it's TERRIBLE being Chinese-American in China

it's TERRIBLE being Chinese-American in China

it's TERRIBLE being Chinese-American in China

it's TERRIBLE being Chinese-American in China

…is, IMO, a uniquely terrible experience. Maybe not for everybody, but it has been for me. I come onto this sub sometimes and I find it hard to relate to a lot of what I see, so I wanted to write a little about what it’s like after living here for 10 years.


There’s this weird psychological disconnect. You look like everyone here, but you don’t feel like it, and every day is just a reminder of that. You’re neither American nor Chinese but some kind of in-between depending on who you’re around. I was reading an English novel on a plane, and some woman next to me was basically telling her husband “wow look how impressive, that girl is reading a book with ~so many~ english words!”, like it’s some kind of circus trick and not… you know… my mother tongue. Then in the US, you get people randomly remarking on how good and unaccented your English is.


You know all the traditional Chinese values but you don’t have respect for them, which is kind of incredibly infuriating when your whole family does. There’s a jarring gap between what you know is the truth and what you see in media. You run a gauntlet of emotions from shame to anger to resignment to anger to occasionally feeling neutral and usually back to anger. Oh and speaking of family, pretty much all my family members use the words for “American” and “white” as synonyms. Most of them have made it quite clear that they don’t really consider me American.


My mom rents out a few apartments, and one of the tenants is this European guy with a Chinese wife who teaches English at an elementary school. His English is awful. His texts and emails are barely legible, he has a pretty thick accent as well. But I had this revelation that, if a Chinese school was given the choice between hiring someone like me, a native English speaker, and someone like him, who looks the part, there wouldn’t even be a question.


It’s come to the point where I have a lot of built up resentment, and there are times where I feel like I’m about to snap if I stay here even a day longer. I’ll be going to the states for college pretty soon and probably never coming back, but I’ve been mindfucked so many times over the course of these past years that I don’t really know if I’ll ever get a grasp on my own cultural identity. Anyone else have an opinion on this/wanna share their experience?

it's TERRIBLE being Chinese-American in Chinait's TERRIBLE being Chinese-American in China

comments from /r/China>

ChinaBounder 34 

His English is awful. His texts and emails are barely legible, he has a pretty thick accent as well. But I had this revelation that, if a Chinese school was given the choice between hiring someone like me, a native English speaker, and someone like him, who looks the part, there wouldn’t even be a question.


The school is giving Chinese parents what they want. And Chinese parents want white faces.

it's TERRIBLE being Chinese-American in China

grouchpotato 1 point 

I used to do the English training center circuit in Shanghai during the 00’s. White Europeans or Russians who learned English as a second language got the jobs no questions asked. Black English people on the other hand found it very hard to get a job.


gaoshan United States 103 

My wife is Chinese (I’m white) and our son looks more Chinese while our daughter looks more white. For my daughter being in China is not an issue as everyone assumes she is a foreigner and treats her as such (though she gets stared at a lot which bugs her). My son, on the other hand, has had experiences more like you and it bothers him as well. People will sometimes treat him like he’s mentally challenged because his Chinese is only so-so or because he just doesn’t understand something. He hasn’t had issues in the US, however (well, beyond people not believing that I was his father or people saying they had seen his mom working in the local Chinese restaurant… he just says, “wrong Asian”). I have been asked where I adopted my kids from (when they were little) as well, which was a bit off putting… I just said, “I made them. With my wife.” and the reaction that brought kind of made the hassle worth it, lol.


Don’t know what the solution to finding your own cultural identity is but I can say that just being yourself and not letting other people’s ignorance get to you is important for finding happiness in your life.

it's TERRIBLE being Chinese-American in China

evanescentglint 

Yeah. You hit the nail on the dot with the “mentally challenged” remark.


I can speak Chinese fluently but I can’t read or write. Adding my American mannerisms and tendency to not clean out my wallet, I’ve had a lot of locals look at me funny. To this day, whenever I see my uncle, he would regale how his friends wondered “这个傻子是谁” before he came in because I had trouble with my bill because I wanted something togo, and I had USD with me.


Since then, I dress unapologetically American and use English in public whenever I can. It makes your family/friends look cooler because it makes them seem english fluent while announcing that you’re a foreigner. You usually don’t get the “local price” anyways so there’s no loss. Like, I can always ask a friend to buy from some street vendor anyway.

it's TERRIBLE being Chinese-American in China

d_realist 7 points 

Agree, a true story below-


My friend, an ABC, was helping his brother check in a hotel in Shanghai. He politely asked a staff in his broken Chinese some questions and was returned with annoyance and a hurried answer as if he were some kind of handicapped local.


The next day, seeing the same staff, he tried something new- this time he asked him hotel questions in English. VOILA, here came the smile and politeness and his broken English, actually treated him like a guest.

it's TERRIBLE being Chinese-American in Chinaas_above_so_below New Zealand 2 points 

As a white male who has done the same I often worry about my son. My daughter is beautiful and in the current way the west is going she will not struggle. But I worry for my son. Society is stacked against men and I worry he will have identity issues to go with that.

as_above_so_below New Zealand 3 points 

Hey thanks for the reply. She’s 2 and he’s 4. Similar situation, I am more laid back kiwi style parenting whereas my wife’s a bit Chinese in her demeanour. Expected. I’m pretty young (25) so it’s a bit odd for me to see people like the HAPA sub etc it makes me wonder about things. They seem like a messed up bunch but it’s probably the fact they had shitty parents eh? Idk.


We are going back for a year come this August to get my son a look into the language and culture I’m sure it can only benefit him before we come back to NZ for him to start school. We’re applying atm to send him to a very good school Kings here in auckland. Fingers crossed we get him in there.

Maryamiyya 122 points 1

This is really common for Chinese Americans. I think that it’s helpful to talk to international Chinese and other Chinese Americans about this. A lot of “Chinese values” might seem like nonsense, but people in the western world also believe in their own fair share of delusions. In the end, no culture is perfect. I honestly think you might enjoy talking about this with Chinese people who were raised, for example, in Hong Kong or Singapore, where there’s a more harmonious mixing of western and Asian culture.


I’ve seen many Chinese Americans who “lash out” against chinese culture and try to become “full American” and it leads to a lot of suffering, confusion, and lack of belonging.


I think the true Home for such people is in cosmopolitan Asian communities (e.g. international students, Asian expats and immigrants, Chinese people who studied abroad, etc). Being with such people would probably feel much more comfortable than dealing with “ordinary Chinese people you see in the mainland”.

baspeysp 44 points 

Ahaha, whenever I speak my monotone Cantonese in public or in shops, the default Hong Kong reaction is a smile and “ah just returned from 外國 (the West), did you?”.


Whenever I go to Shenzhen, OP is correct people just think I am a retard based on my 5/10 Mandarin.


longtimelurker00000 14 points 

“lash out” against chinese culture and try to become “full American”


I’ve also seen the opposite. My Chinese friend has a university aged son who was raised in the US. His son basically accepted the fact that he would never be American no what he does so he went the other way. He furiously taught himself Chinese and the better his Chinese became, the more he hung out with Chinese (mainlanders raised in China) and the less he hung out with fellow ABCs and Americans. After 2 years, the process was all but complete. His son can now speak, read and type in Chinese all without a problem, and most Chinese from China have no idea he’s ABC if they interact only in Mandarin. He also completely embraced modern Chinese pop culture as well. He’s proud that he feels Chinese and is accepted as such by actual mainlanders that he meets. He never really lashed out against American culture or America, and he told me that he looks down on extreme Chinese nationalism like r/sino, but he also rarely hangs out with Americans nowadays, including Asian Americans. Anyways, I thought it was really interesting he overcame his identity crisis, because it is certainly not a route most ABCs would take.

Kiyos 6 points 

I agree with this. Though I’m not Chinese, I’m half British half Filipino and never lived in either country growing up so I’m stuck in a weird space. I’m in the UK now for Uni, I am not treated like a British person at all. It’s different from OP’s scenario, but the place I feel most comfortable in is the expat/ international community with a similar upbringing to mine.


HotNaturedUnited States 2 points 

Great response. I know a few Chinese Americans here in Shanghai, and they seem to stick together as well as link up with Taiwanese, HKers, and Singaporeans.

NovacaneJackAss 37 points 

I worked at a Canadian high school in China for a few years. The blatant discrimination was awful.


All the teachers were Canadian but not all caucasian, of course. This got messy when it came time to do any public promotional things like dinners with government/business partners, posters, tv/award/talent shows.


Whitey was always asked out to do these extra things for the school. The other half of the staff … nothing.


It happened a few times before we realized what the Chinese admin were doing. We insisted from then on that either all or none get invited. They were reluctant at first but eventually gave in and it turned out okay.


Sucks that anyone had to experience that though … and it spoke of how ‘Canadian’ really meant ‘white’ in China.

Tiny_curly_legs 30 points 

There are three races in China:老外(white),黑人(black), 中国人(ideal)


Aanarki -8 points 

That’s a little off. Predominately when Chinese talk about 黑人 they are referring to domestic people without 身份证。There’s really only 国内 and 国外 in China, with a complete lack of understanding to what multiculturalism is.

stegg88 13 points 

I think that depends on the context of your own life. In my experience studying at a uni with tons of African students, 黑人 was definitely a way to categorize the Africans separately from us 老外


chaolayluu 15 points 

I’m a Chinese American too who spent a good portion of my life hopping between China and America, since my parents were separated. What I got from that experience isn’t the same as you but definitely similar in that I dont feel like I belong in either country. Asian American who have never left the country don’t understand those who are constantly presented two cultures and expected to learn them to perfection. The pressure to fit in to both is something that only multicultural people know, but at the same time I have become proud of the fact that I am a hybrid of two countries. I can travel between both and call them my homes without feeling as much commitment. The way I look at it is that I am fully American and fully Chinese, I belong in both cultures by adding my own twist into both. In America, it’s considered cool to be from a different place and in China people the English language can be considered a symbol of power and education sometimes.


I hope that instead of seeing yourself as someone who doesn’t belong anywhere, you see that you actually have two homes that you can claim for yourself. Forget what the close minded think and strive to find people like you who see two sides of the coin and aren’t trapped on just one and know that you’re not alone.

Shifty_Nickerson United States 30 points 

Wow I’m not half Chinese. But your story resonated with me as a biracial American. People always consider me something different depending on where I am. Some groups treat me as black, others comment on how I don’t “sound” black, others say I don’t “look” black, and others think I’m Hispanic.


Its frustrating to be in this place, but also freeing. You can decide your own identity outside of the pigment of your skin. You’ve discovered that there is more to “being” than looks. I never fit in with my own “color.” I was also bitter about it when I believed it to be important. 

ZeroWolfe547 9 points 

You can decide your own identity outside of the pigment of your skin.


I think this is the most important part. Not letting ethnicity constrain what one wants their own identity to be. Skin color/ethnicity is that one thing we’re born with and have absolutely no choice over, and in my mind it’s not even part of my identity. Naturally that doesn’t apply to everyone, but we’re all individuals, and that we happen to share physical commonality with a certain group by no means implies that we should have to fit in or also share their collective values.


I immigrated with my family as a toddler, went back to China when I was nine, and left again for college after high school. It wasn’t apparent when I was younger, but in the last years of my time there, I really saw how much what I believed in and the values I held are different from most people there. I don’t know if anyone has called you this before, but I’ve been referred to as a “banana” before: yellow on the outside, white on the inside. It’s this kind of association of ethnicity, or even nationality and values that needs to be avoided when thinking about one’s own identity. There will some pressure from others in the other direction though. I’ve met people who think that my loyalty ought to forever be to China and fellow Chinese people because “blood is thicker than water”, and also people who say I don’t belong in the West.


In time, especially after going through college and meeting a diverse range of people there, you’ll come to further refine what cultural and ideological beliefs you hold. For me, it’s a mix of certain aspects of what we’d typically associate with the West and with China. There’s no problem with picking and choosing rather than accepting as a whole, but either be prepared to stand possibly alone in defense of what you’ve chosen, or more preferably, make friends who are considerate, understanding, and accepting of other viewpoints. Having discussions with friends like that really help both sides see if they ought to be questioning any beliefs they’ve held by default.

shuaigeBest Korea 12 points 

Hey OP – I’m an ABC who lived in China for a half-dozen years in my 20s. I don’t regret my time there, but there were several challenging aspects, which includes parts of what you’re describing.


I ended up moving to California and, rather than being the worst of both worlds, it feels more like the best of both worlds. You are no longer in the minority, there are lots of Asian Americans in positions of influence, and the culture is pretty aligned with your demographic.


XiDadaJTaiwan 50 points 

Stuff ABCs have to deal with:


“Where are you from?” Boston.

“No, I mean where did you grow up?” Cleveland.

“Well, but where were you born?” Oh! Pittsburgh.


AgentCC 22 points 

It’s even worse if you’re a halfie.


Hydramus89 2 points 1 hour ago 

What’s weird is that I get this from black people mostly. It’s like they don’t see the irony in that I’m I was born in the UK (British Chinese lol)


Underwood2016 18 points 

All you gotta do is ask in a way that doesn’t downplay my citizenship. “What’s your backgrond, ethnic origin, ethnicity, etc.”


I’ve also had assholes do this: Me: “my parents are from X country” Guy introduces me to other guy: “hey he’s from X country”


Kanarkly 7 points 

White Americans ask “where are you from” to each other all the time and it always means ancestry. I know the ethnic make up of all my friends but online Asian Americans act like they’re the only ones asked. If you don’t like the questions that fine but don’t act like this is some sort of thing that only happens to Asian. [EDITORS NOTE: I HAVE NEVER BEEN ASKED THIS IN 35 YEARS OF LIFE]


blandfruitsalad 5 points 

It’s a perceived slight for many (including myself) because it assumes foreignness.


White Americans usually don’t get that same question of “but where are you from?” and that discrepancy gets irritating. I understand the intent of such questions is usually not harmful, but the impact of the words is often hurtful for many. Perpetual foreigner syndrome isn’t super fun for a lot of Asian Americans that I know.


americarthegreat 3 points 

I’m white, with Arab and Native ancestry. It means I get a good tan. The question “Where are you from?” starts popping up a lot during the summer. Although a lot of people expect Greek (seeing as I’m like half white, and a mix of a fuckton of other things, I pretty much just look white, so they expect a Western European heritage).


blandfruitsalad 1 point 

A lot of my Asian American friends get the question during their first interaction with the question-asker, which makes them very, very self-aware of their appearance, how their face is different and other-like, and how it seems to be treated as an inconsequential topic by the question-asker when it can really bring about strong feelings.


blandfruitsalad 5 points 

I would be shocked if, per capita, white-passing Americans were asked “But where are you from?” more often than Asian Americans.


I don’t doubt that your experiences are genuine. And you might be right that “only some” Asian Americans are offended by the question. But I replied in this comment thread because, for many Asian Americans, if they respond with their (American) hometown, that isn’t viewed as a satisfactory answer. I resonated with /u/Underwood2016’s remark about desiring for people to ask in a way that doesn’t undermine or question citizenship.

Trumpthulhu-Fhtagn 18 points 1

Agree – this is weird to me.


Maybe she has a partial accent from her family / living in China? Movies and Tv are full of American asians that speak native English. I wonder if OP is over sensitive… i.e.: this happened once or twice and she carries it like a chip on her shoulder.


I’ve had a lot of weird run ins with people of different cultures and races, but the one commonality is that most people are good people, welcoming people, and generous people. I also note that people that go looking for conflict and discomfort “find” it easily.


Howontimearethebuses 10 points 1

Consider that the vast majority of the United States has no Asian people of any kind; we’re concentrated in Hawaii, California, and the city of New York and the surrounding metro. Most Asian people walking around the USA are foreign born and raised. There are actually very few Asian American people in the sense of born and raised American


Also we don’t share a phenotype… Indians are also Asian, so if people mean “yellow”… then the number drops even more…


I’ve personally spent most of my life in 1% Asian areas


ButabusRT 31 points 

It doesn’t help that China is literally considered an enemy by many Americans, and the surge in Chinese growth has led to some pretty awful cultural norms and human rights and environmental abuses. I think this shame leads many Chinese-Americans to intentionally act more “American” in an effort to not associate with “those” Chinese. It’s a difficult dynamic to resolve, and I’m sure some Arab-Americans are going through the same thing.


green_lettuce 13 points 

Went back to China, no one believed I was from America so I started saying I was from <asian country> that is not China haha. Makes things easier.


jostler57 7 points 

My former colleague is ABC. She had almost the exact same situations you’ve mentioned. Whenever the company needed an American for promotions, booths, demo classes, it was one of us white people; never her.


She is highly educated, though, and teaching is her passion, so through sheer grit and hard work, she has risen to a high position in the schooling community. But it has been doubly hard for her, in China.


LeYanYanFrance 7 points 

You’re facing the typical immigrant descendant paradox. Stop worrying about narrow minded people and try to consider yourself as a world citizen instead of a [insert a country] citizen. I wish you the best.

basquefire 15 points 

Half-ABC here. I’ve spent plenty of time in the PRC side by side with ABCs and advised several ABC teenagers on their college applications.


Your disillusionment, sense of non-belonging, and general disgust for modern Chinese culture and society – which you feel ought to be yours – is not rare. In fact, it’s probably more common than uncommon among ABCs living in modern mainland China.


It’s come to the point where I have a lot of built up resentment, and there are times where I feel like I’m about to snap if I stay here even a day longer.


I’ve been mindfucked so many times over the course of these past years that I don’t really know if I’ll ever get a grasp on my own cultural identity.


iamwastingyourtime

i think to some extent people like to be able to acess their own people and culture, even if they are not the majority, which is why media representation and having community is important for minorities, but also we enjoy diversity and learning form others – humans are complex.


so im guessing its more than just “people who look like you” but rather “people who share a common culture/experience” and if you feel totally alienated (no common language, no commmon values/cultrue) then that must be difficult – even if you’re the same race and it’s expected that you just ‘know’ the majority’s culture.


la_pluie

Wow, finally a relevant post! I’m an ABC female as well. Except not really because my Chinese side had immigrated to the Philippines and mixed over there and then eventually moved to America. I look Chinese but I don’t relate with culture about nor do I know the language.


My life is definitely different compared to that of my white foreign friends, but not enough to say that I’m resentful after 2 years. I find it funny that rando foreigners from Russia and Brazil get English speaking jobs because they look the part, but I’ve never had a struggle myself in that department.


As for the feeling you have, look up the term “Third Culture Kid” – I consider myself one and it sounds like you would do the same.


MrsPandaBear

I was born in China but grew up in the US. I frequently visited my family in China until recently (life gets in the way of those trips). I remember as a child I was made fun by my cousins for my foreign habits like drinking water during meals, and by my American friends for eating “smelly foods”. And while my English was fine, my Chinese vocabulary was rudimentary. I was made fun of for that sometimes as well, and interacting with outsiders who didn’t know I was a “foreigner”, I was treated like a retard for not understanding. It never seemed like I never fit in.


As an adult, I’ve come to embrace my Chinese heritage and my American citizenship. I can only hope that my half Chinese daughter will someday also come to appreciate this as well.


The_Bilo

I was in your exact position years ago. Chinese American, went to high school a couple years in China, came back to the States for college. My ma also does real estate, though only in the US. So I’m not saying this position doesn’t suck, because it does.


I will say, though, that as soon as I hit college I started appreciating my Chinese heritage a lot more. Probably this was because I was in Texas and the only Chinese guy around, and I had this revelation one day that if I didn’t learn more about my parents’ culture, then there’d be nobody left to teach me for the next four years.


babashredgnar

You think white people don’t have to deal with these types of ‘microaggressions’ when in China?


I’d rather blend in and go about my business than deal with the foreigner bullshit.


As for not getting an ESL job, that’s like complaining that all the McDonald’s cooks are Hispanic so you can’t get a job there as an Anglo. Not a huge loss.


Seven10Hearts

Hang out with other Chinese Americans. I feel the same way, in between cultures.


3932695 United States

I’ll be going to the states for college pretty soon and probably never coming back, but I’ve been mindfucked so many times over the course of these past years that I don’t really know if I’ll ever get a grasp on my own cultural identity.


I was in this position about 9 years ago. I also had a lot of resentment – mostly from a lack of friends and mediocre performance at school plus high expectations. After graduating college, I got a really good job offer back in China, and this was a dramatic turning point in my overall happiness.


Most of them have made it quite clear that they don’t really consider me American.


joe9439

Chinese people see their race as their national identity. They can’t even conceptualize a country that consists of multiple races and cultures. As china becomes more modern I hope that China starts to see people as Chinese citizens and not just people with Chinese skin.


drummmergeorge

I can relate to you, but I’m not Chinese, except I’m Mexican. When I am in Mexico. I embrace my Mexican heritage.


iamwastingyourtime

You know all the traditional Chinese values but you don’t have respect for them, which is kind of incredibly infuriating when your whole family does. There’s a jarring gap between what you know is the truth and what you see in media. You run a gauntlet of emotions from shame to anger to resignment to anger to occasionally feeling neutral and usually back to anger.


There’s a lot of local Chinese people that feel the same way, try to reach into the local community for friends and support, they can relate to being Chinese and having this expectation of following tradition while not agreeing with it.


pigstuffy

I’m a Chinese girl born in Canada. I can relate to you in many aspects however I haven’t lived in China. Only visited.


I’ve just come to the conclusion of it being different and accepting I don’t really 100% belong anywhere however there are tons of people in a similar situation. To those who aren’t I try to bring that different perspective into the conversation if they are willing to listen and are interested.


As for my relationship to China, at one point I may have resented it balancing two cultures. And having troubles in both. But I’ve gotten over that through finding people who love me for both aspects of my life.


China is obviously far from great but I’m excited for things to come! Finally it has gone past the imitation stage and is started to really head into its own Renaissance like era with all these successful cellphone company’s starting up. Also if anyone’s gonna solve the population crisis it’s going to be china as they have a lot of funding in it and population is the biggest problem to China compared to anywhere else. I’m looking towards the future.


I watch a lots of youtube videos from westerners such as SerpentZa and Laowhy86 I find I have a lot of similar views to them and it’s nice to hear other perspectives / criticism you wouldn’t usually hear.


NumerusBatavorum 3 points 

There has to be some disconnect or insulation between you and Chinese society. It’s difficult to think that after 10 years you would not have assimilated into the society. A lot of the American terms and slang you use are very much modern and up to date, meaning you still have some sort of deep and constant connection to the States. It’s like if you were here in the US and spent all your time living in Chinatown and never having to speak a word of English, but instead you are in China. That’s basically your situation right now. That being said, it all depends on what you do. You can forget about living in China or you can make an effort to assimilate, at least having 90% local friends, speak at least Chinese 90% of the time. The matter of whether or not you want to assimilate depends on you and you alone, and the efforts you make towards that end.


Calduin

I’m an ABC who’s been in China awhile as well, but maybe because I’m older I don’t have much of an identity crisis. My Chinese is not perfect so when I speak and people ask me where I’m from I just say I’m american, when they ask if i’m Chinese I say i’m american. when they ask if my parents are Chinese i say they were a long time ago but now they’re american.


I don’t begrudge whitey for their special treatment in China, but I’m also not an English teacher. There’s white privilege everywhere, even in the US, Asian Americans need to work twice as hard. I’m pretty happy to know that I go I got where I am based on my own hard work and not on my skin color. You shouldn’t hold on to resentment, it comes from jealousy, just accept who you (Chinese-American) are and don’t covet being something you’re not (white).


ClearlyADuck 1 point 1

Having lived in China [Beijing] for seven years while attending an international school, I have to say, I never really learned to interact with people because I just didn’t know the language. My parents would always speak for me because my Chinese is just so awkward.


CptcongcongChina 1 point 

I’ve found a balance between things and it’s actually not that bad. In terms of my western friends at uni, since my Chinese upbringing I am more conservative about stuff like sex so I don’t do one night stands e.t.c However I do go to clubs with my friends anyway.


With my Chinese friends I’m more liberal compared to them, so I do drag them out to clubs and stuff. I tend to find Chinese people who are more liberal.


So in my opinion, if you surround yourself with the right people that provide you the right balance between both cultures, you’ll be fine 🙂


TheRarebitFiend 1 point 

I just wanted to say thanks for sharing your experience. I know how hard it is for Chinese in America to fit in, and that in between place where you’re viewed as Chinese by Americans and as some kind of lesser 3rd thing by Chinese sounds incredibly frustrating.


I hope you can find some avenue to educate people about your set of circumstances. Your post is very well thought out.


runningwithsharpie 1 point 

As a Chinese American I just learn to live with it. Granted, I did have my early childhood in China, with conversational English. I just find a perfect medium between the two cultures and learn to be an observer to others sometimes. I pick and choose when to be an American and vice versa. Sure, it’s China. You will always have employers who put unqualified white people as “faces”, and people who assume your English level is because of your 学霸 status. Just count those as facts of life and move on.


What I find very difficult though is finding someone who I can connect deeply with. I tried getting into some local expat groups, and found that most of them simply are in completely different mindset as I am. Sure we are all foreigners, but most of them just treat China as just another location to experience. Whereas I actually have a career plan, had a marriage (long fucking story) and understand most things Chinese. It is not surprising that one of my closest friends here is another Canadian American.


We are hybrids. Just accept it and live your life.


startupdojo 1 point 

I went to US uni with a lot of Chinese. After graduation, a lot of them chose to go to China and somehow ended up with pretty swanky finance/tech jobs. Even the ones with worthless geology degrees/etc. Maybe they all had connections, but it seems that people who can straddle both world are in high demand and it is easier to advance, that’s what they told me. It seems like a waste to look at English teaching monkey jobs.


You’re touching on a lot of third culture kid issues here. It is what it is, meeting other people in similar circumstances will be helpful.


d_realist 1 point 

True story-

My friend, an ABC, was helping his brother check in a hotel in Shanghai. He politely asked a staff in his broken Chinese some questions and was returned with annoyance and a hurried answer as if he were some kind of handicapped local.


The next day, seeing the same staff, he tried something new- this time he asked him hotel questions in English. VOILA, here came the smile and politeness and his broken English, actually treated him like a guest.


Lesson here? If you are ABC, SPEAK ENGLISH in China. F#ck being respectful and speak Chinese, because not the same respect will be returned by most locals.


denzil_holles United States 1 point 

I had a similar experience, although less intense, when I spent a few weeks in Taiwan over the summer. I hope you decided on a school in a major city with a big Asian community because the less diverse parts of the US can be just as isolating. Good luck on your studies!


Ahf66United States 1 point 

OP, I hear where you are coming from . I’m just gonna take a wild guess and say that your Chinese is kinda either horrible or barely passable ? I grew up Texas but was born in China and I am fluent in both English and Chinese . When I visit China no one really notices me because I speak the language , in fact I can even read and write but not as good as my English. However, I sometimes feel like I don’t belong to any of the groups if you know what I mean .


james00543 1 point 

I went to international school in Taiwan, so I was pretty disconnected from the rest of the population, then I came to the US, although my English is not accented at all but there’s some little things or idioms that I don’t know since I didn’t actually grow up here…I can definitely relate to you. But thank god I’m in California where there’s more than enough Chinese Americans I can hangout with hahha

xkiller02 1 point 

Weird, lol. I’m born in Canada and visit China a lot, I feel that a lot of these issues come from from being insecure about who you are and what you should relate to.


I love my background and everything that China has to offer, everyone from my family to my beliefs that originated from them. I’m also super Western, I barely know any Chinese and the way I dress is noticably different from the way a teenager would dress in China. I’ve learned that values from both sides of the world made me as great as I am today and I wouldn’t give up this mix of cultural differences for anything.


Love yourself, cause ain’t no one gonna do it for you when you need it the most.


travelingScandinavia 1 point 

This is a touching and sad thing you’ve written. No matter how much we complain about life here in the trenches, i do believe you have it worse


Acidwits 1 point 1 hour ago 

Hey you replace Pakistani Canadian with Chinese American there and I get the exact same experience. Its like as long as you keep your thoughts to yourself and don’t say a word everyone thinks you’re just like them and will agree with them. Meanwhile you’re seeing in a toxic malaise of wanting to get out of the place that’s so confusing for you.


Interisti10 1 point 

Perpetual foreigner syndrome


Hydramus89 1 point 

You’re young so I think it’s tough. I took it to heart before whilst travelling and even getting it in the UK (BBC here) but I’ve learnt to embrace it and started learning mandarin. I used to be embarrassed but I’m trying to make it easier and now I’ve realised I understand two cultures, more than most. That’s an advantage in personal life and work. My wife is now mainland Chinese which makes things confusing to in China when we converse in English but hey ho. You’ll get there. Embrace being different, one of the advantages of us being raised in the “western world”. I took a long time to realise this. /fighting!

mrmdcCanada 1 point 

I’m not Chinese or ABC or any type of Asian- I’m Canadian with Italian origins- but I feel I can share something relevant and related.


I feel just like you. I grew up in a bubble culture. I’m an Italian, born in French Canada, who speaks mostly English.


While I might look mostly similar to the people around me, I also never fit in anywhere. I’m not Canadian because I grew up with Italian traditions. I’m not Italian because I grew up with outdated Italian traditions and I speak an outdated regional variety of Italian (even though I’ve perfect my actual Italian as well). I can’t relate to the French Canadians because I grew up English (even though I’m fluent in French) and I don’t relate to the English because I’m not Canadian.


The only people I can ever feel truly accepted by, are the few hundred people with my same background and therein lies the problem. The fact that are enough English speaking Italian Canadians to feel accepted by them is the same reason why we don’t fit in outside our group. We’re always outsiders.


I understand that you have the added difficulty of looking like a local, but I just want you to know that you’re not alone. Identity is a difficult thing to understand and you should just try to associate with people who won’t judge you for your language or culture.


I thought that would be easy for me coming to China, but even here I’m pigeonholed into being either Canadian or Italian. I’m not allowed to be both and I don’t fit into either. So my friends are generally neither.


Anyway, I went on longer than I expected to, but the moral is that you should just be who you want to be.

hfhelenysChina 1 point 

You know all the traditional Chinese values but you don’t have respect for them, which is kind of incredibly infuriating when your whole family does. There’s a jarring gap between what you know is the truth and what you see in media. You run a gauntlet of emotions from shame to anger to resignment to anger to occasionally feeling neutral and usually back to anger.


I’m just gonna say that’s the average feeling of young Chinese that grew up in modern chinese cities, it is normal being a Chinese with a sense of shame feel that way with what’s going on in the country, kinda validates your heritage and shows you care!


Try have open and honest conversation with first-tire city millennials, I think you’ll be surprised how not so different you actually are from others, and I assume this with Americans also.


mahamanu 1 point 

I go through the same thing in India. Good to hear your story, very relatable.

The disconnect is real.


IornukrumGermany 1 point 

I think the problem lies in trying to identify yourself based on nationality. I generally feel closer to a subset of people in my country with a culture and value system that you will find in many other countries. Other people of my own ethnic background will have completely different outlooks and values from my own that they might as well come from a different country altogether.


Suecotero 1 point* 

As a white latin-american living in europe, I feel your pain. If it’s any consolation people are superficial everywhere when it comes to putting others into boxes, it’s not just the chinese. My general system is that if someone is still re-setting to the “fellow white person” default by the third time they hear me bust out the spanish, they are probably not worth my time. Just live your life OP, and don’t overly concern yourself with the views of those who have not viewed the world.

bitparity Taiwan  

The problem, IMO, is the American part of being Chinese-American. The problem of American identity is that it demands that you be American even if other people don’t fully see you as American.


The problem of the Chinese side of Chinese-American is that the Chinese will always see you as Chinese (even if they know you’re different because you grew up in America).


I’ve been saying this in some other subs, but I want to make a pitch for you to move to Canada. Being Canadian… you can be whatever the heck identity you want to be, INCLUDING American and/or Chinese at any time. Oddly, me immigrating to Canada help me make peace with being both Chinese and being American. It could be separate, or together, or in any combination I wanted (including occasionally being Canadian).


Once that’s set, every time I go back to China, I accept that they view me as Chinese and that they’re racist as hell. But they’re my people, as well as my people I keep at an arms length because I’m like them and not like them at the same time, just like when I’m in America, I’m like the white people I grew up with in Mississippi and not like them at the same time.


In Canada, I’m whatever I want to be. No one really bats an eyelash. My two cents anyways.


americarthegreat 1 point 

The problem of American identity is that it demands that you be American even if other people don’t fully see you as American.’


As a white urban American, my concept of it is that “American” is compatible with anything. The only qualifier of being “American” is that you want to call yourself American and participate in American society. Someone who immigrates to America from China and chooses to make America the society they participate in is now Chinese American as far as I care, even if they don’t have an American citizenship — even if they didn’t pick up any “American qualities.” Their qualities might not be mainstream American, but they’re equally American, and those qualities will collectively contribute to America.


So I don’t really agree with your “American identity demands that you be American …”. That statement doesn’t make sense in my typically American world view. It’s gibberish. I mean, I understand what you’re saying, but it’s like saying “2 + pizza = 26” or “colorless green ideas sleep furiously”.

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