English | Malay/Thai
I identify myself as a mixed-race Londoner. I graduated last year with a degree in biomedical sciences and am currently working in a cancer hospital in central London. I like to sing and make music in my spare time.
My mother is Malay from Johor with some Thai ancestry, my father is English and from Fulham. They met when they were working in Tesco on Edgware road. My mother was working there part time as a cashier whilst completing her degree in architecture, while my father was working there full time. He saw her infectious smile and heard her laugh, so he took her out on a date. When things started to get serious my mother tried to end the relationship because being Muslim she knew she couldn’t marry him. My father then became curious about Islam and started learning more about it until he reverted. They got married 4 years after he became a Muslim. My mother’s parents loved my dad and my dad’s family were very fond of my mother.
I was born in Paddington and went to primary school there. However, at the age of 8 I moved to Kuala Lumpur with my mother and younger brother. The main reason we moved is because my parents got a divorce, my mother’s parents who were living in Kuala Lumpur at the time wanted to help look after us, so my mother thought it would be best for us to have our early education in Malaysia. Adjusting to living in Malaysia was very challenging to me. Everything was different, the weather, the tv channels, the education system and attitude, the language and accents. At the age of 18, we decided to move back to London, so I could do my A levels and go to a university in the UK. I always knew I wanted to come back and pursue my degree here. So, I spent half of my life in London, and the other half in Kuala Lumpur. I feel like I’ve had the best of both worlds.
I think I realised I was from two different cultural backgrounds when I moved to Malaysia at the age of 8. The reason for this is that I looked so different from the general public (this was way back in 1999 and there were barely any foreigners there). It was so different from the multicultural diversity here in London where I didn’t take much notice of people’s races. Whenever I was out with my mother or grandmother, people would ask if I was adopted, or if my mother was my maid. I’d be called ‘White girl’, or ‘Arab’ and ‘foreigner’. I’d be asked multiple times daily about where I come from. People were curious, they would stare and if I’m being honest, at the age of 8 I felt like an alien in my own country. Suddenly, my race became everything. I had always been a quiet and reserved child, but all this made it worse. I started to have selective mutism.
I remember one time ordering a happy meal from McDonalds in English, and the staff started to laugh at my British accent. After that I never spoke to a stranger in a public setting again. I would ask my mother to write down our order on a piece of paper and I would just hand it over the counter and wait for my order. I started off in an international school which I remember having a pleasant experience at. I understood Malay, but I couldn’t speak it, so I would stay extra hours after school to learn it. This didn’t take long, within 6 months I was fully fluent in Malay and got high marks in my Malay language exams. Once I was fluent, I started going to a state school. Unfortunately, there I was bullied for being too ‘White’ and the teachers and other students seemed to think that just because I came from the UK and my father was White, I must think I’m better and superior to everyone else. This wasn’t the case at all, I just wanted to be accepted.
Funnily enough, most of my friends are from completely different cultural backgrounds. I have a lot of Nigerian friends although my two besties are also both half Malay (one is half Chinese and the other half Moroccan). In terms of dating, I am naturally more drawn to other mixed-race people. I am not particular about what mix it is, but I feel like if they are mixed-race, they’ll ‘get it’. I would feel easier to connect with someone who is mixed race from anywhere in the world compared to someone who is full English or full Malay.
I do think there is still bias attitudes towards mixed-race people especially from the more traditional cultures and older generations. Somehow it is sometimes deemed as ‘less honourable’ that my mother chose to marry outside of her race, especially a ‘White’ man. There is an assumption that my parents must be really open and westernized, and that we don’t have as many morals or discipline in our household. However, I do see a change in society and that it has become more and more acceptable in recent times.
I am going to be Cliché and say that when I am in a big group of Malays, I feel a bit of an outsider because I am not as Malay and I feel equally odd in a big group of English people because I don’t feel English enough. I feel like I fit in most in a very diverse setting.
I do think my background mixture has an effect on my relationships with others. I feel like I am more able to see things from different point of views and being more open minded because of it. I somehow feel connected to other mixed-race people even if we have just met.
If I was born again I would want to return exactly the same. I wouldn’t change a thing.
I think mixed-race people are the future. Eventually, nearly everyone will be mixed (I can just imagine how scary and uncomfortable this would make some people). I think when it comes to uprooting prejudice in society, when people see what we are capable of achieving, we will be seen in a different light. Slowly but surely, with success and doing good in the world, this prejudice will lessen. The more exposure, the better (not that we need any validation in the first place).