Moving abroad

Friday, 11 November 2011
My cousin has been awarded a PhD scholarship here in the UK with very little notice. He had to scramble to make travel arrangements and sort out all the odds and ends in Borneo before taking the long flight here with a very heavily pregnant wife and young daughter. As you can probably imagine, this week has been super hectic trying to complete masses of paperwork with the university, rental flat, school, bank and doctor.

It has been 3 days non-stop of running around like headless chooks and there's still plenty to do. They certainly don't make things easy with various levels of bureaucracy. Complete this application and go to Building 46. When you've done that, go to Building 59 to register.  AND go to Student Services to register God knows what AGAIN. Oh sorry, we've made a mistake so can you come back again tomorrow. Making a school admission application? Why, let's make that difficult for you. Call up the city council and you'll get told that "unfortunately, we're unable to provide more information as we're not allowed to". Please don't bother asking why because the representative will repeat the same line over and over again like a tape recording.

All 3 of them are looking rather shell-shocked from the incredible amount of information they have to process including having to adjust to a completely different culture, language and lifestyle. They will have to get accustomed to the various supermarkets, phone companies and so forth, all very different to the ones they're used to in Borneo.

This brought back memories of my earlier life in New Zealand when my sister and I were pretty much on our own from the time I was 17. Heck, the name Woolworths, Foodtown nor Countdown meant nothing to me (they're the local supermarkets in NZ). I remember turning up to class yet not understanding a word the teacher was saying. Pen was pronounced peen. Check account was chick account. Hair was hear. Bear sounded like beer. The Kiwi accent was akin to a completely different language even though we were all speaking English.

Malaysians are, in my humble opinion, jack of many languages and dialects but master of none. Most of us can speak several languages and a dialect or two. However, here's the thing. They're all mixed up like a bowl of coleslaw. It's a bit of this and a bit of that and voila, you get yourself a sentence made up of 3 different languages. To a native English speaker, Minglish (Malaysian English) is not only baffling, it's unintelligible. These days, my problems are the reverse of what they used to be.  I struggle to understand the local lingo when I'm back in the country. Let me give you an example. Today, my cousin's little girl told Lil L as they were tidying up the coloring pens "aiyah, why you do like this. All terbalik already." The look on Lil L's face was priceless. Completely mystified. Here's the translation "Why did you put the caps this way. They're all upside down."

I'd love to hear your experience of moving to another country. What was it like for you?

19 comments:

  1. I have realised that only Malaysians and Singaporeans can understand what each other are talking about.

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  2. Congratulations to your cousin on his achievement my friend!!! I am so sorry they are going through this. That sounds like the same confusion/bureacracy that we go through over here in the states. LOL I know it was hard, but I think it's AWESOME everything you've achieved and being on your own. Very commendable! I've never been to another country, but when my family moved from Florida to Louisiana I cried in class (I was in Kindergarten). HAHAHA My dialect was very proper and I saw/heard otherwise here. All I could do was cry! LOL Thanks for sharing these experiences and keep us updated with your cousin's progression. ((HUG))
    http://sassyuptownchic.blogspot.com/

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  3. I can just visualize the two little cousins trying to understand each other , lil L with her thick British accent and the Manglish other .!!! :D *HUGS* to both cuties .
    "Phew" What a start !! It will all turn out well ...

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  4. I moved to America for a while and couldn't cope with everyone being so nice all the time, I found it really odd and almost everyone over the age of 20 had been married at least once and divorced, that was so different from what I was used to back then too.

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  5. LOL!!!! yay for rojak language!

    i find that when i'm home, within a day or so, i'll start talking like that again and my poor daughter will be "huh?"

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  6. Poor cousin!! Hopefully they can adjust soon! Congrats on his acheivement!

    We lived in Dresden, Germany for 2 months. Most of the larger cities in Germany have many English speakers, but not Dresden. I would practice my German (in fact, write down exactly what I was going to say or ask) and head to my destination (grocery store, pharmacy, etc.). When I got there, I guess I had practiced so well that they would blurt out the answer in German, speaking to me like I knew what was going on!!! And I know I had a weird face because I could usually understand 0-1 word of the whole 2 minute one-sided conversation. Anyways, it was fine! Just a little discouraging on some days, but it all worked out well! Now, we both miss Germany a lot!!

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  7. Congrats to your cousin! I followed you back my dear ;) have a great weekend.

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  8. Congrats to your cousin! I moved to Sydney 3+ years ago. When I first came, it needs some adjustment getting used to the accent, and it goes both ways :(
    And now it feels strange when I called a bank's customer service and they speak in Manglish. :P

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  9. How sweet are you to assist your cousin and his wife. I imagine moving to a new country at their age is stressful because while it's exciting, it's also a huge change, especially being pregnant. I was very young when I moved to the U.S. so my perspective is different but I can still remember struggling with the language and a bit of culture shock. Lol on the "Minglish"...I'm Armenian and we call it "Armglish" ...I guess were all the same deep down! :)

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  10. Ha..what can I say? I can completely understand your cousin's lil girl's lingo. *wink*

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  11. congratulations for your cousin and hope everything is settled well

    it reminds me when i move from jakarta to singapore for my uni. all the hassle, finding the right apartment, picking which shoes to bring, hahaha

    i know... the malaysian english reminds me of the singlish. somehow they're similar. i was dazed at the first time

    thank you for the compliment and nice comment :)

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  12. Ha! What your cousin's daughter's said brought a smile to my face. Congratulations to your cousin and hope the first winter isn't too difficult. Good you're there to help out!

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  13. I went to South Africa aged 7 and then came back to the UK again on my own at 19 and of course though i was born here it was like a foreign country - one i loved from that very day on - even though i was 19 on my own and in London not knowing a soul - dont know how but it was the absolute best - must have been brave, stupid or just young ... xx

    http://fashionandfrank.blogspot.com/

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  14. I speak 5 languages but I wouldn't be able to write a book in any of those languages...and sometimes when I'm in spain I start speaking french and in france I speak spanish so...the brain can't hold more than 2 languages I think :-)
    Have a nice week
    The Dolls Factory

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  15. wow, what an amazing experience!

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  16. I'm just in awe to find out how many bloggers that I've followed for a while have immigrated from elsewhere. It's gratifying to hear that all the trials and tribulations in the early stages of settling down in a new country is very similar.

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  17. Congrats to your cousin! I've never been an immigrant, but I can still commiserate with you as far as dialects are concerned. Some people in the Southern U.S. have such strong accents that I can't understand a thing they say... and i'm FROM the South! Haha.

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  18. completely agree about malaysians speaking many languages n being master of none. yet most of us are arrogant about it, not realizing that our english isn't english and chinese isn't chinese! btw, i prefer the term 'manglish' to 'minglish' bc it describes how we mangle our english.

    about accents, i find tt for some ppl, usually women, it's easy to pick accents. when i was in knoxville tennessee one summer, i unconsciously replied the supermarket teller with a southern accent on the same day i arrived. my friend and i just looked at each other and roared:D but i can never do aussie or nz accents bc they are so...accented n somehow a little bit silly sounding. eg. a friend was holidaying in sydney n his toddler slipped and broke her leg (yes) n while waiting for the operation, he went to the cafeteria n started chatting with an aussie woman. one of the things she said struck him as very odd and yet morbidly romantic. after several minutes, he realized tt she meant "today" and not "to die". he had thought tt she had said tt her husband and her "are in the hospital to die".

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  19. Terri, I've only just noticed your post. LOLOL! My early years in NZ was filled with confusion. Eight was oight. And yes, today was to-die. I stood behind a Malaysian once and couldn't quite figure out her conversation with her friend. Obviously, I haven't moved on with the latest colloquialism.

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