"We have made a decision to meet each other in the middle. Because I’m getting married to someone else that is not from my culture and she understands that she is getting married to someone that is not from her culture, we decided to meet in the middle and make things work." - Elvis Goodluck
This is the beautiful interracial marriage life of Elvis Goodluck from Nigeria and Liong Hui Yen from Sarawak, Malaysia who are currently living in Kuala Lumpur and have been wedded for 2 years.
They both have a wonderful son named, Zion Goodluck Chukwuemeka or as his Chinese name would be, Yu Zhe (宇哲 - which literally means a knowledgeable person), just turned one years old this 15th October! Elvis has been in Malaysia for 8 years and they met 4 years ago at their previous church. He came to Malaysia for his Masters back in 2012 and met his future wife, Hui Yen, in a church chorus and among the chorus team were Elvis and Hui Yen themselves. Despite their sizable differences, they combined as a lovely and romantic couplets, reflecting on how mixed marriages isn’t always an issue! Apart from loving Malaysian food, Elvis shared how he was astounded and loves how Malaysia is well organized, how things are done properly and structurized as compared back home in Nigeria in every sector, such as politics, governance and most importantly, education, in which they have vowed to raise and educate their son, Zion, here in Malaysia until he grows older enough to enter university and return back to Nigeria due to the inadequate education standards there. Besides, Elvis added that the turbulent situation back home had made them finalize their decision.
Elvis also shared that living in Malaysia, particularly in metropolitan Kuala Lumpur (KL), he was culturally shocked on how individualistic the environment is compared to cities back at home and how they are unfamiliar with their neighbours, unlike back home, where neighbours are treated like relatives and closely depend on each other. Although, he adds, they share the similar habit in most Malaysian suburbs or Kampungs, back in Nigeria, they practice that norm even in big cities or small villages alike.
As we got curious, we wanted to know what was their favourite Malaysian and Nigerian food. Elvis shared how he loves Curry Chicken, Roti Canai and Dhal, and as for Hui Yen, she likes African ‘Jollof Rice’. He shared that it is a very popular dish back in his hometown and how Hui Yen likes it a lot which is why he would make that a lot for her. We even joked and asked who was the better cook and both of them pointed at Elvis! Hui Yen shared she doesn’t cook hence why he cooks more! As Elvis entertained, we get to know that they eat with their hands for most of the dishes they eat, except for rice, which is one cultural habit that Nigeria and Malaysia share in common, in spite of the great differences in culture. Surprisingly for us is that they eat more Chinese food than Nigerian food due to the presence of in-laws at home.
We had a chance to learn about Elvis Goodluck’s Nigerian cultural background and heritage. He shared with us that there are an abundance of tribes back in Nigeria and he was an Igbo tribesman, who originated from the east of Nigeria. He quoted that the Igbos are referred as the ‘The Chinese of Africa’ as they are business minded and excel outstandingly in their business due to their dedication and hard work, which is a similar trait their tribe has in common with the Chinese people. Elvis also adds another thing they share in common with the Chinese is that there are virtually Igbos everywhere around the world as similar with the Chinese who are virtually everywhere across the globe too.
As we get to know the couple well, we have seen that Hui Yen has a slightly shy yet kind personality and Elvis, who is more outspoken matched Hui Yen as he had gestures of kindness and gentleness. This is visible from how Elvis has more things in mind to share with us compared to Hui Yen who is a little bit passive. However, getting the chance to interview such a unique couple is indeed a special one and we're happy to have both of them agree to be interviewed.
Were there any challenges before getting married, such as parents approval?
Gor Gor Elvis: There was no challenge, because I first went to her family house, a year before we got married, and I was invited for her mom’s birthday in Sarawak. So, I went to their house and the reception was amazing.
Her parents were so receptive and the same thing applies with my parents back home. My mom is always like “Whatever that makes you happy, I’m not the one that is going to be in the marriage with you. If you feel that this is the person that you want to spend the rest of your life, then we support you.” Even the dad is here right now, the mom is here, we are here together.
What was your parents’ reaction when they knew you two were dating someone who is of a different race or ethnic?
Jie Jie Hui Yen: My dad didn’t say anything. He just said “As long as you’re happy!”
Gor Gor Elvis: My parents were excited because I’m the first person that is having an interacial marriage in my whole lineage, in my whole generation. When we went back for our wedding. It was amazing.
So in general, have you had any negative experience from discrimination from the people around you? If yes, what was it and how did you overcome that?
Gor Gor Elvis: I don’t really pay attention to things like that, because I believe that someone else thinks about me doesn’t matter because if I start paying attention to those things, definitely, it’s gonna make me sad or make me worry or like they will be thinking okay what is she doing with this African guy. People from Sarawak are treated in a different way than in KL. But she said that she didn’t have any of that because her boss is from Sarawak. All those second class kinds of treatment she never gets it.
What is important in your marriage, and why, for having a harmonious family?
Gor Gor Elvis: To communicate with each other. Always having that place that you, your spouse can tell you, okay, this thing you’re doing right now doesn't make sense, understanding that you’re not doing this thing alone. Understanding whatever decision that you need to make, you need to pass it to your partner. when you're in a relationship, in a marriage, and everyone feels equal. I believe that is like one of the things that makes the marriage move smoothly. Nobody wants to feel like they’re second class, everybody wants to be like on the same page. Sometimes you need to compromise. Everything is not all about you. Sometimes you need to also go out of your way to do those things that make them happy, those little things that makes them happy. So, as a man in the house, when you feel that you need to do something, you go and do it. You need to understand that the person that you're married to is also a human being. When you need to do things, nobody needs to tell you. All of those things, all of those little things that you just do that make your significant other feel like, oh wow! At least he’s trying to make sure that things are moving or some people will say, go and do this and do that, and the wife will be doing it, and you think that she’s doing it because she’s doing it with joy? You wouldn’t know that, deep down she’s like murmuring and complaining and lying, all of those things.
Can you share what is an important routine you do with your family in the morning?
Gor Gor Elvis: Usually every morning before we do anything else, we have to do our morning devotion, we have to pray, pray to our son in between, and pray. Sometimes we worship and all that before, even before she goes to work. Because I work from home, and I’m working with the time zone of Nigeria, which is like 7 hours ahead of Malaysia. So I usually sleep around 5am every morning, in Malaysia. So that’s the time that I sleep, almost everyday and she goes to work at around 7~8. So every morning, even though I'm super sleepy, I need to wake up for us to do our morning devotion like, it’s something that we do as a family because we wanna start our day with God. We want to make sure that our day, no matter how tired we might be, no matter how in a rush. Even sometimes we’re like in a super rush. We do our devotion in the car while driving, we just pray, and maybe worship. It’s a routine, it’s something that is now a lifestyle, it’s now a lifestyle like, to make sure that God is at the beginning of every of our day, we hand it over to him, we commit it to him and ask him that, please come and take absolute control.
What similarities do you find between Malaysian’s and Nigerian culture?
Gor Gor Elvis: It’s totally different. In Malaysia everybody is like facing their life, it’s very seldom for you to see people doing community. Let’s say for instance, everyone that is living in this area, they all know each other, they come out and they hang out together and all that… I know some places in Malaysia where people just wake up and they go about their life. Where we live now, on this floor, we have 5 people living on this floor, now these 5 people are living on this floor, we don’t know them! But back home it’s not like that, if we are neighbours, I can actually go to my neighbour’s house to chill. When my neighbour is cooking, and he doesn’t have oil or the spices that he needs to finish cooking his food, he can actually come to my door and knock and say, “Elvis, please do you have oil, red oil, or do you have some maggi, I just ran out… Can you give me one?” We do that.
Jie Jie Hui Yen: We do that in the kampungs (villages), not in the city.
Gor Gor Elvis: Even in the city back home, people do that also, like people are very free with their neighbours. People are very welcoming. You will see someone on Sunday, someone might just finish cooking, and just knock on the door of all the neighbours and just say “Oh I just made this nice food, do you need a portion?”
Did you face any cultural clashes?
Gor Gor Elvis: No, we don’t, because, before we got married, I told my wife that, I’m from a very different background and you’re from a very different background. We don’t actually have clashes and say okay, WE DON’T DO THIS IN MY CULTURE! DON’T DO THIS! we don’t have all of that. Because we made a decision to meet each other in the middle. I removed all of that because the way I want to run my family cannot be defined by where I’m coming from. If I try to run my family with the precepts of where I’m coming from, then I might mess the whole thing up because I’m getting married to someone else that is not from my culture and she understands that she is getting married to someone that is not from her culture. We decided to meet in the middle and make things work and I think we have done that really well.
What Malaysian and Nigerian culture that you apply at home?
Jie Jie Hui Yen: Our own (Malaysian) culture.
Gor Gor Elvis: I think the Malaysian culture that we apply at home it’s eating! We eat a lot of Chinese food!
Jie Jie Hui Yen: Because of my mom.
Gor Gor Elvis: We eat more Chinese food than African food!
What is the culture you apply at home (the eating culture)?
Gor Gor Elvis: Actually, almost all our food is just rice, we eat our food with hands. So seeing what happens here (at home) is not a big deal, because it's a thing that we are used to. Back at home (Nigeria), we eat it like this (squeezing the food in the hands), then we eat. So all of that is not something new, it’s something that Malaysia and Nigeria have in common. You know, the eating pattern is distinctive.
So what language that you speak with your children/child. What language, Nigerian language or Chinese?
Gor Gor Elvis: Mainly Chinese because there are a lot of Chinese at my house, because her mother’s here and her father’s here and she’s here and sometimes her grandma comes around so it's like Chinese all over the place, so the main language spoken is Chinese. And I try as best to include my native language sometimes and then majorly is English because that is what we use to communicate at home and whenever I am like having a conversation with my mom I try to bring him (his son) since that’s a way for children to learn to hear about the conversation and it’s in my native language.
What are your vision and hopes for your children?
Gor Gor Elvis: First of all, we wanna give them the best quality of education, I can’t choose for them what they want to be, I just want to lead them through the right path and help them decide. We don't want to be parents that tell him what to do, we want him to be what God destined him to be.
How can we embrace one another better?
Gor Gor Elvis: We need to know and understand that before we’re called or call someone a certain race, that we're human beings. If we can understand that and realize all that’s different is the colour of your skin and if you don’t want to be treated the way you’re going to treat someone, then don’t do that.
Can you share some positive messages or advice for people who are facing different ethnic relationships?
Gor Gor Elvis: Listen to your significant other, as long as you understand each other, and have their support that’s all that matters.
It doesn’t matter what other people think, your identity is in God, and He’s the one who should have the final say, it doesn’t matter what people say to you, what really matters is what God thinks about you. And you have to make sure that everything you’re doing is to please God and not people, because no matter what, sometimes no matter how hard you try to make people like you, it won’t work. Because our time here is temporary and we should focus on the after life. There is a song that says, I am who God says I am. Don’t care about what people think.
If there’s something you wish others to know about your marriage, what would it be?
Gor Gor Elvis: It’s not bad to marry someone that is not from your place, so many parents think that if your children marry someone from a different ethnicity that they’ll get lost, and that isn’t the case and in fact it's super cool. I was excitedly waiting to see how my mixed child would look like. It's not that everyone is good, it's just that not everyone is bad. If i was to choose over and over again, I would choose my wife and I wouldn't choose any other way, cause she’s the best. People told me to marry someone from my home country, and I’ve been asked why I chose someone from somewhere else, but now they’re complaining about how they and their wife aren’t in harmony and I look back and realize these are the people that told me not to marry my wife. I treat people equally because I also want to be treated equally.
^ Gor Gor = Hokkien term for older brother or someone 20 years older.
^ Jie Jie = Mandarin term for older sister or someone 20 years older.
___ Interviewer: Sabrina Lazarus (Indonesia) Written by: David Leung (Indonesia) Transcribed by: Ang Zhe En, Evelyn Pang Yi Xin, Hussain Yunus Azeez (Maldives) & Sabrina Lazarus (Indonesia) Special thanks to those preparing the questions: Lim Sheng Feiyan (Faye), Lim Chia Wei and Sabrina Lazarus (Indonesia)