Ramen, Nyan Cat, Adidas, you name it. We’re obsessed with them. Children of East Asian descent share a common bond over Asian food, Asian memes, Korean fashion, and just being Asian. We love to yell at those who think fortune cookies originated in China (it didn’t), and indulge in inside jokes that only we understand. We are hyper-aware of the common Asian stereotypes, and we just want to explain seven that we really enjoy.
1. “Why are you so red?”
ME: Don’t worry
, this happens all the time.
For real, though: That East Asian friend who turns beet red after two beers is having an allergic reaction. The Asian flush syndrome is common among individuals of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean descent. It happens when the body does not metabolize alcohol efficiently. Most Asians lack acetaldehyde dehydrogenase—an enzyme that breaks down components of alcohol into smaller harmless substances. Unfortunate, I know.
2. *Insert a math equation*
ME: I know I’m Asian, but I’m not a math person.
For real, though: According to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), Asian countries—like Singapore and Hong Kong—clinched top spots on mathematics performance in 2015. However, the secret to being good at math is not genetics. There is a common belief that Asians are naturally good at math, but their talent is a product of passion, hard work, and ingesting effective teaching strategies. Richard E. Nisbett, author of Intelligence and How to Get It, says that Asian students are taught to persevere in the face of failure, and to receive criticism “in the service of self-improvement.” We could very well be experts in building sand castles if that is what our culture fosters and hones as a fundamental life skill.
3. “Do not drink cold water!”
ME: Hey mom, I love you, but I can drink whatever I want. Drinking a glass of cold water will not cause cancer, it will not make me catch a cold, and it will not make me fat. I will not forsake my lovely cold brew, ugh.
For real, though: Ever wondered why Chinese restaurants readily serve hot water? According to ancient Chinese medicine, drinking hot water is believed to promote blood circulation and toxin release. Mixing cold water with hot food causes an imbalance of your body’s internal temperature, and is thus deemed “not good for you.” As a devoted hot water drinker herself, my mother claims that drinking hot water is simply “better for your health.” I think that drinking cold water isn’t bad, it is just better to drink hot water. Well, according to the Chinese.
4. “Don’t forget where you come from!”
ME: Mom, I promise I’ll have some rice and boiled vegetables for dinner. I just really want pizza for lunch.
For real, though: Sometimes, parents refuse to listen to their small Asian millennial/child (because you’re not officially an adult until you’re 30.) You try your hardest to explain how things are done differently in America but to no avail. You resort to reasoning or educating your parents to become ‘more American.’ Then, you are forced to empathize with their viewpoints, and accept them for who they are, where they come from, and the customs of your Motherland. You are not alone.
5. “No shoes on my rug, PLEASE, I beg you.”
ME: Don’t step on my rug with nasty ass shoes, what’s wrong with you? It’s so hard to clean.
For real, though: It’s true. Always take off your shoes in an Asian household unless advised otherwise. It is customary in Asian cultures to remove footwear before entering the house because the house symbolizes someone’s personal space. In the past, homes in Asia were usually built two feet above ground level for ventilation purposes. This design enabled dirty shoes to be left at the entrance because wearing shoes indoors interrupts the serenity of the home. Many activities in the home are centered around the floor as well. For example, it is Japanese culture to eat on low tables while sitting on floor. That is why it is so important to keep the floors clean. This custom is still in place today.
6. “Wow, you’ve gained a lot of weight!”
ME: What am I supposed to say in response to that? Well, you did tell me that I was too skinny last month, Aunty Wendy.
For real, though: If you come from an Asian family, I can totally relate. You should not feel ashamed for gaining weight because for starters, it is normal, and second, emphasis on weight is exaggerated, and appearance is simply not a taboo subject to talk about, especially in the Chinese culture.
7. “Can you teach me how to use chopsticks?”
ME: I actually fail as an East Asian because I do not use chopsticks the right way.
For real, though: Here’s a step-by-step guide: