Dating a Mat Salleh

It was chance that brought us together.

It is funny how things happen in life. You never know what twists and turns will be on your life’s path, even though they’re basically all our own choices. At times, it does seem like fate tries to surprise us every now and then.

Growing up in KL, I’ve met my fair share of expats and third-culture kids, but the idea or want to actually date a foreigner was never off the top of my head. For me, relationships will happen when they’re meant to happen.

And then, we met.

As a self-proclaimed adventurer, Brazil was never part of my ‘ultimate bucket list’. I wanted to go to Europe, Japan, the States, but never Brazil.

Before I met Andrey, the only thing I knew about Brazil wasn’t Copacabana Beach, Sao Paolo, or Minas Gerais. I only knew about the Amazons – nowadays, I know more about Brazil than I do China. Kinda weird because.. Well… I’m Chinese.

Our chance meeting wasn’t that romantic – we met during orientation, started talking because we’re both Biology students and clicked through our nerdiness – something I thought was only unique within my family.

You’ve probably heard of those stories about relationships failing because of cultural differences.

Unlike back in Malaysia, when you’re dating someone from another race, Andrey doesn’t ‘get’ my lahs, kans or kejaps. He doesn’t grasp the idea of a mamak, my instant change in accents depending on whoever I speak to, nor does he understand my habit of adding umpteen spices into every dish.

Hopefully he’s getting used to it.

But au contraire to most popular believe, this mat salleh enjoys sambal, fermented tofu, kangkung belacan, and ikan bilis. He swears that Tom Yam and Gui Ling Gao are the best food in the world, even more than pizza and ice cream.

He likes doing yoga with me and I’ve been lifting weights with him. I’m learning Portuguese while he’s trying to explore asian food.

We’re both working towards our relationship.

It’s cool to have intercultural experiences with various “did you just say that” moments every now and then.

We grew up 16,000 km apart, in 2 very different cultures. It would take a full day for me to list all our differences, but it’s the similarities that brought us together – our love for Biology, museums, eating, traveling, animals, surfing, reading, drawing, music, languages. etc.

It’s only been 4 months since we’ve been together, but I have yet felt a connection this strong with anybody in my life (aside from my bestie). Heck, maybe I’m head over heels right now, but who cares.

It’s the present that counts.

Dating a mat salleh might be difficult, but isn’t that the case with every relationship? Don’t sink into the negativity that people tell you, just embrace the differences and create new changes together.


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