Yellow Peril by Tze Ming Mok

Dear Dairy

If you put me on a diet of two sausages and potato salad every night for six months, I'd be pleading for repatriation to the motherland too. Though you'd think that sheer desperation would have forced this kid from his house in search of adequate nutrition.

Now, we all know that white people 'love our food'... but it's often painfully apparent that they don't realise the extent to which we hate theirs. Much of this is cultural of course, and a matter of habit and acclimatisation. But a substantial amount is rooted in unchangeable physical traits and nutritional requirements. Example: I was born and raised here in the West's favourite dairy-farming colony - but just the smell of sizzling butterfat makes me want to hurl. Potatos drenched in mayonnaise? Shudder. A glass of blue-top milk; I could shed a glass of tears.

Every time I went away on a school camp or something as a child, I'd be rather thinner on the return. Canteens at those places were just the worst: the other kids looking at you funny for eating cereal dry instead of with (ew) milk, and dry toast so you didn't have to use (ew) butter or (blech) marmite, and being unable to eat much lunch or dinner because it was drowned in cheesy creamy white sauce (the texture and colour of so much bronchial phlegm) and turning down dessert because it was covered in (barf) whipped cream. Trauma!

It's not the same for all Chinese people (and I do like pies and chips and the like) but it's fairly common. And I'm not even properly lactose intolerant. I just think cream is yuck.

Those kids' camps were out in the bush somewhere, where scavenging for soy beans in the undergrowth was not a feasible option. Homestay kids in houses do have options - and while anyone will attest to the fact of my ongoing support of the rights of international students, and although this kid with the sausages and potato salad may have been just a wee one stuck in Timaru or something... you just have to say - come on bro, harden up. Use your head.

According to the Herald article on the little mama's boy, which was substantially lifted from iBall (aren't they all these days?) the Ministry of Education offers the following advice to international students from China:

* A homestay may also be a new experience for your host family. Talk to your hosts about any worries you have so that any misunderstandings can be avoided.

* Be open-minded and try to remember that New Zealand is a different country to China. People will behave in ways that may seem to you odd or even rude, but you must try to avoid judging New Zealanders by Chinese cultural standards.

* New Zealand culture, like any culture, has positive and negative aspects. Remember that there is always someone or some service available to help you.

Suggested additions:

* if your homestay is unable to provide you with anything but revolting 'kyiwyi' food, use this as an opportunity to develop your 生活能力 and general survival skills, you goddamn little emperors.

* excellent places to forage for food in Auckland are: the entire stretch of the Mt Albert shops from Carrington Rd to Lims; Dominion Road from Silver Bell to Sanbao; the entire CBD.

* If you are not homestaying in Auckland, now is an excellent time to learn how to cook a pot of rice. You goddamn little emperors.

* Do not be surprised if your homestay family offers you a mug of a peculiar substance called something like 'Maggi/Continental Asian Laksa Flavoured Cup-a-Soup' thinking this will make you feel at home. They have been encouraged to do so by a misguided advertising campaign for the abovementioned instant soup, which is a strange interpretation of a Malaysian dish capable of frightening and disturbing any actual Malaysian. In this situation, just be thankful that you are from China, not Malaysia.