My sister, with her brown eyes, dark hair and olive skin, is an ethnical puzzle to most people she meets. French waiters think she’s Spanish. My Japanese housemate was convinced she was Japanese. Customers at work think she might be Croatian, maybe Puerto Rican, possibly Italian, but never Australian.
My boyfriend’s parents are Khmer Cambodians, but everybody in Cambodia thinks he’s Chinese.
Me, I’m Australian. Nobody’s ever questioned it.
And then I stepped into theatre in Phnom Penh and the surgeon paused operating on the cleft palate in front of him to declare that I looked Indian.
Maybe, I thought – with a cap and mask on, if you were too far away to see me properly. But no, my boyfriend revealed later that the surgeon had spent several minutes discussing the point with him the day before. He was actually convinced I was Indian.
Must have been my accent.