Being Multiethnic, Only the Sky Is the Limit

Posted on 15 July, 2021

By: Victor Max Immanuel Koespramanto 

Translation by Gabriella Pasya – AIYA National Translator

Versi Bahasa Indonesia, click here.

Being multicultural has been a blessing for both Australia and Indonesia. However, at times one has to stop and take a look at the diverse environment around, since some people who grew up in multiethnic families, such as myself have taken the concept of multiculturalism for granted and thus subconsciously underappreciated it.

As a person who grew up in a family of Javanese, Sundanese, Minahasan, Chinese, and Dutch descent, I have got two wonderful examples of multiculturalism at work, here in Indonesia. Let’s start with the first example: The amount of diversity in the way people address one another. For example, various people have addressed me as “mas”, “kang”, “abang”/”bang”, “kakak”/”kak”, “koh”, or just simply by calling my first name. It varies from place to place and I am fine with being addressed with any of them. It also somewhat depends on the ethnic group of the person who addresses me. So, let people address you by whatever honorifics and see the number of ways you can be addressed by.

The second example is reflected from what one eats. Aside from enjoying traditional foods from each culture, multicultural/multiethnic people also tend to be fond of fusion cuisines. For instance, I grew up eating various “Dutch-Indonesian” dishes such as “brenebon” (kidney bean soup with beef/pork), “semur lidah” (beef tongue stew), and “klappertaart” (coconut custard cake). But even labelling these fusion foods with a simple, umbrella term like “Dutch-Indonesian” is really just scratching the surface, since each dish actually was created in different parts of Indonesia. “Brenebon” and “klappertaart” can be traced to their origin in Manado, North Sulawesi (the city where some of the earliest Eurasian communities were formed), while dishes like “Semur” and “Selat Solo” were the result of mixing Javanese and Dutch cuisines in Java.

That last example also played a personal role on how I view Australian cuisine. I became somewhat obsessed with a number of unique Australian dishes such as Vegemite on toast, fairy bread, and Dim sim for the last few years, and to discover foodstuff like Vegemite, also learning of its colourful intercontinental origin and history, opens up the possibilities for me to be creative and incorporate it (or any foodstuffs for that matter) in a dish in order to make a fusion. We can learn from any fusion cuisines around the world that the possibilities of cooking something new and original is endless.

Loco moco with Vegemite gravy, taken from my Instagram Story. Multiculturalism has taught us that ideas and possibilities are endless and to think out of the box. (Instagram/@that_indische_guy)

In conclusion, people who are raised in a multicultural/multiethnic family have the opportunity to experience different aspects of life. First, they have a much broader view of the world. Because of their way of viewing the world, they possess the knowledge to see both the positive and negative values in every culture, and then take the best aspects from each of them. Number two, because of the diversity around them and the fusion between cultures, they tend to possess incredible ideas that they will never run out of. I encourage those of you who were/are also raised in a multicultural/multiethnic family to stop and start appreciating the multiculturalism around you right now, embrace it, and always think that the sky’s the limit.

In conclusion, I would like to point out a word in my native language (Indonesian): “keragaman”. According to Indonesian language dictionary (Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia), “keragaman” has two definitions: the first definition is “the quality of being diverse or various”. For the second definition, the dictionary mentioned the word as a synonym of “kerukunan”, or “harmony”.