Cross-cultural Dating: How does a lady date a man?

Dating has become a taboo topic these days. Men who date are players; women who date are desperate. There’s a lot of talk about “just hanging out” or “becoming friends first”, but ladies, you can call your date a meeting, a coffee break, or even a mistake–it’s still a date!

Throw in a culture gap, different expectations, and past emotional luggage, it’s no wonder dating gets a bad rep. That doesn’t mean you should stay away or drop out, though. After all, you can’t catch fish unless you go fishing. Here’s a roundup of a few tips on how to charm your next date–like a lady!

Plan ahead
Before you go on a date, whether a blind date, a group date, or an overnight trip with a bunch of friends, you should know what you expect from it. Anticipation can be very exciting while dating, so be like Anna in Frozen and dream about your prince and all the things you have in common. Then, move beyond Disney censorship and think about how far you want to go on this date, what rules you want to honor, and at what pace you’d like your relationships to proceed. Ask yourself:

Should you shave your legs just before your date? Pack your makeup set? A toothbrush?

Might you eat first so you won’t impatiently expect food and then scarf down your meal like a dog in a sausage factory…? Or will you schedule something for after, perhaps even another date, in preparation for a quick escape.

A lady doesn’t just get dolled up for a date and let the man lead, she prepares for it like a warrior on the eve of battle: with a war strategy, a battle plan, and a hunger for victory!

Play the game
Did you know dating is supposed to be fun? Often I hear women complaining about dating like it’s a chore–there’s even a commercial where a friend comes over to help pick an outfit, matching hair and make up, but in the end she cancels her date and they both stay in to eat chocolate! Why? Because apparently
eating chocolate is more fun than going out on a date with a guy. Can you imagine a similar commercial for men?

I have never heard a man complain about taking a woman out on a date (of his own accord–arranged dates are different). It’s us ladies who think it’s so much trouble to get our facials and waxes, make up and hair done, and then prance around in our fancy dresses and heels. Since it’s such a time and effort investment for us, we often have high expectations–followed by deep disappointments. Hence, dating is often a means to an end (marriage, partnership).

When we treat dating like work, it’s no fun. We go in with all the pressures of our age, family, academic background, bank account, and lifetime aspirations, hoping to discover our dates would make a good match. The problem lies in our expectations and how we go about discovering what we want to know. Women who ask their dates twenty questions over a meal are not dating, they’re interviewing. Don’t be that woman. Be a lady who expects a knight in shining armor and don’t fear that you’ll never meet him.

Humans are conditioned to respond to potential mates who are “good enough”–that’s when love at first sight happens. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t know a man’s educational or family background, the numbers in his bank account, or his career readiness. So spend some time and think about the human aspects of your ideal man: is he tall? Is he funny? Will he ask the waiter to bring you your fifth fork because you keep dropping them? Or is he clumsy and cute? Find out what you like, and then treat dates like a treasure hunt! You can’t ask the map to driver the treasure, but you can follow it along and experience adventures!

Don’t break rules
Dating rules are not set in stone, so whether your following your mother’s advice, Sex and the City, or a book on relationships, doesn’t matter as long as you have carefully selected and considered your rule set. A lady should be committed to a set of rules she’s before she dates. She definitely does not make them up as she goes depending on how much she likes a guy.

Remember, the rules exist for a reason. Not only do rules help structure your dates, but they also help you weed out the wolves from the golden retrievers. Examples of rules include:
– [ ] Give every invitation one date (he could be your frog prince!)
– [ ] Only accept an invitation sent at least two days in advance (so if he wants to see you this weekend, he should ask by Wednesday or you’ve got other plans).
– [ ] Decide if you like him enough by the third date and demand girlfriend status if you do (no more “just hanging out”).
– [ ] Don’t put out until your boyfriend has put effort into wooing you (the origins of the weekend getaway).

Be independent
Although there are cultural distinctions, a lady should follow her gut feeling. Just as you wouldn’t want to go out with someone who expects you to cater to their desires and then pick up the bill, most men can appreciate financial independence in a woman. Think about what you want to eat, watch, or do, and vocalize your decisions. Bring your wallet with small change so that you can offer to pay at each junction–if nothing else, your date will appreciate the courtesy you’ve shown him. Whether you like a man who lets you pay is up to you.

Know your ending
Remember how a lady plans ahead? Well, you can plan all you want, but you won’t know how much you like a man until you’ve dated him. Which is why you should be thinking long term during your date. Do you want to see him again? Do you foresee a future? Would you break rules for him (don’t do it)?

Decide during the date when and how you want the date to end. If he suggests another place, do you want to go? Would you like a coffee or an early ending? Is he going to take you home or are you going to part ways early? Are you going to end with a hug or a friendly “just friends” handshake? By knowing your ending before the end, you can confidently say your peace and avoid awkwardness.

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What I learned from China and a roll of toilet paper

I was sitting in the dining room of our West Los Angeles airbnb apartment when I noticed a roll of toilet paper on the dining table.

What the heck” was my first thought, and I proceeded to call out my Chinese husband on his “error”.

Why is the toilet paper in the dining room? We have paper towels, napkins, and tissue boxes…so why bring the toilet paper out of the toilet?

Return culture shock
By the second time I noticed this, it occurred to me that this was normal in China. Even though we bought tissue paper and paper towels, sometimes we would resort to toilet paper in the house. At many offices I worked, my colleagues had toilet paper in their desk drawers or placed on the pantry dining table. I’ve even seen college students bring out a huge roll of toilet paper from their jacket pockets to unroll enough for a sneeze while out walking.

All of this was pretty normal because toilet paper is more economical, you can buy it in bulk, and it’s a daily necessity. In comparison, you could go without tissue paper (Kleenex), paper napkins, and paper towels. Toilet paper is obviously a practical person’s go-to-paper.

Yet here I was, a few weeks back in the US, and already judging my husband for using toilet paper the “wrong” way. It’s one of those things that I used to think makes me feel more “civilized”, and now that we were back in the West, I felt a need to return to our old ways.

Dreadfully uncivilized
But, wait, why does it matter if toilet paper is on the dining table? The same reason why there are coffee and tea cups, coffee mugs, water glasses, glogi glasses, shot glasses, beer mugs, whiskey glasses, red wine glasses, champagne glasses, and the list goes on–capitalism.

If you use the wrong glass, you’re uncivilized. If you use the wrong fork, you’re uncivilized. If you use the wrong plate, you’re uncivilized.

…See where I’m going with this? There’s no practical purpose in these “rules”. If you learn about etiquette, you might learn of some convincing reason, like how the aroma of wine stays within the glass longer or enters your nostrils better, but is it practical? No, it just sounds fancy. You can drink wine from a plastic cup, the bottle, or even a barrel as many of us might’ve discovered in college.

Designating specific types of paper for different purposes is just like having a whole aisle for “liquid coffee creamers” at the supermarket (only in the US!). You don’t need such variety, but product designers and marketers will tell you you do in order to sell you more stuff.

Revolution a Privilege
We can look at China’s cultural revolution and shake our heads at her supposed backwardness, shaming the nation for its cultural loss. Or, we can look at China’s cultural revolution and recognize the revolution for what it is: a revolution.

In the West, there are cultural norms, rules that dictate what is civilized and what is not. If you’re uncivilized, you’re backward, uneducated, and even, savage. These are colonial terms that many still throw around to establish class differences. If you’re poor, you didn’t take etiquette classes as a child, and missed out on valuable lessons from your private tutor. Poor people are always uncivilized.

China in that sense is like a blank slate. Rich Chinese can be of any class, like the infamous tuhao. They have the power to revolutionize society on their terms, rather than follow the age old lead of the west, where they will never be revered as equals. Young Chinese are free to educate themselves and pick and choose their values and build their own cultural identity. Is this not enviable?

Maybe I can too. I took a piece of the toilet paper on the dining table and wiped my nose. Huh. Why was this a big deal again?

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7 Things to consider before moving to Beijing, China

So you’re considering a job, a university, or a relocation to China’s capital, Beijing, and you’ve scoured the internet for articles, blogs, and discussions about life in China, life in Beijing, expat life, etc. Why are you reading another article about what to consider before moving Beijing, then? Because you’re just not sure.

When I moved to Beijing in 2012, I wasn’t sure either. I didn’t make any commitments (but had offers), booked my flights, packed our belongings into a storage, and left with the idea that I’d “test the waters” before deciding if Beijing was for me. Four years proves that I liked it.

It’s important to keep in mind that headhunters, recruiters, and HR people are not going to tell you what realistically to expect. They will share the positives and perhaps a few common anecdotal evidence as to why you should make the leap, but ultimately their goal is to get you over there. On the other end, a quick internet search will give you an endless supply of horror stories and negative experiences. Who should you believe?

Believe me. I spoke with American recruiters before heading out to China. I know exactly how they’re selling China to you. I’ve had colleagues who ran around in circles, taking road trips and flights to get their visas and work permit clearances, and I’ve known foreigners who went with a visitor visa and adjusted their status later. I’ve met foreigners who cried and wanted to leave after they first day, and foreigners who have stayed and stayed and won’t ever leave. I’ve met super qualified foreigners in high positions, and foreigners who didn’t even have a high school diploma. You can meet anyone in Beijing and at some point you stop being surprised.

Keep in mind that every list and opinion derives from one’s background. For me, a lot of the complaints about Beijing simply didn’t register because I was coming from a metropolitan area (Los Angeles, CA) with a high living standard, some pollution, and a lot of traffic. In addition, I’m an Asian looking person with Mandarin skills, a Chinese husband who studied in Beijing, and previous China travel experience (Northern China in 2002, Shanghai in 2004, Chengdu in 2008). But don’t dismiss my opinion just because we might not come from the same background. You might be surprised!

Now, on to the points you should consider before moving to Beijing:

IMG_5507
Woman in pollution mask in Beijing’s smog

Beijing’s pollution is real, but not the worst.
What is it like living in a city known for its apocalyptic skies? It can be depressing, but on the bright side it makes you and everyone around you appreciate the blue skies more.

In practice, pollution forces us to think about sealing doors and windows, about indoor air quality, the usefulness of indoor (and outdoor) plants, and even car air quality and vent cleanliness. We shopped around for air purifiers, heavy drapes, snake plants, face masks, and various other ways we can better take control of the air we breathe. It also means that there’s an indoor smoking ban in Beijing, which doesn’t mean no one smokes in your local neighborhood restaurant, but it does mean that hotels, conference rooms, and offices enforce the ban.

With how bad pollution can get in Beijing, we sometimes forget that other cities have it worse. In traveling for work, I discovered cities where the smoke was so bad I couldn’t walk without coughing (and I lived in Beijing!) Developing third tier cities are often covered by a layer of dust from nonstop construction. Industrial cities have nothing but pollution, and in cities without a smoking ban you’ll find yourself choking as much indoors as outdoors.

I’ve known people who left because of the pollution, people with infants who couldn’t stop coughing, and children who couldn’t get enough oxygen. People die from pollution every year, which is frightening to hear, but also a sobering warning for all of us to evaluate our health prior to moving to Beijing. For example, if you’re sensitive to cigarette smoke, you might want to reconsider moving to Beijing. Research shows that standing outside on a smoggy day is equivalent to smoking forty cigarettes per day.

Beijing is dusty
It shouldn’t surprise you that one of the most polluted cities is dirty or dusty, but many forget that unless you drive everywhere, leave your nice clothes and shoes home.

I can testify to ruining at least two pairs of leather boots within a year after having had them for a long time in the US. Friends have also bemoaned the destruction of perfectly good white clothes and the amount of cleaning required to maintain a dust free home.

IMG_5512

Beijing is big, big, big
Beijing is not just a city, it’s a city state, which makes it similar to a county. It’s kind of like the greater Los Angeles area.

The “rings” that circulate Beijing can give you a good indication of how big it is. The first ring is basically the palace of ancient China (the most central area of the city) around which the other rings circulate. The second ring encompasses the “old town” of Beijing with its treasured architecture and old “hutongs”, as well as the Central Business District (CBD). The third ring has more modern neighborhoods, including many foreigner friendly hoods. The fourth ring is getting a little far already, and the fifth ring includes remote expat areas where international schools are located with their gigantic campuses. The sixth ring now has subway access and is where the working class Chinese might flock to for affordable living, and the seventh ring wasn’t even developed when I first went to Beijing and yet now it’s actually known.

What this means is that it’s very important to know where you will stay before you go and how far it is from your place of work and schools. It also means that if you live in one district, you might seldom set foot in another district.

IMG_5513

Beijing is not cheap
Many foreigners like to blog about how much money they saved in their interim year in China, or how retirees go to China to save for their dream home. I’ve known people who worked at educational institutions and did well for themselves, but make no mistake, Beijing is not a cheap city. Neither is any other “first tier” Chinese city.

This can come as a surprise to foreigners entering China from the US (compared to EU citizens from “expensive” countries) who moan Beijing’s high rents, expensive restaurant and bar scene, and sky-high children’s school tuition fees.

To give you an idea of rental costs, in 2010 we paid $1050 (RMB 7350) for a one bedroom apartment in the greater Los Angeles area. In Beijing, we looked at one bedroom apartments for about RMB 6500-7000 ($928.50-1000) within third ring. We also tried living outside fifth ring for RMB 3200 ($457) a month (a two bedroom loft, 125sqm), but in the end we couldn’t stand the commute (there was no subway access).

In 2017, we can find the same one bedroom apartment for $1350-1450 (RMB 9,450-10,150) with newer buildings in gated communities costing $1900-2200 (RMB 13,300-14,700). In Beijing, we’re taking RMB 8000-12,500 ($1,140-1,785) for a one bedroom within three ring.

Now you’re thinking maybe the cost of living is low and makes up for it. This depends on your lifestyle. Local food can be as cheap as RMB 1.5 ($0.21) for a meat bun, RMB 10 ($1.4) for a bowl of noodles, or RMB 3-5 ($0.42-0.71) for a meat skewer. A burger with fries costs around RMB 65 ($9.20), a pizza around RMB 170 ($24.28), and a coffee around RMB 38 ($5.4), depending on where you dine. Healthy eating will especially cost you.

Beijing subway security personnel scans passenger in security check

Beijing as the capital is not like other Chinese cities
Many are surprised when they move from other cities to Beijing at the level of bureaucracy and heightened security measures in Beijing. In a populous country like China, the capital has the most random people and the centralized government works overtime trying to maintain order.

What this means for our day to day lives is minor annoyances that you eventually learn to accept as normal. This includes paying down four to six months rent to move in, and paying three months rent at a time in a bulk sum. It includes some apartments having pay-as-you-go electricity cards (I’ve even seen water cards!) It means carrying your passport because you might be interrogated at any time, and having to throw all your belongings through an X-ray machine every time you take the subway or train. Some stations will have you walk through metal detectors, check in your water for chemical bombs, and even ask you to surrender to a pat down–for a subway ride! But nothing is as important as remembering that Beijing takes its twenty four hour alien registration policy very seriously so remember to take your passport to the closest community police station…or else!

Beijing subway requires a lot of walking and is packed

Beijing requires a lot of walking
Even if you drive or take cabs (or uber) everywhere, you’ll still need to walk. The reason is that apartment communities, train stations, subway stations, and the inner city are all built like little villages. So you might think you’ll be on time arriving five minutes before you’re promised time outside a plaza, mall, shopping center, or apartment community only to realize it’s a ten minute walk to the building you’re looking for. When you arrive, you might find yourself facing a flight of stairs.

If you take public transportation, get ready to walk a lot just getting around or transferring lines.

Maid service price comparison from sina english

In Beijing, help is cheap and plentiful, but good help is still hard to find

One of the things I miss the most about Beijing was all the cheap labor I could afford to hire. I still remember my neighbor who had several help, or ayis, come by throughout the week. There was the nanny, and the music teacher, and the tutor for the kids. Then there’s the cooking ayi, the cleaning ayi, and the ayi who only does ironing. Even hiring a chef to pick up groceries and cook a meal in your home is incredibly affordable (around RMB 300 or $42.80).

While ayis might be enthusiastic about cleaning or cooking, that doesn’t mean they’re good at what they do. Many Ayis clean without any formal training, bringing their backward village ways and traditions into your home. I can’t tell you how many times people have complained about an ayi who used the same cutting board for meat and vegetables, or who didn’t differentiate a table rag from a floor rag. I’ve seen many Ayi’s clean with hot water, convinced that the heat would kill bacteria off the floor better than pinesol, and I’ve cringed at Ayi’s who couldn’t get the ratio right for their bleach solution at restaurants and businesses.

A whole industry has been built around training help from infant CPR classes to western cooking classes to complete training. If you’re a picky person, hire your help through an agency and ask for someone who has specifically worked for someone from your culture. Cultural norms also differ so don’t be surprised if an ayi who’s worked for a “foreigner” for X number of years has different notions of “clean” than you.

 

Deciding to move to Beijing is a decision that requires careful consideration. Join groups on social media to meet people like you who have taken the plunge and hear more voices on the topics you care about. Did I miss something? Comment below for my opinion!

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Schools: Stop undervaluing Mandarin Chinese bilingualism

It’s recruiting season. Schools are filling their rosters for the fall semester and padding their summer programs with as many students as possible.

For our soon-to-be three-year-old, it’s time to make School rounds and find him the perfect preschool. We’ve been scheduling and visiting schools all Spring.

As I have experience in the education industry, and I’ve even done my homework on recent trends in education, I go prepared. I tell the administrators about how our primary concern is the development of social skills and other basics like alphabets, numbers, counting and I suppose even reading and writing.

To be honest, kids have it tough these days and I’d be happy if our son could just play with kids, make friends, play some soccer, and recognize the rest of the numbers and letters.

But hold up, I don’t want him to just recognize numbers in English. I want him to recognize numbers in English AND Mandarin Chinese. This is not an unreasonable expectation given he’s already bilingual and plenty of kindergartens, elementary schools, and private high schools have adopted bilingual Mandarin programs in the US.

“…[One] of the hottest trends in public schooling is what’s often called dual-language or two-way immersion programs” – <a href=”http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/11/29/497943749/6-potential-brain-benefits-of-bilingual-education” target=”_blank”>NPR, “6 Potential Brain Benefits of Bilingual Education”</a>

So why is it whenever I ask, “I noticed you don’t have any Asian teachers, so you have anyone who speaks Mandarin? My son is bilingual.” The response I get is often a reassuring, “Oh, your son will pick up English very quickly once he starts with us. We’ve had kids who only speak their native language learn English in just a week.”

Do you see what they did there?

Not only did they assume bilingualism means English incompetence, but they assumed that I’m not a native English speaker (because I look Asian?) Therefore my son is not a native English speaker. Why? Because he’s bilingual in Mandarin Chinese.

I wonder if Spanish bilinguals have this problem.

“Through his studies, Cornish said students from communities where Spanish is valued possess a positive self-image of themselves as Spanish speakers and the Spanish communities they come from. Conversely, the opposite is true in school districts ignoring bilingual education and Hispanic heritage.” – Huffington Post, <a href=”http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4049170″
target=”_blank”>Bilingual Education Holds Cognitive, Social And Health Benefits”</a>

A misunderstanding
Just to clarify, no, I’m not worried about my son’s language abilities. He already speaks more complex languages than you do–and he’s not even three yet.

I’m concerned that your school is monolingual and thereby not challenging the children enough. I’m concerned that my bilingual child can only learn one language at your school, and will need to learn the rest of the languages we speak at home in other schools.

I’m concerned of the effects of my child being in school all day without a single teacher who looks like him (or his peers!)

I’m concerned that you will treat him differently because he is not monolingual, because he’ll pepper his speech with Mandarin, occasionally use the wrong language, or only know the words in one language but not the other. I’m concerned you’ll judge him as “less than” because of his bilingualism.

Just like you’re treating me differently at the school tour–and I was born here.

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6 Things you need to know about China’s QQ

QQ is Tencent’s instant messaging platform developed in 1999 that’s said to be an imitation of ICQ, which was developed in 1996. I remember using ICQ as my primary chat tool around 1999-2000, after AOL messenger and before MSN messenger.

QQ penguin
The only impression I had of QQ prior to living in China was their penguin logo and the annoying door sound notification they have for your friends coming online or going offline. It sounds just like this door sound from my son’s Vtech barnyard toy, only repeated more often than a hyperactive toddler can press a button.
Vtech sit to stand barnyard musical toy
It was so annoying hearing international Chinese students playing that sound throughout freshman year of college that I actually had an aversion to QQ. I found no reason to use the application. Even when the international version came out I stuck to WeChat only. Then came the day when I worked freelance on a project for a Chinese company and they flat out told me that the only way our relationship could last is if I download QQ and check it frequently (in other words: get the app on mobile too).

Whether you’ve seen your coworkers using QQ, heard your collaborators ask you to download QQ, or never heard of the whole thing, this list is for you! It’s the quick and easy guide to understanding the basics of QQ so you can decide if you need to use it too!

QQ international screenshot

1. “Email? Don’t you have wechat or QQ?”

If you’ve been on the receiving end of this question, you need to read on! QQ is the equivalent of email in China, hence why everyone has it and most use it. The latest report from a December 2016 showed that QQ has 899 million active monthly users, which is roughly 56.6% of all Chinese internet users.

You may have noticed that many Chinese email addresses are actually their QQ number (similar to ICQ) @qq.com. Josh Horowitz (Quartz) wrote an excellent article on how Chinese prefer real time conversation over email, which they consider lagged and much too slow. This is an important point to note if you do business with Chinese or collaborate–Don’t expect them to honor your no-work-emails-after-hours rule, or to accept your I’ll-respond-on-Monday-morning comment. In China, it’s not just the economy that’s been fast paced, but people have become accustomed to a faster pace as well, and no one has time for email.

QQ file transfer example

2. “What’s your QQ? I’ll transfer the files overnight”

If you work in China, or with China, and need to transfer files, you must use QQ.

The good news is that QQ is actually a superior tool for transferring files in that it’s free, you can set your account to automatically accept files without having to click “download”, and there is no cap on file size. You can also transfer files while offline and it pauses rather than resets when there are connectivity issues. This may not seem like a big deal if you haven’t tried using China’s internet, as you would not be aware of how much slower it is and how it is also incredibly unstable.

When you’re transferring hundreds of megabytes or even gigabytes, and your emails reject them, and services like Dropbox are blocked by the Great China Wall, and cloud services either require too great a learning curve or it’s difficult to agree on just ONE cloud server (icloud, google drive, Baidu yun), it’s easier to stick to an application everyone is already familiar with and using in their personal time: the chat app. It’s like businesses marketing with Snapchat–they don’t so it because it’s a superior platform, they do it because everyone’s already on it.

As such, QQ has established itself as the workplace chat app (like Jabber), the family group chat app (like Facebook Messenger), the music app (like Spotify), the gaming app (like Facebook games–or what it aspired to be), and the meet-new-people app (like AOL public chat rooms).

Wechat Versus QQ

3. “QQ vs. WeChat”

You might think that since WeChat is life in China, QQ must be its older outdated cousin. However this is not the case; QQ and WeChat are both owned by Tencent. They are not interchangeable and it’s not an either or situation where you have to pick a side. In fact, a recent WeChat statistics show that foreigners in China use WeChat more than Chinese. How could this be if WeChat is life? Because it’s not 100% of Chinese life.

If you’re a millennial wondering where all the young people are on WeChat, note that 80% of QQ users were born after 1990 (the so-called “post 90s”). This is most likely due to the popular multiplayer gaming options on QQ and the fact that many consider WeChat to be for “mature” users (such as the arenas of millennials).

QQ in iOS AppStore

4. “Where’s your computer?”

QQ is best used on desktop as its mobile app has limited capabilities, especially if used for file transfer/gaming. Since it was originally developed for PCs, its mobile version is not nearly as sophisticated, nor does it have the location and payment capabilities of WeChat.

The mobile app is best for existing users who need to remain “online” (it keeps you logged in while running in the background) and alert for new messages.

QQ international login screen

5. “Oh, you can’t read Chinese?”

QQ has an international version, which is fully in English, and has the same “live translation” function that WeChat is known for.

The international version can be downloaded on mobile too, but evidently new accounts must be created on the website or with the desktop client.

QQ Facebook inapp

6. “Do you have Facebook?”

QQ now has a Facebook app called QQchat as part of its worldwide expansion attempt. What this means is that you no longer have to create an account with a bunch of numbers you don’t remember, but can instead login directly with your Facebook account.

So are you ready to join the 899 million QQ users? Or do you still have doubts? Questions? Leave a comment and let’s talk it out!

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How an Opportunist Undermined the Asian American Struggle with #ChineseLivesMatter

Zhishi Zhang opportunist

Remember the Asian man who was dragged out of the United Airlines plane because he refused to “volunteer” for a later flight? The reason why everyone hates United Airlines now? Yes, him. Dr. David Dao.

David Dao news headline

Well, the same day the incident happened (April 11, 2017), someone filed a #ChineseLivesMatter petition with the United States government! The grammatically incorrect, spelling-mistake laden petition requests a federal investigation of the United Airlines injustice, claiming the incident had occurred due to racial discrimination. The petition went viral on social media and received over 100,000 signatures in the first twenty four hours (meeting the minimum quota) and now has over 210,000 signatures in total. Good job, right?

Here’s the thing though, David Dao is not Chinese or Chinese-American. He’s Vietnamese American (immigrated from Vietnam).

#ChineseLivesMatter petition

So why did the author, Z.Z create an erroneous petition that stomps on the original hashtag #BlackLivesMatter (protesting the deaths of black Americans), cried wolf to the Chinese (social media) public, and require the federal government to investigate under false pretenses?

Well, it was a mistake.

Joe Wong tweet

“Because I’m Chinese”

Early news reports had quoted a fellow passenger stating he had heard Dao attribute his selection to racial profiling.

Comedian Joe Wong was one of the first people to publicly chime in on the anti-Asian sentiment:

“A lot of Asian Americans, when they face injustices, they’re very reluctant to ask, is this because I’m Asian, just because they feel embarrassed or they feel that they don’t want to own this identity,”

David Dao definitely didn’t have any qualms about standing his ground, but what effect did this incident have on China?

Chinese rallied together and spread the news on Weibo and Wechat, spreading word of Zhang’s petition, demanding netizens to boycott United Airlines, and hate on the company. Which they did. The Shanghaiist shows Chinese netizens cutting up their United mileage cards, and other media outlets show them burning their United flight tickets.

Cut up united mileage card

In another The Shanghaiist article, Chinese netizen comments are translated for us:

“This was not random, but racial discrimination. All Asian brothers should boycott this fucking company.”

“They chose an Asian because they thought he would be meek and not stand up for his rights. We should show United how wrong they are!”

Here, the theory is that a Chinese (or Asian) passenger would be more likely to acquiesce and agree to voluntarily leave the flight. Whether this is based on the submissive nature stereotypical of Asians, or Asian pragmatism and preference for money (passengers were compensated four hundred dollars, meals, and a hotel stay) is debatable.


The Sacramento Bee
reported Asians had taken a stand after being targeted in crime, mostly because of their habit of carrying cash and not reporting the crimes:

“At least 300 to 400 Chinese immigrants in Sacramento have been victimized over the past few months, but many are reluctant to call police because of language and cultural issues…”

This is inline with last year’s NYPD hate crime forum, where Asian Americans stated:

“Asian Americans feel like it’s the other way around [that] a different standard is applied to the Asian community, where we have to almost work twice as hard to prove it’s a hate crime.”

The Teenage Political Activist
The eighteen-year-old Chinese student, Zhishi Zhang, felt outrage and created the petition for the benefit of his people. Or so he claims.

It’s hard to critique an eighteen year old for his rash political activism, especially in today’s climate when every teenager’s dress code violation is deemed a worthy cause to “stand up for”, but Zhang isn’t some Chinese international student studying in the US, voicing his surprise and outrage against perceived racism against his “people”. No, Zhang is a Chinese student living and studying in the U.K.

So it’s no wonder that Zhang has trouble listing any other instance of racial or ethnic discrimination in America. No really, his answer was:

“…so many Chinese people signed it which means that they must share the feeling which is probably a result of experiencing stereotype or racism,”

Zhang assumes that his petition was popular among Chinese because they could relate to being discriminated in America. What does Zhang think discrimination looks like in States?

“When the U.S. got Chinese immigrants to work in gold mines and on the First Transcontinental Railroad, they were not exactly enslaved, but were still treated as subhuman. Some died of exhaustion due to horrendous working conditions and explosions. Then there were the internment camps for Japanese prisoners during the Second World War. There are many cases when Asians have been killed or violently attacked, and the community has been left feeling they have not received justice.”

Zhang then proceeds to reference a campaign against the “model minority myth” in a recent SixthTone interview, which is not relevant to his cause. That Zhang couldn’t list a single recent example of racism, such as the attacks on Chinese international students near University of California or reveals Zhang’s ignorance of the Asian American plight.

By calling the Chinese railroad worker or miner’s experience “subhuman” (thus comparing the Chinese immigrant experience to African American slavery experience), Zhang discounts important events that could support his argument, such as Los Angeles’ Chinese Massacre of 1971, one of the largest lynchings in US history.

Zhishi Zhang in a proud moment

Ambition over Activism
Zhishi Zhang can claim to have merely jumped the gun in rehashing #BlackLivesMatter to #ChineseLivesMatter, but he cannot stop gloating about his accomplishments.

Why of course not! He’s only eighteen, and in the four years he’s lived in the UK he’s already managed to complete three government internships (“House of Commons work placements”), appear on TV questioning former Prime Minister David Cameron, pen two government petitions, and engage in interviews with BBC and multiple other major media outlets.

Wait, did you say another petition? Zhang received “quite a lot of media attention”, even landing a BBC interview, with his U.K. Petition on the underrepresentation of female philosophers in the national school curriculum.

Whoa, ambitious aren’t we? Who’s to say Zhang didn’t just see the news, recognized an opportunity for the spotlight, and jumped on it before even having time to proofread his petition:

“Some friends pointed out that the petition had quite a few grammar and spelling mistakes, and also that the hashtag in it could trigger different interpretations and misapprehensions. I didn’t overthink it, and in my indignation just submitted it as soon as I had finished writing. I couldn’t make any edits after it was published. I saw something unfair and thought I should do something about it.”

It sounds like Zhang created the petition to add another achievement to his resume, and a few more interviews for his college application. He even said:


“I want to raise the profile of this incident.”

The Damage done
Where Zhang claims to have started the petition to defend Chinese rights, which is what effectively followed in the violent social media storm that ensued as Chinese began boycotting the airline in a show of purchasing power, he revealed his lofty aspirations in an interview with Mic:

“I wish to make this into a New, Positive social movement which benefits everyone and encourage greater social integration. […] I also [want] to show that Chinese people also know how to protect our rights by democratic means such as petitions [and] getting involved in politics.”

Contract Zhang’s rosy message with what Joe Wong had written on his Weibo:

“Many Chinese who have faced discrimination are unwilling to speak out because of their pride. Because of this attitude, neither mainstream Western media nor the public pays much attention to discrimination against Asians.”

The difference? Joe Wong has a honest that clearly identifies the weakness of Chinese culture that necessitates a call to action: share your experiences! For not only does Western media not know of America’s discrimination against Chinese, but the motherland doesn’t know of it either.

The flip side to encouraging Chinese Americans, Chinese, and Asians in general to “find their voice” in politics and media is the weakening of America’s over-glorified image in the East. As Wong warns of the implications of this scandal:

“A lot of Chinese people [in China] never saw videos of police shooting black people, even from the back. They didn’t see those videos. But they saw this one. And now they were like, ‘What? This is what America is like.’ Their idea of America is just shattered to some extent.”

So doesn’t this mean Zhang has enlightened the Chinese on America’s racial tensions? Isn’t this a good thing for republicans and everyone but the tourism industry?

No, it isn’t. Zhang blew a whistle prematurely and alarmed his fellow countrymen for little reason. Yes, United Airlines mistreated a human being and were horrid at cleaning up their mess, and yes, Asians could boycott United Airlines for selecting an Asian man on a fight with, let’s face it, very few Asian men. But, does this scandal warrant a #ChineseLivesMatter hashtag? Absolutely not.

Zhang cried wolf with his petition, making a joke out of a serious federal investigative platform. He has undermined ethnic profiling of Chinese Americans, especially enmity caused by China’s rise. He’s discarded new tensions that have arisen with the new presidency.

Finally, he has discredited the media in the eyes of Chinese netizens, who are now upset with Dr. Dao’s rumored one hundred and forty million dollar settlement. Can’t blame them when their anger and efforts for a man who isn’t even of Chinese heritage ends up settling the case within two months.

Zhishi Zhang opportunist

To Zhishi Zhang, the overzealous, over ambitious Chinese international student who likely comes from a background of wealth and entitlement: Did you know that news reports of hate crimes against Chinese are numerous in the U.K.? A recent article on Politico described the Asian American, specifically Chinese American way the best:

“A lot of these people don’t realize that there are a lot of crimes committed against Asians,” says Karlin Chan, formerly of the Chinese Action Network. “You have to take care of your own house before you can go outside.”

There’s another saying that fits: mind your own business.

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A response to the claim that Americans don’t know the meaning of ABC (American-born Chinese)

Amanda Roberts published an article titled “Chinese Americans vs. American-born Chinese” in theNanfang.com where she begins with the claim:

If you’ve never been to China, you probably haven’t heard the term “American-Born Chinese.” It is a uniquely Chinese phrase used to identify people who live in China of Chinese ethnicity but were born abroad, often truncated as ABC (or BBC for British-born Chinese or CBC for Canadian-born Chinese, and so on).

Okay, Amanda Roberts…We clearly haven’t lived in the same parts of America.

Let’s start by what I agree with: yes, American-born Chinese are labeled ABC, Canadian-born Chinese CBC, etc. The semantics of Chinese American and American-born Chinese (hereafter, ABC) do indeed have different connotations. However. I cannot agree that in America, “it doesn’t matter what your race is or where you are from“. If anything, I would argue the opposite.

American-born Chinese vs. Fobs

The term ABC is used in the States by first generation Chinese-Americans and ABCs alike. It is not a “uniquely Chinese phrase“, as demonstrated by related phrases used by other ethnic subgroups, such as American-born Koreans (ABK), American-born Vietnamese (ABV).

What is the purpose of this term in America? Well, it is used to identify “native Americans” versus “naturalized Americans” (also known as immigrants). The ABC community would call them fobs, which stands for “fresh off the boat”. There’s a book and a whole TV series about this Chinese-American fob phenomenon, by the way (hint: it’s titled “Fresh off the Boat”).

Fresh off the boat tv show

Because of othering

If you’re part of the dominant culture (or you’re just white), let me break it down to a simple explanation:

In any society, there is a phenomenon called “othering“, which is when we create divides between us and “them”. “They” can be people of color, immigrants, the disabled, little people, fat people…and the list goes on! Anyone different than you and the community you identify with can be your “other”.

To “other” is associated with pride in your own group, dislike for another group, and social hierarchy.  Basically, you can only other people you believe are lower in the social hierarchy.

Stereotypically, Asian-Americans are othered by Caucasian Americans as an ethnic minority group. Asian-Americans will other Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Pacific Islanders, Indians (India is part of Asia), and even Southeast Asians.

Within the “AZN Pride” Asian American community, there are further divides between the different ethnic groups (Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Philippine). There are even sub-divisions within the Chinese American group, such as Taiwan-ABC and Hong Kong-ABC (consider that the first Chinese Americans were from Guangzhou).

Then, there is othering within the country+ethnic group where second-third-fourth generation Chinese Americans will differentiate themselves from new immigrants,  fobs.

Fobs at the bottom of the pyramid

Fobs are stereotypically thought of as having non-native English abilities, to only speak their own language at home (not English), and to prefer the culture of their home country, such as the foods, music, movies, games, or even tv series. Fobs can graduate from their fob status by shedding their fobbish habits and preferences and adopting American culture, but it is unlikely that they will ever reach ABC status. Instead, ex-fobs might be called “half ABCs” if they immigrated in their teens or “near ABCs” if they immigrated at a younger age.

In summary, ABCs take pride that they were born and raised in the States and feel that they are thereby more American than fobs.

An excerpt from the graphic novel American born Chinese

Back to the semantics

Whle it is true that in the term “American-born Chinese”, American-born is the adjective describing Chinese (noun), and in Chinese American, “Chinese” is the adjective describing American (noun), I don’t agree that the nouns are emphasized. I believe the hyphenations used by multiple ethnic groups proves that racial othering is commonplace in America, and the label, ABC vs. FOB, is a product of said othering culture. Think about it: if we Americans truly didn’t care about race, we wouldn’t need any hyphenations!

China, on the other hand, is a country with little racial diversity and a dominant Han Chinese culture, so they don’t have anything to hyphenate.  If anything, ethnic minorities downplay their heritage to fit into the dominant culture.

Roberts is correct in stating that Chinese, due to their heavy emphasis on ancestry, believe essentially that once born Chinese, always Chinese. China has even created terms like “overseas Chinese” and a corresponding visa category to welcome “returnees” back at any time.  The US is an immigrant nation, so of course they wouldn’t have a similar outlook. However, it can still be argued that Americans emphasize their heritage and ancestry (ethnicity and race) just as much as the Chinese, albeit in each respective subculture.

 

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It’s not the N-word–Stop glaring at my son!

When NEIGE doesn’t mean NIGGA or *****

Nei-ge!” My son often yells in the store, at the restaurant, and even while waiting in line for something important.

Nei-ge! nei-ge! Neiiiiii-geeeee!!!” Everyone at the store has turned to stare at us at least once by now.

My husband’s angry. He’s self-conscious.

“Stop saying nei-ge!”

My son decides to ignore his dad. Baba is obviously in a bad mood.

“Mama! Nei-ge!” He points to something on the floor.

Nai-ge?” I ask in response. I have no idea what he’s yelling about.

Nei-ge!

Nai-ge?

Nei-ge!

People are giving us quizzical looks.

Nai-ge?

Nei-geeee!!” Exasperated by my apparent dullness, my son crouches down low and points at the metallic purple star-shaped decoration.

“Ahh! It’s a star! You found a star!”

So what is he saying?
…Did you guess what “nei-ge” means yet?

In Mandarin Chinese, “nei ge” means “that” or in this case, “that one”, to which I would ask my son “which one?”

Misplaced Anger
My son is only two and a half, but he gets dirty looks, even glares, whenever we go out in the States. He doesn’t know why people are treating him poorly, he doesn’t know why his father gets frustrated and won’t let him say the new word he learned a few months ago, or why he should refrain from speaking his second language in public at all.

An example of the plushie he saw

Once we were at TJ Maxx, reading a picture book near the cashiers. The picture book had animals in it. My son pointed at every single animal and said their name to me. Some animals he doesn’t know the name of, or he can’t say their name, so he says “nei-ge!” (That one!) By doing so, he elicits the name from me and learns.

On this particular trip, we were waiting for his daddy to pay for our purchases, so we remained in place while others passed us by.

Even I could feel daggers on my back when he pointed to a gorilla in the book and yelled, “Nei-ge!”

Not only does he not often see gorillas, but he was especially excited because there was a gorilla plushie on the shelf right above us.

Nei-ge! Nei-ge! Nei-ge!” he pointed to the the big black gorilla soft toy.

I saw an angry-looking African-American woman walk past us. She glared at both us, and even I told him to keep it down.

Then don’t teach it
Some have suggested we just don’t teach him this word, since he is bilingual and there is an English equivalent. There are two problems to this: one, we shouldn’t have to teach him to not say “that” when it’s just his toddler pronunciation and local racial sensitivities that make a Chinese word sound like a racial slur. Two, we didn’t actually teach him the word.

Nei-ge is also often used as a filler word, similar to “ummm” or “uhhh” in English. We use it habitually, not even noticing it until recently when we’ve tried to reduce its usage. Although we use it in conversation all the time, I haven’t noticed people glaring at us, so I think it’s just my son’s accent.

Daniel Tiger and friends

Less judgement
Unless we were Spanish speakers, I’m not sure why people would think we would teach a two-year-old to say n****. On second thought, if we were Spanish speakers, I’d be equally irritated with how sensitive Americans are in regard to race and racism.

Kids “call it what it is”. When my son watches Daniel Tiger, he points to the dark-skinned girl (Miss Elena) and describes her as “hei hei” (blackie, in Mandarin). That’s an observation. Would you rather he be color-blind? Please. Children before the age of four do not have the malice to other anyone and call them names.

Have you had a similar experience? Did you ever wonder about How “racist” Chinese kids are? How did you handle it?

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Complaining is the illusion of action; break the habit with simple mindfulness

Complaining is useless. Either act or forget it.

Complaining is a tough habit to break. You can suppress complaints by remaining silent, but your mind still screams complaints like a hungry caged bird shrieks for food.  If you give a complaint space in your mind, it multiplies like rats in a cage…until you’re facing combustion, compelled to find a snake to swallow them up for you.

That’s an outlet or release. That’s climbing a mountain so you can yell from it’s peak. Or driving to the ocean so you can drown your tears in its waves.  That’s paying for all you can sing karaoke so you can wear out your voice, screaming the lyrics of Linkin Park. Or buying a chocolate mousse cake and scarfing it down all by yourself.

I thought this cycle of complaints and release was a normal part of adulting, that it’s only to be expected. Everyone does it, right? It’s just a side effect from the disease of our society.  Back then, I leapt right on the patriotic retail therapy wagon, partied as hard as I worked in my 50+ hour work-weeks, and engaged in all the poor habits that experts say will shorten my life. I thought, hey, that’s life, right?

Question your “normal”

I was wrong. There exists a better way. It requires a lot of time, effort, and persistence to unlearn my concept of adulthood, but I knew as soon as I took a peek into its effects that one day I will thank myself.

That day is not today. It was also not yesterday when I spent the entire Monday grumpily complaining to customer service. I rode a rollercoaster of emotions: one minute hot and angry, next minute appeased and regretful. Yet, I know that with sustained practice, the day will come when I’ll successfully respond to each inconvenience, pet peeve, and disaster with only a wry smile.  It will come when  I learn to not just suppress my complaints (because that’s tyranny), not just dismiss my thoughts (because that’s discrimination), and not just embrace my anger by spitting flames at my opponents (because that’s violence).  If I just accept the complaint-thought and let it go, I won’t have any fire in me to release.

Treat a complaint like a frenemy

It’s like bumping into that acquaintance you don’t really like. You see them and hope they don’t see you–but of course they do. You even make eye contact! By now, you’re panicking in your head because you really don’t want to say “hi” or chitchat with them, but you think you should. You think you need to suggest lunch some time or invite them to a group outing. Ugh.

The truth is that you don’t have to be friendly at your own expense.  You can just acknowledge  them with a nod of your head, and maybe a small smile if you’re feeling kind. With that nod, you communicate: “I see you. I know you. Good day.” Then, you can both continue your way without feelong any guilt, anger, or anxiety. How cool is that?

Try it with an acquaintance next time you want to hide under a table, or try it with your thoughts next time a complaint bubbles up. Don’t let complaints fester and infect your mind, attitude, or behavior. Don’t walk away from an awkward conversation feeling less-than or annoyed because now you have to see “that person” again. Acknowledge, let go, and move on. No release necessary.

 

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