If you search up ‘Subtle Asian Traits’ on Facebook, the top result you will find is a group with over 1.8 million members inside. Culture and identity is a key definition of a person’s character and that what makes travelling so special. Some people seek the adventure of immersing into a different culture and lifestyle to be able to see the world in a different perspective. As I have grown up in Malaysia and primarily only interacted with Malaysians for the past 19 years of my life, settling into a new country was fascinating as I learned to adapt to this new culture. Even though travelling is restricted now, I hope that through this blog, I am able to bring you down a cultural exchange journey to relive your travelling experiences.
In every Asian household, it is essential to take off your shoes before entering your house. This is to avoid getting your house stained with the dirty germs from outdoors. As my roommate during first year was coincidentally Asian as well, that discussion didn’t even need to be brought up during moving in day. We both just automatically took off our shoes upon arrival.
I have had friends telling me that they got shocked when their roommates began to roam around the room with their shoes on. It was honestly just such a concept because it would be a taboo to do this in our own households and wearing your shoes indoors would mean a smack in the head by your parents. However, we cannot expect everyone to adapt to our culture immediately. This requires getting to know each other more and to understand and respect the culture of different people. I am blessed to have friends who would automatically ask me whether they should remove their shoes at the door before walking into my house now, and this cultural respect is what I aim to be conscious about at all times as well.
Where’s the spice?
If you have not had Asian food before, no matter what cuisine you choose to devour, they are most definitely all packed with an explosion of flavours, primarily chilli. Despite cooking Asian dishes with loads of chilli and spices, people even consume their food with even more chillis as side dishes. Whether it being Thai food, Malaysian food, Chinese food, etc., the burning sensation at the back of your tongue is what makes our food stand out!
This however, is most definitely not what I was conscious about before coming here. Since I have always been cooking daily with my Malaysian friends since arriving in London, I seldom had food from restaurants and wasn’t aware of the normal cuisine here. There came a time where I went for a sleepover at one of my friend’s house and I decided to make dinner for their family. Let’s just say I had to learn my lesson the hard way.
Rain or blizzard?
Before coming to London, I have always been told that it is more often than not rainy here. Rain here is equivalent to very mild and light rain in Malaysia. However, the rain here can go on for hours and sometimes even throughout the day. The rain here is so light throughout the day that you might even be able to walk out without an umbrella if it’s just to get some groceries nearby.
Rain in Malaysia is normally combined with thunderstorms and strong winds. Driving in the rain is particularly dangerous at home because it often disrupts the vision of the driver tremendously. When one of my friend came down to Malaysia to visit me during the summer break of first year, he was literally awestruck as we sat indoors watching the rain pour outside. I will never forget how with his jaw dropped and how he called it a blizzard instead.
Although I have been here for 2 years, now I am still constantly learning new things and am trying my best to always be conscious about the cultural differences and to always respect people’s ways of doing things even though it might not be considered normal coming from my culture. One of the best things about being in Imperial is that it is so diverse that you can be exposed to so many different cultures, and at the meantime learn to appreciate what they have to offer.