From an outsiders perspective you may just put it down to cultural difference, but when you’re on the receiving end it can feel like a never-ending torrent of assumptions. Where one would never say to a German girl, how well do you know Slovakian? Or to a French guy, how’s your knowledge of Macedonian history? Apparently it’s totally acceptable to collate a whole region and generalise as you see fit. Hot tip, it’s not. Here’s all the things your Asian friend may laugh at uncomfortably but certainly has heard before.
“Where are you from?”
A suburb response, even town, city or exact coordinates wouldn’t be enough info for the asker. It’s a loaded question, what they really mean is what type of Asian are you. Even if you were born here.
“No, I mean where are you originally from?”
Ah yes, the follow up question. Originally? As in my ancestors right? The answer you’re looking for is I’m related to Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and I’m a master at Kung Fu. Satisfied?
“My type is usually Asian women.”
Asian women cop the brunt of stereotypes, thanks to a fetishisation of their cultural behaviour. Not all Asian women are dutiful wives who live to serve you, so if that’s what you mean by “type” please walk the other way.
Is that really the only ~asian~ phrase you know?
“Ni hao ma.”
Oh ok, you know one more. Good for you.
“You’re Chinese/Vietnamese/Japanese right? Do you know [anyone with the last name Lee, Wang, or Chong]?”
Yes plenty actually. I have a rolodex of every Asian person indexed by last name, it’s a hefty contact book I tell you that! Would you ever ask an Aussie if they knew someone with the name Smith or Johnson? Didn’t think so.
“Your English is really good.”
As my key communicative tool, yes my English is real good. Thanks. I know the fact that I’m Asian may indicate otherwise, but I tone down the accent in front of idiots like you. Unless I’ve stepped fresh off the plane or you’re talking to an overseas born person overseas – it’s not ok.
“What’s your Chinese name though?”
Obviously you wouldn’t understand the characters but it’s 公主香蕉吊床. Also, I’m not Chinese.
“Ah, but all Asians are just good at math.”
Slow clap for your progressive thoughts.
“Can you teach me origami/ dumpling making/ insert cultural practice here?”
In fact I’m a real life geisha this Western clothing I’m wearing is all but a disguise. Context is key here, but if you’re using this as a pickup line, not a good start.
“Wait, do you understand other Asian languages?”
Yes, in fact I understand all languages. I am the knower of all things.
“You have it easy, your parents pay for everything.”
“Have you ever eaten dog?!”
Yes, Chinese people eat dog. Yes, some Asian food is weird to you. Do you have to bring it up in every conversation? Probably not.
“Asian people just never age!”
Actually you’re welcome to check my license, I certainly do age. I wish I wasn’t as baby faced but hey, what can you do. But it doesn’t stop me from getting hounded by people like you.
“You’re really exotic!”
Ew, stop right there.
“How do you tell people apart? You all look the same.”
Perhaps you need to get your eyesight checked. Trying to differentiate between a bunch of foreigners, anywhere you’re not from, is scientifically proven to be more difficult. But hey, you just chose to be a dick about it.
“Are you attracted to other Asians?”
No, I’m allergic to them obviously.
Image source: The Atlantic.