womans profile

Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931)
“Profile of a Young Woman”
Oil on panel

Boldini was an Italian painter who lived and worked in Paris for most of his career. According to a 1933 article in Time magazine, he was known as the “Master of Swish” because of his flowing style of painting.

Female Vietnamese-Chinese-Australian

My dad is Vietnamese, but his parents come from China. My mum is from China, but she moved with her family to Hong Kong from an early age. They speak Cantonese (or as you otherwise might know it, traditional Chinese) as a main language, although they can speak (simplified) Chinese too. I was born and raised in Australia so I identify as Australian as well as Chinese and Vietnamese.

My area has some Asians, but you can get other PoC showing up too and as a writer, I like to embrace that (that’s why this profile exists). However, most people here are non-PoC, Australia being a former British colony and whatnot.

  • Clothing

Hand me downs. When your dad has 10 sibings and 2 of them are about an hour’s drive from your house, you can’t deny that’ll happen. However, I do get new clothes every now and again.

  • Food

My family does have a habit of eating rice and/or different Chinese styles of noodles a lot for dinner, but we eat pasta and other cultural foods every now and then. A typical lunch is normally a sandwich or fast food, while breakfast can be anything from dim sims to toast to apple pie (I think the apple pie is just a scrounge-for-money excuse on my mum’s part though).

We do eat Vietnamese food for dinner (a cold vermicelli dish with mint/lettuce, fish sauce and soft shell crab/spring rolls/cha lua/surimi scallops - or a combo of those - known verbally as something along the lines of “moong” to me, although I don’t know its proper name or spelling) or lunch (banh mi or pho), although the likelihood of having Vietnamese food for any given meal is significantly rarer than Western-style food/rice and normally it’s my dad who’ll eat pho.

We used to go out for yum cha for lunch (despite it being breakfast in most cases in Hong Kong) every now and again. When we’re in Hong Kong though, my maternal grandma makes us go to yum cha for breakfast and then to the same restaurant for dinner. There’s one dish I love from yum cha specifically (prawns in cheong fun with soya sauce) which is often on the menu and why I don’t mind yum cha in most cases.

My mum loves Japanese food, but my dad doesn’t like most raw things (I had a childhood friend whose mother used to work at a sushi shop, so we got lots of discounted food - it didn’t help my dad one bit) so me and my sisters have grown up eating sushi/okonomiyaki/sashimi and we’ll eat this stuff on birthdays or special occasions. That’s how we get into anime and learning Japanese at school. 

  • Holidays

My family is atheist, with a mild exception on my smallest sister’s part (she believed in the optional religious education classes a little too much, and so is a bit more insistent on Christianity). We normally go out to Chinese New Year celebrations in our vicinity (we normally buy the spiral potatoes on skewers and/or batter-coated octopus tentacles and eat them if not collecting freebies). We’ll eat mooncake, tang yuan or the like as a celebratory food around the relevant holidays, although we do sometimes eat them out of season if the food is around and cheap. We don’t take days off around Chinese New Year like Chinese are supposed to, but we do take breaks around Easter, Christmas etc. because schools, supermarkets etc. close on those days.

Red pockets (actually red envelopes, they have money in them) are a custom for birthdays, Christmas, New Year, weddings and Chinese New Year. If your birthday is close to one of the other listed holidays, you get one instead of two (see this profile for explanation). There is no set amount for the others, but normally for a 20-something-year old the cap is about AU $50 (we send the equivalent in American money to American relatives, but that’s less often than the ones we see in person and remember the birthdays for), and for weddings you should give more than that. 

We take basically any excuse to get together with extended family and Asian family parties are never dull. The adults, especially, gossip long into the night and if they bust out the alcohol, they go home at midnight or 2 am because…obvious reasons.

  • Identity issues

I thought, when I was younger, my surname was Chinese, but it turned out to be Vietnamese put through American pronunciation. I told my friends…and they didn’t give any reaction. Either they took it in their stride or just continued to think I was Chinese/Chinese-Australian like them.

I’ve been to Vietnam and Hong Kong on family trips before and for some reason, even though Australia is “home” to me, when all the people look closer to what you do and experience life similar to what you do, you feel like you’re “at home” in a weird sense. Can’t speak a speck of Vietnamese and my Cantonese and Chinese have fallen out of good use though, so I’m just berated by older relatives (in Cantonese and most times to my parents’ faces) when I visit them and speak in English.

I’m a bit more tan than my sisters due to neglecting sunscreen on sunny days, but my dad used to joke to me and my sisters that I was Filipino/Indian and looking back on it, that was pretty toxic. (It was also kinda hypocritical because he’s tanner than me, but he never pointed that out.) Some other people may get offended at being called “banana” or “ABC” (Australian-born Chinese), but me and my sisters can take it as a joke.

Talking about the Vietnam War is kinda awkward for me, as my dad escaped from it in his youth. I learnt about the war while doing an international studies course and being to Vietnam - there was this aura of coldness around it all the while and I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of it.

  • Language

I was taught Cantonese from birth, but Australia being as it is means English is my default. I had to learn Chinese and Japanese from language schools and school courses.

Hong Kong was British up until 1997, so there’s lots of English (the language, the people aren’t that common there) around and it’s easier to get by there (for me) than Vietnam. Vietnam was French in the 1800s so my dad knows limited French, but I’ve never learnt French. 

  • Study

I used to try and keep up with my parents’ standards of “play piano!”, “get good grades!” etc. etc. but as time wore on, I found I didn’t want to. In the end, I found they’re not too worried, so long as I do well in what I want to do and pass in what I need to do. 

…I’m also a proud procrastinator, as bad as that is.

  • Micro-aggressions

Notice how I’ve used “Cantonese” as a term for traditional Chinese, and “Chinese” for simplified? Cantonese and Chinese are completely different beasts. (I can get kinda picky about it, even though “Canton” is a somewhat whitewashed term and doesn’t refer to Hong Kong per se…I use the terms because I have no better way of distinguishing between the two.)

  • Tropes I’m tired of seeing

Kung fu Asians. Not all Asians are willing to whip your butt into shape with martial arts - most Asians wouldn’t know martial arts. For that matter, tai chi/taekwondo/karate/gong fu do not equal each other (yeah, Karate Kid with Jaden Smith is a misnomer).

  • Things I’d like to see more of

There’s one show I thought was fairly accurate in depicting a life like mine, and that’s The Family Law. Showing more family dynamics like that would be great.

I’d also like to see close siblings, regardless of genre, gender or race. (Not twins or OreImo, either - that’s a little too close.) I’m very close to my older sister, to the point where if we weren’t blood related, we’d be best friends.

It’s a weird demand, but regardless of where your story’s set or who it’s aimed at, I get kinda disappointed when people have an eating scene and they could check up some weird and wonderful food for it - for a workplace or school scene, a sandwich can make sense and it’s fine, but for one example, in fantasy feasts people eat “boar meat” and sometimes I wish they’d eat char siu instead of being so generic. Just do your research properly, spell the words properly and it’ll fit right in if it’s appropriate and/or relevant.

Read more POC Profiles here or submit your own.