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ARE YOU AN EGG OR A BANANA?

One thing no one talks about when you educate your children overseas are the things that you have to deal with during your next posting.

Moving from Asia to the UK has been a transition for all of us and, one thing that I didn't expect, was how Asian my children have become. In Hong Kong there are two terms that people use - bananas or eggs. These are not derogatory terms. Basically, a banana is yellow on the outside and white on the inside - and this term is used to describe people who have lived overseas for extended periods of time and have internalised Western culture. Their ideas and values are those of western society. The flip side to this are eggs who are white on the outside and yellow on the inside.
They have adopted an Asian cultural perspective and, basically, my children are eggs.

They feel more at home in Asia. They smile broadly when they see a Chinese person walking down the street, and they are unfamiliar with a variety of western foods. They miss seeing Freddie the weather man on Star News Asia. They talk about taking holidays back in Asia and they don't think a meal is complete without a bowl of rice. They fell about in hysterics at the local supermarket here in the UK when they saw the tiny packets of instant rice as they had never seen a bag of rice smaller than about 8kg. They have no idea what a pound is, they don't understand horoscopes and tell people that they were born in the Year of the Dog or the Year of the Rat when people ask them their star sign. They remove their shoes, when they enter a house. And when we visited France recently because their dominant second language is Cantonese, they merrily spoke Chinese to everyone wondering why they received such puzzled responses.

They walk through doors without holding them open for the person behind as was the norm in Hong Kong. They want to know why we don't have a kitchen God and they miss the smell of incense. They like our spirit house and they keep leaving piles of orange by the front door. They want to know why I didn't buy kumquat trees over Chinese New Year for the entrance to our house. They eat seaweed at morning snack time, use chopsticks and eat pickled lemon rind. They miss the mongoose, geckos and snakes in our garden. They are scared of cows and tea is always green.

They are struggling to come to terms with bread and butter pudding, roast beef and tuna. One of them calls it chicken that tastes of fish and keeps asking why they can't have it steamed with ginger and shallots.

They are totally at a loss with certain words and their new schoolteachers initially thought they were behind until they realised that they were simply using unfamiliar terms. A teacher asked one of them to describe a lorry and they had no idea what she was talking about. Ask them to describe a truck and they would all be fine. Ask them to tell you about the dragon boating, Hungry Ghost Festival, the Lantern Festival, grave-cleaning day, yum cha or the Great wall of China and they will all be fine.

Ask them who the Prime Minister is and they'll ask "Is it Tung Chee Hwa?"

So now we are all busy making the adjustment from being eggs to white cucumbers although, I think we will always carry part of Asia in all of us - we will remain, at heart, eggs.

Amanda O has been an expatriate most of her life and can't imagine living any other way.

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Posted 26Apr05