Peranakans versus Straits Chinese

“All Peranakans are Straits Chinese but not all Straits Chinese are Peranakans.
To be labelled a Chinese Peranakan (also known as Baba Nyonya), one needs to be of Chinese/Malay parentage as a result of intermarriages between Chinese towkays of that era with local ladies without so much of religious restrictions and as a result, these local ladies adapted themselves to the Chinese way of living, learning their husbands customary culture from the matriarch (her mom or grandmom in law), whilst raising her own family, thus cross pollinating her own cultures in whenever the need suits them, whilst her husband works or took care of matters outside the home. As a result, a new lifestyle bloomed, alongside a strangely mixed lingo of usually Hokkien and Malay words (Hokkien was a widely accepted dialect amongst the Chinese), a culture identified with its unique food recipes, and a preference for ostentatious taste in fashion and lifestyle; most certainly an adaptation borrowed from friends and neighbors of different cultures also rooted in the Straits (Burmese, Thai, Laotian, Indian, Ceylonese wherever) which found acceptability with these Straits Chinese, and thus became fashionable. The Straits Settlements is a British colony comprising mainly of Penang, Malacca and Singapore and to a lesser extent the Cocos Keeling islands, Christmas Island, Dindings, Pulau Pangkor and some smaller islands in Perak and that of Labuan. That is the spread of the British trading influence then, and how the Chinese within the S.S frequently addressed themselves as the ‘Straits Chinese’ community. To be a true blue Straits Chinese, one needs to be a local Chinese born during the British administration of the Straits Settlements from 1826-1946.
This explains why some Chinese families who claims to be Straits Chinese, often wondered why they do not have Malay dna in their ancestry lineage. And of how everyday recipes very commonly found in the Straits Chinese homes have Malay sounding names, especially those imbued with local spices, though some of these recipes are in today’s context, non halal.
One can identify a Chinese Peranakan with their spoken patois, very unlike the Hokkien or Malay as how it is spoken today. And generally these Chinese Peranakans are darker skinned, and possesses sharper features. I had the opportunity to interact and acquaint myself with genuine Peranakan friends whose ascendants were distinguished personalities from the government fraternity living in then Emerald Hill. They are Western educated which explains how many of them after years abroad have adopted the Western religion unlike the many local Straits Born Chinese whom were and still is mostly, Buddhist or Taoist.
I remembered those days as a boy, we were taught to address Chinese damsels and lads in strict colloquial standards. We called them ‘Ah Nya’ and ‘Ah Bah’. Though I do not have Malay lineage, I often wondered why my grandparents and great grandparents were all heavily bedecked in straits influenced jewelry from kerongsangs to silver belts down to the kebayas, baju panjangs and those heavily embroidered slippers. But I understand them now. They were fashionable in those days.
Btw that’s how antique I myself is. And no, I’m no Baba even though that was the form of address given not only to me but to other lads as well.”

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