Lost in Translation — An Asian growing up in Australia.

A personal reflection on being an Australian born Asian.

Visiting Japan

During primary school, I distinctly remember visiting Hiroshima for a family holiday, and there was one memory that still sticks with me. I was conversing with my brother in English and a group of teenagers passed by. They were speaking amongst themselves and as soon as they overheard us, they remarked:

“They are so strange. They look Japanese but are speaking English…”

I told them I heard them. Amused by the surprised expression on their face, I carried on. This was memory point number one.

Confusion during the teenage years

Growing up in a predominately white Catholic high school also added to the mix of not understanding what it meant to be Australian or Japanese. With approximately less than 10 Asians in the grade of 120 males, the teenager Tom realised it was best to reject his cultural roots and get along with everyone else. I would reject what it meant to be Asian from the neighbouring Asian selective school and would secretly pride myself on the colloquial term of being a ‘banana’ — yellow on the outside and white on the inside.


Interestingly enough, I ended up in a university course which was predominately Asian and was very surprised to know so many people. Put simply, I didn’t know Asian people existed coming outside of my Lower North Shore bubble. I started to feel more comfortable where it was the norm to embrace and share common jokes about food, parenting and the similar upbringings we shared.

  • Jimmy O Yang from Silicon Valley
  • Alan Yang for directing Master of None
  • John Cho from Harold and Kumar
  • Justin Chon from 21 & Over
  • MyChonny

The present

Watching Crazy Rich Asian was interesting and a refreshing one. I can’t say I understood all the jokes, but for the most part, it was reassuring that I could relate. What may appear to others as a film with a full Asian cast, it was one that relates to me as a reminder to understand what cultural roots mean to me. It also shows progress in the way that more media representation is being shed from the average calculator nerd.



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