Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

You want to be considered “Canadian”? Stop acting “foreign”!

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 22, 2008

Asians being perceived as foreigners, even if they have been in Canada (or the US, Australia, etc) for generations is common. But has anyone ever thought of why? Other than the fact that Asians aren’t white or the fact that the vast majority are either immigrants or second generation? Maybe it’s because SOME people don’t want to act a certain way? You know, if some people, especially people who may be distinct in one way or another do something, people outside of that group may automatically believe that EVERYONE in that group is just like that.

Being treated one way doesn’t necessarily depend on what you look like, but how you act. Remember the musical/play, My Fair Lady/Pygmalion? Eliza Doolittle’s transition from flower girl to “lady” wasn’t because she was dressed well, but because of the way she spoke and acted. If it was all about appearances, Henry Higgins would have finished his “experiment”as soon as Eliza was cleaned up and out of her flower girl clothes!

Right now, the rain hasn’t fallen on the plain just yet. I’m actually not even sure when it will fall. People who question whether there’s a “real” Canadian identity, people who question why it’s necessary to adapt to the local cultures, etc, aren’t really helping much. And yes, even if you don’t assimilate/integrate/whatever you want to call it, you need to have an idea of what people are talking about. Don’t want to? Why on earth are you here (and regardless of what some people say, these people DO exist…I know a few who’ve been in English-speaking Canada longer than they were in the old country and STILL sound like they’re fresh off the plane. And these people aren’t older. They’re like 30! Look, if you came to this country at the age of 11 or 12, I expect a bit of an accent, but HALTING ENGLISH?? C’mon!)? And if you were born here, what on earth did your parents tell you? Did they brainwash you? It also doesn’t help that some people, especially the immigrant generation (and this is really common with Hong Kong Chinese in my circle), treat anyone who isn’t from their culture as foreigners (and some of these immigrant parents DO brainwash their children). Yes, this includes white Canadians who have been in the country for decades (though this may be out of habit, but still). You know, if you treat people one way, expect that treatment back. Thanks.

(BTW, I would like to see other people’s comments too.)

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9 Responses to “You want to be considered “Canadian”? Stop acting “foreign”!”

  1. […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptEliza Doolittle’s transition from flower girl to “lady” wasn’t because she was dressed well, but because of the way she spoke and acted. If it was all about appearances, Henry Higgins would have finished his “experiment”as soon as Eliza … […]

  2. juliana said

    “You know, if you treat people one way, expect that treatment back.”

    That’s true. Also, people do judge you more on how you act than on what you wear. You have a really good blog here.

    Thanks for the comments on mine. Infact I think you have a point. I wasn’t raised to be a commoner. I was raised to be better than that.

  3. I don’t know anybody like that, thirty-year-old HK Chinese people who came when they were 12 and speak halting English, and I grew up in Markham. Then again, I wouldn’t be unable to communicate with them even if they existed in significant numbers, so I wouldn’t know.

    Even if you succeeded in forcing Chinese foreigners to act not-foreign with 7 years, it’s not going to solve the problem. Canada’s immigration rate is much, much higher than Canada’s birth rate (especially since our birth rate is negative), so there will always be more Chinese immigrants than CBCs. If you are worried that Chinese immigrants are making us look bad, you can try to get the government to stop immigration from Chinese and East Asian countries, but I don’t think that’s very constitutional or exemplary of Canadian values.

  4. Restructure, you have NOT met my cousin then. He spoke at his wedding last year, and I was SHOCKED to hear him. He did NOT sound like someone who came in Grade 7.

  5. For #3, I meant to say “I wouldn’t be able to communicate with them” or “I would be unable to communicate with them.”

    Do you know a lot of people like that, like your cousin? The people in my family have more of a jook-sing problem than a FOB problem. Actually, all the cousins I know were born in the West…

  6. I know a few people like my cousin, but most don’t speak English as BADLY as my cousin.

  7. Alston said

    I think that since the cultural demographic of Canada is changing, what is considered normal and foreign is also changing. People are questioning what is normal and even challenging it. I embrace this and anything that allows people to be and act who they are. In this context, “stop acting foreign” has little meaning.

  8. Wait, so you’re okay with people not bothering to learn English (or French) beyond basic communication? Especially if they’ve been here for years (and came as a kid)? Telling their kids that multi-generational Canadian behaviour is wrong/bad (opposed to “different”)? What about not bothering to learn (opposed to not practicing) what’s still considered “mainstream” behaviour? It’s just as unenlightened as say, someone who uses racial slurs and chews with his/her mouth open.

    Alston, are you second generation or are very close friends with people who’re second gen? Because it seems to me that most people, immigrant or multi-gen, have no idea what second gens are talking about and are all “let’s just be diverse ’cause it’s so great.” In reality, it sucks and keeps people down. More on that in another post.

  9. overseas chinese said

    It must be my age. I am slowly to believe that there are so many different ways to be Chinese. We don’t have to fit into one “mold”. I am for diversity too but I strongly agree that people should at least learn English.
    Nice blog.

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