Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Coming of Age

In Asian culture, it is common for the younger generation to address the elder generation with honorific suffixes such as (for Malaysian Chinese) "uncle", "aunty", "kong kong", "po po", "ah yee", "tai ku", "kor kor", "jie jie" and the list goes on. It is a show of respect one gives to another of a higher rank (in terms of family hierarchy).

However when one from the 'younger generation' graduates into the ranks of the 'elder generation', at what age is the cut-off point where we can judge who to address as "uncle" and "aunty" and who to address as our peers? When I was little, any friend of my parents would be automatically addressed as "uncle" and "aunty". But now, some of my parents' friends are around my age or slightly my senior by several years, so how do I address these group of people? Their affiliation with my parents would put them in the 'elders' rank (to me) but their age would classify them as my peers. And when meeting a mixed group of my parents' friends, how can I call some "aunty" and others just by name? I feel weird.

Whereas in situations beyond the domestic boundaries, sometimes I have to check myself from calling my boss "uncle", as I'm so used to calling elder people "uncle" and "aunty"! That would truly be weird, if I ever did!

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