I was basically brought up in my parents’ Chinese Malaysian restaurant in Mooroopna near Shepparton. All my sisters and I worked there. We joke about it, but it was a bit like child labour – like I was a baby bringing out the lemon chicken from the kitchen!
The restaurant was our second home. We would sleep there when Mum and Dad were working, play Barbies on mattresses, and fight over who had to take the order to the customers because we wanted to watch Home and Away! Later on, I’d be constantly interrupted from my studies when the beeper would go off. But we just made it happen.
SPC was down the road so we had a lot of factory workers come in, and also a lot of people from the cricket club. And on some days my whole school would come to the restaurant as a ‘cultural experience’. It was quite surreal. Around 200 students would sit down and Mum and Dad would come out and put the food on the lazy susans and then after we ate we’d all get on the bus and go back to school. It was hard as a teenager. Sometimes I’d have a crush on someone and when they came in, Mum would be screaming at me in Chinese through the intercom. I’d just try to serve them and be cool!
I got bullied in both primary and high school. At a very young age, kids thought that I was Japanese and said things like, ‘You bombed us.’ Later, even my friends would joke about me being Asian. How I dealt with it was with comedy, by constantly being the jokester. I ended up developing a thick skin.
After I left uni, I tried improvised comedy for a few years. I now work as a Communications Specialist at Melbourne University, but I’m also a painter, and have sold my designs on bags and shirts. I’m kind of a multi-disciplined artist, as they say.
I still experience racism and ignorance. Not long ago, I was riding to work and a roadworker said, ‘Konnichiwa’ to me. So I rode back and said, ‘I’m bloody Australian mate!’
But even though there are challenges, overall I like to see being Chinese Australian Malaysian as a blessing in disguise. It’s made me more passionate about certain issues; it’s changed the way I see the world; and it’s made me grateful to be able to experience cultures dynamically. Nowadays I’m really grateful for the person that I have become.
My family had the restaurant for 22 years. It wasn’t always easy. But it was a huge part of my life. The beautiful thing is that we sold it to my mum’s best friend, and there are still old family heirlooms there. Sometimes I go back, and all these memories come back to me, of the ugly brown stairs I ran up and down a thousand times, of the hours I spent folding napkins and ironing tablecloths, of the red lanterns on the top level that I’d jump up and touch as a kid. It was a place of hard work, but it was also a place of family and togetherness.
When people ask me, ‘Where are you from’, I wonder what they want to know, about being a country girl from Shepparton, or about my Chinese Malaysian background?
Sometimes I like to just say, ‘I’m Angeline.’ I’m me. I’m Angeline and I’m human.
Born in Australia
Parents born in Malaysia
Photographer: Courtney Guthrie: www.halflight.net
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I’m bloody Australian mate! You go girl ????
Beautiful story and a strong lady! Well done you!
Love your “I’m Australian bloody mate” Angeline.
Gail Johnston-Want did you eat here?
Born in Australia, to Australians indeed.
I grew up in a fish and chip shop, totally understand the embarrassment of the crush coming in
Best restaurant, we often got takeaways on Friday night as kids!
Great story ! What a wonderful life so far !
Lovely story. Gorgeous young woman!!! May your future continue to be blessed ????
I was a baby bringing out the lemon chicken ????
What a beautiful story x
So good for our stories to be told
Lovely honest story. Thank you for sharing.
What a great story ♥️
Good on you Angeline! ✊ Keep going ????
Thankyou for sharing your story Angeline
I’m glad you went back and reprimanded that road worker. I hope he thinks twice before being a dick next time.
My parents ran a chinese restaurant in country NSW for a short time and owned a chicken shop as well! Australia is so multicultural yet we still experience racism which is sad. Why can’t everyone embrace what each culture brings to the table rather seeing those with a different skin colour rather than questioning them?!
Love this Angeline Omelette! Thank you for sharing your story – relatable to so many of us yet recognized by so few. You do amazing work ????
Love these don’t verse Australian stories.. we are all different. I arrived aged 31 from Scotland. 27 yrs ago. I sometimes feel very different due to my accent. However I don’t experience racism the way others do in this country. Love your story!!
I grew up in my grandparent’s Chinese restaurant. This brings back a lot of memories ❤️❤️❤️
You are the best of what Australia is to me.
Thank you all for your kind words ❤️
Oh go Ange! That was great.
Love your story! Similar to my own.
Experiencing cultural dynamics is enrichment, it’s a shame most Australians don’t understand it or feel the need to learn more. Our country is so rich as a multicultural society we should be taking more advantages of knowledge we have at our doorstep.
This is so great to read Ange. You are fab! xxx
I always ask people where they’re from, because I’m genuinely interested in different cultures. My children think I’m politically incorrect ; but their background is second generation Australian with a Belarus and Greek background!
I went to boarding school for 4 years in Bathurst NSW. There was a Chinese restaurant there call Rose Garden. Best “Australian Chinese food” especially their Sweet and sour pork on fried rice. I don’t know how I would have survived if there wasn’t a Chinese restaurant there in a small town. Really appreciate it.
My wife still don’t understand why I like sweet and sour pork today.
I loved reading this story but I’m sorry you still experience racism.
That’s my story as well. Thanks for sharing
Great read Ange!!!! Xx
Fantastic story of cliche’ multi-culturalism. I got the opposite growing up. Having a Italian surname and supposedly not looking Italian – the milkmans son was the classic joke. You don’t speak Italian, so how could you be Italian? As a adult I laugh – I can cook anything Italian, better than most. I took a DNA Ancestry – my genetics would be classic Italian based on the history. So I only need to travel to our region before I’m too old and maybe if I desire learn Italian better lol. But I’m proud to say – I’m the grand-son of a Italian migrant. I know more about the history than the generation before. Your story is wonderful and resonates so well…thank you for sharing ????
I LOVE that she rode back to say “I’m bloody Australian mate!” How Australian is that! Well done Angeline, love your story of nostalgia. ❤️
Great words, Angeline! ???? Awesome memories of Shepparton! Happy for you! ❤
Terri Cowley … I think you may find this story interesting and relevant for #shepplife x
Simply Angeline. Simply special ????
Beautifully written Angeline. ????????
Love this Angeline, great to hear your story from your point of view and hear what you’re doing these days. Take care, Danika.
Love the honesty of this Ange!!
Forever Ange of the giant sneeze for me!!
Love it all Angeline. You forgot to mention you welcomed neighbouring Chinese restaurant family’s children and when the customers weren’t looking we would all break out into a very well choreographed daggy dance with our hand folded napkins and tea towels as our only props.