Meet and Greet: MeFites of Asian descent November 13, 2015 10:33 AM   Subscribe

In one of the recent MeTas about race, I mentioned that I often notice other Asian posters, appreciate their contributions, and would love to talk to them about our experiences in a neutral setting. So, I'm making a thread!

Please feel free to say hello and tell us as much or as little as you like about your background, your participation on MeFi, etc. Angry Asian Man and Kip Fulbeck both make a point in their work of asking people "What are you?" and "Where are you from?" so that Asian people can sort of reclaim the questions to either give the stinging response they wish they could remember in the moment, or give a literal answer that says something more interesting about them ("I'm a jazz musician"; "I'm from Austin by way of Cleveland"). So in that spirit, if you need a discussion question: What are you, where are you from?

(Not Asian? Come in and stay awhile! Consider listening more than you talk. Now would be a great time to review Conspire's list of suggestions for not alienating PoC.)

also infini said something about fried cookie dough in that thread and I neeeeeed to know what that means
posted by sunset in snow country to MetaFilter-Related at 10:33 AM (87 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

I was just thinking how I wanted to recommend The Aerogram site to people interested in the South Asian/South Asian American experience.
posted by sweetkid at 11:07 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I also remember thinking in that other thread what exactly we were supposed to do in a thread like this and it's still not clear to me - what are we supposed to do here that we need a special thread for?
posted by sweetkid at 11:09 AM on November 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


what are we supposed to do here that we need a special thread for?
  • feel free to say hello
  • tell us as much or as little as you like about your background, your participation on MeFi, etc.
  • if you need a discussion question: What are you, where are you from?

  • posted by Wolfdog at 11:21 AM on November 13, 2015


    Fair question. I mainly just wanted to say hello outside the context of contentious racism MeTas. (I also considered asking for media recommendations since I've been wanting to add to my reading list, and decided not to since it seemed self-serving, so thank you for the link!)

    A different thread (the one I didn't post in), where some members of color mentioned having a mental list of which other MeFites are PoC, got me thinking: we keep saying MetaFilter is extremely white, and it's probably true, but maybe it's not quite as true as we think since it's so easy to assume everyone is white when we're not talking about race? I updated my profile just before posting this because I want to make it as easy as possible for people to identify me as Asian when I am talking about feminism or San Francisco politics or the subtleties of copyediting or getting really stoned, and not just when I am calling out racism. So I guess visibility was another one of my goals in posting this. But I get that it's a bit of a weird thing to make a thread for and am fine with some people passing it by.
    posted by sunset in snow country at 11:22 AM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


    I want to make it as easy as possible for people to identify me as Asian when I am talking about feminism or San Francisco politics or the subtleties of copyediting or getting really stoned, and not just when I am calling out racism

    My question is a sincere, well-intended "why?" I think that might answer my questions about this thread. Because I wouldn't say I feel the opposite, exactly - I'm not interested in hiding who I am - but I am plenty comfortable just not letting my race be a thing at all in a discussion about experimental music or vaporizers. It should be relevant when it's relevant, and otherwise I should just be "person from the internet". (Which is also my answer to "Where are you from"? The computer)
    posted by naju at 11:30 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


    (*But I could be persuaded otherwise and I want to be supportive of this!)
    posted by naju at 11:39 AM on November 13, 2015


    Also a very good question. I don't want to make it a thing, really, at all. I guess I am all about representation, and it bugs me that the only time Asianness comes up is in threads on cultural appropriation or tiger moms, because it seems sometimes that folks think that's the only time we exist. I don't want to talk about my race when I'm talking about any of those other things, I just want to normalize the idea of a Japanese American caring about those things and having knowledge about them. But I may have gone off on a tangent there - the visibility thing is very secondary to just wanting to get to know people here :)

    Was gonna hold off on introducing myself until the thread got going a bit, but if it helps others understand what my intention was for this thread:

    I'm a San Franciscan, born and (mostly) raised, a millennial, and a children's book editor. I am mixed-race Japanese American, fourth generation, and lived in Japan for a couple years, very much as a foreigner. I did a minor in Asian American studies in college, and in my day-to-day life I'm around a lot of other Asian people who "get it," so for those reasons I tend to get frustrated with what I see as 101-level discussions, which is something I am working on. Some things I care about that do relate to Asianness include Asian American masculinity and the We Need Diverse Books movement. (I'm also always looking for book recommendations. Right now I'm rereading Her Wild American Self by M. Evelina Galang.)
    posted by sunset in snow country at 11:46 AM on November 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


    If you're against the idea of anyone forcing you to prove your ethnic bonafides, then yes, you should absolutely rail against that if it ever comes up, which it hasn't here.

    Or you could let people do their thing and talk about themselves as they see fit.
    posted by Etrigan at 11:48 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


    I actually know quite a bit about my Chinese family history! My uncle wrote a book about it.
    posted by backseatpilot at 12:02 PM on November 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


    [Comment removed; I think it's totally fine for folks, particularly those who identify as Asian, to talk about sort of the "what is this for" aspects of this or to talk about how they feel about identification and visibility in the context of their participation on MetaFilter, but it would be great to avoid just more generally griping about the idea of this thread being allowed or complaining about any "but what if x" generalizing counterfactuals, etc.]
    posted by cortex (staff) at 12:05 PM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


    Hello! I’m an American with Japanese, Irish, and European ancestry, born and raised and residing in Seattle. I mostly just wanted to say that I’ve really appreciated hearing from so many other Mefites about their own personal experiences and views, in a bunch of recent threads on race, minorities, Asian American culture, etc., etc. So thank you everyone for that.
    posted by mbrubeck at 12:08 PM on November 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


    Hi I'm a 2nd generation Chinese American, queer and agender/woman depending on how I feel that day, and from the Bay Area! I care deeply about recognizing difference and finding the beauty in it, and social justice is incredibly important to me. I love the work that I see other MeFites do regarding intersectional justice on this website and community, and it makes me more bold to express my comments and opinions. Drop me a message and/or add me as a contact, I want to make friends!
    posted by yueliang at 12:28 PM on November 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


    Hey, I'm somehow surprised to enjoy reading all of these!

    backseatpilot, I always assumed your last name came from the non-Asian side! Assumptions are often bad! as the famous saying goes.
    posted by ignignokt at 12:46 PM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Hi, it surprisingly makes me feel good to read about other people's Asian/mixed heritage in this thread. It's just...nice to feel not alone. And at the same time I'm reticent about mentioning my own roots. Maybe because there was just never an upside to doing so for me. I'm half Asian, half European, as mentioned before.
    Is it ok if I just lurk here and enjoy the thread without unmasking any further?
    posted by Omnomnom at 12:50 PM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Oh, yeah, I'm Korean and grew up in the Chicago suburbs, around very few other Asians. So, I'm often not up on Asian American culture, but I am good at spotting and confronting racist behavior!

    Well, maybe not "good" at confronting, but quite willing.
    posted by ignignokt at 12:55 PM on November 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


    (Hmm, I'm not exactly sure how to take the edge off of that last comment, but let's just assume I figured it out and did it.)
    posted by ignignokt at 12:57 PM on November 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


    Of course, Omnomnom!

    backseatpilot, the book looks interesting! The name thing reminds me of the author Jamie Ford, who's also a mixed-race Chinese American author whose name comes from the Asian side - his great-grandfather adopted a Western name upon immigrating. I wonder if that's more common than I realized?

    (I also have a super white name, but that is because I am white. Which I meant to mention above, since mixed-race doesn't necessarily mean white, but I guess I got so excited I forgot.)

    And my family did move to the suburbs for my teenage years, which I feel gives me a perspective that my San-Francisco-born-and-no-parentheses-raised friends don't quite have - not that I would want them to have it. They've definitely experienced racism, but there's a confidence that comes from not knowing what it's like to be the only Asian in the room, and it's interesting and refreshing to see that. (My boyfriend complains that his private high school was "super white" - by which he means less than 50% Asian. Bless him.)
    posted by sunset in snow country at 1:02 PM on November 13, 2015


    I always assumed your last name came from the non-Asian side!

    My grandfather changed it because the Anglicized version of his original surname is Hor, which apparently had fairly predictable results. He and his brother were both basically raised by a woman named Hall who was very much about them "becoming American" so my grandfather took her surname when he was older.
    posted by backseatpilot at 1:40 PM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Oh, awesome! I echo what Omnomnom said--it's really is nice to feel not alone. I enjoy MeFi a great deal, and I wish I could participate more online or off, but severe social anxiety aside, I feel like I don't have much to contribute by being Asian, female and foreign. I have been trying to unpack a bunch of thoughts and feels about race, however, and recent threads about racism here have helped some.

    Without going into specifics in this thread, I identify as Overseas Chinese, but I've spent most of my adult life, including college, in the West, where I now live. It's a better fit culturally and politically, but it also makes me feel wary, guilty, and suspicious.
    posted by peripathetic at 2:03 PM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


    My wife and kids are Asian, as is my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law and her family. I am an ally!
    posted by Nevin at 2:05 PM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Speaking of Chinese family history, if any Americans here know or suspect that their families first arrived to the U.S. as university students, I'd LOVE to hear about it for my blog. If you only suspect, but don't know for sure, I can probably tell you for sure, with all the research materials I have.


    Also, I'm white with a smidgen of Chinese ancestry.
    posted by chainsofreedom at 2:05 PM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


    I mainly just wanted to say hello outside the context of contentious racism MeTas.

    I appreciate it, since I am basically avoiding those kinds of threads out of exhaustion.


    what are we supposed to do here that we need a special thread for?

    I think people want different things from metafilter, but I am interested in the 'community' part of it. I'm one of the people who keep a mental note of POC, and Asians in particular here, and I too regret that the only places where I get to hear their experiences is in the context of responding to some insane grossness.
    posted by danny the boy at 2:12 PM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


    I appreciate that, Nevin. And Hokuriku is totally the best.
    posted by sunset in snow country at 2:27 PM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Hey! Really awesomely cool thread - thanks sunset in snow country!

    I'm a second generation Chinese-Canadian - my parents immigrated to Canada partially because they were caught at the tail end of the cultural revolution. They both had the experience of being sent to the farms for manual labor as part of a initiative where all of the kids (except the youngest) of each family were ordered to the farms - which was a really awful, traumatizing experience for them. To get themselves out of that situation, they took advantage the universities reopening to become students. But even that was difficult, because the universities were only accepting maybe the top 1% of applicants - and almost everyone on the farms was applying, because they were all desperate to get out of that situation. My parents were both extremely smart and prodigious, studying by candlenight every single night in order to get in. But even after graduating, they found that the meritocracy of the university set off a new animus against intellectuals in China - so combined with their terrible experiences with the ruling government, they made the decision to move to Canada.

    I mention that because it really informs some of the ways my parents (and I) have developed our values and Chinese-Canadian identity. Because of this trauma, they were somewhat inherently critical of Chinese values. And then they arrived in a new place - and they had to figure out how the values of their new communities fit into the pieces that they had and were willing to swap around. It really forced them to question a lot of things, both in Chinese and Canadian culture - like, being confronted by all of these new components of culture, and not fitting into Canadian culture completely, made them question values on the Chinese side. But at the same time, since they were bringing experiences of heavily considering and questioning whether Chinese values matched their own in the first place into their new situation - they didn't reflexively assimilate but did so in very cautious ways. So in a sense, I can actually see my own experience as a queer person reflected in the experiences of my parents - I've had to negotiate and question values, critically think about systems and hierarchies, and re-integrate them into my identity. I don't claim they did everything right - there were a lot of touchy points and disagreements in my upbringing centered around all of this. But I think it's been a lifelong learning process for both them and me, and the fact that they were willing to learn and adapt so much and accept themselves as less-than-perfect in the first place was important. Especially since I was queer! When I came out to my parents, the only thing my dad did was give me a lecture on keeping safe. I really appreciated that, since I knew a lot of other Chinese kids weren't in the same position.

    Actually, one of the ways values butted was - I actually wasn't supposed to be born in the first place. My parents had my sister under the one child policy, and they were actually pretty content with her despite traditional Chinese patriarchial murmurings about girls over boys. But my dad is an only son, and my grandparents on my dad's side pressured my parents over numerous, numerous years to try for a son, until finally they threw up their hands and gave in. So they tried once (they stressed to my grandparents that they'd only give this one more try), and they had me. One interesting point is - in China, you typically name your kids after what you want them to become. So my Chinese name means "Miracle", but the funny thing is that my surname (which comes before my first name), is a slang for something twisted or black in Taiwan. So I can't help but think that came true because I ended up queer - and not wanting kids anyway as a consequence of my background and upbringing! - so it ended up being not the thing that my grandparents are aiming for anyway! My sister's named after a princess, by the way, and she's known for being one of the most commandeering and dominant figures in her marketing and editorial spheres where she works these days, so I can't help but think my parents were very prophetic.

    (Also, an aside: my sister and I were actually born on the same day, seven years apart. When my mom when to the hospital with me in labor, there was this terribly racist nurse who told her that Chinese people were cheap and kicked her out because she thought my mom only wanted to have me on the same day as my sister so she wouldn't have to pay for two birthday cakes. My mom had to go back in and scream her down to get admitted.)

    My family is specifically from Nanjing. One thing that I notice about our province of origin is that our cuisine isn't really represented in Westernized "Chinese" food. I think part of the reason why is because Nanjing is super hot in the summer, so the food tends to gravitate towards really light and brothy foods involving a lot of vegetables and tofu, as well as fragrant and salty stuff. (Our most famous local cuisine is this preserved salted duck - I love it, but it's not everyone's taste.) So that doesn't really jibe with the Western image of Chinese food as super spicy and doused in sauces, so it's not the type of thing I could waltz into any Chinese restaurant and order, pity.
    posted by Conspire at 2:32 PM on November 13, 2015 [19 favorites]


    Where am I from?

    I was born in the Philippines. I attended high school in Vancouver, Canada. I have lived in Boston for 23 years, more than half of my adult life. I am still not a citizen. The American government still does not recognize me as a permanent resident.

    Like many Third Culture Kids, I don't believe that any of the places where I've lived would claim me as their own, but I identify strongly as a North American West Coaster, and Pacific Northwesterner if you make me choose. My father went to high school, university, and grad school in the Bay Area, and raised us to aspire to be San Franciscans even when we lived in the Philippines. We left Manila in 1986, but he did not gain permanent residency until the year 2000, and only because my little sister was born in America and was old enough to sponsor my parents.

    I think the term 'anchor baby' is a slur.

    In the vein of representing ourselves in a way that isn't always tied to identity politics or tiger moms, I'll answer the "what are you" by referencing MeFi thread comments that have more universal subject matter.

    What Am I --
    I am a nerd.
    I am a disaster relief volunteer.
    I am an avid cook.
    I also like cocktails, or, really cocktail bars.
    I am a randonneur, which is French for crazy bike badass.
    I used to be a DJ. also goth. I still wear a lot of black.

    I've spent a lot of time commenting on 'where are you from' threads as well as threads on toxic masculinity and social justice, but I also like commenting on food, bike, and sci-fi threads when the times call for a little more self-care.
    posted by bl1nk at 2:46 PM on November 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


    I'm a 1st generation immigrant, moved to NYC from Taiwan when I was 6, and grew up there until moving to San Francisco as an adult. So I've lived almost exclusively in cities that have major Asian populations, my high school was 50% asian when I went (and 75% now), but today as an adult I've almost entirely forgotten my birth language. Which maybe is ironic, but isn't really contradictory.

    So having moved to the Bay Area, I feel like I've left behind my connection to the Asian American community, since everyone I know here is: 1) from elsewhere and 2) mostly white. Contrast that the few Asian folk I know who grew up here, who are surrounded by the people they went to grade school with. I think that's partly a path I put myself on in college, when I decided I was going to see what white America was like, and stopped hanging out in the (exclusively) Asian circles.
    posted by danny the boy at 2:49 PM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


    2nd generation American on both sides Filipino / Mexican born in Texas, living in California. I have two beautiful super mixed sons. I miss my grandpa's pork adobo. That's all I've got for now.
    posted by Mister Cheese at 2:52 PM on November 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


    Oh hey, it happened! Thanks sunset!

    I'm 4th generation Japanese-American, lady-gay/queer, also in the Bay Area. (Hey, neighbors!) My family settled in the Bay Area as early as 1898, so we're a super California family. Part of my family was interred during the war but the lesser known "result" of Executive Order 9066 was that some people evacuated and as a result there's a good chunk of my family that ended up in Nowhere, Colorado for the duration of the war, continuing to quietly do farm work.

    I lived in Japan for two years and it was...weird. I learned a lot about myself and how I self-identify during that time. One of the things that came out of that experience when I returned to the US was that I definitely think of myself as a lot of things before I "remember" my Asian-ness. Because of my gender presentation (somewhere on the andro/masculine spectrum), I spend a lot more time thinking about gender and the performative nature of gender, intersectionality, and feminism. That being said, nothing rustles my jimmies like the Model Minority trope, and I will. not. tolerate. that nonsense.

    It's nice to see people talking about their experiences/background here in a more positive context, rather than having to see everyone talking about their experiences in relationship to negative things.
    posted by komlord at 2:58 PM on November 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


    Conspire, that is awesome, thank you so much for posting (not least because the length of what you wrote is helping me not be shy in my own thread). You too, chainsofreedom, what an interesting subject!

    In the same spirit, a couple of historical things:

    I did some research a while back into my family history - I had never been able to find anything about my great-grandfather on ancestry.com because I had his first name spelled wrong, but when I hit upon the right spelling I found the passenger list on the ship he took from Japan to Hawaii in 1905. (Side note, I've never met or heard of another Japanese person with his first name, and I've only heard of one other person with his last name - and I taught middle school in Japan for two years, so that's ~800 names right there.) He was 19 years old, and brought $10 with him. It was from that list that I found out the exact town he was from in Niigata, and there were young men from all over Japan on that ship, but there was another guy from his town, a buddy, around the same age. I can't remember his name, but it was something more common like Takeo. Anyway, I got curious and looked Takeo up too. My great-grandfather remained in Honolulu until he died in 1950, but his friend got restless and moved on to Los Angeles after about six months, where he changed his name to George, married, had kids, was incarcerated in Manzanar, moved to the Midwest after the war, and lived until the 1980s.

    That's a very long and rambling story. I was just kind of delighted to see the totally different experiences these two men, born in the same small town in Japan's snow country, ended up having - it got me thinking about the randomness of life.

    Also, and completely unrelated, a while back someone linked me to a database of "sundown towns" and I searched for my hometown (the suburb, not SF) thinking "man, this place is super racist, I wouldn't be surprised." Most of the towns in the database just had a short note to the effect that it was a "rumored sundown town," but I was surprised to find a long entry for my town, explaining how there had been a Chinatown on the American River up until the 1880s, when it was burned to the ground and the residents driven out as part of a concentrated campaign of arson and terror against Chinese immigrants all over California. I lived there for eight years and never once heard about this, even though one of my teachers was so obsessed with local (white) history that she forced us to read her unpublished novel about a kid who traveled back in time to meet Jedediah Smith. One of the local elementary schools is named after a mayor of the Chinatown, and I had no idea. (There's also a street named after a black settler. Surprise surprise, never heard about him either.)
    posted by sunset in snow country at 2:59 PM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


    (Our most famous local cuisine is this preserved salted duck - I love it, but it's not everyone's taste

    That actually sounds kind of intriguingly tasty. If there's a place in NYC that serves it that you know about, let me know.
    posted by jonmc at 4:26 PM on November 13, 2015


    I'm a 4th-ish* generation Japanese-American, and my enormous extended family is more or less evenly divided between California, Hawaii, and Japan. I grew up in Southern California, but my hometown was almost entirely Chinese and Hispanic. This mostly meant that growing up, I ate EVERYTHING.

    Thanksgiving in particular was fantastic. Naturally, we had your traditional "all-American" staples: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, etc., but my mom would supplement with nishime, my grandma would bring an enormous platter of homemade inarizushi, and all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins would show up bearing trays of everything from lumpia, chow fun, and Spam musubi, to lamb kebabs, spanakopita, and refried beans. It's a wonder I didn't grow up to be perfectly spherical.

    Nowadays, I go to my white husband's family's Thanksgiving, and it's plenty tasty and I enjoy it, but it hasn't got a patch on the glorious American melting pot I grew up with.

    *Mom's 3rd generation Okinawan, born in Hawaii. Dad was born in Japan, but on a U.S. Army base to a 2nd-gen Japanese-American and a Japanese national; they moved to the U.S. when he was six or so.
    posted by Diagonalize at 4:40 PM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


    That actually sounds kind of intriguingly tasty. If there's a place in NYC that serves it that you know about, let me know.

    It's actually pretty famous, so there might be! Here's the wikipedia article.
    posted by Conspire at 4:57 PM on November 13, 2015


    Thanx, dude, when I get the chance, I'll try it.
    posted by jonmc at 4:58 PM on November 13, 2015


    I am a white American, married to a Japanese man and mother to two half-Japanese kids. When we go to Japan we carry six passports and a Green Card. (The Japanese government won't let me through with the rest of the family, though; I have to go to the foreigners line.)

    We are fortunate to live in an area with ready access to Japanese groceries, books, and a great kendo club. As the parent whose country we live in (but also the default parent), I do struggle with figuring out how much it is my responsibility to teach the kids their second culture. Not that I'm at all qualified to do that, outside of reading bedtime stories.

    I've been reading along quietly in the racism threads and I'd like to thank all who've contributed to those discussions. And this one too!
    posted by telepanda at 5:19 PM on November 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


    My wife is Asian and I've lived in Asia since 2002.
    posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:18 PM on November 13, 2015


    This is a great question, because I never know what to call myself. My ancestors are from the Chaozhou region of China. They immigrated to Thailand in the early 20th century, where my parents were born and raised. And I was born and raised in New Mexico. So I guess that makes me a Thailand Chinese-American. Now I live in New York, in Chinatown, where coincidentally, there are a lot of Chinese from the SE Asian diaspora. Though mostly from Malaysia and Vietnam it seems. The lady who cuts my hair is Chinese from India.

    It's odd being around so many "proper" Chinese-Americans here in New York because I feel quite different from them. I grew up in a small town where I was pretty much the only Asian around. My parents only spoke to me in English and spoke to each other in Thai, so actually I never learned any Chinese until I studied it myself in college. In fact, I didn't even know I was ethnically Chinese until maybe 12 or so (my parents figured all that ancestry stuff was rather complicated so they just told me they were from Thailand when I was younger).

    Anyone here in NY, feel free to drop me a memail, I feel like I should meet more Asian people here. Or really more any people here.
    posted by pravit at 8:16 PM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


    I can't participate in the identityfest, but good for you guys.
    posted by zennie at 8:22 PM on November 13, 2015


    Second-generation Gujarati Indian-American, born in New York. Apparently I swear a lot, which is what happens when you grow up in Massachusetts. I get weird about calling myself Asian sometimes, but I get weird about calling myself Indian sometimes, because I'm not really very good at it. I think like a lot of third culture kids, I end up feeling like a foreign ambassador in any scenario, representing one side of the hyphen to the other side. First-generation Indian immigrants who aren't my family tend not to like me very much, because I'm a pretty good example of what they're afraid America will do to their kids. Conversely, I'm used to being the only brown kid in the room, or the area code, so I'm used to having to be ready for the kinds of things people say to you when that's the case. I think this is less of an introduction than an apology for being such an offensive asshole. I guess it's on my mind today after that last Meta, so I guess I do care after all. Anyway, if my intemperance does you all a disservice, I'm sorry about that.
    posted by Errant at 9:36 PM on November 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


    I was born in Canada to ethnically Chinese parents from Indonesia. My ancestors settled in what is now Indonesia sometime in the 1700s so I am very long removed from China, even though I have a Chinese name. On the other hand, my parents left Indonesia to escape a lot of anti-Chinese bullshit, so I do feel identified as Chinese, if that makes any sense. It also feels weird identifying as Indonesian, when Indonesia turned on them that way, even if it is the source of my mother tongue, all my comfort foods, and the setting for all my family histories.

    So that 'what are you' question always gives me pause, mostly because it's complicated. I don't resent the question. I grew up in a very multicultural suburb of Toronto surrounded by immigrants from everywhere. I was never the only Asian kid in the room, and the majority of the white kids were 1st or 2nd generation immigrants themselves. So that was cool.
    posted by emeiji at 12:15 AM on November 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Hello my Asian peeps!

    Mixed race Mefites represent! I'm half Chinese, half European. Growing up in a super white Canadian community was...interesting. I was lucky to meet a great group of other kids of Asian immigrants in high school--there's something to be said about that shared experience.

    I've grown to appreciate that I was raised with deep connections to both my mother's and my father's cultures, and while I do feel I'm a mix of both, I definitely identify strongly with my Asian half.
    posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:56 AM on November 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


    I've mentioned this before in my comments elsewhere on the site but I'm a Japanese person born and currently living in Tokyo. My father was a businessman who was sent to work in various places around the globe; I was brought up mostly in the States. I went to public schools in the suburbs of Chicago, Detroit, and in Ocean Springs, Mississippi for a total of about 8 years from when I was 6 to 14? (I've sort of forgotten the details now), came back to Japan and went to high school and part of university here, then transferred to a uni in Canada and graduated there. I can read, write and speak both Japanese and English, but having lived in Japan for most of my adult life prefer speaking in Japanese now. But I've always preferred reading in English and still write much better English than Japanese, go figure... So I'm not American, I'm not Canadian, and I hate that word kikokushijo = "returnee" but have never felt wholly Japanese, either, even after all these years. Sorry for rambling. This has been a fascinating thread. Hello to everyone who commented, and if you're ever in Tokyo, let's meet up!
    posted by misozaki at 4:45 AM on November 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


    Hi there! Is this "American" style Asia, i.e., East Asia, or does east of the Caucasus count?

    I am a white Canadian man with a Tajik wife and two mixed race boys. Aside from an unfortunate short lived attempt to live in Canada, I have mostly been in Asia since 2000. For a while in Kyrgyzstan, and now in Malaysia. Inshallah I will be signing a contract soon for work in Nanjing, and able to reunite with my wife and kids once there. When I try the duck I will think of you, Conspire.

    It feels kind of off to me to say I'm an "ally", I guess I am a bit too old and white to feel current with all this social justice stuff. Being white for sure gives me certain privilege wherever I go, but being a minority and outsider has also been a big part of my experience these last few years. It is a bit of a tenuous existence living contract to contract, and my wife and I would love to be able to solve the puzzle of "where the hell do me and my family belong?" It sure ain't Canada, and it sure ain't Tajikistan.

    Anyways hi guys, nice to meet you all.
    posted by Meatbomb at 7:52 AM on November 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Meatbomb: when did you get to my part of the world? Which city?

    I was born and raised in Malaysia, of Bangladeshi parents who migrated in the 70s coz Dad got a job offer. I didn't get Malaysian citizenship till my 26th birthday, because Malaysian Bureaucracy sucks (long ranty story), and growing up I was always parsed as The Other or The Foreigner or The One That Does Not Belong Here. And then I go back to Bangladesh to see relatives and I stick out as The Foreign Cousin, because I can't read the language, barely speak it, don't look the part, and stick out like a sore thumb without even trying.

    I was in Australia for 6 years, then moved to the Bay Area because I got sick of bridging visa limbo. Then had to leave the Bay Area because my visa ran out a few months ago, so now I'm back in Malaysia, bah. I did get Australian permanent residency a couple of years ago, but given that part of the reason I left is because I couldn't get a job, I don't think it's worth coming back until I can secure a job anywhere in Ozland - which is proving really hard right now even with the PR.

    I loved the Bay Area - I felt like I was only just getting started in many ways. If it weren't for arcane visa restrictions I could have built a pretty good life there. Being a queer Bangladeshi artist-activist in Malaysia just sets me up for trouble, but I guess I'm "lucky" in that I'm in a relatively quiet part of the country. Maybe. shrug.

    Also I hate "where are you from" with a fiery passion, and will never reclaim it, especially since I get the same question from other Asians (and have been since I was born, practically). People seem to think that Asia is a utopia for Asians but let me tell you, being a racial minority here, particularly a vilified one, sucks hardcore. There's no Asian solidarity.
    posted by divabat at 8:16 AM on November 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


    What are you, where are you from?

    To speak to this a little more, 98% of the time I am read as white, so I rarely get this question, but more and more these days it is popping up. I have olive skin and a bit more of an epicanthic fold than your average white lady, but I also have thick curly brown hair and green eyes. The 2% of people who do not read me as Northern European tend to ask me "Are you Jewish?" or "Are you Mediterranean?" - there are probably loads of Jewish people in my ancestry but none any closer relations than my Chinese ancestors, and there are zero people from the Mediterranean in my family. The fact that I speak Spanish fluently is probably muddying the waters.

    I wish I had a snappier answer, but usually I just say, "No, I'm white" or "I have Chinese and Russian ancestry" or "I have non-European ancestry". Sometimes when I'm cranky I want to say "YES MY GREAT-GRANDMA WAS YELLOW" but I don't know that that would help matters any.
    posted by chainsofreedom at 2:25 PM on November 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Divabat, you're in Malaysia now? Memail me if you come down to Singapore!
    posted by dorothyisunderwood at 2:56 PM on November 14, 2015


    Hi! I'm half-Chinese, half-British Isles, but ALL American. :) Also very mouthy.

    I identify more strongly, I guess, with the Chinese minority, but I'm also very deeply assimilated to white US culture and professional culture, so... yeah. Very torn a lot of the time.

    I was born in southern California (Riverside, CA), lived in various small towns, mostly coastal, until about Junior High (K-8), then moved with my family to northern California for HIgh School (years 9-12). I dropped out of college and moved to the East Coast, then completed my B.S. in Northern Virginia, then moved around the US east coast until 2012, when I was able to return to the family home in Berkeley, CA.

    My older relatives (my Dad's generation, some of whom were born in the US and some of whom were immigrants) were VERY assimilationist to the point that my generation generally knows few Chinese words to no Chinese words, and mostly about food and/or ritual - the only one we really know is Ching Ming, and we practiced poor people Ching Ming (couple weeks early or late, no whole roasted pigs, cheap burnables) because it wasn't until my generation of the family that we could afford more.

    But we still do it every year - it brings the family back together if nothing else.

    One or two cousins and I also practice various versions of Taoism, which our grandfather, but none of his kids (our parents and uncles and aunts) practiced. And I think a bunch of us keep alive the food traditions too - the family recipes, wok cooking, etc. Grandfather (our original immigrant) was a professional cook for most of his life.

    It was also only recently, in the past couple of years, that I realized that my Grandfather left three older children (who were by the time he immigrated, adults) in China. I don't know if family ties could be explored or rekindled - probably not. But anyway, the family is, like apparently more than 75% of Chinese immigrants to the U.S., from Taishan, which is part of the Guangdong province, near Hong Kong.

    What am I? What are my family? Largely science and tech geeks of various kinds, with some of us in government, or retired, or doing the weird stuff independently wealthy people do.
    posted by kalessin at 3:25 PM on November 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


    I was born in the United States to a mom from Taiwan whose father came from China and mother came from Japan. My dad's a US native and a white guy. Sometimes I answer the "What's your nationality?" question by saying I'm American, because that is true and it's fun to take the question literally. Once we have worked out that they want to know my ethnic background, I tell them Swedish, because that is also true and also I am a jerk and this opens the way for my terrible follow-up, "I'm a Norse of a different colour."
    posted by salix at 3:37 PM on November 14, 2015 [20 favorites]


    Hi folks, Bay Area born and bred 2nd gen Chinese American here. Spent some time in the Midwest but hopefully I'm back to stay. I went to Saturday Chinese School up through 6th grade; I can pass as a Mandarin speaker until my 3rd-grade vocabulary becomes glaringly obvious. I work in tech but I'm very much attuned to science, art, music, and the written word.

    My mom gave me "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" for my birthday this year. My dad made me a profile on Match.com but thankfully he's too cheap to actually pay for it. I am not exactly okay with these sorts of displays of parental concern but I have learned how to live with them.
    posted by Standard Orange at 4:48 PM on November 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


    Hi! I too am in this thread.

    I'm a Sydneysider of Indian descent, although I grew up in Hong Kong - I moved to Australia with my family after the handover of Hong Kong back to China. Also, my parents are from Goa, so there's some vaguely defined Portugese heritage thrown in there and Portugese citizenship. The 'where are you from' question is a long and complex one for me.

    Despite the fact that my parents speak 5 languages, I only speak English. This is a touchy subject for my mother.

    I've spent a lot of time commenting on 'where are you from' threads as well as threads on toxic masculinity and social justice, but I also like commenting on food, bike, and sci-fi threads when the times call for a little more self-care

    Are you me?
    posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:10 PM on November 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


    I'm Indian, but live in Mexico. My daughter is Indian-Mexican-American, so all these discussions of identity are really useful to me right now.
    posted by dhruva at 6:17 PM on November 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


    I'm half Japanese, born in Japan and moved to California with my parents when I was an infant. I recently found my first passport in my late father's effects and to my great amusement, it had an entry stamp from the Port of San Francisco so I am indeed FOB.

    Culturally, I'm Californian but there's some deep down core cultural artifacts from my mom which leads me to do things like bathe with citrus fruit on the winter solstice.

    I still have family in Japan, my uncle and his children, but lost touch with them after my mom passed away and haven't been able to find them because their names are relatively common.
    posted by jamaro at 9:08 PM on November 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Greetings! I'm ethnically Chinese, born in Malaysia, Australian in nationality, and culturally a banana (yellow on the outside, white on the inside). OK, not quite - my family and I do hold to some traditional cultural practices, mostly the yummy food related ones of course! I don't say that I'm Chinese-Australian or Australian-Chinese and I don't know that Australians generally identify themselves like that.

    IRL my pet peeve is that when I tell people I'm born in Malaysia they look at me and say "oh, so you're Malay" and I have to go no, that's an ethnicity and not a nationality and where you're born doesn't change your actual genes. It's not offensive, just annoying that I have to explain so often so sometimes I do just say I'm Chinese, born in Malaysia. (But if I'm overseas and asked where I'm from, I say Australia).

    On Mefi I feel like I'm in a minority of a minority by both not living in North America and not being white. I haven't had a culturally dependent question to ask and I suspect I wouldn't post one here if I did. There's enough cultural difference between Australia and the US already, without adding race based cultural differences into it. But don't get me wrong, I still think this is a great community, it just can't be all things to all people.

    (Our most famous local cuisine is this preserved salted duck - I love it, but it's not everyone's taste
    I had not heard of this until this thread, and then lo and behold I saw it on a menu today! Unfortunately it was on the dinner menu and I was there at lunchtime. Though that also meant that I didn't have to figure out if I was adventurous enough to order it...
    posted by pianissimo at 12:30 AM on November 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


    IRL my pet peeve is that when I tell people I'm born in Malaysia they look at me and say "oh, so you're Malay" and I have to go no, that's an ethnicity and not a nationality and where you're born doesn't change your actual genes.

    OMFG I would get this all the time, even in Malaysia, particularly because my family was Muslim. Apparently it is impossible to be Muslim but not Malay, and definitely impossible to be Bangladeshi and well-off except if you were a diplomat (which my parents weren't, but that didn't stop people from assuming). I get "are you Malay" or "are you mixed" on the regular.
    posted by divabat at 2:47 AM on November 15, 2015


    I'm half Missouri German, half...well, the other half of my family is mostly located in the Philippines and composed of Spanish, Filipino, American, and Jewish-from Alsace-Lorraine people. I was born in Manila and my dad was a diplomat whose job had us living about 50-50 in Northern Virginia or someplace in Asia. I don't feel like I can authentically call myself part-Asian, although most of my cousins are fully Asian. My sister and I both took after my father's side of the family so we look like all the other Missouri Germans (thanks for the giant feet, Dad.)

    It tends to come out in things like desserts with red bean paste and confusion when reading Judy Blume books where ear piercing was a Big Deal for a teenager while knowing mine were pierced as a baby. There are also some family dynamics that play out in ways that are sometimes difficult for friends to understand, but from the outside I've always read as white.

    I guess I just mentally classify myself as a kind-of Asian Third Culture Kid and sometimes wonder if even that's claiming more than I should.

    Emeiji, I work with someone of ethnic Chinese heritage whose family moved to Indonesia and then to the Netherlands and then to New York. He and his family get together for gouda tasting parties at their family reunions. He's also an addict of triple-salted licorice. I just realized he's a counter-example to a lot of the discussions in this ask.
    posted by PussKillian at 9:37 AM on November 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


    A couple of notes of my own comparing to folks talking about their language proficiencies and how that plays into their ethnicity.

    Because I lived in the Philippines for most of my childhood/pre-teen years, I still have an innate understanding of Tagalog. Like, I can watch movies and follow everything or almost everything; but it's serious struggle for me to speak the language. So, that, of course, feeds into having some kind of connection to a mother culture, but not being able to feel like a part of it. Curiously, I am better at speaking French, which I studied as a teenager in Canada, but I struggle a lot more at comprehension.

    When I studied Spanish prior to a trip to Argentina, I found that my brain couldn't deal with the overlap between Spanish, French, and Tagalog, and while I could read and understand signs or written language fine, it was difficult to understand spoken language, and any time I tried to speak Spanish, my brain would switch into French or Tagalog about halfway through the sentence.

    Brains are goddamn weird.

    Also, to the Australians on MeFi, I should say that I visited Melbourne multiple times two years ago for work, and was highly tempted to move there if my American immigration status fell apart. I was really taken with how much more cosmopolitan Melbourne was compared to any of the American Pacific Rim cities, and, to a degree, it was even more of an Asian hybrid than Vancouver was. So, for a while, I had this rose-colored tourist's view of Melbourne being this Western/Asian diversity paradise. I'm not surprised that microaggressions and othering still occurs in Australia, but I'm really curious about how it all plays out in everyday life.

    Like, Canada is very proud of its idea of multiculturalism as mosaic. So, it doesn't matter if you're Pakistani, Jamaican, Chinese, Sudanese, or Quebecois -- you're all Canadians and identity conversations that focus on diversity and tolerance rather understand that visible minorities can come in a variety of skin colors, creeds, and orientations. There's also less pressure to assimilate, so conversations around 'authenticity' gets kind of muddled because everyone's on a different point of the spectrum. Sometimes it feels like the result is a hundred cultural villages that sit next to each other peacefully but don't always mix.

    Whereas, in the US, with the melting pot, it kind of feels like everyone is defined by the degree to which they assimilate into the dominant cultural paradigm. You're either part of a demographic that is blamed for something (either crime -- black, joblessness -- latino, or terrorism -- muslim), or you're just harmless and your particular problems are dismissed as just whining.

    And I was curious about how that interaction plays out in other countries. My impression of Australia was that it was also multicultural in the Canadian model, but that perhaps the sustained waves of refugee arrivals is starting to tilt it to "Australian vs. other"
    posted by bl1nk at 11:59 AM on November 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


    RL my pet peeve is that when I tell people I'm born in Malaysia they look at me and say "oh, so you're Malay" and I have to go no, that's an ethnicity and not a nationality

    OMFG I would get this all the time, even in Malaysia, particularly because my family was Muslim.


    I'm giving you two an internet high-five because zomg, ME THREE! I cut white people some slack, but I found out very recently that an Asian-American family member thought my father was Malay and I felt doubly appalled and betrayed. I don't necessarily love identifying myself as Malaysian because of this--I feel like I always have to give a rambly 10 minute preface about the ethnic makeup in Malaysia, and as a minority, I don't feel terrifically representative. Especially since my mother is Taiwanese, I am close to my Taiwanese family, and I've sought solace in this part of my heritage when I felt alienated from the Chinese-Malaysian community.

    So okay, fine, despite playing coy above, I'm Chinese-Malaysian with a Taiwanese mother and many 1st and 2nd gen Taiwanese-American family members. My maternal grandmother was born under the Japanese Occupation of Taiwan and spoke Japanese with her siblings. Somewhat recently, I gained a bunch of Shanghainese in-laws through my Chinese-American partner who is a one-child policy kid. English is my first language, but I speak, read, and write Chinese effortfully as a third language by a stroke of luck, or rather, dad's ethnocentrism. My mother, like many of her relatives, believed that English was far more important. :/
    posted by peripathetic at 1:09 PM on November 15, 2015


    I speak, read, and write Chinese effortfully

    I enjoy this phrasing greatly. It is 100% accurate!
    posted by chainsofreedom at 3:23 PM on November 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


    DC Chinese here! It was strange growing up in Chinatown and still feeling like an outsider within my own community. My family is Teochew/Chaozhou and I grew up with a bunch of toishan speaking kids. They were convinced that I was Vietnamese, especially since my name is Vietnamese. I'm not sure when but both sides of my family settled down in Vietnam (and many relatives are still over there, especially on my mother's side) before coming to the US. It's been strange seeing Chinatown change since it looks so different from my childhood years, and I'm only 26. But that's life, I remember hearing the old Chinese aunties talk about how DC used to be so different from what it is today. I really missed that Chinese grocery store, now a Vapianos, it was so convenient.


    I have conflicting feelings about growing up Chinese/Asian in DC. On the one hand, I wouldn't trade all the life lessons and hardships that I learned living and growing up here, but on the other.. it would have been nice to not grow up an feeling like an outsider and so marginalized. I always envied my friends whose parents "made it" and moved out to the burbs to be with all the other Asian kids. Not that there aren't any situations of racism (passive aggressive or just aggressive) out in the burbs but it wasn't my perception at the time and it definitely made me feel a bit resentful having to grow up in NW.

    This was an interesting read, thank you for starting this thread sunset in snow country.
    posted by driedmango at 3:29 PM on November 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


    Am Malaysian-born Chinese, naturalized to Australia. I've been thinking about how my background affects my interaction on this site, and perhaps this is just navel gazing, but here goes...

    I like to think of all the sides of my family as eternal migrants: great grand parents were from mainland China, left due to starvation, moved to Singapore to survive and raise the next two generations through the cruel Japanese occupation and atrocities, who then moved to Malaysia to raise the next generation, who then (me) moved to Australia in search of better prospects. Chinese migrants are a class of eternal outsiders: there is no "home" for us. I'm an outsider in Australia, working in a company where there's not a single person from "home" - but even in Malaysia, if I were to work there, policies in every step of life discriminate against ethnic Chinese even if they are Malaysian citizens, and even if I were to return to China, I would again be an outsider, because culturally the Chinese born in Malaysia are so very different. It was a shock for me to meet "real" Chinese people in Beijing and Shanghai. Many of my comments on Metafilter I have come to realise originate from the very pragmatic and amoral worldview common to Chinese diaspora: we've never asked to be treated as equals because we're always acutely aware of our status as outsiders. As an outsider, asking for rights has never been a possibility - you just do the best you can under the circumstances you are under, because you're always escaping from somewhere worse than where you are now. This amoral worldview is why Chinese migrants worldwide have never been interested in politics - you don't fight the system, you work to find the best way through the system. Many of us have low interest in activism and social justice - unfair to characterize an entire culture that way, but it's true if you look at how the Chinese diaspora are positioned whenever social upheaval happens. (there was a great article about this, how the Chinese diaspora lived through the Arab Spring). The ideology seems to be, there's no point complaining about injustice, because there is injustice everywhere, probably worse where you came from - you find a way to cut through it by making allies and doing deals. Your recent ancestors faced death by starvation and on the high seas. You can see behavioural tics in people who have lived through starvation and it kind of stays with you: lessons learned subconsciously in your childhood tend to stay with you your entire life, affecting the next generation, and the generation after. I've seen people having millions of dollars in assets, properties, and stocks, save scraps of tissue paper they used to wipe their hands at KFC and bring them home to reuse a second time in their kitchen rather than use a brand new paper towel.
    posted by xdvesper at 5:52 PM on November 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


    Emeiji, I work with someone of ethnic Chinese heritage whose family moved to Indonesia and then to the Netherlands and then to New York. He and his family get together for gouda tasting parties at their family reunions. He's also an addict of triple-salted licorice.

    Haha, yeah, me too. My mom will drive long distances to source a wheel of Gouda. She and my grandparents are fluent in Dutch. I heard it all the time growing up but I don't understand very much. I did eat a lot of hagelslag though. Thank you, Netherlands, for validating the use of chocolate sprinkles in sandwiches. This is a colonial legacy I can appreciate.
    posted by emeiji at 8:47 PM on November 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


    SO MANY MALAYSIANS

    bl1nk: I've lived in Brisbane and the Bay Area, and I will not recommend Australia to anyone who isn't White. Australia has a huuuuuuuuge problem with racism and not being able to acknowledge its White privilege - and it's terrible, if not far worse, with the progressive lefty set. Any ideas around "multiculturalism" is tokenizing and facile: they don't actually care about POC beyond our ability to make things more exotic and interesting. Yet if you speak up about it you get blackballed and ostracised - I lost a budding burlesque career that way. This is the country that tried to invite me on an all-white-comedian TV panel about "Is it OK to be a little bit racist?". The anti-racist organisations there are all run and fronted by White people, and 99% of their marketing is White people going "I am not racist! Look how welcoming I am to foreigners! Let's host a Welcome lunch to refugees!" yet if you ask for more diverse representation they say they "don't want to be alienating". The queer and activist scenes are hella whitewashed, and rely on the handful of POC members to provide all the emotional labor of bridging cultural gaps with none of the rewards.

    In the Bay Area I was able to be myself in a way that I couldn't in Brisbane or Malaysia overall. Sure, there was racism and tokenizing, no country is free from that, and the US-centrism in social justice activism drives me up the wall. But I could actually have a decent conversation about race or US-centrism without being stuck in Racism 101 limbo. I could yell, and people would yell with me. The various subcultural niches were more accepting of my weirdo background. And, more practically, I was getting way more job interviews and opportunities than I ever did (and probably ever will if my current job search is indicative of anything) in the US than I have in Australia or Malaysia. Only reason I didn't end up staying there was because I ran out of time.
    posted by divabat at 10:10 PM on November 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


    bl1nk: Everyday life in Melbourne is great. I'm sure you enjoyed it - Melbourne is the arts and culture center of Australia, and seems superficially very multicultural - I find many groups never leave their silos. Maybe that's the best we can expect - a peaceful but not necessarily respectful coexistence - but I'm the pessimistic and cynical sort.

    There's a lot to recommend to moving here, but unemployment is pretty high these days and I'm not altogether so confident about the direction of the economy. While official figures are around 6.5% unemployment, if you take into account underemployed people who will be competing with you for a full time position that bumps it up to about 17%. I love how insane the safety net is here - according to 2010 data there are 7.9 million full time workers, supporting 6.2 million welfare recipients, and the average welfare recipient gets $12,000 per year in direct cash - no strings attached. 25% of the federal budget is spent on direct cash handouts. I absolutely love how supportive the people here are of this level of support - to me it shows their commitment to equality and an egalitarian society. Sure there's grumbling about people who're on welfare, but I think that's perfectly normal. If society didn't actually support this overall, the government would have changed their policies very quickly to match expectations (the competition between the two major parties here is very intense, and both sides have demonstrated the willingness to abandon core party values to cater to the whims on the public). It's a self selected sample of immigrants you'll find here - nearly everyone I know across the major cities love it here, but that's clearly because the ones who couldn't get jobs had to leave, and those who didn't like it left as well.
    posted by xdvesper at 2:43 AM on November 16, 2015


    Welfare in Australia does have more strings than people expect (based on the grumbling of almost all my Australian friends). As an immigrant you don't get any access to Government funding, except Medicare, until you've been a permanent resident for 2 years - and getting that permanent residency takes forever. In the meantime you're stuck in a limbo state where you're legally allowed to work but nobody will hire you, you still have to pay taxes anyway, you can study but have to pay international student fees, you're ineligible for grants or scholarships or funding because 99% of them want permanent residency at the minimum, and you can't get a loan or a credit card because of your status.
    posted by divabat at 2:55 AM on November 16, 2015


    *high 5s divabat and peripathetic*

    I'm so glad that it's not just me! Also happy to find other Mayalsian-born people on Mefi!

    Welfare in Australia does have more strings than people expect
    True, in terms of unemployment benefits at least - and it never seems to dissuade the bludgers, it just diverts the time and energy of genuine job seekers from the business of actually getting a job. Obviously it's not a perfect system but it's better than places where there's barely a safety net at all. And in my experience, much of the grumbling comes from people who have never lived in such a place. Many Australians do not appreciate just how good we've got it.
    posted by pianissimo at 3:14 AM on November 16, 2015


    I've got friends with severe disabilities who are significantly maligned by Centrelink, and the last couple of budgets have made things even worse for them. Also, while I am deeply appreciative of Medicare, having lived in the Bay Area - a sanctuary city where your immigration status isn't used against you for local benefits - and gaining access to free medical & dental care (even my psych meds were free!), better access to scholarships and funding, and even a discount on my international student fees, I side-eye any claim that Centrelink is automatically better (especially since they wouldn't give me money when my apartment got flooded in the major 2011 floods and I had to evacuate because "bridging visa", even though every other visa holder got some).
    posted by divabat at 3:20 AM on November 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Welfare in Australia does have more strings than people expect (based on the grumbling of almost all my Australian friends). As an immigrant you don't get any access to...

    divabat this really mirrors my experience trying to make a go of it with my family in Canada. It didn't help that we moved to one of the poorest and in decline regions of Canada, but that's a side issue. The Catch-22 was we could not sponsor my MiL until we had proven (and pretty high) income levels - savings didn't count. My wife couldn't get work without child care, and they wouldn't let our key child-care support in. Plus, all of our international accreditations meant fuck all in Canada. My wife with an MA in TESOL from a US university was being directed to search for work in Wal-Mart and Tim Horton's. FUCK THAT VERY MUCH.
    posted by Meatbomb at 3:36 AM on November 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Divabat here's where we differ in opinion I guess.

    From a pragmatic point of view, I have absolutely no problem with new PR holders being made to wait 2 years to receive benefits - after all, we neither paid any taxes into the system nor did our parents before us. To walk into a foreign country and immediately expect "benefits" to flow out of it when I never contributed anything to them seems a bit presumptuous. 2 years is a reasonable time (you'd pay, say, $15k per year in taxes, which would be enough to support 1 other person on welfare.)

    I also have absolutely no problem with certain PR applications having a significant queue. With unemployment at fairly high levels there is no point approving PR applications when there are no jobs available, leading to the government paying out even more welfare. The only way to fairly restrict numbers is to create a queue. Areas of work with high demand have virtually no waiting period. I have friends in high demand job areas receive their PR within 3 months of application. Australia loves immigrants - we pay an outsized portion of their taxes and are a critical resource to the nation - the limiting factor is simply the available jobs. You can't push a string, as they say.

    Bridging visas are essentially a courtesy the government extends to people awaiting a visa decision. They could well tell people to wait for a visa decision in their own country. I'm just really grateful the option even exists, despite the conditions attached to it. I ended up working at the supermarket as a cashier. Minimum they can pay you (according to standard casual award rates) is around $37 per hour on weekends, $25 per hour weekdays. I used to do two 5 hour shifts bagging groceries on weekends and it was enough to tide me over while waiting for something to happen. You can survive more easily on minimum award wages in Australia than any other country in the world, I would dare say.

    I don't think any other country in the world spends close to 25% of its federal budget on direct cash welfare ($75 billion) - this is in addition to traditional forms of non cash support such as free healthcare, education, that every country provides. Yes, there are restrictions on how the money gets disbursed, but you have to expect some level of oversight when such large sums of money are disbursed. Though, as you say, Centerlink isn't perfect, it's still a gigantic program that does a fairly good job at income redistribution.

    It's hard for me to imagine how the system could be made any fairer.
    posted by xdvesper at 6:29 AM on November 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


    I'm so happy people are enjoying this thread! You all have such interesting stories and I'm loving reading them. Thank you, everyone who posted!

    I could probably spend all day responding to stuff here and I gotta get ready for work, but this, I must say:

    I think this is less of an introduction than an apology for being such an offensive asshole. I guess it's on my mind today after that last Meta, so I guess I do care after all. Anyway, if my intemperance does you all a disservice, I'm sorry about that.

    Omg, wtf, no. Errant, I know you and your contributions well, but when I read this I couldn't place who you were for a moment and was trying to figure out if I'd mistaken you for a white guy because they're the only ones who have ever offended me in these threads. After figuring it out I'm like... ok, I stayed the hell out of that thread, and I think the person who scolded you for your comment ultimately probably meant well, but you should NOT apologize for it! "How are you supposed to know what single story to believe about us" is PERFECT and now it's in my vocabulary toolbox for describing why 99% of what people expect of Asian Americans is ridiculous - your words really resonated with me and (I assume) the other 45 people who favorited it. Seriously, thank you for that comment, and I'm really sorry you were made to feel like an asshole over it because it was BRILLIANT.
    posted by sunset in snow country at 7:23 AM on November 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


    My mom is Japanese and my father was German & Irish. I was mostly raised by my mom and identify more culturally with my Japanese side, although in my family, my generation is the 3rd to be born in the US. I think my experience has mostly been one of a typical middle-class GenX-er. However, I was in my late teens before I realized that shoyu and soy sauce are the same thing, and when I brought my first boyfriend home for dinner and he asked for butter for his rice, I knew the relationship was not going to last.
    posted by dogmom at 10:46 AM on November 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


    I'm a Pakistani/Indian Canadian. Both my parents were born in India, but once Pakistan was created they migrated to Pakistan. Neither of them spend more than a decade in the country and they both ended up in Canada by the 1950s where they've been since. So for non-Desi people I'll say my parents were Pakistani but I'll give slightly longer explanations for Desi people. I can understand a decent chunk of Urdu/Hindi but can hardly speak and am illiterate in the language.

    My wife is Japanese and we have a couple of kids who I'm sure will have a fun time explaining what they are. Due to the kids, and having lived in Japan for a few years my Japanese language proficiency is higher than my Urdu/Hindi in most respects which I am not very proud of.
    posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:53 AM on November 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


    I'm Chinese-American, and would love to meet new friends! Also: I'm going through this stage where I feel this general sense of malaise (?) regarding my Asian-American identity (Conspire's thread was great, but so emotionally exhausting to read through, for example). If anybody here feels they've been through this stage I'm talking about, and feels that they have some perspective they'd like to share with an early twenties woman, I'd definitely like to hear it!
    posted by gemutlichkeit at 11:02 AM on November 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


    I identify as Korean, although currently residing in the U.S., and it's complicated. I am fluent in both Korean and English, conversant with pop culture in both, and very picky about Korean food. I attended university in both the U.S. and Korea. While in the U.S. I've found it easier to associate with Koreans from Korea and non-Korean Americans. I seem to have very little common ground with Korean-Americans - Korean church didn't play a big part in my life, and I do still think about "going back" to Korea some day. The whole family is peripatetic but we consider Korea to be home.
    posted by needled at 2:06 PM on November 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


    At the risk of this being a possible derail - but it does relate to the "where are you from and where you are going" idea - I am not blind to the issues that Australia has around race and privilege - but to put everything in context, my parents generation in Malaysia still remember the Chinese being slaughtered in the streets in our hometowns and their houses being burned - while the (Malay) government army and police stood by and watched. The (Christian) pastor of my church was taken by secret police in the middle of the night from his home and vanished, and no one, not even his family, knew if he was dead or alive or being tortured - literally no way of finding out what happened to him until he was randomly released months later. These are not issues in the long past: racial and religious tensions are as strong as they have ever been, and I wouldn't be surprised at a repeat of some of those events. "Fighting" for your rights and activism in the face of state sanctioned violence like that isn't realistic. It was precisely the political success of the minority Chinese in the election that led directly to the slaughter 2 days later. True power is held by those with the guns and swords: demanding for your rights, even winning them at the ballot box, could lead to get your head being cut off. Which is probably why some of us we have a reflexive aversion to activism and political process of all kinds, while others revel in their new found freedom.

    The bar I set for a "happy and peaceful existence in another country where I am a minority" is a very low one indeed.
    posted by xdvesper at 2:34 PM on November 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


    1. You do pay takes as an Australian resident regardless of citizenship. This includes international students and people on bridging visas. So yes, you are contributing to the Australian economy already - and, in cases of international students, way more than locals because your fees are higher.

    2. Literally the only way Immigration figures out your "skills" is by the subjects you take during university. Not your work experience, not your background, nothing else. Just how you can shunt specific subjects into some kind of odd job description. (I ended up being Print Journalist despite not having a journalism degree because that was the only thing that my interdisciplinary degree fit - had I applied a year later I would be nothing.) And not all industries are represented - for instance, anything creative has been stricken out of the skills list, despite the Australian creative industries making a huge deal about how they're the Next Big Thing and they Need More People etc etc etc. The "skills list" is a tiny outdated list that is not evaluated at all well.

    3. Good for you that you got a cashier job! I couldn't even get that much! I worked temp childcare but that was very few hours. If it weren't for my family and my boyfriend-at-the-time supporting me I'd be homeless.

    Australia only "loves" immigrants for their money, they don't actually care fuck all about their welfare. The system is cruel and I am not the only victim.
    posted by divabat at 7:31 PM on November 16, 2015


    (This is a derail from the meet and greet where I do not belong but VETASSESS looked at my work experience, publications and degrees for my skills assessment. Things underwent some big changes in the past five years.)
    posted by gingerest at 3:23 AM on November 17, 2015


    (Within the last 5? I applied in 2009. Good for them if they changed it, about time.)
    posted by divabat at 3:24 AM on November 17, 2015


    thanks for indulging me and sharing your perspectives on being a minority in Australia, folks. I'm also in the midst of a commute and can't type much, but wanted to respond to this bit from xdvesper:
    Fighting" for your rights and activism in the face of state sanctioned violence like that isn't realistic. It was precisely the political success of the minority Chinese in the election that led directly to the slaughter 2 days later. True power is held by those with the guns and swords: demanding for your rights, even winning them at the ballot box, could lead to get your head being cut off. Which is probably why some of us we have a reflexive aversion to activism and political process of all kinds, while others revel in their new found freedom.
    I am not ethnically Chinese, but I know that the same strain of prejudice runs between Filipino-Chinese/Filipino-Malay and the mestizo Filipino/Spanish communities. All the same, my own political trauma incident was growing up in Manila during martial law and seeing the chaos that emerged in the post Marcos years. Democracy is messy and prone to corruption and tends to flow from the barrel of a gun; BUT our political process exist so that we don't have to resolve all of our arguments with intimidation and violence.

    This is the privilege of living in the West talking, but if one does live in a society where a somewhat viable process and framework for dialogue exists, it's even more vital for one to participate, because it's when that breaks down that the gun and pitchforks come out and everything gets really ugly.

    In general, I have a low tolerance for the talk of pitchforks and populist revolt that emerges in MeFi, especially in wealth equality and class threads. People have this fantasy idea that they have popular support and therefore the masses will just carry their cause once they get fed up and rise against our common oppressors; but the reality of history is that popular revolt eventually just gets co-opted by who has the biggest gang with the biggest guns especially when it gets violent and bloody. I feel like it's those of us who've emigrated from strife-ridden countries who have the most reason to be simultaneously skeptical of democracy because we're familiar with its past failures, also have the reason to be most invested in ensuring that it succeeds in the future.

    It's either that, or we all hope to be Singapore.
    posted by bl1nk at 6:20 AM on November 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


    Oh, I missed this going up!

    Hi everyone. I'm a first generation American/second generation third culture kid/global nomad*; I'm half-Vietnamese, half-Eastern European and have spent not quite the majority of my life in French Switzerland (there's been a lot of back-and-forth, plus a three year stint in Tokyo early on). I'm more or less assimilated, but that means different things on different continents, especially since in some contexts I'm the wrong kind of white person and the right kind of Asian person (which I made reference to on the racism meta).

    For simplicity's sake, I usually identify as a (white-passing) mixed Asian American -- I feel a closer to my mom's heritage for reasons of cultural practices, relationship with her side of the family, cuisine, how much time we spend together, etc etc.

    My parents' common language is English and they made the executive decision when I was a kid to teach us Japanese (since forgotten) and then French but neither of their own native languages. Which I understand, but am also frustrated by -- I know I could still learn now even as an adult, but I have trouble holding onto languages I don't use constantly and I can't even hear a lot of the tones in Vietnamese. Still dying of mortification of the time almost twenty years ago when I called my grandmother "father" but still also annoyed at my mom for making fun of me. You can't not teach me and then make fun of me for it, Mom, jeez!

    *I feel deeply ambivalent about these terms because their usage seems very class-restricted, but I can't find a better term that fits.
    posted by bettafish at 8:23 AM on November 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


    What a great thread!

    I'm a first-generation immigrant from the Philippines to the United States. Like bl1nk, I grew up under the Marcos regime, but I've now spent more time in the States than in the Philippines, and thus I identify as Filipino-American rather than Filipino. I've been following the work of my kababayan ("countryman" in Tagalog) Jose Antonio Vargas at Define American, and I'd encourage my fellow MeFites to share their stories.
    posted by evoque at 9:57 AM on November 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


    (divabat: I didn't have records handy last night so I went with a safe number of years - I dealt with VETASSESS in 2012 and 2014. They were most interested in the jobs I'd held in Australia since I was coming off a 457 but they also asked about my US employment and publications. There were some big changes to the paths between 457s and PR in 2013, but I imagine how you're assessed probably also depends on where you did your education and the nature of the nominated occupation - the ANZSCO categories are just terrible for biomedicine, epidemiology is listed under actuaries. I think the single biggest factor in dealing with DIAC, now DIBP, is having enough money and connections to hire a really persistent and knowledgeable lawyer, although I am 100% certain Whiteness and being a native anglophone also play big roles. And of course these things intersect. We couldn't even figure out a pathway to start an application for PR in 2011, with the other advantages but without the lawyers, but in 2013-14 it went smoothly.)
    posted by gingerest at 6:50 PM on November 17, 2015


    So frequently I find my self explaining "what" my parents are instead of me. I think I identify most strongly as Californian maybe even Northern Californian. My mom is Korean American (Korean mother/American father) and my father is Persian (his way of identifying) who came to California from Iran in the mid 70s. I grew up with my white American step father's last name which is Germanish and confuses people. My mixed heritage resulted in fairly ambiguously "not white" features for me and I always get people trying the guessing game. In the north Bay Area (where I was raised) everyone assumes that I am Latina. I went to college in San Francisco and got more Asian guesses. I have lots of family in the south Bay where people pick up the Persian. I pretty much only really understand the food culture from either side. I know only a few works of Farsi or Korean, mostly insults taught by my funny cousins. I joke that I have an internal rice war where the short grain sticky Korean rice battles the long grain fluffy Persian rice, resulting in me not being able to make either type well.
    posted by Swisstine at 11:47 PM on November 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Hi. I have a hard time with writing currently (overthinking everything I could be saying for a couple days comes easy but is not helping either) nevertheless I am going to say hi.

    I feel very ambivalent about my asian ancestry, which is Indo, which has on the whole been a very assimilation-happy ethnicity/subculture (?), you could say pre-assimilated considering how it developed before the independence. So it was not difficult to be pretty much white-passing, and to feel I am overwhelmingly white-socialized. I have been wondering lately if it is truthful/sincere/authentic though to continue going through life like that, letting the colonizers win, in a sense. (Maybe that sounds pretend-valorous? Maybe I've been reading too much Tumblr-style SJW rants). Anyway, problem with embracing my Indo roots, apart from the usual mental illness obstacles (another story) is that I really mostly don't like them a lot. There's plenty of Indo culture around still, especially here in The Hague, and almost all of it annoys me. (Pecel is good though).

    So that's me about my asian heritage: angry and ambivalent.
    posted by disso at 2:48 PM on November 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


    So it was not difficult to be pretty much white-passing, and to feel I am overwhelmingly white-socialized. I have been wondering lately if it is truthful/sincere/authentic though to continue going through life like that, letting the colonizers win, in a sense.

    I really feel you on this. I use an Anglicized pronunciation of my name instead of a Indo-Sanskrit one. There's not too much difference, mostly just which of the two syllables is stressed. Anyway, I used to be mildly annoyed whenever my family pronounced my name the "right" way, and I used to tell myself that I genuinely preferred the Anglicized version. Lately, though, I've been thinking about switching, because I'm in the US and no one can pronounce my name anyway, what difference does it make, which got me to thinking about whether I really "preferred" it or whether it just made my life easier to not have to teach every new white person how to aspirate a vowel. I've been going back and forth on it for a while now, because the more alienated I become from "white" America, the more attractive the other version sounds, but I'm very used to this one. It's all very small and petty in the grand scheme of things, but hey, it keeps me busy I guess.
    posted by Errant at 7:08 PM on November 18, 2015


    I use an Anglicized pronunciation of my name

    I do this too(ish), to the slight dismay of my parents. It's just easier to not have to spell it out (I get why people want to know how it's spelt, but trust me - it won't help you pronounce it!) or teach people how to make unfamiliar sounds. I generally dislike people using a shortened version of my name (only 2 syllables to begin with) because that's chopping my name in half *and* mispronouncing the bit that you are saying so at that point you might as well call me "hey you".
    posted by pianissimo at 4:56 AM on November 20, 2015


    I also go for Anglicized pronunciation of my family name. It's just been really jarring hearing well-meaning people try to master the sounds, and I just gave up at an early age trying to train or correct people otherwise. (This was also following the lead of my parents when we immigrated and, as a family, we decided that there more important hills to die on)

    I have to say, though, as a Filipino, it's a small pleasure to run into other hispanophone speakers who do innately know how to pronounce my last name properly (or sometimes with a bit of regional flair because the Filipino accent is closer to Mexican, so my last name comes off differently if it's coming from a Cuban, Argentinian, or Spaniard) and it's just like a small piece of cultural spare change that I found in my pocket that I almost forgot about.

    My fiancee, who teaches at the university level, when getting to know her students likes asking them to write down both their name as it appears in the class register and the name that they prefer to be called in class, and it's a fascinating glimpse into what people claim as their identity, because, of course, it's useful and applicable for trans students, for people who prefer their middle name, and for, say, Korean immigrants who have had enough of Americans teasing them for having a first name like 'Suck' and just want to be called 'Sean.'
    posted by bl1nk at 6:33 AM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Very late to this, but I'm a first-generation Filipino-American, emphasis on the American. My parents raised my sister and I during a time where being proficient in English was the best way for immigrant kids to become successful in school and so neither she or I speak any Tagalog at all. However, we are definitely tied to our parents by the close familial bonds which are common in Filipino-Catholic families and the food which we don't exactly know how to prepare ourselves.

    The most random part of all is that even though we were raised in Southern California and could connect very closely with the Filipino side of our heritage because every holiday season we would go to the day-long party and gift giving extravaganza which was held at the home of one of my mom's relatives both my sister and I ended up settling in the Midwest with white husbands; she's in Chicago and I'm in Minneapolis. If there's a Filipino community in Minneapolis, I have no idea where it is and/or if I'd even feel like I belong at all.
    posted by TrishaLynn at 7:24 AM on November 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


    I was going to post the first 3 volumes of my Bildungsroman: "Not Good Enough: A Model Minority's thoughts on failure and being unexceptional as a third culture Canadian," but decided to sit on it and ended up forgetting about this thread.

    A summary for anyone who actually reads the comments down here:

    What I am at heart, below all else, is....25 years old. That is, I am nowhere close to coming to terms with my culture and identity, as I still have years of growing up to do. In fact, I sometimes wish I could turn off the melanin for a while, so that I might figure out the rest of my life and explore the world without the pressure of being different in a particular way. I'll probably get around to it in 15-20 years, after the divorce is settled and my mid-life crisis kicks in, when I return to the old country for some spiritual renewal. Hence why I don't list any details. If anyone is interested until then, feel free to memail. This community means much to me and I am glad to be part of it.

    Where I am from is in an empty field near the Scarborough Bluffs, under the infinite sky, sometime in late May, kicking dandelions.
    posted by Freelance Demiurge at 1:36 PM on December 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


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