Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Archive for the ‘assimilation’ Category

Dinner party or just a communal table?

Posted by chinesecanuck on November 10, 2008

I was recently at a dinner hosted by an accquaintance of mine.  She’s a university student and is the president of one of the school’s clubs.  Most of the guests at her dinner party, which was held at one of the local restaurants, were members of said club, with the exception of myself and another guest.  The club was somewhat diverse:  Half were Asian (mostly immigrant or foreign (visa) students), one was South Asian, one black guest and the club president and VP are white. 

There was something about the dinner that bothered me.  It wasn’t because the executive wasn’t “ethnic,” but how people interacted with each other.  WIth the exception of myself, the other Asian guests only talked with each other, even after the host tried to get them to join in.  The dinner felt more like dining at a counter or communal table – it felt like two separate groups.  Some may suggest that language was an issue, but they seemed to speak English well enough to join an organization that was English-speaking only.  Discussion topics might have been an issue, since we spent some time talking about movies, music, etc…but it didn’t dominate the entire meal. 

There was a lot of self-segregation when I was in school in the 90s and early 2000s, but generally, people didn’t join clubs if they were only going to talk amongst themselves.  Of course, I’ve only met these people once.  They might not be like that outside of that dinner situation (or accept the post-dinner mall excursion invite) – after all, there were two outsiders (myself and another person) at the party.  However, that wasn’t what it looked like to me as an observer.  And it just bugged.


Posted in assimilation, culture, education, English, ESL, ethnicity, minorities | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Media and Immigrant/Second Gen Stories

Posted by chinesecanuck on September 8, 2008

It’s too bad that the media rarely talk about people like me. I think the world needs to read more about non-white immigrant/second gen people who just aren’t that “old country.” Whenever I read stories about immigrants, especially non-white immigrants in newspapers or blogs, it’s always about immigrants being marginalized, with the lack of resources to services, etc, etc…So where are the stories about people like me? Where are the stories about upper middle class Chinese Canadians? I don’t think we’re that small a group. And I also don’t want to read about crazy culture clashes between the immigrant parents and western-raised kids, either. That’s soooooo over done. I just want to see pieces, fiction or non-fiction about NORMAL suburban families.

As a kid, I never felt that I was marginalized. In fact, to this day, I’ve experienced more issues with more traditional immigrant/second gen+ people (other than people from the HK Chinese community) than people who’ve been in Canada since the Upper Canada Rebellion! This is something I’d love to hear about in media. Discrimination between immigrant groups. I’d also love to hear people talk about rates of integration with “mainstream culture” and how some immigrant groups find it odd that other groups adopt “white/Anglo” culture. I can’t tell you how many times non-HK second gen Canadians have criticized me for being “too Canadian.” I’ve been criticized by HKers too, but it isn’t as bad. HKers think “Oh, it’s because ChineseCanuck was born/raised in Canada,” while other immigrant/second gen Canadians act as if what I do is disgusting. With WASPs, it’s only an issue when ethnicity is brought in the picture, not everyday life.

My question to the media is this: Are people like me not worth talking about? If so, why? I guess I won’t receive an answer, because you guys don’t read blogs like this…or don’t care.

Posted in Asian, assimilation, ethnicity, media | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Quebec Schools Required to Mark Non-Christian Holidays

Posted by chinesecanuck on September 2, 2008

And this goes for private schools too, according to the Globe and Mail.  I’m a little confused about the article.  Do the students have to take these days off?  I hope not, as won’t be that many days left for instruction!  And why is it an issue to teach other religions in a (say) Catholic school?  I went to an Anglican school with chapel, and sat through presentations on Islam and Judaism.  It’s great to get some exposure to other cultures.  However, at the same time, I worry that teachers aren’t trained properly enough to teach other religions/cultures.  Those not properly trained will make people of non-majority cultures feel more “other” than they already are.  This is especially the case for non-majority cultures who are assimilated.  People, even those who know you quite well, will start assuming that your culture is one way and will avoid doing some things around you because of what they were taught.  Take, for example, baby showers.  This is not done in many cultures (including Chinese culture) because of all the risks associated with childbirth.  But someone born and raised in North America may want one.  Heck, even immigrant women may want one!  Apparently, my mom’s work friends threw her a baby shower before I was born.  However, that was 1979, before all those sensitivity seminars were brought into the workplace.  I highly doubt that something like that would be done today, even outside work hours.  People are trained to believe that some cultures just don’t find them appropriate and may even be insulted.  Even the article has mentioned something that could be considered a faux pas in my book.  The curriculum mentions that “while most Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving, Jews mark the autumn harvest with Sukkot.”  I know Jewish people who do Thanksgiving.  Sukkot.  I know Jews who do Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is NOT a religious holiday in Canada.  That’s why I feel badly for the non-Catholic students at Loyola (school mentioned in the article).   But is not teaching it better than teaching it?  If Loyola doesn’t have many non-Catholic students, then kids there may not be exposed to other religions all that much.  Wouldn’t it make sense to teach about other religions?  However, at the same time, private religious schools shouldn’t have to teach things they don’t believe in.

What do you think about this?  Do you think Loyola is going too far by considering legal action?

Posted in assimilation, culture, education, ethnicity, religion | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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!

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

Integration is really a class/education thing?

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 14, 2008

Over the weekend, I had a lengthy discussion on immigration and integration with a friend. Friend believes that immigrants who are more likely to retain old country values (ranging from total arranged marriages (i.e. not “this is A, this is B. You guys go out on supervised ‘dates’ and then decide whether you like each other or not” type arrangements) to marrying young to not moving out until marriage, etc) are those who are not as educated. Educated people, my friend believes, are more open to their children adopting mainstream, Anglo-Saxon (or Francophone if you’re in Quebec) values because they’re more exposed. In fact, they probably have picked up some of the values themselves (even if it’s more old fashioned – my mother, for example, gave me an etiquette book when I was 12. This etiquette book is likely a traditional gift to a 10-12 year old who attends junior cotillions and will be a debutante in her late teens. I was not a debutante. They aren’t all that common in Toronto, unless you’re Filipina). Friend cited the European immigrants who came in the 1900s or even after WWII. Many of these immigrants only had two or three years of formal education compared to Anglo Canadians had at the time (probably Grade 8-ish). They worked unskilled jobs and their social lives revolved around their place of worship which spoke the language from the motherland and observed traditions of the country.

I think my friend is only partially right in this case. There are plenty of immigrants who are really well-educated, yet their credentials from abroad do not make them qualified for the jobs they did in the old country. Immigrants who are the most integrated, those who have picked up Anglo-Saxon values are those who were educated here. Why? Because they came young. When you’re 18 years old and away from home, the first thing you want to do is something that is considered taboo to your parents. This isn’t only something that foreign students do, but basically anyone who is going to school out of town! 🙂 For some people, the new values stick, especially if you intend to stay in the new country. There aren’t parents to tell you that what you’re doing is not proper.  In addition, parents who are willing to send their kids abroad, especially girls, are probably already open-minded anyway.  It’s also the exposure that they may have career-wise.  I have noticed that many immigrants who are in, say, finance or law (especially of their senior management), are more culturally Anglo than even equally educated (or perhaps more so) and equally financially well-off doctors whose patients are primarily from the immigrant communities.  The doctor, in turn, is probably “more exposed”/culturally Anglo than someone who owns a small business.

Readers, do you think this is true? Is education the key to being more open-minded and perhaps even integrating? Or is it a combination of being educated in the new country and education itself?  Is it a class thing?

Posted in assimilation, culture, education, ethnicity, minorities, social class | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Passing on Traditions and Keeping in Touch with One’s Roots

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 9, 2008

Matthew Egan has a post in Racialicious today about his Jewish identity. At the end of the post, mentions a conversation his fiancée had with another woman, who grew up in Chinatown about understanding one’s roots. But what does that mean in the twenty-first century? Culture changes so rapidly that many traditions become obsolete. Other traditions were invented or adapted by immigrants when they arrive in their new homeland.

I often read stories about ABCs or CBCs (American Born Chinese or Canadian Born Chinese) who are conflicted between tradition and their Americanized/Canadianized identity they picked up at school. Reading these stories, I’ve always wondered WTF they’re talking about. I went to school with lots of kids who were either born in Canada or came as young children, and never have I met a parent who wasn’t accommodating to their kids’ westernized lifestyle, save for dating non-Chinese. In fact, most parents are westernized themselves. Most people I know don’t know what it means to have “traditional Chinese parents.” Perhaps it’s a generational thing. Most American/Canadian authors of Chinese descent are from an older generation, typically Baby Boomers (e.g. Amy Tan) or born during the Depression/WWII (e.g. Wayson Choy). They typically grew up in Chinatown or a small town, with parents who worked in small businesses rather than suburban-raised kids with middle-management/professional parents.

I share the same issues as Matthew when it comes to understanding my roots. Because my upbringing was “typically suburban,” and the guy I’ll likely marry isn’t of Chinese descent, I worry that I’d be criticized that I’m not able to pass on Chinese culture beyond language (speaking only), food, holidays like the Lunar New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival and perhaps one or two milestone traditions, such as a baby’s coming out/presentation at 30 days or wedding traditions (many aren’t “real traditions” as they probably only date back to the 1910s or 1920s at the earliest when people started to have love marriages rather than arranged ones).  Or would people care?  Is that really enough to pass on?  In Toronto, one can be exposed to these traditions without doing much.  All you need to do is open a newspaper.  The Lunar New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival get lots of press in a city like Toronto or Vancouver, even with non-Asian media.  Is passing on these traditions really keeping in touch with one’s roots, or is it just part of being a cultured Torontonian?

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

Another “OMG SATC is sooooooo racist post” at Racialicious

Posted by chinesecanuck on June 18, 2008

See here. And I am not the only person who is completely sick of all this complaining. Can’t people just allow others to enjoy the movie without all that complaining? It’s always the following:

Jennifer Hudson’s character Louise being a modern version of the Mammy character: Well, Louise is a 20something. As I said in an earlier SATC-related post, most girls Louise’s age DO work as assistants. Unless you’re starting your own business or maybe working in a family business, there’s no way you’re going to be a CEO at that age. You have to work from the bottom up. You do crap work for crap pay.

Lily Goldenblatt not having too many lines/seen as a prop: Well she’s (they? Lily was played by twins) a kid. What do you expect? Brady doesn’t have many lines either. Or is it different because Brady is a boy (and none of the men, with the exception of Big) had lots of lines.

Asian guy interviewing for Carrie’s job: Some posters see this guy as sissy. I saw him as gay. And over-qualified. Dude worked as an assistant at Goldman (or was it Merrill?)…Carrie’s job probably pays less than $14-$16/h…and that’s if Carrie’s generous. It might even be $12-$13/h. Gay Asian Guy was probably paid closer to $20-something/h on Wall Street.

Charlotte worried about food poisoning: Lots of SATC sites and message boards looked at it as this: Charlotte either knew that she was pregnant or suspected that she was. That’s why she wasn’t drinking either.

Miranda ‘s “follow the white guy with a baby line”: This is the only one, IMHO that really should be seen as being “off” when it comes to race. But you can also see it as Miranda not wanting to live in a slummy neighbourhood. Manhattan’s Chinatown (at least the last time I visited) is in worse condition than Toronto’s!

I also don’t really understand the “I can’t relate to the SATC girls because I’m not white” line. I am a total Charlotte (with a little bit of Miranda). And I am Chinese. In fact, when it comes to the Charlotte part, I might be even more Charlotte than Charlotte! I mean, I would never, ever, ever, ever go for a name like Shayla!  EWW!

Posted in assimilation, culture, ethnicity, minorities | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

US Version of Little Mosque on the Prairie to air 2009ish

Posted by chinesecanuck on June 10, 2008

According to the Globe and Mail, an American version of the show is set to debut some time next year.  Anyone worried that it’ll be screwed up?  I am WILLING TO BET that Fox will make the Muslim characters lower-income.  And no way would the Baber character be a funny bigot.

Posted in assimilation, CBC, culture, ethnicity, Fox, minorities, television | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Canada’s GG and Minorities and an Ivy Education

Posted by chinesecanuck on June 3, 2008

Another interesting post from Racialicious.

First Comment (originally from Womanist Musings):

Canada’s current Governor-General, Michaëlle Jean is black.  A well-known Quebecois writer, Victor-Lévy Beaulieu, recent called her La Reine-Nègre (The Negro Queen), which sparked controversy.  He claims that he didn’t mean anything racist, just her attitude.
What’s interesting is that the last Governor-General, Adrienne Clarkson, is of Chinese descent.  She was also criticized about the way she did things, but I don’t recall anyone calling her the Empress Dowager. People DID say something about her being female, and that no one would have said anything about the spending if she had been a guy.

Second Comment (Originally from Blackline):

“If you are a minority, chances are you will run into a teacher who seems to like you a lot, and at this point they will make it their life mission to save you (kind of like Dangerous Minds). These teachers are extremely condescending and take it personally when you disagree with them in any way (you’re seen as fighting them, preventing them from helping you).  In their minds, you grew up in a single parent shack, your mother works three jobs, and you have 10 brothers and sisters, rather than being a son of a physician and a lawyer. It’s one thing to be admired by your teacher, it’s another being their charity, because in the end all your other classmates will win the awards, and you will get a pat on the back.”

I’d say that CERTAIN minority groups are thought of as living in a shack, with a single mom who works several jobs.  In my case, I’m more likely to be thought of as a foreigner than some poor kid from the wrong side of town.

Posted in assimilation, Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity, minorities | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hong Kong Mallrat voice vs. “White” Valley Girl/Uptalk

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 21, 2008

The HK Mallrat voice is that “young” or “baby” voice that many Chinese (or perhaps more accurately, Cantonese) girls/women speak with. I don’t really know the origins of HK Mallrat, but I think it came around the same time as the Valley Girl…some time in the 1980s. I’ve seen old HK movies (pre mid-1980s) and none of the women spoke that way, not even teens, so you can’t say that Cantonese speaking women “naturally” have younger-sounding voices. This is usually paired with what some people I know call “puppy dog eyes.” Usually, these women are middle class or wealthy.

Most of us know what White Valley Girl/Uptalk is. For those of you who don’t, it’s when, like, a girl, talks kinda like this?? And she’s, like, not exactly too confident in herself?? Total exaggeration, but whatevs. The pattern/dialect/whatever you want to call it has been made fun of in movies like Clueless and the TV show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Hilary is totallllly an Uptalker!). So yes, demographically (from a socio-economic POV), the Uptalker and HK Mallrat are the same.

The sad part is that both styles are common in women over university age. And some girls just don’t know how or when to turn it off. I think it’s kind of okay if you talk like that with friends, but at work? I don’t think so. Sure, most Uptalkers turn off their “likes” but the Uptalk continues. Don’t these women worry that they sound like they’re in their early 20s or even younger? Especially if they look young? How on earth can they be taken seriously? Many people already assume that a young looking person is the intern, not the full time, fully paid employee. I thought most young looking people in their twenties and thirties didn’t want to be treated like a kid?

I honestly don’t know which one is more annoying. A 30 year old (or older) talking like she’s a child is just as dumb as a 30 year old saying “like” and “whatever.” In both cases, she can attract the wrong type of partner.  In both cases, it’s difficult for her to move up, career-wise.

Posted in ABC, Asian, assimilation, banana, BBC, Cantonese, CBC, Chinese Canadian, culture, English, ethnicity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »