Just about every time I (TP) meet someone like a security guard, a librarian, a receptionist, or someone like that, I get asked this question. Now, I’m not sure what most people’s general experience with Westerners is, but JM and I suspect that it’s just the case that many people do not realize that Americans eat rice sometimes too. However, it is fair to say that Americans eat LESS rice than Malaysians, or Indonesians for that matter. Whenever we end up at a self-service food place around here, we end up taking far less rice than the people around us. We take about the same amount of food, but our ratio of chicken curry to rice is about 1:1, instead of about 1:4 as is normal. Also, we are schooled in the American tradition that you would never have noodles and rice in the same meal. Here, that’s not the case. Nonetheless, we find it funny that people would wonder if we ate rice at all.
The other question we get a lot is whether we eat Malaysian food at all. This happened to me today at the library, where circulation official chatted me up for about 15 minutes, asking me what my opinion of Malaysian food is. Most of his questions centered around whether or not the food here was too spicy, but he seemed genuinely surprised that, yes, I like rendang daging and nasi dagang. Again, we are not sure how other Westerners act, but from our perpective, in general, Malaysian food is not extremely challenging. Sure, you might find yourself with a nice bowl of beef tripe soup or something on occasion, but that’s very rare. And the food is far spicier than most American food, but it’s hardly ever inedible.
Maybe it’s just like some Americans who meet Europeans and ask if they have televisions and department stores. In other words, people are curious about people who are different.