Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Archive for the ‘culture’ 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.

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

Obama wins in…

Posted by chinesecanuck on November 5, 2008

…and becomes the first non-white President of the US.  So what about Canada?  We have had so far, two non-white Governors-General, who represent the British monarch (and our Head of State), but when will we have a non-white Prime Minister?  While I don’t think it would happen in the next few years, I do believe it will soon.  And when it does happen, most likely, the person will be male, Canadian born or raised and South Asian (since there are a decent number of South Asians (compared to other non-white groups…and I’m pretty sure there’s more than one MP who is Canadian born and/or raised, opposed to East Asians) who are involved with public office).  I also don’t think the time will come for people of East Asian descent for a even longer time.  If Canadians are critical of Stephane Dion’s Quebecois-accented English, what will they think of a foreign accent?  Until more East Asian Canadians who were born/raised here run for office, leadership of a major party is NOT going to happen.

What do you think?

What do you think?

Posted in culture, ethnicity, minorities, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

I don’t understand radicals…

Posted by chinesecanuck on October 29, 2008

 …but of course, radicals don’t understand me!  Especially radicals who are involved with ethnic-related organizations (for their own culture).  Is it all that wrong that I participate in groups that historically wouldn’t have accepted me?  I mean, if this truly were the case, many of my parents friends shouldn’t even be playing golf!  We shouldn’t be working in certain industries or buying certain products!

Posted in culture, ethnicity | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Thanksgiving!

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 »

Etiquette Camp for kids and immigrants

Posted by chinesecanuck on September 16, 2008

The Globe and Mail has an article about finishing school type camp for tweens.  One of the girls interviewed is of Chinese descent, and apparently, her parents sent her to etiquette camp (run buy a business imaging company in Vancouver) because she needed to learn the proper way of eating without chopsticks.  Umm, what kind of Chinese Canadian family DOESN’T know how to use a knife and fork, even if they’re fresh off the plane?  If they were immigrants from rural areas, I highly doubt that they could afford this program.  Really, if this girl’s parents really said that, then they must have only done that to get their daughter’s name in the paper (which, in traditional etiquette WOULDN’T be considered proper – a lady’s name is in the paper three times, when she’s born, when she marries and when she dies).  I do agree that it’s important to learn manners – many kids today don’t and many don’t feel comfortable in fancy restaurants.  It’s sad, IMHO.  Some of us are so casual today that it’s making me uncomfortable.  My boyfriend’s friend thinks it’s okay for his 2 year old son to address me by my first name before asking me.  At my prom ten years ago, there were kids who were confused at the table setting – upper middle class, private school kids!  I bet their grandparents would be very sad if they heard.  Some of these kids had grandmothers who were debutantes!

Posted in Asian, culture | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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 »

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 »

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 »