I am Chinese American

Chinese AmericanIn the eyes of most of the world, I am solely a Chinese girl.

Where are you from” is a common conversation starter with random strangers, who, when I give them a true, but unsatisfactory answer, shake their heads and say “no, where are you REALLY from?” Sometimes, they skip this question all together and ask me why I don’t speak English tinged with an accent (preferably something ching-chongy). Otherwise, they just take one look and scream “NI HAO” or “KONNICHIWA” at me.

Hey guess what? I was born in America. I’m a Chinese American girl.

Yes, I do speak Mandarin, but no, I can’t tell you what that calligraphy says. Yes, my parents do value education and a good job, but no, they are not Amy Chua “tiger parents.” Yes, I am a good “Chinese” daughter and listen to my parents, but no, I don’t follow blindly. No, I will not give you a sensuous massage. No, my soul is not crushed from my “misogynistic heritage.”

I am not the exotic, petite Chinese girl you see on television (when they have Chinese people on television that is). I have huge feet. I am taller than the average white girl.

I am horrible at math. I’m allergic to pastels and most pop music. I pop the “fob sign” (the victory sign) facetiously. I use SAT words in my everyday conversations. I think in English (once in a while in Chinglish).

Amy Tan does not represent me, my experience, or any of my friends’ experience.

And definitely definitely, I am NOT a banana/twinkie, AZN, American Chinese, Chinese-American, or ABC (American Born Chinese), thank you very much.


What’s the difference you may ask? Let me break it down for you:

Banana/Twinkie:  This is the Chinese American who completely rejects his/her Chinese heritage. They pretend to be white. They only associate with whites. They dye their hair blond in some futile attempt to look white. They may even bleach their skin. They hate that they look “ethnic.” They are ashamed of themselves. We use this term derogatorily. No one, not even the banana would wear this label proudly.

AZN:  This is a Chinese (or Asian in general) American who is a little too proud of their Chinese heritage. They drive “rice rockets,” blasting their hip hop out of speakers too big for their souped up cars with giant spoilers. The boys tend to emulate hip hop artists; the girls the latest Asian pop star. They’re loud about their “Chinese-ness”, but more than likely have no idea what being “Chinese” means and are probably embarrassments to their family.

American Chinese/ABC:  A term given to Chinese Americans, usually by Chinese people. My parents called me American Chinese, because they thought that having the “American” before the “Chinese” meant I was American first. But grammatically speaking, American Chinese and ABC (American born Chinese) emphasize the fact that the person is first and foremost Chinese. American becomes the adjective that describes the Chinese noun. For those of us who were born in America, this term gives off the impression that we are not American. We are foreigners in the land that gave birth to us.

Chinese-American:  Peter Feng, in his essay “In Search of Asian American Cinema,” explains why Asian Americans, including Chinese Americans, decided to drop the hyphen: the hyphen represents a persistent discourse which suggests that Asians will never be fully accepted as Americans. Grammatically speaking, the hyphen makes ‘Asian’ and ‘American’ into two nouns, suggesting that Asian-Americans are caught between two distinctive cultures.

Again a question of grammar. In order for us to be accepted as Americans, we dropped the hyphen so that the Chinese became the adjective describing the American. In short, instead of being Chinese (noun) and American (noun), we are American who happen to be ethnically Chinese.

Of course, no one is actually conscious of these terms unless they really looked into it, so I’ll let it slide.


So I am a Chinese American girl. Apparently, we don’t get a good rep in many circles. Here are some of the things I’ve heard over the years:

  • We only date other Asians (Asians from Asia and Asian Americans)
  • We only date non-Asians
  • We hate our Asian features and so dye our hair blonde and bleach our skin white
  • We love our Asian features and so exploit them because it makes us exotic
  • We are innocent lotus blossoms
  • We are dragon ladies who will rip your heart out and eat it for breakfast (along with your little puppy dog too)
  • Our parents wish we were boys
  • Our parents want us to be submissive
  • Our parents control every facet of our lives and have squashed out individuality
  • We are quiet and timid
  • We are loud and skanky
  • We are virgins
  • We know some secret Chinese sex act that supposed to be amazing

Quite frankly, if we were all these things I don’t know how we’re actually functional.

My favorite out of that partial list is the perception that being female and Chinese means that you are automatically treated as a second class citizen. A second class citizen in your family no less. It may have been true in the past. It may still be true in some Chinese families. But it is not true of all Chinese American families. The Chinese American families that I know, the Chinese American family that I grew up in, value their daughters. My female Chinese American friends with brothers tell me that their parents see their daughters as the success stories of the family. They are their parents’ pride. They, in one friend’s words, are ALPHA. I once asked my dad if he wished I were a boy or that he had a son. He told me that I was being stupid.

Maybe that’s just because after America lifted the immigration ban on Asians in 1965, more and more educated Chinese immigrants came to America, many of whom were from the cities. They may have brought a different mindset than their rural, apparently “backwards” predecessors (I honestly don’t know).

Then again, my parents were the product of the Cultural Revolution. Most of my friends’ parents never went to college or have almost illiterate grandparents. Our families all started out as working class, working their way up to a middle or upper middle class life.

But one thing’s for sure, they sure do love their daughters.

What does this all mean? I have no idea. Sometimes I wake up and feel like I’m a girl, or a metalhead, or a nerd. Sometimes I wake up feeling Chinese-American, forced to straddle two cultures by some invisible hand. Sometimes I wake up Chinese American, proud to say I’m an American and proud to have the adjective in front of it.

But usually I wake up feeling like me. I am a person. I am not, cannot, and will not, be lumped into a category because of what I look like. I am more than the color of my skin.

And I think that’s what all Chinese Americans want.

104 comments to I am Chinese American

  • GentleGiant

    Nice post Louisa; I can tell you get really pissed off, so I will stop saying Ni Hao when I meet tall oriental girls, just in case.

    I am confused though; 48.91% of your local population are tall oriental girls with big feet?? :shock:

    It must be something they put in the local water supply :lol:

    • Louisa

      Haha thanks for the comment. The whole “ni hao” thing is annoying, but what’s more annoying is that I get more “konnichiwas” from people. Guess it’s just that we all look alike. :roll:

      And it’s true though, most Chinese Americans are larger/taller than their Chinese counterparts.

      There definitely is something in the water. ;-)

      • Lily

        Maybe it’s more or less the same as how some foreigners greet Chinese girls “konnichiwas or ni hao or whatever…” ,followed with the question of assuming that they are from Korea or Tiland or Janpan, or Philippines etc. It’s really not pleasant, uh? :???:

        I don’t remember where exactly I read before. I think Crystal also had similar experience to this. Am I right?

        I didn’t pay attention that many Chinese Americans are larger/taller than our Chinese counterparts. Is that because of different food? :roll:

        By the way, one of my girl friends has big feet which made her quite headache whenever she wants to buy shoes (size-39) in China.

        • Lavvy

          I think that us second-gen Chinese Americans were weened on milk and other highly nutritious foods and that’s made us into the giants that we are. One of my friends is a US size 0-2 I know here and she’s a size large in Hong Kong.

          I’m a size 41 in China. I tell shoe salespeople that and they laugh at me. It’s depressing.

          • SB

            My girlfriend was born and raised in China and she has trouble buying shoes everywhere. She’s a size 40-41 (US 8.5-9) in a D or E width (as opposed to the “standard” B width). Finding wide women’s shoes is much harder than finding large ones.

        • Generally speaking, most Chinese girls wear the sizes 35 to 38. I wear 36, for example.

          But my friend – Mrs. Li (from the story about jealous husband) – has 33-size. That is also a problem, because it’s the smallest size for adults. Sometimes, she has to compromise and buy 34 instead. And even 34 is very small and not every brand has it.

      • my wife is thai but non traditional and non conformist (i’m english and we live in australia). she gets very frustrated when we go back to visit thailand and all the hawkers there shout out ‘konnichiwa’ to her! haha!

        • Louisa

          haha, I get asked if I’m Korean when I go to China. I honestly don’t think I look Korean.

          • Louisa L.

            I actually get asked that quite a bit too, but not only in China. Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, they all think I’m Korean when they meet me even though I’m full Chinese. Just thought it was a weird coincidence considering our names and everything.

            • Louisa

              Wow that is a funny/weird coincidence. Maybe all Louisas look like they’re Korean…haha

              • Moroes

                Its already been tested that most can’t tell the difference between Chinese, Korean and Japanese faces alone.

                Its usually how you dress. Maybe you dress closer to Koreans so they would feel you look Korean. Korean fashion is the most westernized fashion among those 3 Asians. So if you dressed in any western brand they would think you’re Korean.

                • I can tell a difference by the clothing. Japanese girls sometimes have darker skin and aren’t afraid of showing it. Japanese girls seem more excited about, well pretty much everything. They always seem to be jumping around.

              • Louisa L.

                Power to the Louisas!
                I dress pretty American in my opinion. T-shirt and jeans. In any case, they said that I looked Korean because of my facial features. I can usually tell who’s what by either facial features or teeth. If all else fails, look at the surname or listen to the accent.

                • Louisa

                  Yeah same here. Jeans and a t-shirt (creepy…). Although I have dyed hair so…maybe?

                  I can usually tell a different between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean men, but women are harder…and then you have those last names like Lee and Young that apply to more than ethnicity. I once had a friend named Tyrone Young, who was Taiwanese. Confused a lot of people who just looked at his name and were expecting a black guy.

                  • Louisa L.

                    My hair is dyed as well, though given that color treating hair is fairly popular and common I suppose it’s not a huge deal. Here’s something I’d be surprised if we both shared though: I am mistaken for Mexican occasionally by non-Asians. One time while at work, a White lady came up and said “¿Cómo estás?” along with several other times where Mexicans mistook me for their own. Took me by surprise for sure as I feel that I at least look very Asian, if not Chinese. Although a decent number of girls are named Louisa in central Mexico from what I’ve heard.

                    There was one time where my English just completely blew away this elderly White man. Being raised in Dallas, I have a pretty neutral American accent and the gentleman just kept repeating “Amazing. You sound like an actual American.” It didn’t matter how many times I told him I was born and raised in America.

                    Usually I can accurately guess their ethnicity unless they’ve undergone surgery, but I have spent several summers in China, Japan, and Korea so it may just be because I’m used to it. I could’ve sworn that Lee is a fairly common Korean surname though. Well you also have the Vietnamese Lees, though Young does surprise me.

    • SB

      Assuming you live in the US, you probably shouldn’t refer to them as “oriental”.

  • Ignatius

    Wow, I love this post.

  • Ian

    My ex of 10 years (Japanese) in Australia used to be abused by old Diggers (ANZACS or ex soldiers) on ANZAC Day in Australia. This day is when many of the ex Diggers get pissed in the early hours then wander the streets… Some throw abuse at their reminders of old hatreds.. She and her friends would be rather bemused by the spectacle until I taught them how to say in colloquial Australian “Blow it out your arse you stupid old git!”. Nasty perhaps, but gave them immense amusement and turned their feelings of being abused into a humourous episode.

    • Louisa

      That is terrible (the Diggers, not your ex). But yeah, I’m a firm believer that using humor to combat hate is the best way to go. Shows that you find these people silly and can potentially embarrass the other person, which is always hilarious.

  • Bored in Melbourne

    Ni Hao (bahahaha) Good post Louisa. I like tall girls being that I am tall. So I might hit on you haha! Don’t think it is purely an Asian fetish though, as my ex partner of almost a decade was English heritage and almost 5’11”, and also dark eyes and dark hair. The revenge on my preference for darker featured women is that my cute little daughter has blonde hair and blue eyes, how did that happen?

    My family has some Scottish background although we have been in Australia for several generations at least, but I don’t ever wear a kilt, however there is some red hair in the family. In time your family will just be part of the furniture. They say in a couple of generations Australians will all be Eurasian, although I don’t fully believe it yet.

    You seem to be happy enough about who you are, I guess in a nation with obesity trouble you can be thankful for your Chinese heritage if not simply for good genetics but also for dietary habits.

  • Kyle Pulsifer

    Yeah, i think identity is really tricky. When i was in studying in Shanghai, I met this American of Chinese descent. It was both of our first time in China, and I noted out loud something (cannot remember what) to which he took offense to by reminding me that he was Chinese. I foolishly told him that I told him that I thought he was American (you know, since he mentioned that he was born and raised in America and this was his first day in China), and he took more offense. I guess he identified with his Chinese-ness more than his American-ness. You seem to be offended by the reversal of this. So I think from now on for the rest of my life I am just gonna avoid racial identity topics altogether, hopefully not having any more awkward situations ever again!

  • You always have something interesting to say in the forums and I’m glad to see that it carried over to your guest post. I think I’ll check out your blog right now. I feel so socially enlightened. :mrgreen:

  • Good stuff, Louisa. But for every one of your points I feel I can counter it with one for my exp as a foreign bloke in China. Glad to see I’m not the only one being put in a pigeon hole.


    • Louisa

      You know, I’ve always wanted to see what it would be like to travel China as a non-Asian. It’s already annoying when I have to explain to people in China that I was born in America. It must be equally annoying for you, especially since I think Asians are the most racist race.

      • I think many Chinese people can be very ignorant of other people from other countries. For the most part I find life is good for me here. Yes, I get the ‘HELLO-OOO-OOOOO’s from countryside Chinese having a big day out in Shanghai, but I just shout back ‘NI HAO TONGZHI!’ and that’s the end of that.

        I wonder what Chinese tourists in a western country would think if a group of white people just started yelling ‘NI HAO!’ at them and started guffawing like a bunch of fools at them.

        • Thank God someone else mentioned that.

          I mentioned before about the whole “HERROOOO!!!!!!” and baboon laughter before as well.

          I’m not excusing their rudeness by re-asking “where you’re really from”, however most of the people that I know would say “ni hao” or “konnichiwa” not to offend but either to impress or put you at ease or just as a conversation starter.

      • scarlet

        Maybe one in ten people strike a filthy look, it feels like one in three but it isn’t. It doesn’t matter if you just explained in Chinese how some complex piece of software works twenty minutes ago, if you get a male cashier at McDonalds he will always try to communicate in broken English, grunts and slightly aggressive gestures. Lots of badgering too and higher prices. I had some young guys speculating loudly about the size and shape of my penis in the elevator today, I did my best to ignore them, so they just thought I didn’t understand and got more graphic.

        I’ve started to actually die my hair from extremely dark brown to jet black and keep closely shaven just so people can’t tell I am foreign outside of a few meters. The feeling sucks pretty bad.

  • Moroes

    HAHA Chinese Americans…. They damn fun to poke at!!! Chinese Americans are good at taking insults so here it goes :D muhahahaha:

    We just call you Chigga. Plain and Simple. CHIGGA!

    Anyways if Chinese from China are so short then why they keep importing basketball payers from China like Yao Ming. I don’t see no Chiggas playing in the NBA!!! Not one bloody Chigga is in the NBA, what a disgrace. EVen if there is no one even knows there is one. Do you chiggas know how to play basketball?! So much for bragging about being American.

    Hell I don’t even know any chiggas in any American sport. And all these Rice car dudes not one of them is in Nascar, Daytona or anything famously racing for that matter. Its only recently you finally got a Chigga into the NFL. I mean in a way black afro americans are sooooo far ahead of you. They are in all the American sports and everything that is American. They even conquered the president title. And they are less educated then you so WTH are you doing over there?! All you Chiggas are good for is conquering universities and then end up owning a Chinese restaurant or a laundry mat. At this rate not one chigga will be president ever.

    The most famous media product from chiggas is still William Hung from American Idol.

    As you chiggas come to China and stand proudly about being Americans. You haven’t done much in America besides creating Americanized Chinese fast food and fortune cookies.

    FYI, this post is just for fun don’t take it too mind blowing serious. HAHA!

  • Very well articulated. Consider blogging for http://www.8asians.com !

  • I loved your post, really insightful stuff Louisa and I always enjoy conversing with you.

    HOWEVER, I have two points I’d like to make.

    1) Canney and I use banana between us and think it’s pretty damn cute and funny. She’s not trying to leave her Asian descent or heritage behind her, how could she? But she definitely has grown accustomed to Western culture and really seems to embrace it as is her choice. I think it’s unfair and rude to judge someone for choosing one lifestyle over another when it doesn’t affect anyone else. It’s exactly the same as chinese people looking down on the so-called ABCs for not being “real chinese people”. Not cool. Besides, she’s not ashamed of herself at all, she’s extremely proud of her ethnicity, Japanese face, long, smooth, slim legs, what’s not to love? I think if anyone called her something derogatory, I’d have to go Dexter on them.

    2)My family comes from European countries, such as England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain etc. Should I call myself a European Canadian? Or British Canadian or just Canadian? If you choose to see yourself as American, then you’re American, pretty simple I’d think, especially considering your birth certificate and passport. You are your choices, not your words.

    I’m glad that you’re making your own identity.

    By the way, Canney also has large feet and is taller than many Caucasian women as well, YOU’RE NOT ALONE. hahahahaha

    • Louisa

      Thanks for the two points. I was actually looking forward to seeing what you’d have to say.

      I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but the way you and Canney use banana is probably the first time I’ve heard it used in a positive way. Like, most of the people I know use it derogatorily, it’s nice to hear that there are people out there who are changing the term and trying to make it more positive. Unfortunately, I don’t see the term changing in my neck of the woods anytime soon. And while I know it’s wrong to judge people for their lifestyle choices, the people who are “banana” (my banana, not yours) just make me want to *facepalm* our of frustration. It’s one thing to be proud of your Chinese heritage and embrace Western culture, but it’s a total other ballpark when you become a “self-hating Asian.”

      While I do for the most part consider myself American, I still like having an adjective in front of it, just because I like extra descriptions. So I like identifying myself as the Chinese American, because for me I like think I’m contributing another point of view/experience to who Americans are supposed to be.

      • I always find the way that Americans describe themselves quite funny. Chinese-American, Italian-American, German-American. What’s the point in saying the word ‘American’ in that description? I’m from England and people never say that. I used to know a Chinese bloke and he would introduce himself as Chinese, but with a very strong London accent (’cause I’m Chinese, you caaaant’). People with Italian heritage would just say they are Italian. And for people like me, we would just say we are English because saying ‘French, Irish, German-Jewish English’ would be too much of a mouthful.
        So why not just say ‘I’m Chinese’? If people say ‘but you can speak English very well’ couldn’t you just reply ‘Yes, well done genius, that’s because I was born and bred in the US of Yippee-Yi-Yay, dumbass’.
        In fact if it was me that’s exactly how I would do it just to fuck with peoples prejudices.
        And I thought the concept of ‘self hating’ was only for Chinese-Chinese people.

        • Louisa

          Usually I do say “I’m Chinese” because I know that’s what people want to hear. And the usual “you speak English well, etc.” comments happen and I have to explain. I like messing with people’s general assumptions a lot, but after a while having to explain the SAME THING to a bajillion people starts to grate.

          And I’m not REALLY Chinese. Like, I can’t relate to Chinese people from China all that well because that’s not what I grew up with. But I can’t fully relate to “white” America either. I can relate to other Chinese Americans, since for the most part we grew up similarly. So for me that’s why I like “Chinese American” as an identifier.

          As for tacking on the American part, it goes back to people automatically assuming that non-“white”=foreigner. I think that’s also why European Americans tack on the American at the end to, so they can be like “yeah I’m ethnic or whatever but I’m also American.” Maybe it’s part of that scary American patriotism that’s been ingrained into our American brains?

          • bomber

            Nah, I don’t think so. America, for all its terrible faults, is the closest the world yet has to a truly universalist culture. I suppose that is a difficult thing for non-Americans to understand and many may chime in with examples of how it is racist / classist / evil / overrun with white demons, etc.

            And despite the bad rep it has from those who have never been there, in my experience America is on average one of the least racist places on earth. There are of course exceptions to that statement, and yes, I am aware of many them. However, I stand by that statement (for now, anyways.)

            • Bored in Melbourne

              bomber I assume that you consider yourself “American”? While I agree that the USA does have a lot of different nationalities I don’t agree that it is a universalist culture because most migrants there want to become ‘American’ and they are ready to jettison most of their home culture. There are big exceptions but essentially I even find that US citizen who have spent a fair amount of time outside the USA come to label their own country as ‘ethnocentric’ in essence this meaning that they feel the USA is the centre of the world and geographically incorrect maps must help with the brainwashing.

              What I see as the big strength the the USA retains as the world power base shifts now, is the culture of fostering and supporting innovation. The USA does a great job of attracting and retaining talent to create the next big idea that the world will adopt and compared to Australia, where innovation finds it hard to get support, I admire that facet of the USA.

              In my observation a nation where the people travel far and wide tends to be more open to new culture. This is happening a little in a few places due to low cost flights. But the opposite is true of a country that sits near the top of the economic ladder as they have no need to adapt, they can and do tend to be arrogant about their own cultural superiority, feeling that trade and opportunities will be attracted to them. I worked on some of these themes in my Masters degree as you can see I have a strong interest in it.

              I have been extremely lucky to be able to travel to many countries including the USA, before this I only had the education fed to me through controlled sources including the media. I remember being in Texas and the international news was for states outside Texas, truly astounding…

              • bomber

                There are two points you bring up that I would like to address.

                First, I would like to say that since the 1960s, the socialist / internationalists that have been taking over the United States have worked very hard to balkanize the country – turning into a tossed salad as opposed to ‘melting pot.’ So the culture I refer to is part of the larger sweep of American history. Its founding documents elevate the individual to heights not since seen, and though I am not a legal expert, I am quite certain that few other countries have taken negative liberty as seriously or as far as the USA. Positive liberty, on the other hand…

                It is because of the deeply individualistic culture that America IS such a universalist culture. There are groups – in fact there always have been, but they never stay entrenched for very long. Waves of immigrants come, assimilate, make their mark on the culture and the process repeats itself. Discarding cultural practices from one’s homeland is not necessarily a bad thing, as until recently, the rest of the world looked exceedingly barbaric when compared to western civilization. I assure you that if Chinese immigrants were still binding the feet of their daughters and saying “Don’t tell us Chinese what to do, you white devils; you just don’t understand our culture.” people would be offended by such a primitive and barbaric practice, and likely move to have it banned, or ostracize those who continued to do it as freaks from a despotic and enslaved past.

                The point you brought up about innovation is certainly an American cultural trait, but again, this would tend to support my argument of it being a dynamic universalist culture as opposed to a stagnant inward-looking tribal culture. Innovation works by applying new ways of thinking and doing things to an existing question or problem. American culture adjusts and shifts as new people come in with new ideas and new ways of thinking. And as usual, the bad stuff generally gets discarded and the good stuff remains. This goes for culture, too.

                I do agree that US media works extremely hard to dumb-down and insulate the American people, and to a large extent they are very successful. It is not just in America that this happens. Commonwealth countries such as Australia are also spoon-fed a steady diet of information meant for them and approved by their masters, the House of Sachs-Cobert-Goethe (ugh, probably spelled that wrong). You will never know what the Groom of the Stool and the Privy Council are really up to. But you can all be distracted plenty by William and Kate’s big day!

                What I am getting at here, is that if I got a Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Iranian, Japanese, Sudanese, Greek, Italian, Russian, Mongolian, etc. pasport tomorrow, I would never been sen by the people of those countries as being “one of them.” I don’t look the part. Even if I spoke the language perfectly, and understood all of the cultural ins and outs, it would never make a difference, because I am not really a part of the tribe. In America, and to an extent Canada, Aus, NZ, and perhaps even England, I could maybe get in there and be accepted by the group – not because I am white, or speak English, but because the culture allows for it.

                • Michael

                  I’m sorry, but you kind of proved ‘Bored in Melbourne’s’ point about the lack of exposure within the US to truly international news. If you think the ‘Privy Council’ has any sort of power over Australia, and are our ‘masters’, as you say, then you really need to read a little more. Sorry, maybe you were only joking. But a comment like that is really quite ignorant. Just saying.

                  And while it is true that people from all countries are fed heavily biased news, and news that focuses on domestic matters to the exclusion of important matters elsewhere, it is a matter of degree. Having lived in the US, I would have to concur with ‘Bored in Melbourne that the US news media is the exemplar of this kind of parochialism. Which is why I have extra respect for those Americans, like my friends, who don’t buy it.

                • Ian G

                  Masters? hehe I think the last time we in Australia ever pandered to any American request was with President Lyndon Baines effing Johnson (all the way with LBJ!) which gave Australia Long Tan and America My Lai.

                  As for hyphenates, I havent ever heard anyone here describe themselves with any punctuation… but then I never ask, I just accept them at face value.

              • Louisa

                I agree that ever since the 60s America has been trying to move away from assimilation in favor of “multiculturalism” (which has its own problems too). While most immigrants do try to become more “American,” I’ve found that their American born kids try hard to retain some part of their ethnic heritage, leading to this “am I Chinese/Korean/Indian/Irish/whatever or American?” identity crisis that’s pretty much a huge topic in ethnic studies.

                While I’d like to think that America tries to be open minded, we are still quite ignorant of the outside world. My theory is that our country is pretty isolated: we only have Canada and Mexico, while countries in Europe have lots of neighbors. And then, there’s the fact that while other countries like Australia or the UK get lots of vacation time, the average American gets 16 vacation days and many don’t even use that time. So they work and work and work, giving us our high GDP and producing lots of innovative things, but sacrificing worldly knowledge in the process.

                And BIM, I hope you went to other states besides Texas. Texas is a special place…

                • Bored in Melbourne

                  Louisa you might find that many places also have a limited vacation time. Australia only has 20 days per year and many people do not use them. We are becoming too dedicated to work here and in the developed world Australia is close to the top for most hours worked per week. This is a shame.

                  Yes I did see many other parts of the USA, Texas was only necessary for business. Actually I have probably seen more of the USA than most citizen and probably more than I have even seen of my own country.

                  • Louisa

                    That is depressing how everyone’s starting to just work. Bad for health too. I guess I’m attributing the vacation time to my friend who worked in the UK; she got 21 days of vacation plus holidays.

                    I think most people who travel to a new country see more of it than their own or the country’s own citizens. I’ve lived my entire life in Los Angeles and this weekend was the first time I went to Venice Beach. I keep thinking that since it’s relatively close by I can go anytime, but never end up going, something I hear from lots of people around the world.

  • Mark

    I get people saying “HELLO??!” at me when I walk around here all the time. It’s my right to give it back!

    I never do, but I always want to. Then I realize they get it enough, and probably don’t need it from me too. I refuse to be THAT GUY. haha

  • Louisa, this post was fantastic and I related 100% to your writing more than anyone else. Thank you.

  • Lousia… {pours a couple of shots} {raise of the glass} Nostrovia!

    Just keep telling people, who give you sass, to kiss your Red, White, and Blue @$$ !!!

  • Moroes

    Wait until 20 years later where there will be blogs of White Chinese people. White people that are born in China and have difficulty claiming they are Chinese. All because they LOOK WHITE!!!

    “You Chinese? But you don’t look Chinese?”

    ANd think how they feel when people go up to them saying hello and their response is “Wo bu Jiang Yingyu/I don’t speak English.” Not that shocking since there are Chinese Americans don’t speak Chinese so expect it vice versa.

  • magbest

    Pretty good Post :smile:

    I feel kinda identified with this article because I was adopted by Americans while I was in my country. So, I had the opportunity to experiment both cultures.(Of course, I had more interaction with Hispanic culture). But the way my parents raised me wasn’t the way my friends in High school were raised by their own parents. Therefore, sometimes there was always some kind of conflict between which behavior was the correct one. Even though I grew up in my country I feel like I have more conducts from my parents than from my friends in my native country, and some people considered that as a Hispanic trying to be American. Well, I give a dam what they thing, and you should do the same. I know sometimes it bothers that other people put tags on you and those nasty stuff, but at the end is the way they were fostered by a different culture. If you like the way your live is right now, so be happy and continue to say that you are American, because you are. Just don’t forget your origins, that’s always important.


    PS: Why people say Konichiwa????? Do they thing that the only Asian population in the US is Japanese??? (what a brainless people, no offend if you already try this technique ;-) )

  • I told a relative in England that I was moving to Shanghai from Hong Kong and they said ‘Have fun in Japan’.

    Many people in western countries are clueless about Asian countries. Just as Asian people are clueless about western countries.


    • Louisa

      My friend once told someone he saw the Great Wall of China and the person asked if that was in Japan.

    • Moroes

      Many Western people are clueless about the West too. ANd many Asians are clueless about Asia too.

      I once told an American that I was heading to Canada. He said cool that’s the biggest state in the USA.

      Some Americans are so ignorant that when they drive from the US to Canada they had no idea it switched from MPH to Km/H. Weeeeeeeeeeee 100 MPH (actually 100 Km/h) highways are awesome!

      Some Americans are so ignorant that if you ask this: “Germany speaks German, France speaks French, England speaks what?” They might be stuck at that question.

      I told some mainland Chinese I was going to SE Asia. They thought people there still run around in tribal panties and spears.

      Some Chinese are so ignorant they don’t consider Indians as Asian.

      Both Asian and Western people are so clueless about Latin American except Brazil kicking ass at world cup.

      Both Asian and Western people are so clueless about Middle East they only found out about places like Iraq and Afghanistan thanks to Bush.

      When Mainland Chinese people watch Borat they will think its all true that Kazakhstan is really like that. And Kazakhstan is one of China’s neighbors.

      Just saying… Though the West knows little about the world. Asians aren’t better at it either. Although Asians will know more about the West because CNN and Hollywood showed them. But then the West knows Asia because China Town showed them. They will fly all the way to China in the search of the original Panda Express restaurant!

  • magbest

    @Louisa. “My friend once told someone he saw the Great Wall of China and the person asked if that was in Japan.” :shock: I just can’t believe that hahaha. I know we are not perfect and as humans we have a lot of defects, but come on.
    Or maybe only we know about Chinese stuff because we like Chinese women. LOL

  • Mick

    Unfortunately there’s a few Chinese Americans/Australians who exude a certain kind of snobbishness and cliqueyness about their ethnicity. I have a couple of colleagues who have never been near China but they get all mock offended if we suggest going to the pub “Oh I’m Chinese, we don’t go to bars and get drunk like you westerners.” Or when thinking of somewhere to eat. “Ewww. We don’t eat salad. Or cheese. Sorry, It’s just a Chinese thing …” But I suppose they’re no worse than those ‘Irish Americans’ who try to live up to some imagininary notion of Oirishness.

    • oh christ I hate those Oirish yanks…. I was in New York and went to this bar and there was this guy working there going on and on about how Irish he was. He’d never been to Ireland of course. Bloody idiots.


    • Louisa

      There are a bunch here too (I classified them as AZN). They’re so loud about their Chinese-ness but for some reason think looking like a hip-hop star makes them more Asian. I don’t know how that works at all (plus the fact that the majority of them are super obnoxious). There’s been a recent rash of second-gen Chinese Americans who’ve made themselves “fobby” (ie. only listening to Chinese/Taiwanese/HK music, dressing like Chinese/Taiwanese/HK pop stars, hanging out almost exclusively with people actually from China/Taiwan/HK), which I also find kind of odd. And while they do go to China/Taiwan/HK once in a while, it’s only for at most a few months. What can you really learn about a culture over a summer break?

    • Bored in Melbourne

      Mick I have seen that a few times and the drinking show’s how truly naive they are. In my visits to Asia and especially China I have seen almost as much drunkenness as in the UK, and that is really saying something. Although except for Japan I have not seen much drunkenness of Asian females in Asia compared to the males.

  • pasquinada

    Uh huh. Unfortunately there are just as many, if not more Chinese living in other countries yet still refer to anyone not Chinese as “waiguoren”. I’m sure there are people like Louisa, but I’ve met more than a few that considered themselves nationally Chinese even if they don’t advertise the fact.

    • Serenity

      Like at my school in Europe, which hosts a lot of Chinese students. I am rarely offended, but I HATE being called a laowai in the country I was born and raised. I’ve told myself that next time I hear my countrymen being referred to as laowai, I will begin a rant in (albeit poor) Chinese.

    • Louisa

      I’m guilty of calling non-Chinese people “waiguoren.” :| “Laowai” sounds weird to me and I feel awkward calling them “bairen.” My parents comment on the fact that it’s weird to call white people “waiguoren” if we live in the same country as they do. But they honestly don’t know what else to call them without having to switch to English (and when they do they call anyone non-Asian “American,” which is funny in itself). Since everyone around me understands Chinglish, I’ve started saying “white person” when I’m talking about them in Chinese, though it makes the flow of conversation a little awkward.

  • Foplomat

    Full disclosure: I was born in China, but came to the U.S. with my parents in 1989. I’ve been in the U.S. ever since.

    Agree with ziccawei re the silliness of the ‘labeling’ and hyphens; it speaks more to the insecurities of certain Asian Americans that anything else, really. Whenever I’m asked questions along the line of “where are you from?”, I usually reply, “California.” If they ask “Are you Chinese?”, I’m perfectly comfortable saying “Yup.” And, on the rare occasion I meet someone stupid enough to compliment me on my English, I’ll smile at them and say, “I’d hope so dude, I’ve been here my entire life.”

    I am American. I am also Chinese. There’s no need to choose, or to mix them up together, or to stress one over the other. I’m someone of Chinese ethnicity who was raised and educated in America, and what that means is that I get to pick and choose from the best of both worlds, and toss out the rest. That’s the beauty of living in a heterogenous country like the U.S.

    Anywho, here’s an alternate ‘Asian dictionary’ for a different neck of the woods:

    Banana/twinkie: Similar to whitewashed; can be used as a perjorative or jokingly, or even self-deprecatingly (“I’m a banana, I don’t eat that chicken feet crap”).

    AZN: Strongly agree with your assessment. Tends to lean more heavily towards “old Chinese/ABC” than “new Chinese/fob” (see below). Tends to be as annoying as shit.

    Fob: Usually 1st generation Mandarin-speaking immigrants. In the modern context, tends to be more highly educated and/or coming from wealthy families in Taiwan or mainland China. Really into Chinese entertainment. Can be somewhat cliquey, and many like to hang out almost exclusively with other Chinese. Some look down on ABC’s for being ‘whitewashed’ and or speaking Mandarin poorly (if at all). Many don’t even try to ‘assimilate’, and are proud of it; this is especially true for the most recent immigrants, who come from China at a time when China is seen as increasingly wealthy and powerful, and doomsayers wring their hands about the Chinese ‘getting ahead of us in science’, ‘owing all our debt’, blahblah.

    ABC: Anyone Chinese born in the U.S. who doesn’t fit in the above categories. Sorry, you qualify :(. One can, however, describe themselves as a “really fobby ABC”, if they were born in the US but are really into Asian music/movies/manga/etc. Generally tends to be Cantonese speakers whose families have been in the U.S. for several generations. Generally quite whitewashed, and their idea of what constitutes Chineseness comes from Chinatown. Some look down at fobs for “not fitting in” (and not even trying to). Likewise, tends to have more of a ‘complex’ about the whole “Am I Chinese or am I American” silliness.

    One last notes:

    Chinese and alcohol: Oh. My. God. Chinese in China are hardcore drinkers, especially businessmen. Never, ever, get into a drinking competition and/or game with Chinese businessmen….

    • Louisa

      Thanks for your comment. It’s very well thought out.

      I honestly don’t like labels, but since the general population likes labeling everything and everyone they see, it’s pretty much a necessary evil. So I’d rather label myself first before anyone else slaps something on me. As for the hyphen, it really is more a personal thing ever since I read that quoted article. Then again, I love grammar so it rings true to me more than the average person I think, haha.

      For the most part, I also say yes when people ask me if I’m Chinese. But I have to automatically follow up with “I’m born in America” or else they start asking me some pretty obnoxious things.

      Thanks for your alternate dictionary. Where in the great state of California are you from?

      I think I’ve mentioned this in the forums, but in my neck of the woods “banana” is like the new “FOB.” Fob was originally used derogatorily when Asians were first coming into the US in huge waves. So I know a lot of older Asians (not like, super old but in their late 30s or 40s) who still associate the word negatively. Like, back in the day, a fob was poor, smelly, uneducated, backwards, and stealing all the jobs. Nowadays, fob has taken on a more neutral to positive meaning because like you said, many new immigrants are well educated and a lot of the younger ones have reclaimed the term and use it proudly, which is good for the word. Plus you have this recent wave of second-gens trying to look/act fobby since Asian culture is so trendy now.

      Banana, on the other hand, is still in that process. At least it is here, where the crazy large population of Chinese people still overwhelmingly use the word in a negative context. So for me, like the older Asian Americans who associate fob with something bad, I associate banana with something bad. Maybe in another few years the kids younger than me will change the term too. I’ll still be uncomfortable with it, but hey, if it changes it changes.

      And I know I qualify as an ABC. It’s just a term that I don’t like to identify with. I only use it when I’m in China, as ABC just explains “everything” about my background in 3 simple letters. In my neighborhood, us ABC aren’t very whitewashed, because just about everyone is ethnically some sort of Asian. Our white people here are “Asian-washed,” haha. And the complex is a rather annoying part of ABCs as they grow up, since many aren’t secure in their ethnic/national identity. For me, I felt that I was losing some part of my heritage just for being born in America and not having the best Mandarin. There are lots of things that I can’t connect to or relate to with my immigrant parents, so I felt this huge gap in my life. It was (and still is) annoying to deal with, to feel as if you’re losing some imaginary part of yourself because you look Chinese but ultimately aren’t really. That’s the essence of the complex. I’ve gotten over it for the most part, and when I got over it I decided that I am Chinese American. I’m part of this amazingly diverse community of people who are adding another dimension to what an American is supposed to be and look like.

      Anyway, I only ID myself as Chinese American when it comes up in conversation. It’s not the first thing I’d identify with otherwise.

      And alcohol, Chinese people invented Satan’s firewater, so whoever thinks they can’t drink obviously have not been to China to see the crazy.

  • Great post. And fascinating comments. Will have to reread at leisure over the weekend, but have to mention right off that “where are you from” was something I heard the very first day I was back in the U.S. – after being raised abroad. At first I didn’t understand the question. I’m from here! By the end of the first month, it was quite one of the most irritating phrases.

    Still hear it. It’s 33 years later. And often it still sounds insulting – especially if the other person has had a drink or two.

    The other sentence that grates is “you speak such good English!” Which really seems to mean something else.

    • Louisa

      Thanks for your comment. I’m starting to see that the “where are you from” question can apply to anyone who looks/sounds different. Incredibly annoying, although I usually get it in the form of a pick up line or when someone’s trying to sell me something.

  • Great post Louisa, and I completely agree with your resistance to the so often heard “American Chinese” which I find annoying because it (as you say) suggests that you’re really Chinese first, which, to my mind, you’re not.

    As for questions of “where are you from” I suppose some people are just being stupid, or insensitive. If I see someone of non-European and non-African descent, I listen to their speech and if I don’t hear an accent, then I figure they were born in the US and so are American, no matter what their skin color or other features are. If I want to know more (Americans are very curious about these matters, as we all — well, almost all — came from somewhere else), I’ll try to phrase it like “where are your folks from” or “what’s your heritage” — hopefully that’s less annoying. It’s not a statement that you’re not American, but rather a question about heritage that I would be interested in knowing about. You might be right to be annoyed though, as I don’t ask that of my white friends, at least not unless we’re specifically discussing heritage.

    I also, recently, heard Americans referred to as “laowai” by some Chinese here in my city (in the US). I found it amusing and a little annoying, but habits are hard to break, and if there’s not another good term, so be it.

    And I have to take up for my home state of Texas — international news is news from other states? Really? I’ve lived here my whole life and never heard of such a thing. We do talk like that is the case sometimes, but it’s jokingly. I guess living in a place where you can drive from dawn to dusk and still be in the same state can lead to a sense of difference and maybe isolation.

    But good for you Louisa — you are American through and through, and from your thoughtfulness and eloquence, I’m glad to call you a compatriot! :smile:

    • Louisa

      Glad you liked the post. I guess “where are you from” is a lot better than the “WHAT ARE YOU?” some of my half-Asian friends have gotten. And I agree with the oddity of using “laowai” in America, technically, the Chinese folk are “laowai,” haha. I’m still trying to think of a way to refer to them in Chinese, “laomei” seems to be winning but I hate calling anyone “lao.”

      It’s the same in California, drive in any direction and you’ll still be in the state after 3 hours (or Mexico…). So I guess we feel as if everything else is another planet.

  • BlackSugarDaddy

    The post is interesting while the comment is getting boring….

    • Moroes

      Of course its a bit boring. Seems like Louisa had it peaceful. Wonder if she ever recieved “YOU ARE NOT CHINESE!!!!!” from her family. Or even from anyone. You know when you in Asia and they say “YOU ARE NOT CHINESE! GO BACK TO THE WEST! YOU DON’T BELONG IN ASIA! YOU ARE DEFINETELY NOT RAISED CHINESE! EAST IS BETTER THAN WEST AND YOU DON’T BELONG HERE! LIKE A WESTERN BARBARIAN!”

      All she got was being mistaken for Korean or asked where you from. ANd gets annoyed by it.

      • Louisa

        Man, the judging I get when people in China find out I’m an “ABC.” Sometimes it’s along the lines of “blood traitor.” Sometimes they just think I’m ignorant of everything Chinese. A hawker once flat out rejected the fact I was Chinese after I told her I was born in America.

        Usually they treat me like someone who is linguistically retarded, even though my Chinese is fairly competent (or at least understandable). I blew my collegue’s mind in China once when I bought myself a train ticket in China.

        My family seems blown away by the fact that I don’t know some things about Chinese history and literature. I’ve gotten the “YOU ARE NOT CHINESE” from them too. My co-workers are all Chinese and they also consider me “the American Chinese, she doesn’t know things like how to eat fish with bones in them.”

        I’ve had my identity crisis but for the most part I’m over it. What’s the point whining and moaning on and on about “OMG WHO AM I CHINESE OR AMERICAN WHY AM I NOT ACCEPTED BY ANYONE???” :sad: If you want to read that then pick up an Amy Tan novel.

        • Glass_Slippered_Beauty

          Louisa, I can definitely agree with your post! When I went back to China to visit my grandma and other extended family members, this man approached my cousin and began speaking in rapid Mandarin to her. Obviously I couldn’t understand, because my Mandarin is far below the definition of fluent. Later, my cousin told me that the man accused me of being a race traitor and I wasn’t even Chinese if I could barely understand what he was saying. It really hurt me, and I told my mom, but she said not to worry about it. But I did, because it hurt me. So we fly back to California, and I have no idea what to identify myself as. My dad once told me, “No matter how Americanized you try to be, no one will ever see you as an American.” I agree with him, but when I went to China, nobody thought I was Chinese. So yes, I’m still in identity crisis mode, but for the most part, it no longer bothers me. But I kind of dread going back to visit my Taiwanese relatives, cause they’re going to accuse me of being white washed…

  • Soldano

    I don’t lik ethe way Chinese people talk about ABC’s. They think the can get all judgemental, but what is there to say ?

    There are different types of Chinese people here in Paris. First of all they don’tface any kid of racism unless they start acting as a closed group, which atttract problems and give sthe impression that they feel superior. Otherwise people here live asian culture in general and china too.

    But the fact that you feel the need to be defined by a community or origin shows a lack of self confidence and personal development. You hide between your ethnic origin as if it could define you instead of facing on your own personal development be recognised as a person, not as an ethnic group.

    • Louisa

      Coincidentally a Korean man on the Metro in Paris completely rejected the fact that I was from America because “I had eyes like his” so that meant I couldn’t possibly not be from Asia.

      Racism comes in many different forms. Some can be overtly violent, while others can be in the form of a disparaging or ignorant comment. I highly doubt that any minority in any country doesn’t face some sort of racism, regardless of whether they are acting as a closed group or not.

      Ethnic communities exist for a reason. Many new immigrants to a country who don’t speak the local language need a support system to help them adjust. What better, easier way than to find someone who comes from similar origins? And, community groups have a larger political and social influence. To take an overly cliched example: the Civil Rights Movement would never have happened if different minority groups didn’t band together and bring the matter into public awareness. So some people choose to be defined by their ethnic origins for this reason, so that they can bring their communities out of the shadows and in some cases get them the rights that they need.

      • Soldano

        Well even without racism, there are still stereotypes. Asian people can be racist, but stereotypes in China in particular are like a plague. If so many people say so, then it must be true after all !

  • Jay

    I have no problem with you being a girl, a Chinese American, or anything EXCEPT for “metalhead”.

    Such atrocious taste in music.

    Bodes ill for your sanity and hearing.

    • Louisa

      Metal’s a complicated genre; one of the hardest to appreciate and understand. But at least the “hearing loss” keeps me from hearing judgmental comments from people who dint bother to look into what they’re taking about. Keeps me sane. :)

      • Soldano

        I love how people who have no idea about what they’re talking about start to become all judgmental.

        Metal is an infinitely varied and complex musical genre, and i often perceived as being atrociou because its original intent was to use all the codes that had been forbidden by the church musically (and that’s a lot of new mucic to play), and to explore ideas that the modernist society dismissed as being “bad” (hence the terror and horror themes).

        Just so you know, all the mozarts, bethoveen and chopins in the world would have loved to use these “dissonant”sounds but were not able to because supposedly they were attracting the devil and were banned by the church durng the dark ages.

        For a chinese to listen heavy metal is already a victory, in that it means he can achieve a post modernist attitude.
        For an occidental, criticising metal just shows how narrow-minded you can be.

  • Ian G

    “Such atrocious taste in music.

    Bodes ill for your sanity and hearing.”

    Yes, but it sure helps me cope with being in China!

  • Soldano

    It’s funny how people try to rely on a person’s face to tell where she comes from when it’s so easy to see from the way she behaves.
    I mean there’s cases when it can be confusing, but generally speaking, a chinese born chinese and a true japanese girl behave totally different from a foreign born one. The looks, the way she moves and reacts, it’s pretty easy to tell.

    For example, japanese girls have this way of walking like tenage schoolgirls and behave in groups, chinese girls have this habit of eating all the time and speaking loud loud, whereas a french born chinese or japanese usually look weird because sh basically i an asian behaving and speaking like a french girl.

    Make up also helps, a french girl and a chinesegirl definitely don’t like the same things, and french born chinese tend to follow the local trend as it’s the one they see everyday.

    Clothes too. Japanese have this seemingly weird sense of fashion but in fact in you pay attention there are a lot of codes and they cha&nge pretty fast. Hats, hair style (currently close to orange), lenght of the socks, type of shoes, they’re pretty conformist. Chinese girls tend to wear dresses and try to look like more “girly”, Which sometimes work,but most of the time means swarowski covered jeans and t-shirts, fake logos (or real logos that look fake on them). The japanese girl are not always coool, but they NEVER make a fashion faux pas.

    That said, some girls just seem to escape these rules. My GF for example. No one believes she was born in china, and most people just assume that she is japanese.

  • Zvi

    To be honest, the only thing that I really don’t like about Chinese American girls is that they so often hate white guys who like Chinese American girls, because they think it’s creepy. Most of the time, at the first hint that a guy finds Asian girls to be more attractive than white girls, they blow a gasket, call you a perv, run and scream, call the police, etc. I mean, c’mon girls, do you think a guy who doesn’t like you is going to date you? Or for that matter, would you really even want that? At least those guys don’t hate you because you like white guys. If Chinese American girls dropped this ridiculous and insulting double-standard, then they might be more attractive to most white guys, but until then, FOB knocks them out of the park.

    • Glass_Slippered_Beauty

      I don’t think this applies to all Chinese American girls. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that some Asian American girls will be looked down upon by their fellow Asian American males for hanging out or even dating males of another race. My best friend is a 3rd generation Chinese American. I know her brother, and sometimes we’ll hang out – grab some lunch, attend a car wash, etc. When I started hanging out with a half Chinese, half German male, he started telling me I was trying to ditch my culture and become an embodiment of a “Twinkie.” And obviously, I was very angry because that wasn’t what I was trying to do. A lot of my friends are white, or half Asian, but it’s only because my parents raised me in a neighborhood where first generation Asians are not common. Also, a lot of white males are accused of having a fetish if they find Asian females attractive so…

  • RP

    Hi Louisa,

    This is so interesting, but I can relate to what you said in some sense. I’m Indian and in some way it applies to Indians as well. I was researching these things about kids of immigrants and discovering who they are (like pure Chinese, Chinese American, or complete American). The way I see it if you are

    pure Chinese (or any other ethnicity)-You behave exactly like a Chinese, only into Chinese things (dress like Chinese, eat only Chinese food or mingling and interacting with Chinese ONLY), and most of all THINK and choose to have the MENTALITY of a Chinese. You pretty much don’t assimilate into western culture or anything else, or even in some cases have a huge distaste in any other culture and people who are not Chinese and not have those expectations (it may include Chinese born and raised abroad as well)

    Chinese-American/American Chinese/ABC – You assimilate embrace into other cultures and yet embrace or show your Chineseness in one way or another. Pretty much you are a mix of American/Chinese and have knowledge/contain aspects of both cultures. If you were born abroad, you may be one who loves and chooses to live the western lifestyle but yet love to  cook/eat Chinese food, celebrate Chinese New Year or may take interest in learning the language though they consider their main language as English or the majority language they are growing up. (since in this group there are many who don’t choose to speak the language, but that’s ok if they aware of where they came from). Most of all, you have that western mentality or mentality of where you grew up and enjoy bonding/socializing with everyone regardless of race. If you were raised in China for a big part of your life and then moved out, you probably will be reverse and be more Chinese and live a Chinese lifestyle but still enjoy aspects on non-Chinese culture and interact with Chinese as well.

    American-Denies completely they are Chinese. Wants to take no part of it whatsoever and avoids everything Chinesy.

    I’m def an Indian American and I love both cultures, but I was in the same position as you and had dealt with some a bit too judgemental people, some which appear nice and then stab you in the back later on. For example, I went to India not too long ago and asked for help and was taught how to wear a sari and blouse for a wedding as it was my first time, later on I was yelled and snapped at by a parent because “I didn’t know how to wear a sari and should have known by now and that it was my fault because I did not take interest before”. I guess I was pitied, but I didn’t take offense as I know better.  If you have seen it’s pretty ridiculous. I’m also under pressure for marriage now by some relatives being told I have to marry in two years. Honestly it is a very bad choice and I am nowhere ready for such a big commitment. I feel I will be ready by 27 or 28 but not by 24! Plus I know if I am forced into this, the marriage won’t be great. I need time to mature and grow into my own individual and I feel by mid/late 20ish/early 30ish, your maturity level will be set. 

  • RP


    Also as an American of a certain ethnicity, it’s hard and things can
    clash b/w your parents and relatives. This is all due to mentality and
    how we think and our beliefs. And this can be a reason why natives of a certain country look down those who were born or lived abroad from that native country. Common in India lol. It can create a clash, but you know no one
    can force one to believe and agree into one thing or another
    regardless. And also with some of the arrogant behavior, yes it’s common
    with Indians (NOT all though!) and yes it does get to a point where it
    ticks you off and want to break ties with the culture you want  to enjoy
    and embrace. I have been in those situations and was put in situations
    where I started hating some of my Indianess..because of that, when I
    went to India a few weeks back, I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable,
    therefore didn’t really talk alot or have that proper bonding with
    family that I was wishing for. I feel that what my parents and some
    relatives have put me through in the past like snapping at me for not
    speaking the language fluently or perfectly even when I was quite
    enjoying speaking and had a strong desire to make it authentic next
    time, had put a scar on me and discouraged me. Like  some Chinese, some
    Indians pressure and shove down culture/beliefs down their children’s
    throats in a way that can affect you and make you have that dislike, and yes there will be a clash and yes it does strain/ruin
    relationships between parent and child. I felt that without my parent’s 
    presence, I could have had that bonding I wanted. with them (disregard the marriage issue), plus I am
    discovering I am a independent learner and feel I would be better off
    learning more of my heritage on my own rather my parents shoving it on
    me (besides who can learn like that, and not a good way to influence your kids as well). Thing is I feel that there has to be understanding on both sides where parents and kids should talk to each other and listen to each other’s feelings/opinions (some parents like some from my family believes that parents are always right and kids’ opinions/feelings towards something is not worth or should never be taken into consideration…pretty sad)…maybe if we had that, things can go more smoothly and we can all enjoy and assimilate anything that we want to.

    Gonna conclude because I am rambling too much, but yes I am an Indian American or American of Indian heritage because I am  more suited with living the American lifestyle but yet adding some Indian “flavor” to it where I can embrace both. If I go only Indian and behave as a pure Indian, I know for sure I will have limited options and lose lots of opportunities, hopes desires and dreams that I have that may be rare or not common in a strictly Indian culture, for example taking sometime in fostering animals who are waiting for homes as a hobby along with my career. In the kind of Indian society where my family originates from, I will probably be gauked and shamed for that because many of them see dogs as disgusting and dirty but I see them as these very loving and affectionate creatures. Plus I don’t want to be just associate with Indians of my family’s origin, I love to assimiliate and be friends with other cultures and learn alot from them..broadening your horizons is always the best. Plus to be honest, those who only associate with those only of their motherland and refuse to interact with other people who are not of their motherland are very arrogant and somewhat stupid and at times racist as they flock together and love to spread gossip and shit about others.It’s like they are the best and everyone else is scum. I really hate those type of people and sadly that’s common in my family and I have seen many like that when I went to India. I probably was seen as a scum by some when I was there as well, but you know what I would rather be a scum than act superior and insult/trash down other people because they are not perfect or not of my race or don’t meet the expectations that make someone pure of a certain ethnicity.

  • BeiJingPride

    It’s true that being a person of another ethnicity living in the US, one should embrace both cultures. However, even living in an Asian dominated area, I rarely see the Chinese American youth that we all hope to see. Most are one of two types:
    – Ones who came to the US and has no intentions of welcoming a new culture.
    – Ones who lived here since early childhood or born here who goes out of their way to reject their native heritage.(ALL my cousins)
    Both these types of youths only make themselves, their families, and their native ethnicity look bad. Furthermore, an idea that my cousins here embrace is that Americans will only accept them if they try to be white; because of this idea, I grow more distant from them year after year. I do value my Chinese side more than all the other Chinese Americans I know, but that doesn’t stop me from embracing the American cultures as well. Only through being more openminded can we all live proudly as people. I only hope to see in the future, bananas/twinkies don’t shame the rest of us with their stupidity. Like all other people, there always seem to be the bad apples of the batch; we can only hope to teach future generations to be more open so we can salvage the damage done by the idiots of today.

  • Rmarchol

    I appreciate your statement, “Amy Tan does not represent me.” I graduated from the same school where she received her degree in Creative Writing. I have more positive feelings towards her after I read her recent autobiography but I felt the same way you do. Keep on blogging! Great posts!

  • prince

    Where are you from” is a common conversation starter with random strangers, who, when I give them a true, but unsatisfactory answer, shake their heads and say “no, where are you REALLY from?” Sometimes, they skip this question all together and ask me why I don’t speak English tinged with an accent (preferably something  Otherwise, they just take one look and   email(henry.palace@yahoo.com)

  • Davers

    Just my two cents.

    “美 籍 华 人” is a fairly broad way to describe Chinese Americans: Chinese immigrants who settle in the US (1st generation), including Americans of Chinese descent (2nd, 3rd, 4th… generations).

    Being born in the US to Taiwanese parents, and hence 2nd generation Chinese American, I would use “我 是 一 个 华 裔 美 国 人” to emphasize to a Chinese speaker that I am an American. 

  • adi

    It is incredibly annoying and degrading.  I am an INDONESIAN MAN, I am dark with extremely round eyes, and yet they still do this NI HAO thing to me..  Well at least we can easily sort IDIOTS and NON IDIOTS…

  • Janet

    People asking, “Where are you from?,” or, “What are you?,” already know
    that you are American! They can hear your American accent. If they
    didn’t know, then maybe it’s because they haven’t heard you speak, or
    because they’re just uncultured about that. Hope you find patience with
    those people, you are teaching them something new!

    I don’t mind those kind of blunt, general questions because I ask them
    too. It’s just casual and easy for people to understand. Gah, what
    political incorrectness!

    What annoys me is when people stupidly prejudge my Chinese culture as
    lower than theirs. My friend’s little sister was asking me if Chinese
    people “talk like ching chong kong” and proceeded in imitating elderly
    Chinese folks doing tai chi while making martial arts noises. I wanted
    to smack her with a ruler and educate her about the anatomical science
    behind tai chi, but shook my head and said that she was silly. I taught
    her how to say “hello” in Chinese and she eventually got quite good at
    the tone!

    Now a question; are you from an area with a lot of asians? To all: in
    your experience, has the density of asians in your area exposed you to
    more hindering asian stereotypes and generalizations, or more
    encouraging asian cultural-awareness and appreciation?

  • Larry

    yes i wish i could be considered just a regular normal everyday person without all the pigeonholing and cultural assumptions. I am a Canadian first and foremost and sorry for the Asian appearance if you don’t like it. Nothing can change that. Born and raised in Canada, i have more in common with Canada than China.

    • Larry

      non white people cannot enjoy white privilege. White privilege is to be invisible in the racial chaos. The privilege is to not have to think about it. to be white is to not be categorized. Asians, brown and black people do not and can not enjoy this simple but important freedom.

  • Glass_Slippered_Beauty

    I can definitely identify with you in so many ways! But I think we’re also very different. I was born in Northern China, and immigrated to California when I was 4. Why didn’t I just stay in China? Because my father lost my passport after I was born, hence he and my mom moved to CA, leaving me with my grandma until he finally decided it was time for his daughter to move. Anyhow, none of my classmates think I am a ‘FOB.’ I hate using that word, because it is so offensive, and it’s like, we’re all Chinese. We all came from the same country, our ancestors all worked on the same earth, and worshiped the same gods. I speak English very well, and like you, I also scored high on my SAT critical reading and grammar. However, when you first look at my name (I never changed it), you might think I don’t know anything about American culture or whatever. But what differentiates me from other first generation immigrants is that my father moved to the U.S. when he was 20, studied at the University of Michigan, and learned how to speak English as a boy in Taiwan. So when he came here, he could speak English fluently, and only had a slight accent. I suppose you could say he “assimilated” because he doesn’t speak Chinese that often, and even forgot how to speak Taiwanese. But my family still embodies Asian values (hard work, filial piety, etc), but in a way, we are also different from other first generation immigrants in that we aren’t poor, nor do we not know anything about American culture. So that’s what I was saying when I mentioned we’re similar, but only to an extent. Often times, I feel like I’m straddling two worlds, because people will come up to me and say “Where are you from?” or “You speak English so well! What are you – 3rd or 4th generation?” And I don’t know what to tell them. If I say I wasn’t born here, they look at me with disbelief and say I’m lying, UNLESS I show them my birth certificate (which I don’t carry around). And I can’t say I was born here, cause I wasn’t. Anyway, sorry for ranting. I just stumbled across this post, and thought it would be nice to share my experiences as an err…first generation/assimilated Chinese American.

  • icarusty

    Sorry but this is just another way of taking shame in one’s roots/race, and thus leading to a self-hatred complex.

    Anyone notice that whites in nonwhite nations don’t suffer from this? As in, people call them up for being white – much like whites do to asians in white countries – but instead of bitching about it, they are not wavering – they take no shame of being white, and are proud to be so in a non white nation. It is a sign of status.

    See Asians in America. People point out they are asian. Good – if they are insulted, fight back. If they complement you, say thanks. If they just mention your race as if its a big deal, thats their problem. While this is the rule for other minorities – blacks, latinos, arabs in european countries – asians are an exception.

    They DON’T take pride in who they are. They long to be just “American” or “british” i.e. shorthand for white…

    so whoever, whatever you are, take pride in that identity – DON’T LET OTHERS MESS IT UP FOR YOU. Whites have a vested interest in this – to “assimilate” all non whites into the white race, to the detriment of their men. Nowhere is this more obvious than to asians, where it has gotten so bad that 70% of asian women now have white partners and white children. Compare this to 20% of blacks and latinos, and 5% of arabs/muslims/indians.

    In two generations times these whitewashed asians will get their wish. “They” will be white. But do you really want to be referred to by your white descendants as that “blip” in the family tree? That “mistake” that your white father went through? Far better to have descendants who take pride in what you are.

  • chu zai

    this sounds more like something that was cooked up by a foundation rather than a real Chinese american.

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