Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Archive for the ‘Chinese Canadian’ Category


Posted by chinesecanuck on October 14, 2008

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in Canada.  It’s interesting how the holiday is so easily adaptable for different cultures!  My family usually does the turkey thing, complete with what my mom calls “Chinese stuffing,” which is sticky rice and Chinese mushrooms.  It’s really good!  For side dishes, we usually serve bok choy, choy sum or gai lan – all Chinese greens, salad and whatever other people bring.  For dessert, we usually serve carrot cake (store bought…when I was little, I would make dessert.  I haven’t made dessert myself since I was around 13 or so, since my baking skills haven’t really improved – LOL)

Do you celebrate Thanksgiving?  If so, how?  Do you adapt it to fit your own culture?


Posted in Chinese Canadian, 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 »

OMG, Stereotypes!

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 16, 2008

This is really bad.  I was on the subway the other day and sat next to a girl who had not one, but TWO designer bags (she was *THIS CLOSE* to being a label whore).  I didn’t get a look at her face at first, so I assumed she was one of those Asian girls who highlight their hair and shop at high end stores.  Turned out she was white.  In Toronto and Vancouver, one can find some Asian women (or more specifically, Hong Kong women) who shop at these stores, and sometimes, they’re head-to-toe label.  And these brands have to be big names to them.  For many, Tory Burch isn’t a big enough name.  It has to be Prada, Gucci, LV, Hermes, etc…

Readers, have you mistaken someone for another race/culture/ethnicity based on what he/she was wearing, or what accessories he/she had?

Posted in Asian, Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity, fashion, Hong Kong, minorities, shopping, social class | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Gentrification – why does it always have to be about race?

Posted by chinesecanuck on June 17, 2008

Lots of “ethnic” neighbourhoods are now being gentrified, and many blogs, including a post on Racialicious today, seem to argue that it’s driving the old residents, mostly non-whites, out.  But is it always white people who are moving in?  Or is it a class issue?  Say they gentrify Toronto’s “old” (i.e. not Scarborough or Markham) Chinatowns by opening a T&T Supermarket.  This drives out the smaller grocery stores (who IMHO, are often on the brink of breaking health codes, if they haven’t already.  I won’t buy meat there.)  While T&T does have non-Asian (or rather, non-Chinese) clientele, the majority of those who shop there are of Chinese descent (or married to someone who is of Chinese descent).  It’s unlikely that Chinatown will be completely “white-washed.”  It’ll just be yuppified.  And one doesn’t need to be white to be a yuppie.

Posted in Asian, Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity, gentrification, minorities, social class | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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 »

Designer Manbag carrying Metros

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 29, 2008

I’ve see a few Asian guys (mostly foreign) with designer bags. These bugs aren’t their girlfriends’ or wives’ purses, but men’s styles, and usually Gucci or LV (often LOGOED to death). These guys are usually between 16 and 35 and fairly good looking…but they also look like they spend more time in front of the mirror than their female SOs.  What’s the deal? I never really noticed guys with bags like that when I was over in Hong Kong a few years ago. Is it a recent thing? Perhaps from Japan or Europe? Are they trying to be more metro than metro (I’ve found that in Toronto, anyway, there are more Hong Kong Canadian metro guys per capita than white or CBC metros)?

Posted in Asian, Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity, minorities, social class | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Race and Music – Is it “normal” for an Asian girl to like Sarah McLachlan?

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 21, 2008

Racialicious has an interesting post about ethnicity/race and music today.  Kelvin, a guest contributor, spent his childhood years in Nigeria listening to a diverse group of artists, including Phil Collins, Dolly Parton and Michael Jackson.  He is now in his 20s and living in the US.  His tastes are apparently being challenged.  Kelvin likes rock.  His undergrad was at a historically black school according to his post, a fellow student asked him not to play his favourite tunes while on campus.  A totally WTF situation, IMHO, but not unusual.  I have had similar experiences.  Apparently, Asians aren’t supposed to like country (which I did for a couple of years in high school).  Asians aren’t supposed to like Sarah McLachlan or Jewel (I stopped listening to Jewel after 1998.  Her Spirit album was the last good one) either.  Instead, we’re supposed to listen to pop music from our ancestral homeland or hip hop, especially if you are under 35.  Apparently if you were a teen before major-major immigration from Hong Kong (mid 80s or later), you can listen to “white” music without much criticism.  I have a friend in her mid 30s who grew up listening to George Michael, early Madonna and Culture Club.  It was normal for a Chinese kid to listen to “white” music back then.  Not really the case for Cuspers (people born between 1977 and 1981 – we’re the ones who aren’t sure if we’re Gen X or not) or Millennials (1982 or later).  Cuspers and Millennials, at least those who grew up in certain parts of Canada grew up smack in the middle of mass immigration from Hong Kong.  It’s now all about Cantopop, “English” pop, hip hop, Emo, etc…Cantopop is just like American/British pop (but in Cantonese…you know….the music basically all sound the same) and the others?  Not really my thing.  Seriously.  A few years ago, my parents’ friends were in Vegas and were really disappointed to find out that Celine was taking a break.  Geez.

I recently bought the new Sarah McLachlan compilation album, Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff II (mostly songs from soundtracks, “special” releases or concerts – you guys should check out the first Rarities album…it has an extended version of “I Will Remember You”) and some people looked at me as if I had purple and green skin.  “You like Sarah McLachlan?” a girl ( who was around my age…late 20s) asked.  “Yeah, I do.  In fact, I have all her CDs, including her bad ones.  You know, the stuff she recorded after becoming more mainstream.”  The other woman had an “oh” look, as if I had done something really wrong.  I knew immediately what that meant.  It meant “why are you listening to that stuff?”  I always thought that music transcended race, that it didn’t really matter what you listened to.  I guess I’m just wrong.

What I really want to know is why.  Why can’t I enjoy Sarah McLachlan’s music?  Is there something about her that turns Asians (or rather, Hong Kong Chinese) off, especially Cuspers and Millennials?  I don’t know if it makes any sense to me.  Does it to you?

Posted in Asian, Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity, minorities | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 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 »

1980s Heritage Language Programs Sucked

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 16, 2008

Like many CBC kids, I was forced to go to Chinese school on Saturdays when I was in elementary school.  The classes I went to were held at local elementary schools (offered by the school boards…it is celebrating its 30 anniversary in Toronto in a few weeks).  The teachers were often board-employed teachers as well, but they didn’t know how to teach us.  Perhaps they just didn’t care.  We weren’t, after all, their “real” day kids!  From what I recalled, they taught us as if we were Hong Kong kids, not Canadian children.  The teacher wrote words on the board, we copied them down.  We didn’t always get a definition.  We didn’t usually get definitions during dictations either.  I recall most of us were kind of WTF about it, since our “regular” teachers would always define words for spelling tests.

Chinese school was NOT FUN.  At recess, we were often yelled at by other faculty for speaking English, the default language for most of us.  I’ve never done French Immersion, but teachers at immersion schools generally aren’t strict, are they?  I mean, they aren’t going to yell at you if you don’t parle français (maybe someone who has gone through immersion can tell me) outside of class.  The supplementary texts they used were often straight out of Hong Kong, and therefore we couldn’t relate well to them.  Most of us didn’t live in small apartments.  We lived in suburban homes with a big back yard.  We didn’t wear school uniforms.  Oh, and we didn’t stand up when faculty entered the classroom. Most of us weren’t really able to retain much, either.  After all, class was only once a week for about three and a half hours.  I dropped out (or rather, my parents pulled me out) after Grade 2 or 3.  For those who actually stayed until the end of the program (I think it was Grade 8), many still can’t read well.  Not at a Grade 4 or 5 level…good enough to read a Chinese version of the Toronto Sun, anyway.  Most forget.

I guess what I’m saying is that these programs are (or at least were in the 80s) a waste of money.  No one really learned anything, and it made many kids hate their heritage even more.  But maybe it was just the Cantonese programs.  Honestly, it would have been more interesting if the teachers played games, told stories and used better text books.  Perhaps it would have been better if the teachers treated us like they treat their day/regular students.

Posted in Asian, Cantonese, Chinese Canadian, culture, education, ethnicity, language, teaching | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Learned Another Language as a Tot, English at School – ESL or Not?

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 15, 2008

I didn’t speak English until I started school.  English is technically not my first language.  Cantonese is.  According to the Statistics Canada definition, Cantonese is my mother tongue, as it is defined as “the first language learned at home in childhood and still understood by the individual at the time of the census.”  I certainly still understand Cantonese.  My parents and grandparents speak Canto to me every day.  I usually reply in English to my parents, but in Cantonese to my grandparents. Gung Gung and Poh Poh do not speak much English.  Neither does my paternal grandmother.  English is my most comfortable language.  It’s the language I use before anything else.  I think in English.  However, Statscan does not have a category for people like me.  And there are plenty of people like me.  Many second generation Canadians, regardless of culture are like me.  We may not have said anything yet, but I’m pretty sure we don’t want to be grouped in the same  category as people who learned English much later in life.  We don’t sound like English is our second (or third, fourth, etc) language.  Our accents are indistinguishable from people whose families have been in English Canada for generations.  And at the same time, we’d be lying if we said that English was our first language.  It’s tough when we have to check off a box!

I think it’s time that they actually have a box for people in this situation.  I think it’s a great way to find out how many Canadians UNDERSTAND their ancestral language, but do not speak it or default to it.

Posted in Chinese Canadian, culture, default language, English, ethnicity, language, minorities, Mother Tongue | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »