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Adjusting to life in Australia as an Australian who was raised overseas

Adjusting to life in Australia as an Australian who was raised overseas

By Isabella Key

Existing in a time where 30% of Australian residents are bilingual and multiculturalism is the norm, why do a certain group of individuals remain in a grey area? The rise of third culture kids* (TCKs); namely individuals who have been raised in countries that differ from their original nationalities, has been monumental. However, there remains little discussion regarding the experiences of these individuals upon returning and readjusting to life in their home countries (the countries of their nationalities). How do these individuals who often associate strongly with the culture they were raised in, react and adjust to a situation where they return to a country and everyone around them assumes they are culturally similar?

Having left Australia when I was 2 months old, and raised in Hong Kong for 18 years, I was extremely fortunate to have been able to gain a broad cultural perspective first hand. I associated strongly with both Australian and Hong Kong practices and cultural norms, as my parents raised me in a way that was more in line with Australian methods. Despite constantly partaking in interactions and activities that general Australian individuals did not have, I neglected to think about the ways in which my circumstances were altering my perspective and making me far less traditionally “Australian”. Upon returning to Australia for university, I experienced a sense of cultural displacement that I didn’t think was possible. I mean I looked Australian and I was Australian!

What perplexed me the most was other Australians reactions to me. I found it difficult to navigate situations where no one understood that I wasn’t actually Australian, that I had developed a different perspective. The cultural differences in Australia affected me strongly and I found myself impacted in small ways such as when I was questioned about taking my shoes off at friends’ houses, as well as in more serious scenarios such as feeling a sense of intimidation around Caucasians – this is a trait common to many Asians who migrate to Australia for the first time. Feelings of intimidation often stem from a lack of cultural assimilation, particularly regarding the highly extraverted nature of Australian individuals in contrast to the more reserved attitude taken in various Asian cultures upon introductions. Instances like these forced me to consider the fact that in my year group in high school I was one of 6 full Caucasians, and that was normal to me.

I was confronted by the fact that I had been so naïve as to assume that 18 years in Hong Kong wouldn’t affect me in a truly palpable way. Additionally, with Chinese students in my classes perceiving me as Australian, I felt left in an awkward spot where I wasn’t able to identify with any culture without a fear of being singled out. I came to realize that people in Australia (and all over the world) hold strong cultural views and are often in danger of participating in unconscious stereotyping and bias.

With an ever increasing multi-cultural population within Australia, and more children than ever growing up overseas, it is becoming more and more important to provide a platform for conversation around multiculturalism. The amazing opportunities and experiences diversity allows should always be embraced and sensitivity towards all cultural backgrounds and the adjustments people have to make should be supported and encouraged! Efforts should be made to better incorporate TCKs into Australian society, whether that be by offering and advertising open discussion forums or societies where individuals can meet and discuss their experiences, or merely by incorporating a greater element of cultural understanding into school curriculums. Finally, in my opinion it’s the steps taken at home that have the greatest impact, and the importance of parents pushing their children to interact and befriend people from different backgrounds cannot be emphasized enough, because multiculturalism is always a plus.


*The term Third Culture Kid (TCK) refers to individuals who are raised in a culture other than their parents for a significant portion of their early life.

Cultural differences between Filipinos and Australians

Cultural differences between Filipinos and Australians

By Marion Branellec, Account Manager

With Christmas creeping around the corner, I’ve been delighted to start hearing Christmas music in Sydney. I grew up in the Philippines, where Filipinos like to celebrate Christmas as long as possible. In the Philippines, Christmas music dominates everyone’s eardrums in the “ber” months, so starts playing as early as September.

When people know that I come from the Philippines they sometimes ask me what some of the differences between Filipino and Australian culture are. So I’ll be sharing a few insights into Filipino culture. I also usually get asked why my English is so good but that’s another story (note: asking a Filipino why they speak English is the same as asking an Australian why they speak English :p).

This blog does not accurately describe every individual Filipino as it’s difficult to generalize everyone into one category especially given the fact the nation is made up of 7,107 islands with distinct characteristics found in every region. It’s more of a light-hearted description of typical cultural differences between Australian and Filipino culture.

Some background

Australia has a large Filipino community, and it has been increasing over the years. According to the census, the community has increased by 42% from 2006 to 2011. In 2011, there were over 171,000 people born in the Philippines that were living in Australia. Australia’s career opportunities, lifestyle and proximity to the Philippines are key factors that make moving to Australia attractive. Most Filipinos live in NSW (42%) followed by VIC (22%) and QLD (16%).

Without further ado, let me jump straight into the differences between Australian and ‘Filo’ culture.

Balancing respect for authority vs expressing yourself

In the Philippines, if you disagree with authorities (i.e. teachers or your manager) you have to think twice about how you express yourself or you can be perceived as insolent or disrespectful. In Australia, debate is encouraged and remaining quiet may be viewed as shyness or indifference.

Independence vs interdependence

Australians are encouraged to move out of their family home to live independently as soon as they can support themselves financially. Filipinos usually won’t leave home before getting married (even when they can afford to) as they are content living interdependently with relatives (and you get to eat all the delicious family food at home for as long as you want!).

Titles vs first names

In the Philippines, people will automatically refer to elders using various forms of honorific titles such as sir, maam, Mr, Mrs, tita (auntie), and tito (uncle), kuya (brother), ate (sister), depending on their relationship to them. Referring to someone who is an authority figure or significantly older than you by their first name is a no-no and usually considered rude (even within your own family). Referring to elders by their first name was a strange practice for me to get accustomed to when I first moved to Australia!

The examples above are just a snapshot and the list of cultural difference can go on. Despite cultural differences, Filipinos are known for being flexible and easily adapt to the customs of other countries. However, it is useful to know that Filipinos are still rooted in their own sets of strong values and beliefs which they carry with them when they migrate.

Multicultural Marketing – what’s changed?!

Multicultural Marketing – what’s changed?!

On his first anniversary of joining Etcom, Thang Ngo looks back (and forward) at the changing multicultural marketing landscape. 

Firstly let me make this admission – in terms of multicultural, ethnic, LOTE (language other than English), CALD (cultural and linguistically diverse) industry – I’m long in the tooth.

Around two decades long in the tooth.

I’ve worked on the client side (Star City), agency (Mosaica, UM, Etcom), media (SBS), community (elected local government councillor). Now as Etcom general manager, it’s been a long, and hopefully lasting, flirtation with multicultural marketing.


In the early days, the ethnic media choices were limited – print and radio were pretty much your only option when it comes to reaching multicultural audiences. Back then, even on public transport, you could spot folks reading Chieu Duong, Sing Tao, Neos Kosmos or La Fiamma. At the appointed time, people sat in their living room to listen to SBS Radio, Rete Italia or another station in their language.

Back then, ethnic print and radio had particularly strong reach, and were, compared to ‘mainstream’ media rates, very cost effective.

Fast forward to today. You don’t see that many commuters struggle with broadsheets like the Australian Chinese Daily – in fact, even in the mainstream, you don’t see that many people struggle with unfolding The Australian or Sydney Morning Herald (which has since gone tabloid). When they have headphones on, they’re likely to be selecting from their digital music selection stored on their smartphone. Young, Asian pop fanatics are more likely to get their fix on YouTube than TV.

In Australia today, online advertising has overtaken TV in terms of advertising spending.

What about in Ethnic media?

Despite the landscape shifting to in-language digital and social media, this still isn’t reflected in advertising spend. Print and to a lesser extent, radio still rule over their digital counterpart.

Don’t believe me? If you’ve done a multicultural marketing campaign recently, what percentage of your budget were allocated to print and radio? I’ll bet you, most of the time it will be over 75% and in some cases 100% of the total budget.

This flies in the face of audience preference.

Take the Australian Chinese community for example. For the longest time, in the absence of audited media consumption data, print was considered the key channel to reach Chinese audiences in Australia. Think about it, do we believe that a young, educated, affluent community who comes from China – the home of the world’s largest PC maker (Lenovo), third largest mobile makers (Lenovo/Motorola), with one of the largest social media user-base (weibo, wechat, Qzone etc), do we honestly think they mainly read Chinese newspapers?

social media

According to Statista, QQ, WhatsApp, QZone and WeChat – all popular social media options for Chinese rank in the top social media sites in the world in terms of users.

What I am proud of, is that Etcom is now more digital and social media ready than ever before. In my opinion, Etcom continues to deliver many innovative firsts for our clients.

In the past 12 months, I’ve been particularly proud of our work, particularly:

St.George: Australia’s Longest Lunar Lunch Table

This year, Etcom helped St.George rewrite the record books by putting on the St.George Longest Lunar New Year Lunch Table – 20 metres long with 60 hungry diners – the longest in Australia. Over 1,200 people applied to be a part of this historic event. They applied online and via social media through WeChat and Weibo. This successful activation was supported by 100% digital media support.

In-language site list

Today, Etcom has developed the capacity to reach multicultural eyeballs via websites and social media whether these publishers are based in Australia or overseas. So it’s no longer an excuse to say there isn’t a local popular website in that language. We now have the capacity to reach IPs in Australia reading popular overseas websites.

Not all social need to be in-language

Last year’s St.George Diwali campaign is a case in point. Over 95% of Indians in Australia speak English well or very well – the Diwali campaign is all about celebrating the colour and brightness of this festival through video content that was seeded via Facebook, YouTube and Google Display Network – all targeting Indian viewers.

Behaviour Change

Working with #ogilvychange, Etcom has developed a robust behaviour change model for Chinese audiences. Beyond awareness, our behaviour change model helps us to shape action by taking into account key motivators for the Chinese community.

We believe this is a world first – a valuable asset for commercial as well as health social marketing campaigns.

Etcom has already successfully applied this model for two clients, so this Etcom proprietary resource is not theory, but works in the real world.

Multicultural media, what’s changed?

A lot. At least in media consumption.

The challenge is to make sure our campaigns keep up.

Thang Ngo is general manager, Etcom – follow him on twitter.

Social media use by a young person in Hong Kong

Social media use by a young person in Hong Kong

Looking at social media through the eyes of a young Hong Konger!

For those born in Generation Y, social media is not only something for fun but a necessity*. This is no exception among Hong Kong youngsters, according to Tina Tang, Etcom’s Intern from Hong Kong.

From 2006 to 2012, it was a hot trend to use Facebook for sharing photos and posts when I was still a high school student. It has been getting popular among all  age ranges since then. Thanks to its sustained popularity, even our parents and teachers have Facebook accounts nowadays. Besides that, the rule of sending and accepting friend requests is not as strict as in real life. As long as you know that person in some capacity being ‘Facebook friends’ is definitely not a big deal. As time goes by, eventually many of us will gather thousands of friends on Facebook, from a range of people who have come in and out of our life.

People utilize this advantage and regard Facebook as a platform on which they can announce important news or a new page in their life, like getting into the university, graduation, having a new relationship, getting married… No need to forward emails, send invitation cards or make phone calls, all they have to do is simply type a few words while sitting on their comfortable couch – sharing the good news to the world within 5 seconds via the power of Facebook.

You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. While enjoying the convenience brought by the great network, we are losing our freedom of expression at the same time. Due to the fear of letting our family members, teachers and friends who we are not familiar with, have a glance at our private life, we avoid sharing thoughts, emotions and views towards some issues freely on Facebook.

Gradually, loyalty on Facebook is shifting to Instagram, Here’s why…

1. Keep our privacy 

Luckily, the older generation still haven’t realised the presence of Instagram. This explains why young people rather reveal their thoughts and emotions only with their peers on Instagram instead of Facebook.

Moreover, a Facebook friend is a mutual relationship. In other words, once the friend request is accepted, both sides have the right to view each other’s updates.  Instead, on Instagram, we can choose who we follow and who to become our followers with the function of turning the account private. In this way, we can finally enjoy privacy (being visible only to people we give access to) which hardly exists on Facebook.

One bonus benefit is that the content appearing on the news feed is all we are willing to read, without overloading advertisements and posts from so-called “friends”.

2. Allow consistent photo quality on the news feed

On Facebook, we can post a whole album of one event or activity so we don’t care much about the quality of photos, while we only post the best photo of each event on Instagram -otherwise successively posting photos of the same event will be too annoying-and hopefully the photo gathers likes as more as it can. To make it more perfect, before letting this masterpiece expose to the world, we are paying greater attention to selecting the most suitable filter. Not to mention that some of us still persist tuning levels of every aspect including brightness, temperature, contrast, saturation, etc. It makes a big difference, it’s much more enjoyable when you open Instagram to view the best professional shots.

3. Construct an ideal self

Photos on Instagram represent who you are. When one gets into your account, first impression comes up in his mind. Many of my friends, including myself, seriously take account of EVERY photo that we post on our own little corners and seek consistent style across the whole account just to tell others we are unique and cool. For instance, some Instagram users insist on posting photos only taken under daylight to ensure every single piece is bright, white and clear. They dress up in Mori girl (forest girl) style, being immersed in the nature harmoniously. Usually this group of people is described as “Artsy”(文青)in Chinese-speaking regions. How about their captions? Poetic sentences in written Chinese or English are their trademarks. “Shallow” content like “Oh yeah! Holiday starts finally!” are certainly unacceptable if you hold the belief “I am artsy”.  You can see what I mean in the Instagram post below from @sabrinasa.

View this post on Instagram

the sound of the sea

A post shared by Sabrina 張蔓莎 (@sabrinasa) on


4. Satisfaction from likes

To teens, the Internet is everything. The more likes they get, the more satisfied and confident they will be. On Facebook, the “mysterious algorithm” displays the photos or posts from a selected number of people that you are familiar with or have frequent connections with you. There are even various groups, pages, videos and advertisements which always distract the users from the checking out their friends’ updates. Sometimes, your friends would love to give you likes on Facebook, but they just miss your posts.

In contrast, gaining likes is much easier on Instagram because the content is more focused and people will not easily miss your post unless they do not read all the posts along the timeline. Don’t forget, wisely making use of hashtags is one of the popular strategies youngsters adopt to receive likes globally on Instagram.

Today, almost everyone has a Facebook account in Hong Kong. However, Instagram has won over most Hong Kong teens’ hearts, including mine.


* In 2014, Cisco Connected World Technology Report has found that, for about one third of Generation Y, staying connected to the Internet is essential like air, food and water while two thirds would choose the Internet over a car.



Ramadan in Australia

Ramadan in Australia

By Katrina Gao

Nearly half a million Australians are Muslim according to the latest 2011 Census. For them, Ramadan is the most significant event on the Islamic calendar. During Ramadan, Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset.

2015 Ramadan

Ramadan has arrived. The fasting will start from the sunrise on 18th June and ends on the sunset on 17 July 2015. Muslims in every place around the world will start fasting again this year. They’ll refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations.

When do people eat?

No food and no drink, how can they survive? Actually, meals are serviced daily before dawn and after sunset. In Morocco, during fasting month people have their first meal (also referred as ‘breakfast’) around 7:30 pm, ‘dinner’ at 12 am, then get up at 2:30 am to have their ‘real’ breakfast. Some families skip dinner so they can have a good rest for tomorrow’s work.

Muslim population in the world

Based on research done by the US-based Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in 2011, Indonesia has the largest Muslim population of nearly 205 million in 2010, followed by Pakistan and India who are very close in numbers of Muslim populations, both around 178 million. However, Muslims only account for 14.6% of India’s population, whilst 88.1% of Indonesia’s population and 96.4% of Pakistan’s population are Muslim.

You might be wondering, ‘are there countries in the world where the entire population is Muslim?’ The answer is yes (or very close to it) -there are a few. Morocco has the highest percentage of 99.9% Muslim of its population. And to name a few, Afghanistan, Tunisia and Iran also have high density at more than 99.7%.

In 2030, the estimated Muslim populations around the world will grow by 25% to 2.2 billion. And this figure will be more than a quarter of the world’s population. By then, Pakistan will probably overtake Indonesia as the country with the largest Muslim population.

Ramadan in summer vs. Ramadan in winter

What’s the difference of having Ramadan in summer versus having it in winter? It’s 55 hours and 30 mins!

As we might know, Indonesia is the home of the largest population of Muslims in the world, so let’s use it as our example. The average day length in June in Indonesia is about 11 hours 46 mins. While, the average day length in June in Australia is only 9 hours 55 mins. So technically, the fasting time in Indonesia is 55 hours and 30 mins more than it is in Australia. Hypothetically, in order to catch up with the difference, Muslims living in Australia need to fast 5.6 days more!

China’s “Love Day” gives businesses a boost

China’s “Love Day” gives businesses a boost

Chinese love numbers!

By Katrina Lin

We all know Chinese people like to apply special meanings to numbers, such as the number “8” represents prosper and number “4” is avoided because it sounds like death. Although these custom seem superstitious and outdated in the Chinese young generation’s the habit of linking numbers to meanings is still popular.

Unlike the older generation, young Chinese are not a big fans of numbers that relate to money or death. However, when numbers represent romance and shopping, their old traditions kick in.

Yesterday was May 20. The Chinese use number 1-12 to represent January through to December – as May is the fifth month of the year, “5” is “May”. The Chinese pronunciation of “520” sounds like “I love you” (wo ai ni) 5 means “I”, 2 means “love”, 0 means “you”. This is an example of using numerical digits for their similar pronunciation of daily expressions and it was initially used in mobile and cyberspace communications.

Couples choose May 20 to celebrate, buy gifts to each other, propose or even marry. More and more businesses try to leverage the marketing potential of numbers to maximise their sales profits.

Of course, these numbers are not randomly chosen, therefore try to apply the correct and positive meaning to numbers and avoid culturally offensive connotation is essential for businesses to succeed.

“11” is another interesting number in the Chinese urban dictionary, as explained earlier, November is the 11th month of the year, therefore November 11 represents “double 11”; the date is chosen to be special because of the connection between singles and the number “1”. Young bachelors in China choose this particular day to party, drink with friends or shopping to celebrate their single lives.

Nowadays, Singles’ Day has been largely popularized and more people join in the celebration regardless their relationship status. November 11 has become “the 11.11 Shopping Festival” and brings great opportunity for companies targeting younger consumers, including restaurants, Karaoke and online shopping sites. Over the years, a lot of businesses made success in those peculiar days by running sales campaigns. E-commerce giant, Alibaba (Ebay’s Chinese equivalent) sold 57.1 billion CNY (around 10 billion AUD) of goods on November 11 last year.

Usually, every number has its own meaning, they are used for certain codes because their pronunciation and linkage with Chinese traditional culture. Here are some examples:
0 (pronunced ling) = 你 (meaning: you)
2 (pronunced er) = 爱 (meaning: love)
3 (pronunced samm) = 生(meaning: birth and considered a lucky number)
4 (pronunced si) = 死 (meaning: death)
5 (pronunced wu) = 我 (meaning: I or me)
6 (pronunced liu/lok) = 流/禄 (meaning: to flow or wealth therefore considered good for business)
8 (pronunced ba) = 发 (meaning: wealth, lucky and success therefore good for financial institutions to use)

1314 (pronounced yi san yi si) = 一生一世 (meaning: forever)

Therefore, the number combination “5201314” means “I love you forever”.