Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Posts Tagged ‘Chinese’

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 »

South Africa Reclassifies Chinese as “Black”

Posted by chinesecanuck on June 19, 2008

From the Wall Street Journal.

WTF?  Too lazy to create a new category called East Asian?  I don’t think it’s fair to black people of South Africa to classify immigrants from ANOTHER CONTINENT as black, do you?  It’s almost the same as classifying any non-white person as Aboriginal.



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

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 »

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 »

Cultural Lessons: Drama/Theatre

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 6, 2008

Going to live theatre was definitely part of my upbringing, especially after I was 8 or 9 years old.  If you include ballet, my first stage performance was The National Ballet of Canada‘s The Nutcracker, around Christmas 1987 or 1988 (I’ll do a post on dancing another day).  By my teens, I was going to at least two shows a year (I was a teen during the HEIGHT of British Theatre Invasion of Toronto (Cameron Mackintosh musicals)).  I saw shows such as Les Miserables, Showboat, Miss Saigon, The Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard, etc, as well as plenty of trips to Stratford.  But when it came to actually being involved in the theatre/drama business (whether it be actor, director, producer or whatever….even if you tell people you want to be the next Ang Lee of the stage), it’s a definite no-no.  No wonder it’s so hard for Asians in this part of the world to be noticed in the film and theatre world!  If you don’t build it, no one will come!

This is what I don’t understand.  Why is it okay to play a musical instrument but not okay to be involved in theatre (with the exception of actually going, of course)?  Can’t theatre be seen as an accomplishment, just like playing piano or violin?  Why is acting, “less proper”?  Does it have to do with the historical connection with prostitution?  Can’t acting or directing be seen as a hobby just like classical music?  I did a double major in drama and history just so I wouldn’t look like I was a rebel.  And the drama part wasn’t even a BFA but a straight BA (Honours).

Posted in ABC, Arts, Asian, BBC, career, CBC, Chinese Canadian, culture, education, ethnicity, immigration, Music, Opera, theater, theatre | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Formerly Restricted Clubs – OK or Not OK?

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 5, 2008

I had a bit of a debate with my boyfriend yesterday. He’s Jewish, I’m Chinese (and Catholic). At one time, neither of us would have been given membership at many (if not all) golf & country clubs (and many other membership organizations, including some women’s associations) in Canada and in many other parts of the world. In some cases, we wouldn’t even have been allowed in as guests. In the past twenty or so years, many have loosened up their membership rules and have begun accepting non-WASP members. To many Chinese Canadians (at least Hong Kong Canadians), including myself, what’s in the past is in the past, and if they’re welcome now, why not. This doesn’t seem to ring true with a lot of Jewish people. My boyfriend even said that some of his family members would be downright uncomfortable if they find out that they’re guests at a formerly restricted club. Probably even more uncomfortable if they find out that a Jewish family member is seeking membership (perhaps even thinking that they’re selling out? Who knows!).

Does this have to do with colonialism in Hong Kong? Members of reciprocal clubs from Hong Kong or Singapore who immigrate to Canada seeking membership? The lack of wealthier Chinese Canadians in the past (pre-70s), meaning fewer predominantly Chinese organizations? From the Jewish perspective, is it because most Jews in North America are white, and because their race is invisible, then it makes it more uncomfortable (and if that’s the case, can’t you say the same about being Catholic? I’ve heard stories about Rose Kennedy being blackballed from the Junior League of Boston because she was Catholic (and Irish?). I’m pretty sure that today, the Junior League of Boston has lots and lots of Catholic members.)

What do you think, readers?

Posted in assimilation, Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity, Jewish, minorities, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »