Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Having an Asian friend

I have a couple. I have known them for a long time.

But an Australian friend who lives overseas has mentioned a friend of hers in several emails. The friend is American. We shan't hold that against her. Some of my best blog mates are American (that is irony for you Americans, who apparently don't get irony, or so we are told). Our friend recently sent us pictures of herself and her American friend when they were on a road trip. We were surprised to see that our friend's American friend was of 'Asian appearance', a term favoured by our local police force.

Our friend had never mentioned this, and why should she? Her friend is American. That is all we needed to know isn't it? We can label her and stick her in a metaphorical box with her just being American.

And yet???

Is it racist that I now think of our friend's American friend in a slightly different context? I don't think it is. It does tell me that she may well have a different background to the one I imagined. Should our friend have mentioned this? Not sure. Essentially it makes now difference. She is American, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Whadda ya reckon?

Later edit: How nice. A mention. What is it like to be a visibly non Anglo in an Anglo dominated country? AdRad gives you a couple of examples.


  1. Hello Andrew:
    We think that it is probably inevitable that one gives certain characteristics to people one has never met on the basis of their country of origin since, in all probability, it will have had a major impact on how they see and feel about things. However, once one sees the person, then another range of ideas crowd in based on appearance. Finally, on meeting the person, one can start to get to know them for whom they really are!

  2. Nope, Americans don't get irony, but what is worse is that in this neck of the country they don't even have a sense of humor.
    How about, she is an Asian American? That's how we do it here :)

  3. I regard myself as Australian but unlike my anglo Aussie friends, have had to put up with people telling me to row back to my own country or asking me when I was going home. The worst stereotype though was when I was once mistaken for a monk.

  4. ...And 'no', I don't think you are a racist.

  5. Quite so J&L. Assumptions made on appearance are foolish and if you are rash enough to open your mouth too early, you can look very foolish indeed.

    Linda, funny most Americans I know via my blog, and one or two in real life, do get irony. We too use Asian Australian, but I don't think it is appropriate really for someone who is born here.

    AdRad, this is no doubt something many people of non Anglo appearance suffer. There are those who are just offensive and then those who should just listen for a bit before opening their mouths, lest they display their ignorance.

  6. For the most part, I have grown accustomed to having explain that I am Australian. And I do take pride in the fact that I have actually read the Australian Constitution, I know the name of our first prime minister, and can even sing the second verse of Advance Australia Fair.

  7. I'm sorry Adaptive Radiation but knowing the second verse of Advance Australia Fair marks you as an alien. Us true OZ inhabitants don't even know there is a second verse much less know the words to the first :)

  8. Anonymous11:38 pm

    Your comments are interesting and not something I'd thought about before. It just didn't cross my mind to tell you my friend's parents are Chinese. But you're right, we all form a mental image of someone based on certain information, including where they're from.

    I understand Adaptive Radiation's situation as I get it to a lesser degree here. Most Japanese assume Caucasions are American, Christian and speak English - the first two are wrong in my case. They assume we come from another place and whilst that is true for many of us, there is a sizeable population of 'foreigners' who were born and raised here. Children born in mixed-ethnic/cultural families are called 'half' and are never really considered Japanese, even if they only speak Japanese and have never lived elsewhere. It's not uncommon to be stared at or to have a complete stranger ask you to have their photo taken with you, just so they can show their friends the gaijin they 'met' on holiday. I guess racism in its varying forms exists wherever humans live. V.

  9. AdRad, we have a constitution? And there is a second verse to AAF? Well, I'll be. Maybe I am right with Barton.

    Jahteh, you are of a certain age. Do you recall the dirge like manner that we sang God Save the Queen?

    That is kind of the point V. You didn't mention, why would or should you, and we made assumptions. After we looked at the photos, R said to me, did you know J was Asian? Nope, I didn't. Re your second para, it was rare that we were stared at, but remember us telling you about the car that did not move off on the green lights because he was staring at us. That's a funny thing about the photo, which I recall writing about when we visited Sydney last when it happened to us. You should be wearing your kangaroo tee more often.

  10. This is slightly off the topic of your post.

    My father, born in one of the Baltic states, treasured his Australian citizenship and took great pride in his excellent command of English but would be devastated if someone asked him what country he was from.

  11. Victor, your father would have probably spoken better English than most Anglo Australians then. I heard the guy speaking on the radio who set Pink Paper or something like that in India. His English was perfect and he never stumbled when speaking, but he had quite a heavy accent.

  12. I was never aware of my father having any accent at all until I was aged in my mid twenties and I heard him speaking on the other end of the phone (strangely I rarely ever spoke to my father over the phone; at least not until I started living overseas when I was 24 years old) and for the first time I noticed a slight rolling of his 'r's'. I only ever noticed that over the phone.

  13. I suppose kids never really notice how their parents speak until they reach a certain age. Language, ever fascinating.


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