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Comments 26

Transplanted Living

2016 marks my 6th year in the States.

72 months of white picket fences.

312 weeks of being an alien.


What have I learned?

Please, take everything I’ve written with a pinch of salt? 

It’s all in good sport.

Well, that there are things which we do rather differently in Asia.  Granted, I’m speaking from the perspective of one hailing from an ex-British colony, migrating to the Southern part of the States, specifically H-Town = Houston.  Granted, the climate certainly varies from state to state. And granted there are many more variances between the continents but provisos aside, I’m going to focus on language, common verbiage, words.

For many of us, an absence of the letter “u” is usually the first to come to mind.  However, there are several other key distinctions in terms of how certain words are used and what they mean (or do not mean to mean).

Transplated Living | Sheela WritesTransplated Living | Sheela Writes

For instance, the word “girl”,or “girls”.

No.  No, no, no. 

Those are words we reserve for females below the age of 8 (or thereabouts, let’s not be picky now), or for a woman behaving immaturely or childishly, and most certainly not for a grown-ass woman.  Imagine my astonishment when I realised (it took me a while, I admit) it’s not meant to be the least bit derogatory when used here. Quite the contrary.  It is, in fact, considered a compliment of the highest sort.

Here, being cute, appearing cute, even sounding cute, is tantamount to, well, prerequisites for the female population.  It infers a sense of youthfulness and appeal, of being vivacious and attractive.  Whereas in Asia, we do our level best to grow up and move away from being called girls, to becoming (and being called) women.

Transplated Living | Sheela Writes

Is that not an immensely interesting point worth noting? 

How one same word can conjure up meanings that are poles apart, depending on which part of the globe you’re from?

Transplated Living | Sheela WritesTransplated Living | Sheela Writes

It’s almost an obsession here.

An obsession with staying cute.  Girlish.  Young.  By that, I’m not referring to Botox, fillers, plumpers, what have yous.  I’m talking about things one would normally associate with those pre-teen years such as American Girl (I’ve seen entire cafes filled with not little girls but with their mummies); being dressed in pink from head to toe; bows and braids, together on the one same grown woman head (I kid you not); speaking (and giggling) in high-pitched voices.

I’ll stop here.

Transplated Living | Sheela WritesTransplated Living | Sheela Writes

I vividly recall the very first time someone called me “girl”.  Correction, called me “aren’t you the cutest itty bitty girl“.


Yes, I look younger than my age, and yes, I’m very short but I certainly didn’t envisage falling into the category of “cute” or “itty bitty”.  Those are words Asians tend to associate with babies or baby animals or adorable trinkets.  Things you display in the living room.

Transplated Living | Sheela Writes

And clearly today’s topic has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with today’s outfit of choice.

So be it. 

Sometimes, that’s simply how the story unfolds.

Love, Sheela

{  photos by Eve  }

Linking up with Mix It Mondays, Mingle Monday, Favourite Fashion Friday, Fabulous Friday, Dallas Style Blog, Sincerely Jenna Marie, A Labour Of Life, Forage Fashion, Book Of LeisureThe Sydney Fashion Hunter, My Girlish Whims, The Red Closet Diary, A Good Hue, Shoe & Tell, Tucker Up, Color & Grace, Trend Spin, Fresh Fashion Forum, Two Peas In A Blog, Trendy Wednesday, Happiness At Midlife, Bloggers Who Inspire Me, Visible Monday, Style Elixir, Turning Heads, Let It Shine, What I Wore Wednesday, Style Swap Tuesdays, Style Me Wednesday, Confident Twosday, More Pieces Of Me, On The Daily Express, Personal Style, How I Spring, Watch What I’m Wearing, Walking In Memphis, Pumps & Push-Ups, Who’s Wearing What Wednesdays, Fun Fashion Friday, Casual Friday, Whitney a la Mode, I Will Wear What I Like, Style Story, Jersey Girl Texan Heart, Classy Yet Trendy, A Little Bit Of Cheer and Midweek Muse.


  1. Sheela, those are serious shoes. First of all, Congratulations on making through six years in the states. You are a strong and brave GIRL. If it makes you feel any better, I was born and raised here and it drives me nuts when people tell me I am cute. Like you I am small and I look younger than my years but It feels kind of disrespectful. Though it is true that so many Americans these days are obsessed with being young so they probably consider it a compliment. That being said, Texas is a very different kind of state. Though you probably already know that. I just love hearing about your impressions of your new home.


    • Hahahaha yes, sweetie, I sure am GRIN

      Doesn’t it just?? The skin on the back of my neck crawls, and I cringe, and feel as though someone just ran nails down the chalkboard when someone calls me cute or cutie or sweetie. Worse, itty bitty. Arrgghhh. I know the speaker means well but to my ears, it seems completely disrespectful and out of line, you know. Ah well. I’ve tried adopting the mantra that when in Texas, do as Texans do but (clearly) I’ve failed. Perhaps with time, I might be able to accept the phrase as a compliment, endearment even 🙂


  2. I was born and raised here but come from a Polish background. My parents are both immigrants from Poland, so I grew up speaking Polish and not knowing anything about the American culture until I started school and even then I was always different. Even though I was born here I see sooooooo many different cultural differences. I actually work for an Asian company (part of our company is not that far from Houston) and notice the cultural differences that you are referencing in this post. As for your outfit I love it and your boots are amazing! I’m going to be pinning this to the linkup board. Thanks for linking up with me, hope to see you next week!



    • I hear you. Being born and bred in Borneo, I was never quite the same as everyone else. I wore all black including lipstick, and metallic nail polishes, from the time I was 12 and made me look goth even before I knew what that even meant LOL I stuck out so much I left home when I was 20 and each time I go back to visit the parents, I am again struck by how different I am. Different is good. I can do different. What I’m not so good with, however, is being called cute and cutie pie 🙂


  3. No Fear of Fashion says

    Being Dutch makes me even more alien as half the time I don’t know the impact of the words I am using haha. If I use “girl” when addressing a woman, I aim to be friendly, warm, “being on the same level” kinda thing. Cute itty bitty… hmmm I would regard that as an insult. Degrading. But as I say, I am Dutch. When I write or speak in the English language the meaning of what I want to say will probably be misconstrued sometimes too.


    • That’s how my husband feels too. When he’s really exhausted, the internal translator inside his brain stops working and he starts speaking English as he would Italian meaning the sequence of words are typically jumbled-up, and his sentences peppered with Calabrese (his dialect). Definite misconstrued moments right there. That said, I have yet to misunderstand what you (or my man) say, Greetje 🙂

      I don’t know. I realise I’m short and when I curl my hair, I look like an Asian Barbie but still, I find it hard to swallow when referred to as cutie pie, or itty bitty!! I might very well be making a mountain out of a molehill but it is what it is GRIN xoxo


  4. 🙂 Congratulations on your 6th anniversary in the US.
    I grew up between the USA and Germany. In Europe we were taught British English. I still wonder sometimes where the “u” is and the use of words. Well, I’m still learning and finding your post extremely interesting and fun.
    Have a very HAPPY weekend! 🙂


    • I too remain confused about the absence of “u” and the replacing of “s” with “z”. Initially my daughter was incredibly befuddled by the changes and suffered quite a bit until she became accustomed to American English 🙂 she still calls me “Mum” instead of “Mom” though GRIN thank you so much for reading it, and for making the time to post this comment. I really appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. samantha4blair says

    Hahaha…Sheela, this is a great piece of writing.
    You are not my idea of a cute girl….you are a powerful and fiercely feminine woman.
    Small but mighty!

    Maybe other women want to be cute and girly because the media favours youth and being young.
    Maybe they hang on to the fripperies of childhood (all of that girly pink and frills) because they want to be seen as youthful and therefore attractive and desirable?

    I don’t really know.
    Do I want to be cute?
    Hmmm….not really.
    I would rather be strong and self assured.

    If only society could value us a WOMEN….grown ups, experienced, mature, skilled, still beautiful, still feminine, still desirable.
    Maybe then women could shed girlishness and cuteness?

    Until then keep flying the flag for us grown-up women!


    • In Malaysia, someone with my personality would be referred to as chili padi which, translated literally, means spicy chilli or red hot chilli pepper. You get the general idea 🙂 so coming from that to the current situation was truly an awakening. An eye-opener LOL

      Societal perception of women is, sadly, primarily devoted to portraying women as being delicate, dependent, girly, and frequently eschews associating empowerment, strength (mind/body), determination, intelligence with the female person. It is so archaic, and something I expected back in Asia, not here.

      Likewise. I didn’t study as hard as I did, and work 15-hour days for over 12 years to be perceived as a cute little Asian flower. I’m with you. Strong, confident, self-assured. Those are words I can live by xoxo


  6. WoW! I loved reading this one. And you’ve only been in the US for six years? Wow! I’m gonna be Whatsapping the full story with you! I really love this post bringing up cultural differences. I haven’t lived in the States in 19 years; I actually go through a little bit of cultural shock each summer I go home. My stint in Asia is now matching your stint in the US. Cute–kawaii in Japanese. I once wrote a post all about Kawaii I was so interested in the concept. Here’s the thing about me: I am on the cute side. I don’t mean this in a braggart way. It’s just the way my nose and freckles make me look more cute than pretty. I have two younger sisters; they are both pretty (well one is actually more like beautiful) and I’ve always been the cute one. I mean I don’t mind being cute, but I’d love to be the pretty sister–if that makes sense? Anyway, I just love this post and how it speaks to cultural differences. Now I need to go back up and look at the outfit. I was very distracted by the prose on this one! Love, Annie


    • I haven’t lived in Borneo for over 20 years now, and each time I return, I feel so at odds not just with my surroundings but everyone around me. And am reminded of why I left in the first instance. Massive culture shock.

      Yes, Kawaii is one thing. Those girls intentionally dress up like Sailor Moon and crave to be called cute and dolly but I am more on the side of Harajuku. A Harajuku woman exudes a completely different vibe and would more than likely cringe at the merest hint of looking/acting cutesy (think Visual, Oshare and Angura kei).

      Of course it makes sense, and in my books, I think you look striking. You have the most amazing eyes. And legs. And I’d rather be striking than pretty any day. Growing up, people would look at my mum, turn to me and say, what happened to you? Sigh. I grew up wanting to be attractive, striking, memorable. I didn’t want to be beautiful and I most certainly didn’t want to be pretty (that sort of runs in the same thread as cute for me), and I hope I’ve managed to be, at the very least, striking.


  7. Your obervation is very interesting, it must be difficult living in this ‘cute’ world!



    • Hahahaha. Not at all. Like everyone else, I can fully appreciate cuteness and being cute, I simply feel that I personally do not fall into that category because (a) I’m in my mid 40s (b) it’s not something I’m accustomed to being said of anything save for young children and baby animals. In the meantime, I shall endeavour to understand it better 🙂 xoxo


  8. Congrats on your 6th Anniv! I am a transplant to the US also from an ex Britsh Colony…Canada. I have lived here most of my life now, left Canada at 17 and number 51 bday coming up! I LOVE Your vest….it looks smashing with your olive dress!!

    Thanks for sharing!



    • Oh wow!! Were there any major culture shocks when you first got here? And a very happy belated birthday to you, Valerie 🙂 xoxo


  9. wrappedinscarlet says

    I loved reading this post!! It is so nice to get a look at things from a different perspective. Great outfit too. 😀


    • I quite agree!! I wish every “alien” would write about their initial reactions when they first arrived in a foreign country, be it the States or somewhere else. It’d be so much fun and make for really interesting reading!!


  10. happinessatmidlife says

    Interesting post and I do not want to be “cute” in my 40s like a little girl…just creepy. I don’t mind being girly and love always dressing more with feminine touches. Love your outfit here, your rings are on point!

    Thank you for being a part of TBT Fashion link up and hope to see you soon!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahahahaha that’s the perfect way to describe being called cute – creepy. I am SO with you on that, Alice 🙂 I am of the same mind, as with most other women, I appreciate adding feminine touches to my outfit sometimes but that’s where I draw the line xoxo


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