That Asian (American) couple

laelene Post in general blog,Tags: , , , , , ,

Are there not enough Asians who live in the UK? Everywhere we go, Panda and I have been grouped into the Asian category. People see us and assume we came from China. We’ve had ladies on the street ask us for directions in Mandarin and restaurant owners who speak to us in Chinese dialects. They seem shocked, bewildered even, when they hear us speak English with American accents or act like we don’t understand Chinese. It’s as if the only Asians in all of Great Britain are tourists or something. I mean, I feel like we’ve seen our fair share of Chinese people milling about, but I guess it is true that each and every one of them was a Chinese tourist (at least all the ones I heard say anything).

tourists in plaza by buckingham palace in london

Chinese or American tourist? Do I have have to choose between them?

Still, it’s been quite an experience for me to relive the times in my childhood when my American-ness was a big deal. Whenever I’d go back to China as a kid, I got a fair share of attention for being “that American girl” who grew up not like the rest of them. As I grew up it became less and less unusual. In the US, particularly in the Los Angeles region, not only is it normal, it’s practically expected that you grew up in America. The majority of my peers are born and bred Americans. I don’t often run into those who have recently emmigrated and are still new to American culture, though there are still plenty of those. For the most part, Asians of all sorts in California have likely been in the country for a least one generation if not more. I’m of a slightly less common variety of those who moved as a toddler. Most of my Asian-American friends are true ABCs and a lot don’t even speak Chinese. I’m glad that I do, or I’d feel even more awkward out here!

A few weeks ago, I started to learn Cantonese partly because it is so weird to sit around not understanding what’s going on at a Cantonese restaurant when Panda is conversing with the staff. I always wonder if those people think I’m an ABC who has little to no ties to the mainland, or if they realize that I’m just a Mandarin speaker who can’t make sense of the Cantonese going on around me. I hate feeling left out so I figured I might as well learn basic terms to get me through standard day-to-day conversations!

It’s funny how we’re now mistaken for tourists from mainland China when Panda’s never even been and I’ve always been identified as an outsider. I never could understand how I’d go back to China and people would know right away that I wasn’t raised there. When I was younger, my extremely tan skin probably gave it away. Now that I’m paler have I lost my scarlet letter? Or is it just that people abroad can’t tell as easily as those in China? Whatever the case, I’ve suddenly become a lot more conscious of our outer appearance not always matching up to what people assume us to be. I feel out of place already as a foreigner and that just adds another layer. It will be nice to return home where our Asian-American-ness is not questioned!

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