Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Archive for the ‘China’ Category

“Real” Chinese food poll

Posted by chinesecanuck on February 12, 2009

Since many people argue that foods like beef and brocolli or sweet and sour pork/chicken aren’t “real” Chinese foods, because they were “invented” in the west, what about foods found at restaurants in Hong Kong which use non-Chinese ingredients?  Are those foods real?  In other words, are egg custard tarts (sweet, egg based custard in tartlet shells – very popular at dim sum), Hong Kong style milk tea (strong black tea with condensed/evaporated milk), yeen-yeung (half coffee, half HK style milk tea), etc “real”?  


Posted in China, food | Tagged: , , , | 2 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 »

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 »

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 »

Hong Kong Diners (aka Cha Chaan Teng)

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 22, 2008

Have you ever been to a Hong Kong style diner? Seems like most non-Chinese have never heard of these places, unless they’re very close friends with someone of Chinese descent (and has some connections to the “old culture”). Diners eat with a knife and fork and it’s somewhat lower-end fusion, but in a very unique way. Menu offerings include:

  • Pork chop and rice casserole
  • Pastas (almost always spaghetti and macaroni. You can even get macaroni in soup for breakfast)
  • Buns (western style, but catering to the Hong Kong palate)
  • Sandwiches
  • Breakfast foods, including ham, eggs and toast.

Of course, a cha chaan teng isn’t complete without offering Hong Kong tea (very strong black tea, evaporated milk (or condensed milk) and sugar) and yeen yeung (half coffee, half Hong Kong tea). In Toronto, you can find cha chaan tengs in Markham and Scarborough, though there aren’t too many in the older Chinatown area downtown.

Have you been to one?  What do you think?  Why don’t people outside of the HK community know about these places?  I’ve never seen them reviewed in too many non-Chinese publications.

Posted in Cantonese, China, culture, ethnicity, food, Hong Kong | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Chinese Adoptees Celebrate Bat Mitzvah

Posted by chinesecanuck on June 2, 2008

This article was in the New York Times a little over a year ago.  I find it very interesting how the North American public views religion.  No one bats an eye at Chinese Catholics (adopted or biological) – there’ll never be a lifestyle story about a Chinese adoptee in an Italian or Irish American family celebrating her First Communion or Confirmation – but being Jewish is another story.  To many people, it’s still unusual.  This article mentions it as well:  Often, an Asian (or non-white) Jew may walk into Hillel with a white person who is, say, Episcopalian, the white Episcopalian is thought of as the Jew.  Why is this?  The lack of missionaries?

Posted in Asian, China, culture, ethnicity, minorities, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Class and the Hong Kong Canuck – Affected by British Colonialism?

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 9, 2008

Many Hong Kong Canadians don’t really think about race unless something happens within their own communities, like the SARS issue in 2003. Perhaps it has to do with their comfy, middle class lifestyle. So today’s Racialicious post on Class and Race had me wondering. Would Chinese Canadians from Hong Kong feel the same had the British never arrived? Would they be as successful? So in other words, are they living off the “benefits” of colonialsim? Without the Opium Wars in the 1840s and eventual takeover of Hong Kong proper, Kowloon and the “new territories”, would Hong Kong just be another hick town (as it was back in the day)? I mean, one of the reasons why Hong Kong eventually became so successful was because of communism in China. It was the port between China and the west. In order to get to China, you had to go through Hong Kong. Until recently, if you wanted to get things done cheaply, you had it made in Hong Kong. Had Hong Kong not been a British colony, it would have been absorbed in by the communist government. This means that there’d be no middle man. Hong Kong also received lots of refugees from Shanghai after WWII and many of them were businesspeople. In addition, people in Hong Kong would probably not be all that educated as the educated would likely be from Beijing and Shanghai.

Then there’s immigration. Without the British, Hong Kongers (in general, anyway) who come to Canada, if they can afford to at all, would not be moving into a cushy suburban house so soon after landing. Markham, Ontario and Richmond, British Columbia would probably be very white. This means no Pacific Mall. No yummy Chinese food. Double :-(. Upper middle class Hong Kong Canadians sending their kids to old line prep schools like Upper Canada College or Havergal? Highly unlikely that many would. They wouldn’t be able to afford it, and these schools’ traditions, which are linked to the great old schools of Britain would be completely foreign to them. Most minorities at these schools, at least when I went, were from colonies or former colonies. This is probably why most Hong Kong Canadians are perfectly open to joining and/or participating in organizations and events that would have excluded them years ago. Hong Kong Canadians are, for some reason, more likely to forgive and forget (which is why I’ve had some issues with my boyfriend, who is Jewish).  Hong Kong Canadians also seem to prefer “higher class” things that are seen as “white” by other non-white communities, such as western classical music.  Most Hong Kongers and Hong Kong Canadians take piano and/or violin.  And tennis (so they can play at that country club).  Even guys.  Doing this doesn’t make you white-washed.  Playing electric guitar in a garage band and playing hockey, however, does.  To many HK Canadians, in order to be successful, one must be “accomplished” in that Jane Austeneque (albiet slightly updated) kind of way.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and you never know. What’s done is done, and who knows what could have happened without the Opium Wars? Maybe China would be like Japan rather than a communist country and Hong Kong would still be successful as a “snowbird” destination for seniors in Beijing and Shanghai…flying there to escape the colder winters.

Posted in Asian, assimilation, China, Chinese Canadian, culture, education, ethnicity, Hong Kong, minorities, social class | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Interracial/Intercultural Dating – Staring? Other Issues?

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 7, 2008

Why is it that certain interracial pairings are stared more often than others? Over at Racialicious, Latoya Peterson writes about living with her then-boyfriend and his roommate a few years ago.  Often, roommate and Latoya would run errands as the former Mr. Latoya was working.  According to Latoya, people would often stare at them as ran errands, and after one incident, the roommate told Latoya that he didn’t want to go anymore.  So for those of you who’ve been in interracial relationships, have you had any issues yourself?  What do you think of such relationships?

I’ve gone out with a many non-Chinese/non-East Asian men.  Most guys I’ve dated have been white and Jewish (don’t know why…do Jewish guys have a thing for Asian women (and vice versa) or something?  I’ve dated other cultures, but none really lasted long).  People generally don’t stare at us.  Not even Asians who think of see us as the decent-looking Chinese girl dating not-so-attractive white guy (Mr. CC falls along the lines of Harry Goldenblatt from Sex and the City) couple.  I guess people don’t have as many issues if one half of the couple is not conventionally attractive, or at least aren’t open about it.  People would probably have more issues if Mr. CC looked more like Brad Pitt or George Clooney. I am sure, however, that people talk about us behind our backs.  I mean, without knowing him, people won’t realize that he’s a sweet, caring person who loves to joke around, right?

I have had some issues with my relationship with Mr. CC, but it falls more along the lines of upbringing and religion than ethnicity.  Mr. CC doesn’t feel comfortable in anything that is even remotely Christian-related, unless it’s more commercial (e.g. Santa Claus or Easter eggs).  I took him to my high school’s annual holiday concert and he looked uncomfortable, almost as if he didn’t want to be there.  At least that’s the vibe I got from him.  We generally stay away from religiously-related topics because of this.  I don’t know what’s going to happen if we decide to get married, because religion WILL come up.  While we’re both fine with a civil ceremony (as are our parents), the reception may be an issue.  He’s suggested that we have a cross-cultural reception, with foods from both Chinese and Jewish cultures.  Yet, he thinks we need a kosher caterer, because some of his family members are observant.  Sorry, but unless the catering service is focuses on the predominantly Muslim part of China, Chinese food is NOT kosher-kosher.  You can get SIMULATED kosher (i.e. not mixing dairy with meat, no shellfish, no pork, etc but foods MAY have been in contact with the above), however.  Anyway, we’ll talk about this more seriously if and when the time comes.

What I really don’t like is when people go on and on about how interracial/interfaith relationships don’t work out because of cultural differences.  As I said in an earlier post, cultural differences can often be greater in an INTRAracial relationship!  But lots of people just don’t get it and probably never will.  And kids having cultural identity issues?  Adopted kids have them, second generation kids have them and TCKs (Third Culture Kids….kids who have grown up all over the world, generally children of diplomats or military personnel) do too.  As for dating Mr. CC, I don’t think either of us has some sort of fetish.  I’m the first Asian girl he’s ever gone out with.  In fact, I’m the first non-Jewish girl he’s dated.  He didn’t even know all that much about Chinese culture when we first started to go out (he still doesn’t, but I don’t know much either, to be perfectly honest).

Posted in Asian, China, Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity, interracial relationships, Jewish, minorities | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Where are the CBC MPs and MPPs/MLAs?

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 2, 2008

There are 305 MPs in the Canadian House of Commons. Two of them, Olivia Chow and Raymond Chan, are of “full” Chinese descent (another, Michael Chong, is half Chinese, half Dutch) and both are not CBC. In fact, both came after the age of 10 (I believe Oliva Chow came to Canada in time to start high school (or the year before) and Raymond Chan came in his late teens). As they came as older kids/young adults, they are not exactly qualified to represent the views of people of Chinese descent born and raised in this country when it comes to diversity. They are more likely to side with the “mainstream” of diversity and multiculturalism from the immigrant point of view.

***Note, there is one Vietnamese-Canadian MP, Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac. She wasn’t born here either. Interesting to note that there are probably twice as many South Asian MPs than Chinese, yet South Asians only slightly outnumber Chinese Canadians in terms of population. Something’s really, really wrong here!***

There are 107 MPPs at Queen’s Park (Member of Provincial Parliament….why is Ontario the only province who uses the term MPP? Other English-speaking provinces use MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly)). Out of the 107, only one, the Hon. Michael Chan, is Chinese Canadian, and he’s also “not from here.”

In British Columbia, there are 78 MLAs and 4 of them are of Chinese descent. BC seems to be a little better, as at least one, Ida Chong, is CBC.

So my question is this: Why aren’t people more CBCs elected or even running? Confidence issues? Or is it because Chinese people just don’t have a “history” of voting (India has been independent for decades) ? If it’s the latter, why on EARTH are there more non-CBCs than CBCs in government?

(I’ll do a separate post on city council at a later date)

Posted in Asian, assimilation, banana, CBC, China, Chinese Canadian, culture, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Same Race Intercultural Relationships: Can be difficult!

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 29, 2008

When I was going through my dry spell of not having a boyfriend, my parents talked about sending me to China to work, and hopefully meet someone there.  Yeah.  Mainland China.  Not Hong Kong.  I’m a suburban-raised Catholic girl from Toronto, you know the kind of kid who went to Brownies and summer camp.  I don’t even SPEAK Mandarin (though I DO speak Cantonese).  Why would I have anything in common with a guy from the mainland, no matter how educated he is?  Even if he has degrees from Harvard or Yale?   While they definitely accept my current relationship status (serious and long term with a white Jewish boy), they somehow fail to understand that when it comes to someone who is from the SAME ethnic group, it really doesn’t mean that you’d have anything in common with them.  Of course, you never have the SAME experience as the person you have a relationship with, but really, you need to have SOME things in common in order for it to work.  You need to compromise in a relationship, and chances are, some of the influences and traditions that I was raised in are so foreign to him (even if he spent several years in this part of the world)  that it would be difficult to compromise.

Having had the influence of immigrant parents who are from a culture where family is very important, I need to be able to communicate effectively with the guy’s family.  As I don’t speak Mandarin, how would I talk to the his parents?  And what if they’re critical of me because they find it odd that someone of Chinese descent doesn’t understand the customs?  I already have a grandmother finds her Canadian-raised grandkids are not “as good” as those who lived in Hong Kong (I heard this through the grapevine, but apparently this grandmother said that I was a barbarian)!  In any case, I often worry about these kinds of relationships.  Are they just looking for a passport?  You never know.

Posted in assimilation, China, Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity, Hong Kong, interracial relationships, minorities, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »