Thursday, April 21, 2011

When my eyes roll back

Anybody of Chinese extraction who has lived in the West would have been asked about the routine stereotypical questions (you know the ones).  There was a recent web article from CNNGo which I found quite interesting and I thought it is a good idea to jot down the five questions I loathe.

1.  "Are Chinese or Japanese?"  This is a question I've heard many times and if I got a £1 for every time I answered this, I'd be rich.  The next question would be "what's the difference between Chinese and Japanese?"  Then it is "can you speak Chinese/Japanese?" followed by "how are they different?" - Yawn...

2.  Do you have a Chinese name?  and How come you have an English name?  I get this a lot when you meet new people.  I bet ignorant Westerners have a field day when it comes to  Chinese names.  I have seen loads of jokes, especially in these Chinglish topic websites.  Yes, they are hilarious aren't they?  Well it is human nature to laugh at things that look funny to you.  After all, there are plenty of English surnames that are equally funny.  Then we have the Chinese person with an English name.  Unless you're family have been in the West for many generations and don't really follow Chinese naming traditions.  Many Chinese people would have been born with a Chinese name.  The English name comes later.  It might have been given when you or you might have found one you like when you were at school.  Have Westerners ever thought that it makes communications easier when you have a name that everybody can pronounce and you don't have to explain yourself.

3.  Do you speak Mandarin or Cantonese?  If you knew where I came from, do you need to ask?

4.  Do you do kung fu?  and can you show me some?  This is actually rather mind-numbing.  The real answer is yes I do kung fu and no I won't show you any.  Any traditional martial artist would not show off their skills and abilities, we're not circus monkeys.  If you're respectful and genuinely interested, then that's different.  Then there is the compulsory Bruce Lee monkey noises.  Real kung fu is no joke and no I won't trivialise my tradition.

5.  The issue of eating cats and dogs.  *sigh* This is very, very tiring, but many Westerners feel it is ok to harp on about it.  I don't eat cats and dogs, I don't believe in this sort of behaviour.

It is quite funny how Westerners love talking about these things to Chinese people.  Just because Chinese people will generally just take it, it doesn't mean we enjoy putting up with it.  If you pose the same sort of nonsense to  members of other ethnic or religious groups, you'd probably be sued and the press will have a field day.

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