The Confusion From Living in Multiple Countries

I’ve been brought up by three traditions as I’ve migrated twice. In Australian, Western tradition (the tradition I’m currently surrounded by), while older family members are addressed by their titles such as “mom”, “dad”, “pop” or “nan”, excluding older siblings; it is acceptable to address people outside of their family network by their first names, regardless of age. However, in the Asian tradition I was born into, it is customary to address older people by their titles, regardless if they are a family member or not. For example, I attach the title “older brother” (or “kuya” in my language) to the names of any men who are older than me by a few years. Any older than that, I attach the title “uncle” (or “tito” in my language). It is very similar with the other Asian tradition that I grew up with. You can imagine how fast time flies when little kids pop out out of nowhere calling you “tito”.

Great, you learned something! But hold on! That was merely a brief background knowledge you needed to know.

While keeping grounded in this topic of titles, I know people who were brought up in both Western and Asian traditions or influences (especially, yours truly), and got mixed up with both. I believe there are two kinds of confused personalities. 1) The individual who achieved a realization and transitions from one influence to another, and 2) the individual who is in denial and chooses one influence over the other.
Confused yourself? Let me explain each in detail.

1) Once upon a time, this boy have been calling me by my first name. Today, he is calling me by the title that I have always been entitled to – “kuya”. Which makes me wonder what caused the change. Do I suddenly look old enough? Do I sound more wiser? Did I do something that resulted in me unknowingly excluding myself from his age and social circle from then on? And get this! The decision to address someone by their title lies in their personal perception of age. There is no set rule as to when to call someone “kuya” or “tito”. So I was left wondering why this boy is still calling another boy by his first name who happens to be only a year younger than me!

2) This applies to the “kuyas” and “ates” (older sisters), and unfortunately at some occasions, me. We believe that it is acceptable to label others with their titles, but God forbid if you label us back! When you call me “kuya”, I feel deprived of that elixir of youth and innocence and recklessness and zero obligations that is hard to find in the world of adult responsibilities and sensibilities. When you call me “kuya”, I feel the heavy weight of the real world imposed on me. What happened to just caring about Runescape and Pokemon? It doesn’t help when “kuyas” and “ates” also call you “kuya” or “ate”. It’s a double-edged sword! Suddenly, I feel like a measuring stick for wisdom and knowledge. Please, I’ll rather be called by my first name than feel my skin wrinkle at the sound of that word.

Well, there you have it. Just something I’ve been pondering for a while and inviting everyone, especially my fellow “kuyas” and “ates” to do the same.

Oops, sorry!


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