed without them, they have verrucas, athlete’s foot or some other fungal disease they would rather not exhibit for all. Nevertheless, there should be an overriding factor of politeness to not tread dirt and bacteria from the outside all over someones house, for the sake of concealing their own insecurities. For instances where the guest does have infectious warts and whatnot, they should bring socks or ask for slippers; walking grubby shoes around the house is equally as damaging as spreading the infection.

There are of course always exceptions to the rule; pet owners are more likely to be accepting of shoe-wearing guests or if the host has shoes on, then you can probably assume it is acceptable for you to keep yours on. Besides this, guests should take the initiative to remove their shoes as soon as they enter. The home should be treated with respect and separate from the outside. I am quite certain that the majority do not wear shoes inside their own home, and if they do, I wonder whether it is included in their daily routine when getting dressed? I for one keep my shoes by the door and only tend to put them on when leaving the house.

I stumbled upon a blog which lists lots of reasons why the host may not want guests to keep their shoes on, in case you were wondering why I am particularly infuriated by this issue. I have been raised to practice the rule that shoes should be removed in the first instance, even before saying hello. The formality of shoes makes me uncomfortable and the thought of spreading dirt around for my son to play with sends my OCD into overdrive.

No speak English.

‘…And then to break her heart forever, the baby boy who has begun to talk, starts to sing the Pepsi commercial he heard on T.V.

No speak English, she says to the child who is singing in the language that sounds like tin. No speak English, no speak English, and bubbles into tears. No, no, no as if she can’t believe her ears.’

– The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros.

Whilst we all try to embrace our own culture and heritage, it becomes lost in the society we live in. On the surface I appear to be Chinese, but the foundation of my ideals and norms are clearly Westernised. To recall a conversation I once had with my aunt:

Aunt: ‘You’re such a banana’

Me: ‘Excuse me?’

Aunt: ‘Yellow on the outside, but white on the inside.’

When I now reflect on my identity, I like how I am the product of two cultures. Throughout my childhood I was always trying to escape racism, denying my ethnicity and insisting on speaking English at home. In hindsight I wish I had embraced my differences, then maybe DS would have the opportunity to understand his Chinese heritage. My inability to converse in my mother tongue is an embarrassment to me. I want so much for DS to be able to speak two languages as eloquently as I once was.

Despite not being as Chinese as I would like to be, I am thankful for the small part of me that does remember my cultural differences. We do not choose where we are born or our ethnic origin; I feel lucky to be born in a country that provides so many opportunities and aspirations, whilst still clutching tightly onto the remains of a culture that originates in a part of a world less fortunate.

Chork (chopstick/fork) - If I was a piece of cutlery..