Links to stories #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5.
I’m a bad Asian. My parents are from Taiwan, but I don’t speak Mandarin very well, and I’m pretty much illiterate in Chinese. So I was a little nervous heading to Shanghai and trying to rely on my subpar Chinese skills.
At one food stand, I ordered what I wanted, and since it was clear that I wasn’t local, the following conversation happened in Mandarin:
Worker A: “So where are you from?”
Worker B: “I bet it’s Korea”
Worker A: “Yeah, I think it’s Korea too”
Me: “I’m visiting from America”
Worker A: “But you’re from Korea, right?”
Worker B: “You speak pretty good Chinese for a Korean person”
Links to stories #1, #2, #3, and #4. Continuing on the Hungarian theme, this story takes place in Szentendre, a sleepy, quaint town a short train ride north from Budapest.
An Asian female friend and I were walking around Szentendre. It was November, so it was quite cold and there weren’t many tourists.
Since the town is so small, we walked through the main square several times, and every time we walked through, the sole man offering horse-drawn carriage rides would yell at us and try to get us in his carriage.
While this isn’t so unusual, this was his pitch: “Hey, Jackie Chan! Yoohoo! Jackie Chan! Romance!” I wonder if he’s ever been successful with that.
Links to stories #1, #2, and #3.
Near the end of my freshman year of college, I shaved my head completely bald. Soon after, when walking around campus with my newly bald head, a random woman stopped me and said, “I know where you’re from. You’re from Tibet!”
Me: “Ummm, no, I’m not from Tibet.”
Her: “So where are you from then?”
Me: “I grew up in Seattle.”
Her: “But your parents! They must be from Tibet!”
Her: “You know, your parents crossed the land bridge from Tibet to get to America!”
Links to stories one and two.
When my sister and I were in South Africa, wherever we would go, people would tell us that they liked our accents. Seeing as how we were both born in the US and speak without a regional accent, neither of us could figure out why so many people were complimenting our “accents”. Are South Africans the only people in the world who like generic American accents? While it seems like Americans often like any sort of accent (e.g. British, Irish, southern, etc.), I’d never encountered any group of people who specifically liked a generic American accent.
Perhaps we should have been clued in when some people would then ask, “Where did you learn to speak English?” Since we didn’t understand why people were complimenting our accents, we would just confusedly reply, “America?”, and I think our confusion would end the conversation.
Finally, near the end of a trip, we had a slightly different exchange with one person: besides just complimenting our accents, he also said, “You speak English so good!”. And then it clicked.
This is story #2 in a series about my experiences traveling as an Asian male. You can find story #1 here.
In Athens, my friends and I went to the Central Market, which had lots of things that you might not normally find in a US market, like lamb testicles.
Anyone know what the things on the left are?
While walking around, lots of the vendors shout out to you to try to get you to stop or buy something. Oftentimes, they try to say hello in what they believe is your native language, but one man one-upped them all and jumped in my way pretending to do kung fu. This Youtube video is unfortunately not much of an exaggeration of what the man was doing.
One of the most thought-provoking posts on Gary’s blog View from the Wing considers a question that Gary got from an African American woman at the World Domination Summit after discussing some of his techniques for maximizing his travel experiences: “these sound like great techniques; can you talk about how well they work if you aren’t a white male?”
I can’t hope to answer this question fully, but I will share some of my travel stories that I think have been affected/created/influenced by the fact that I’m an Asian male. It’s up to you to decide if that’s true or not.
Near the end of my senior year of college, I went on a mini-roadtrip with some of my best friends. Somewhere along the highway in North Carolina, we stopped at a Waffle House for a meal. We sat at two different tables: four of us at one, three at the other. I ended up sitting with three of my blond friends.
Our waitress was a friendly older woman with a southern drawl. She could tell that we weren’t from around the area, so she asked us why we were passing through. We told her that we were on a small trip and were about to graduate from college, so she asked us what we studied.
My friends answered political science, computer science, and psychology; when it came around to me, I said, “mathematics”.
The waitress responded: “You know, when I saw you, I thought you’d say math”.