Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Archive for August, 2008

Aiyah! Gum Yook Suen Ah! – Being Asian raised in the west

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 25, 2008

The Racialicious post on biracial people of Asian descent having “mental issues” got me thinking about how immigrant Asian parents treat their western born/raised children.  There’s so much pressure to succeed in Asian culture and it seems that everyone is expected to be as perfect as possible.  Perfect, meaning good-looking, popular and smart.  And the old country definition of good-looking isn’t always the same as here.  For example, I’m a little on the dark side for Chinese and I also have some freckling from an acne problem I had as a teen.  My mom has been, for the past ten years, bugging me to get rid of the spots.  She hasn’t gone as far as implying that I look ugly, but has come close.  She also thinks I’m too flabby.  OK, so I’ve been a little lazy about doing weights (but at least I exercise!), but does she have to point that out?  All the freaking time?  Her idea of beauty is not the same as that of my poh poh (maternal grandmother), who hates muscles.  She thinks young women need to look delicate.  I guess I’m somewhere in between, but in between isn’t satisfactory.

I’ve also been criticized about work.  I realize that by planning a start-up, I’m way behind my age group/education level in terms of salary, but like looks, do you have to constantly bug me about it?  What’s crazy is that half the time, my mother is bugging me about it and the other half, she’s like “well, at least you’re living at home, so you don’t have to worry about rent/food/laundry.”  In my mom’s mind, I should have gone into finance.  I’d probably be in lower-middle management by now and making close to six figures.  It’s so hard to live up to these “standards.”  It’s no wonder some second generation kids have issues.  And those who’re of mixed descent are probably worse off, because they have the pestering side vs the more free-spirited side constantly clashing.  If it confuses and upsets me, someone who is monoracial, then it must be worse for someone who is mixed.

Of course, there are also people who are very well adjusted, regardless of whether they’re mixed or not.

Cantonese terms:

* Gum Yook Suen Ah! = So ugly!

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Posted in Asian, assimilation, race | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Chinese may be winning medals, but sports aren’t popular at schools

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 21, 2008

According to the Wall Street Journal, the lack of organized sports at schools may make it difficult for companies like Nike to sell in China. Most schools just don’t have organized sports teams.  Athletes (such as those winning medals for China), on the other hand, attend special training schools.   The Wall Street Journal blames the culture – traditional Chinese culture still seems to prefer academics over extra-curricular activities.  This may be true, but only to a certain extent.  What the article does not mention is funding.  Many schools, especially those in rural areas have very little money.  Some of these schools make inner-city schools in the US and Canada look like they’re the most equipped and up-to-date.

My experience, of course, is very different.  Most Chinese people I know are not from the mainland, and never grew up with the stigma that sports was not for people who want to succeed in proper jobs.  Different ethnic groups did participate in different sports at my high school (e.g. in the most extreme, badminton was 99.9% non-Canadian born Chinese, while hockey (both field and ice) was 99.9% white.), but almost everyone did SOMETHING (even I ran cross country for one season).  However, I do hear stories from the older generation that school sports just wasn’t part of academic culture in elementary or high school.  My parents certainly never talked about it.  My parents DID have phys. ed at school though.  And I guess schools had house leagues.  But i don’t think inter-school sports existed until recently.

What do you think?   What about the culture?  Do you think the success of the Chinese Olympic Team would change parents’ perception of sport, that it’s something everyone could participate in, rather than “special kids” who’re sent to schools at a young age?  Were you on a school team?  What did you play?

Posted in Asian, China, culture, education, school, sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

All non-black non-whites are “brown”?

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 20, 2008

Racialicious has GOT to be the first blog where all non-whites who aren’t black are referred to as “brown” (at least by some posters.  I can’t for the life of me see how anyone who is say, Chinese or Japanese can possibly be brown, unless one is referring to eye colour (or hair highlights) or to someone who has spent too much time in the tanning salon.  Tan or taupe I can understand, but brown, proper?  I don’t think so.  Unless, of course, you’re into the whole colour group thing.  However, most people think of brown as being something much darker than tan or taupe.  Calling these people brown is beyond racist.

Posted in Asian, culture, ethnicity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

What exactly is “Chinatown”?

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 19, 2008

Many Greater Toronto Area sites boast that there are several Chinatowns, including those in the suburbs. But are the Chinese areas in Markham, Scarborough and Mississauga truly Chinatown? To some, “real” Chinatown is in the downtown areas of Toronto, along Dundas and Spadina or the “Eastern” Chinatown in the Riverdale area. The “Chinese enclaves” in Markham, Scarborough and Mississauga are, on the other hand are suburbs that just happen to have many services catering to Chinese speaking communities.

The “real” Chinatowns downtown have a unique feel to it in every sense of the word. And it feels historical, a little like something out of a Wayson Choy or Amy Tan novel. Markham (or other suburban “Chinatowns), on the other hand, feels like any other suburb, where house prices start at around $350K. Markham is fairly middle class all-round, while “Old Chinatown” is mixed – generally students, “Old Chinatown Chinese” (i.e. seniors who came decades ago), and higher-earning hipster types. There’s obvious poverty there.  It’s often dirty.  The two largest income groupings are either over $100K/year or between $10,000 and $19,999.

Many suburbanites don’t consider Old Chinatown safe, especially at night. When I was in high school, I was warned over and over not to go down there. I wasn’t even supposed to wander around during the day.  Perhaps this is why these people don’t want to claim the suburban Chinese areas as “Chinatown.” It’s all about rep, you know. And in Confucian cultures, you just can’t lose face. People in the old country know about “Chinatown” (meaning downtown) and if you tell them you live there, they’d think that you’re not successful (unless you’re a student at th University of Toronto).

So this brings us back to the original question. Are the suburban Chinese communities “Chinatown,” or does Chinatown have to reflect the the immigrant/”ethnic” stereotype of being dirty, poor and “other”?

Posted in Asian, Cantonese, CBC, China, Chinatown, Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

A Gentle Reminder About Comments

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 18, 2008

I recently had to delete a few comments left on this blog because they were personal attacks, either to a previous commentor or to myself. Just a note that Chinese Canuck DOES NOT WELCOME comments like this.

Thank you

Posted in Etiquette | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ethnic Blogs – Why some bug me (yet I still like reading them)

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 13, 2008

Many ethnic/race blog I’ve been to seem to have a very liberal/PC and American point of view.  If you olay a devil’s advocate and say that some groups do things one way because of ABC, you’re hounded.  It’s my way or the highway, and they never look at any other point of view, even if it is constructive.  It’s as if posters are members of some sort of clique.  It’s like high school!  All because sometimes, my ideas can be really different. I’ve even been called stupid by some people (you know who you are!) because I’ve pointed out that some countries consider term A PC while other countries prefer Term B (and find Term A un-PC…think Asian vs Oriental).  This is especially the case if the topic is on beauty.  I’m trying to avoid these topics now, because I’m a little tired of people going on and on about how colonialism was the most major influence on beauty standards in say, Asia – especially when it comes to ideal skin colour.  They seem to ignore the fact that fair skin has always been the standard.  They sometimes even go on and on about embracing the “traditional look” – as if the “traditional look” was ever “ideal.”  But this isn’t the only thing that bothers me.  Religion is another.  I have had people ask me why I’m Catholic.  Why I don’t just “embrace” eastern faiths because Catholicism is a religion resulting from missionaries coming in to “convert the heathens of China.”  My family has been Catholic for four generations.  I don’t see myself any other way.  I am comfortable being a lapsed Catholic.  I can’t see myself converting to any eastern faith.  Not at all.

What upsets me the most are the so-called “white liberals” (actually they aren’t always white.  Just people who are ignorant about other cultures..sometimes even people who are of MY CULTURE or similar cultures, but haven’t been too internationally exposed) who seem to want to erase the past.  Or if they don’t, they want to embrace something that they’re not (this is usually where the not-too-internationally-exposed non-white people come in)  Um, did anyone ever ask you?  What if something is so ingrained that reverting back to the so-called “traditional style” just isn’t realistic, and perhaps even mocked if one ever decides to go back to said tradition?  It’s sort of telling us that your culture/way is better and that we shouldn’t be practicing.  It’s also putting us in neat little boxes/areas.  Kind of like a supermarket or department store.  Again, these people are trying to put their beliefs into others, sometimes to the point of giving readers migraines.

So some of these blogs bug me.  If they do that, why do I read them?  Because I want to let people know that their way isn’t the only way.  I often point out that their way of thinking, and telling people that their way is the only PC way is kind of like colonialism.  In many countries, entire cultures were changed because foreigners came in and told them what to do.  When they resisted, they were killed.  It is no different in the blog world.  If ethnic blogs believe that colonialism/history of slavery/etc was wrong, then they really shouldn’t be telling people what to do and what to say.

Posted in Asian, colonialism, culture, ethnicity, minorities | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Cute kid in Olympic Opening Ceremonies LIP SYNCED!

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 12, 2008

So newspapers are reporting that the little girl who sang the Chinese anthem at the opening ceremonies did not really sing it.  Instead, she pulled a Milli Vanilli because the REAL singer “wasn’t cute enough.”  Both little girls are cute, IMHO, but I also understand that China can be very lookist.  I mean, the medal hostesses have to be tall, slim and pretty.  PR type jobs only hire slim people (my mom read an article about a slightly chubby, petite woman who didn’t qualify for a job despite being a university grad who speaks English)  Heck, even my MOTHER, who grew up in Hong Kong and has been in Canada for almost 40 years is very lookist (though she isn’t as bad as some).   Mom has criticized my shopping habits (she thinks the clothes I buy are poorly-made…Mom, it’s about money.  I can’t buy the stuff you buy!  And I also like supporting unknown designers) and how I prefer not to use that permanently erase my acne scars.  I’ve even come across women in department stores who openly say that they won’t buy certain brands because they’ve never heard of the name.  Honestly, I think for the most part, this is a self-esteem issue.  Being an emerging country, they feel that they need to be physically attractive in order to be seen as worthy.  But when it involves kids, it’s just not a good thing.

Posted in Asian, culture | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Interracial Dating: Fetish from the woman’s side?

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 8, 2008

Ethnic/race sites like Racialicious often talk about IRR (Interracial Relationships) and fetish. Almost always, the posts deal with fetish from men. It’s almost as if, especially when dealing with Asian Female/White Male relationships, only the guy could ever have fetish. What about the women? Aren’t the women fetishing something too? And it isn’t necessarily perceived ideal beauty, but maybe a lifestyle? Growing up, many immigrant kids watch television, read books, etc and dream of that “perfect,” what we now call “Martha Stewart” life. They want the perfect place settings, the perfect kitchen, the perfect house. It’s not that you can’t have those if you marry an Asian guy, but it’s more of the image. With an Asian guy, you may still be expected to do Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinner the Chinese way – that is if you grew up doing it at all – you know, a turkey marinated in soy sauce and stuffed with sticky rice (some people don’t like it – I do), bok choy , etc. Or they don’t want to be criticized by a prospective MIL because she feels that they aren’t “fill-in-the-blank-culture enough” (can happen…moms seem to have higher expectations of Asianness when their kids’ significant others are of the same ethnicity). Perhaps the “fetish,” isn’t physical (at least from the woman’s side), but a lifestyle. Of course, this lifestyle really only exists in the pages of Martha Stewart Living and at displays at Williams-Sonoma, but a girl can want to make it as close to that as possible. Trust me, if I lived on my own, I would (and I don’t think I need a guy to do it). However, I don’t think I can with my parents around, for various reasons.

Of course, that kind of lifestyle also comes with a bit of preppiness. True preppiness is mostly white, in my experience. There are preppy Asian guys, but they’re usually first generation preppy (I really don’t get the unattractive factor here. No Asian guy I know is completely unattractive/geeky/insert Asian stereotype. Some are even high maintenance/metro!) True preps aren’t too brandwhorish or materialistic. They like the good life. They also like to look well-groomed, but it’s not all about displaying labels. That’s not hot, after all. Sadly, many first gen preppies have parents who are the complete opposite. It’s about getting the luxury car, wearing and displaying the logos and so forth. Sure, I’m generalizing here, but it happens. Second, third gen preppies and beyond are more subdued. Perhaps some women want that.

It’s interesting that the typical male Asiaphile does not fall into this ideal. Most Asiaphiles are unattractive nerds or middle age, overweight men. These guys, at least in the extreme, are more likely to want the opposite of what the woman mentioned above wants. They want a more Asian lifestyle. Perhaps that’s why they prefer foreign women. They’re easier to mold and not to mention, they probably see these guys as arm candy as well (even if they don’t LOOK LIKE arm candy -heh). These women probably don’t want the Martha Stewart lifestyle, at least not the way a North American raised Asian woman sees it. They may want that “ideal American life” but probably won’t go into details such as place settings, food, social stationary and the like, especially if they’re from a developing country.

Of course, I’m probably generalizing, especially with foreign Asian women. I’m not foreign, so what am I supposed to know? In addition, many people would probably disagree with me, especially when it comes to the western-raised Asian and her wanting the “ideal lifestyle.” But it’s something that is rarely discussed in ethnic message boards regarding IRRs. Maybe it’s time for that to change. After all, a lifestyle can be a fetish too.

Posted in Asian, culture, ethnicity, interracial, interracial relationships, minorities | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Education, Tradition, Legacies and Interfaith Relationships

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 6, 2008

Some people say that interracial relationships are more difficult than other intercultural relationships. I beg to differ and say that interfaith is harder than anything else. It isn’t necessarily holiday-related, but for things like what school hypothetical children should go to.

Several of my classmates are legacies. Legacies, not because they did something while at the school that would go down in history, but because they’re daughters of Old Girls (alumnae). While the term isn’t officially used in any of the school’s literature, emphasis on the importance of continuing a tradition of sending daughters to the school is definitely felt. There are scholarships and bursaries that give priorities to these girls.

Many outsiders, however, do not understand this, but eventually do so (or at least attempt to) after a short explanation. My boyfriend is one of those people, but I’m not sure if he truly understands. I haven’t officially told him that should we marry and have daughters, that I’d like the girls to go to school there. This could be an issue down the road, because he doesn’t seem to be comfortable with the idea of sending them to a school that I consider to be “vaguely Christian.” (some would beg to differ, and say that it’s very religious…this school is a university preparatory school, not one that emphasizes faith, especially when the vast majority of its students aren’t even of the school’s religion!) He would blame his mother, but I’m not so sure it’s all his mom. It’s him too. I’ve tried to overcome this by suggesting that the hypothetical daughters go to a more neutral school. But I still have a preference for my alma mater – it’s just something that’s ingrained in many of us who went there.

Some people may think that my wanting little legacy children is a little on the superficial side, especially when I’m not a legacy myself, and that I’m not from a “traditional prep school type family.” (read: WASP – but see, there are a lot of things that some people (especially people involved in “minority politics” don’t understand…like why some Hong Kong Canadians like these schools). But don’t legacies have to start somewhere? Not everyone is multigeneration. In any case, the school has very high standards when it comes to academics, as well as up-to-date teaching methods and technology. If one has daughters and can afford the tuition, they should apply.  Religion shouldn’t be the number one factor to consider when it comes to applying to a school.  Academics should be priority.

I think the religious thing is hindering him from fully accepting the whole legacy/tradition thing.  I’d love to be able to send any daughters I have to the school, but if one of us doesn’t agree, then there’d be issues.  If I were dating someone who was of a different ethnicity, but the same or similar religions, choosing to apply to the school wouldn’t be a problem – unless his side has has connections to another school.

Posted in education, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Greyhound Slaying, Immigration, Mental Health and Culture

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 5, 2008

I’m sure most of you have already heard about the Greyhound beheading in Canada a few days ago. The accused is an immigrant from China who apparently has no real history of mental health issues. However, many of his close friends have said that he did seem distant and refused help, according to an Edmonton Journal report. I’m wondering if his refusal for help is cultural-related. The social stigma of mental illness is much greater there than it is here, and therapy is relatively new. I have relatives who find therapy weird, especially if it’s for “normal” people (i.e. those who are depressed. They believe that depression is an invention of the modern middle class). But no one has said that the murderer is depressed. It could be a whole host of issues. But I’m not sure if things will change all that quickly. The culture is very old, and talking to people who aren’t related to you is seen as odd, even for younger people.

When people immigrate to Canada, they are required to have a medical examination. This includes physical and mental health. However, to my understanding, the mental health exam is not too detailed. Should it be more detailed? Perhaps people like this guy would not have been allowed in. If this isn’t a case of depression, it’s likely that this guy has had issues LONG BEFORE HE CAME TO CANADA.

Posted in China, culture, immigration | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »