Western and Asian values are extremely different. I have learned that sometimes the off-colour comments is unintentional, ignorance or just flat out racist. We also talk about what is the best way to react if this awful thing happens to you. If in doubt just smile and be nice, that always throws them off. If you can't convince them, confuse them. *Plays Selena Gomez - Kill them with Kindness*
Growing up in 2 different countries who had the exact opposite customs was a very confusing childhood. I find myself acting differently depending on where I was or who I was with.
And so for example, I use chopsticks when I am eating crisps at home, so my hands don’t get oily, but when I am in England, I use a fork and a spoon to eat rice.
I also drink water at different water temperature depending on which country I am in. So when I am in England, my body is 70% water and tea, whereas when I am at home, my body is probably around about 72% boiling hot water.
Growing up, whenever I didn’t agree with my parents when I was at home, they will say things like “I am so disappointed in you, you don’t understand Chinese values!” Which makes me extremely confused, because I’m like, Dad you sent me there when I was 9, so I am not sure what you were expecting here, to be honest.
But he is not all wrong, I have noticed more whiteness in me. I do like to be drunk all the time, I enjoy a good Hawaiian shirt on Holiday. I find lots of things so exotic across Asia.
I think it may be because I went to school in Cornwall, so it was about 96% white people, 2% Kebab shops and 2% Chinese takeaway. I didn’t have Asians around me to relate to. I wanted to blend in so badly, so I learned to apologise a lot.
I apologise for asking for the bill at a restaurant, I even apologise after sex.
And I guess being a bit more racially aware from a young age really opened up my eyes on how ignorant some people can be. Generally speaking, I do think most people are lowkey racist to some degree. I think it is in our human nature to be able to spot our differences, and we like to define things, right?
But there is always someone who argues for the other side to the absolute extreme.
The one that says “Yea like for me I just don’t see colour nor race coz I think we are all the same. And erm you know we are all like children of the earth, so you know we are all just the same people. We are all humans after all.”
Well, it must because you are Chinese and you can’t see very well.
It’s not racist to notice race. In fact, it’s probably more racist NOT to notice race and assume everyone has the same heritage as you do.
In school, my friends would always always highlight the fact that I am Chinese, joking about my asian features. I do have the classic Chinese features alright - short, small eyes, the whole shebang. I am now 26 but still look about 12.
But what they don’t know is that I am also considered to be short over here, even in Chinese standards. You know your eyes are pretty small when your Chinese friends (or just friends in my case) ask if I can see as much as they did.
People love running this test on me:
‘Okay I’ve put one hand here and one hand here, and I am going to make them wider apart slowly. So just tell me when you stop seeing my hand’
I used to get really upset when this happens and argue that I see the exact same range as everyone. Can everyone just stop being so fucking racist to me all the time? But now I kind of realised, maybe they are right. Like how would I know if I am seeing less than everyone else I really should start going up to people with bigger eyes just to test this theory out.
By now I am probably used to people making the odd race comments. You know some people really don’t mean it at all, and they probably just need to be more exposed to the world, and some people are just pure bags of dicks.
Those bags of dicks are usually the ones that go ‘No offence, why don’t you sort the bill out like you are Chinese, you can probably able do the maths quicker than any of us ahahahahah you know I’m just joking yea, JK’
Those bags of dicks know exactly what they are doing and try to pass it off as a just friendly banter. To me, the common racists are just the everyday assholes. It’s like kind of a 2 in 1 shampoo situation. You don’t really meet someone who is a dickhead but so respectful to race. And it works exactly the same the other way round. If you are a racist, 9 times out of 10 you are also an asshole.
But there are times that some people in some twisted way, they do mean well, but they are being racist unintentionally.
When I first went to school in England I was told to choose an English name. I was actually told I needed a different name to live in England because they will find it hard to pronounce my name and that I will actually be able to make friends easier if I had an English name.
So you are telling me that my Chinese name which already has an English spelling, it is literally just the 3 syllables. But I need another name still? And I have to learn to pronounce Genevieve? And that I should know all the different types of Seans and Sarahs? It just makes no sense.
Sidebar, I hate to break this news to you but just in case you don’t know this, Jackie Chan’s real name isn’t actually Jackie Chan.
Now, Cornwall was the place where I spent the longest time living in, so naturally, it always felt a bit more like home to me. It’s not like the rest of England, People from Cornwall has a very strong sense of being Cornish. And to be honest, nothing ever too exciting happens down there, it is a fairly closed off bit of the world. Sometimes it was hard living there because there are only white people.
And this is one of the best examples I can share. You know how some people are just trying to be nice, but it can come across a bit off.
One of my best friends’ mum would always always always make sure her house was stocked whenever I stayed over, and the one thing she always buys was soy sauce. I mean how do you get offended by that, the woman just wants to make sure I am nicely fed, she just wants to make sure I have all the options I want to have for my pie.
But of course, there are sometimes when people would overstep that mark and they are actually being racist. I kinda learnt over the years that you just have to give them a really really unexpected reaction to throw them off.
I have had kids jingling change in their pockets so it makes that ‘Chink Chink’ noise. At first, I honestly thought it was the most creative thing ever, I have never heard of that joke and I was so impressed. I actually asked them how they came up with this joke, and then the kids apologised and ran away.
I almost had a knife pulled on me once. It was like after a Friday night out in the town when I was about 16,17 at the time. I was told to go back to where I came from by this homeless guy. I know isn’t it ironic, I could have just asked him to do the same.
This was the first time ever an absolute stranger just walked up to me and started being racist. And I thought to myself, this is exactly the time to play my cards right. What I did was that I told the homeless man that I was born in the local hospital, and I think the fact I could name the local hospital by name threw him off massively.
You can see his head going ‘A Chinese person who isn’t born in China?’ After a few minutes, he eventually stopped bothering us. Well, this time after we ran away.
Oh, don’t feel sorry for me. Chinese people can be very racist too. You just don’t understand it because we speak a different language other than English. You know we don’t get as much backlash, because we are racist in our own language. English people can only speak one language most of the time. We get to talk about you to your face in public.
Like I said, everyone is a bit racist. So sometimes it might sound “Ching Chun Chow Chan Chow” to you.
But that actually means “BEEP”
So who’s the winner here?
In Hong Kong we call expats Gwei Lo, you guys don’t even get assigned a nationality. Everyone who’s foreign is just called Gwei Lo. A direct translation would mean ‘Ghost man’.
Most Westerners they are so white and pale, the Chinese refers them as ghosts. The word is so commonly used, we are so so racist to their faces, there is a beer brand in Hong Kong called Gwei Lo. But this can only work here, could you imagine the shit will go down if there was a Jerk Chicken shop in Texas using the N word. .
It is so good that we are starting to recognise different race, profiles, backgrounds, upbringing. It almost ridiculous to say this, but it is time to really celebrate and learn about the different cultures. Stop pretending that we should all fit into this one thing and that we are all exactly the same. We have to realise that there will be different perspectives, different opinion and definitely we need more different voices.