No Chinese. English please.

Two minutes into a conversation with my Singaporean taxi driver, he asks me where I’m from.

“Philippines,” I said.

“Oh I thought you were from Malaysia,” he said.

I guess he thought I looked Chinese, but didn’t speak like a local, so that threw him off. Well, I get that a lot.

At the Chinese Garden in Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia. 1997.


I guess it’s undeniable that I do look a bit Chinese. Yes, I do have a tad of Chinese blood in the mix, although it’s very very diluted by several generations. Heck, I don’t even know who in the genealogy is the pure Chinese. I know my grandmother is also of mixed blood already. All I know is that there is no trace of Chinese culture or traditions that have reached my father’s generation.

My taxi driver asked me, “Do you speak Chinese?”

“No,” I answered. “I’m not Chinese.”

“You should learn!”

“No, I don’t want to learn,” I said. “If I start to speak a few Chinese words, people might think that I really know Chinese. So when I stop and say ‘I don’t understand, English please’, they won’t believe me because I already spoke a little Chinese.”

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