Saturday, September 25, 2010

Living In Malaysia: Call Me Aunty And Die

In Malaysia it is proper to call older people Uncle and Aunty.  This is because age is hugely important in Asia. The older you are, the more respect you're entitled to. 

I'm 44 now so I'm beginning to get quite a bit of it.  As I'm half Dutch and half Scots, this doesn't sit easily with me.  I'm extremely informal plus my automatic reaction is, we're not related, so why call me that?

Luckily Malaysians are a pretty easy going bunch and there are some alternatives.

For example, the first time I went to our local wet market and Chinese vegetable girl greeted me with a, "Hello Aunty!  Whatcha want?" I gave her a steely look and said, "Aunty?!" in mock outraged tones.

She gave me a thoughtful stare back and said, "How about Sister?"  Now that I can live with because ah moi means sister in Hakka and Cantonese.  It can also be used in the sense of hey-babe-how's-it-hanging but that's another story....

The best one for getting around the Aunty/Uncle/respectful title thing is the Malay vegetable lady.  She just calls everyone Darling.  "Hello, darling?  What do you want, darling?  See you later, darling!"  This is her stall, and she's the lady on the left.

I'm kind of extra glad for darling vegetable lady's idiosyncrasy because the equivalent of ah moi or aunty in Malay is kak meaning older sister.  But as kak in Dutch means shit, I just can't warm up to that expression.

19 comments:

Brian said...

HA! I don't blame you on that one!

Cat-in-Sydney said...

Har har har...is the vegetable lady from Down Under? We get a lot of that over here where shopkeepers call you darling or honey or sweetheart.... talk about good salesmanship and ensuring return customers, eh? purrr....meow!

[izzie_heart]* said...

My opinion as one living and was born in Malaysia :)

It's just too normal for us to call older people 'Aunty' or 'Uncle'. At least that's better than 'Makcik' or 'Pakcik', haha.

But yeah, if I dare call someone much older than me by his/her name only, I expect people to think of me as very rude. My Mum would probably ground me for a month.

:)

Hailey said...

Aw sounds like they're trying to be nice but sometimes it's a little unnerving when they don't listen!!

Hugs & smoochies! XOXO
Hailey

Hailey said...

Aw sounds like they're trying to be nice but sometimes it's a little unnerving when they don't listen!!

Hugs & smoochies! XOXO
Hailey

Katnip Lounge said...

Around my parts, "Hon" is what everybody gets called, male or female. It must be a Southern thing that's migrated west. I, originating from Chicago, call everyone "dude".

The Chair Speaks said...

LOL at the word 'KAK' at what it means in different languages!

Whisppy said...

REALLY!!!! Kak is shit in Dutch!? LOL! Gawd. I'm going to have a tough time now when people start calling me Kak.....darn!

mizzyN said...

I prefer if they'd call everybody 'Cik' which means Miss. Or a shortened version of 'Encik' which means Mister.

One time I went to KFC at my work place for lunch and wear no spectacles they call me Kak and after work I went there to buy KFC for my mum and wore specs and they called me Adik (younger sister) hahahhahha.A variable indeed.

Li said...

ahahaha..the moment i saw the title of this post,it made me laugh!
can't believe this is my first or 2nd time commenting on ur blog post..:)

it depends on the person i guess..i do call my female seniors at the office or back in uni 'kak'..and aunty only refers to my relatives..

tat vegetable lady is very nice calling everyone darling!must be pleasant buying veggies from her..hehe

Mishkat said...

That is too funny about "Kak"! I do think it's great that older people are so respected there. Many younger people here say "Ma'am" or "Sir" to older people - this is considered respectful in many parts of the US.

And I love the vegetable lady's greeting! I get called "honey" and "hon" by female waitresses a lot (they are usually a lot younger than I am so it makes me laugh!)

Jan's Funny Farm said...

We have a neighbor that does that. Everyone is darling. Folks here in the South, USA show respect by calling those older than them Miss or Mr. First Name. Miss Jan had a time getting used to that.

BeadedTail said...

I like the idea of showing respect to older people but it's hard to hear since it means I'm getting older too! It makes me cringe to be called Ma'am so I understand not wanting to be called Aunty and like the idea of "darling"!

sully86 said...

hhahahah that is hilarious

Kitikata-san said...

Oh No! You're not Aunty already! Sister! I like that.

Kitikata-san said...

Yeah! Worldwide TNR and check in on and feed program is a good idea!

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

LOL @ Kak! I don't find being called 'Aunty' much of a problem. In fact, I like it when children call me Aunty. It's much better than being called 'ah moi' or 'leng loi', which I find sexist and derogatory.

lupie said...

This is a good one!!!!

I had an "auntie" (my mom's age) at the market calling me "auntie" and I ended up not buying from her.
Children (under 10, okay!) calling me auntie I can accept BUT, but this is an auntie calling me auntie!!

My hubby laughed and teased me until today!

Kak means shit?? hehehehe
LOL!!!

Blackie007 said...

I'm with you totally. Unless they're 12 and below, I just hate it when people call me 'aunty', especially when they're older than me. There's one coffee shop at Taman Seputeh where the old man in his 70s who would ask me, "Aunty, what drinks would you like to order?" After a few times, I got frustrated and asked him if he calls me "aunty" should I call him "dinosaur". He just looked at me blankly before asking, "What do you want to be called then?"

And thanks for letting us know that kak means shit in dutch. LOL!