Why We All Should Travel
April 9, 2012
Yangtze River Cruise: Why You Should Go
April 18, 2012

Why Chinese People Hate Me

This post is also available in: 한국어 (Korean)

People are rude to me. To their point of view, I’m rude to them.

90% of my conversation with Chinese locals goes the same. And it always ends with a hateful look from the people. Always. If they are randomly talking beside of me, I couldn’t notice because I don’t understand the dialect, and they think I’m ignoring them.

Asians, at least East Asians are not generous with being different. They are just used to one nation; one race; one culture. That’s the exact reason why I’m having a hard time as a traveler. They teach you not to be different; just go with the flow. If you are not going to be THE BEST of whatever you do, it doesn’t really mean anything. There’s no try, just follow the existing rules.

To them, the Chinese, it’s not acceptable; a girl looks like one of them can’t speak their language but English and hang out with foreigners. To them, I’m a show off.

There’s a phrase out there, called ‘Asian-Asian racism’. It’s even too complex to describe, but I’m sure a lot of Asians out there, or if you spent a lot of your time in Asian countries, you would understand. It is a serious problem. And there’s no solution. I don’t think.

Thinking about getting a basket for myself in Shaxi

Me, people would believe I'm one of their minority nationality.

In other standards, they adore foreigners. The years of mixed and complex history made them idealize speaking English, blonde hair, blue eyes, and sharp nose. To this day, people want to be westerners. They think Westerners are better than them just because of those reasons. It is so 70s but it’s true. My friends who are working as ESL teacher often post a children’s drawing; a portrait of them being tall and blonde. Do you think that’s funny? To me, that’s sad.

When you, if you are not Asian, are walking down the street with your backpack, you will be stared my locals with wonder and kids will follow you to just say ‘hi’ and run away. Millions of ‘Hello’ in the street is annoying, but it is a good attention.

When I’m walking down the street with my backpack, I’m stared by locals who think I’m weird. No one gives a damn about me.

Just like any other travelers from the west, I’m just a backpacker exploring the foreign land, but no one looks like that.

I’m neither one of them nor a foreigner.

I hear all the crazy stories about how people were rude and taking pictures of them without asking, how all the locals were staring at them in a small village, how kids wanted to talk to them and how people proposed to them because you are so beautiful, but I have nothing to share but awkward encounters with locals.

Unwanted attention is bad, I know. Who would want to be stared by a creepy old man? But to be honest, do you really hate when kids are following and laughing with you, and wanting to take a picture with you because they think you are the most beautiful person in the world? Is being exotic that terrible?

Of course, all the ranting here are based on my own experiences and I simplified the world. I know there’s much wider world and crazier stories out there. Just sometimes, it is frustrating not treated differently anywhere I go. As a traveler, I don’t want to be treated differently; want to experience what local people do. But at the same time, it is good to be recognized as the fact that I’m trying to fit in, learning their language, and exploring an unknown land. In China, using my skills to write and read Chinese character only brought more complicated situations. I’m not be appreciated.

I know that’s not the reason to travel. Sometimes we are observers and sometimes we are doers. The right mix of the two things makes a good experience, but in China, I’ve been only denied.

It is not that easy to feel that I don’t belong to any of their category.

Juno Kim
Juno Kim
Juno Kim, a happiness-seeking storyteller. Photographer, writer, and trained mechanical engineer. Life-long nerd. I left the cubic farm to follow my true love: the world. A firm believer of serendipity, astronomy enthusiaster, and living by passion and love in life. Currently, on a quest to discover stories and find the place where I can call 'home'. Follow my journey through @RunawayJuno and Google+ .

168 Comments

  1. Yeah, I experienced almost the same thing in my last travel around China. Although Southeast Asians are more hospitable, even when I speak to them in English (and look so much like them!) like my travels in Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore. I can say the same thing with us Filipinos, I guess. You’d be surprised to find so many Koreans from north to south of the Philippines.

    • Juno says:

      I met a Thai woman who was traveling in China with her French husband, and she told me the similar story. She looked different than them but she looks Asian anyhow, people talked to her in Chinese as well. I felt a lot comfortable in SE Asia too.

  2. This is a really interesting perspective and I honestly never thought this happened. My Asian girlfriends who live in China have never really spoken of expereicnes to this degree.

    This reminds of some University lectures I once had relating to India and people being a ‘hybrid’, where you are of one culture but also another – in this case being ‘westernised’ – and how confused it makes people feel, and also looking at how others treat you because of it. Good on you for highlighting as I am sure not many are aware of this behaviour!

    • Juno says:

      Thanks! True, it is hard to notice if you are not in the position. It’s funny how it brings a negative reaction to become ‘hybrid’ in Asia. In western countries, they encourage you to be different, but it is the complete opposite here. The word different equals wrong or weird.

    • Naiwen says:

      If that’s not bias, then why are you all (non pure Whites) taking Whites’ side?

  3. Kevin - The Mad Traveler says:

    I can believe it. But don’t get too down about it. It’s China and while I like going there every year, I like leaving even better by the end of it. Some of the rudest experiences I’ve ever had. I’d be curious to see what Taiwan would be like for you. I found them to generally be the complete opposite. Lovely people!

    • Erin says:

      Kevin, I think it’s the same here in Taiwan to some degree…the people here are incredible, don’t get me wrong. I’ve lived in Taiwan for three years and without a doubt, some of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered…but there are always the exceptions to the rule. I’ve had my Thai friend shunned because people thought she was Chinese and was lost when people tried to talk to her at restaurants and shops….to make it worse, she was here visiting with her Spanish boyfriend. And I have a Malay Chinese friend who is actually from Holland and the only Chinese he speaks is Cantonese..that was even worse. Dutch is really his first language as he was raised there his whole life and it was difficult sometimes while traveling — the biggest time I noticed it was when we were in bars…local girls would treat him like scum — even in the expat bars, because they assumed he was local Chinese or Taiwanese. Once they found out he was from Holland, they were all over him. LOL

      It’s funny you talk about the rudest experiences being in China….many Taiwanese don’t like the influx of mainland Chinese who have been coming over since they’ve relaxed relations in regards to travel. We can always spot the mainland tour groups and they are incredibly rude when in Taiwan.

      • I totally understand, Erin. And hey, even back in the States you can see that the foreign exchange kid gets a celebrity status in school unless he is a complete freak (and sometimes even then). A good portion of the population likes the exotic. I wonder too when communication problems arise if there isn’t to some degree just bafflement going on. Or if it is immediately apparent that the person doesn’t speak the language or is misunderstood as ignoring the question or being uppity. My wife is Thai and everywhere in SE Asia she is mistaken for a local (Vietnam, Bali, Cambodia, etc.) but when they sort it out they all seem to have a good laugh about it. And anyway, in bars you are dealing with a whole different set of people/social parameters typically. Posers, pickups, and folks who have lost their inhibitions three drinks ago. 🙂

        I have been mulling over a blog post about the two Chinas. I always want to put the disclaimers in there though — of COURSE, I have some nice friends in China, met some lovely people, had amazingly helpful experiences, but they seem waaaaay outside the norm there (and I am curious of the cause of this “culture’s” development). And in Taiwan one or two people have been a little short with me. Hahahaha, That’s the worst thing I could think of so far. I’m sure if I lived there I’d find more. But generally sooo polite, happy, organized, helpful. Anyway, I guess I need to write that blog post… 🙂

        • Naiwen says:

          And Marielle yes, you’re seen as “being friends with” China’s number enemies, which are foreigners. Why am I so negative or vicious against Whites? Because I must not tell lies and I will lie about how the Mainland Chinese feel about Western-Chinese friendships, especially American-Mainlanders and British-Mainland.

        • Naiwen says:

          And the Asian wife, pretty sure she’s seen as “less than an person or a slave” in the White husband’s or his relatives’ eyes. So Whites are superior yes in White countries, normal.

    • Juno says:

      I went to Taiwan a couple years ago, but I didn’t travel too much. I wonder how it would be different as well.

      • Naiwen says:

        Pardon, I will not tell you lies about how the Mainland Chinese view such friendships. People have asked why here, I’m answering with blunt honesty.

        • Naiwen says:

          Frank, you do not know Mongolia’s history with the Hans. Mongols governed China way back then (some k years ago) and then banned Han culture in China under Genghis Khan’s rule and persecuted Hans, which you forgot to mention in your Westernized and Westerners are doing it to India (free Shri Lanka, free Bangladesh attempting to unify India against Whites in India, hence why foreigners do not like it. And Tibetans surrended themselves to Han Emperor defeats after defeats in the Han dynasty, which Westerni history fail to mention. And I’m all for racial purity in India, China. No whites rioting about independance and persecution feelings. Who rioted in India or in China or in Korea, J first? A British anglo-saxon pureblood, according to Chinese history. So if you’re using your own fora to stir up anti-Han Chinese sentiments. then I speak up for my home country on this too. Who wouldn’t let Germany and Korea become one USA and UK.

          • Frank says:

            I know Chinese history better than most Chinese here and definitely at an unbiased level dissimilar to what is taught over here. My country was completely flattened by German Nazis during 2nd WW but we don’t have any grudge to Germans now. They are even more welcome than many other nationalities to visit, stay or whatever they wish to do. Chinese like you want to live the past not the future.

            What you are talking about in India, maybe you need to get an update. That was the past and they got their Independence in 1946 and 1948 respectively. Now they are chasing western ideas on their own accord even though with limited success. If they believe in their own approaches why they strive to attend western schools to grasp western ideas. And the same applies to Chinese? Why you all do your best to get westernized? Can’t the Chinese government build more universities or expand existing ones to keep Chinese here, homogenized the way you are preaching?

            And regards to Tibetans they did with the Ming & Qing dynasties what is today called bilateral defense agreement. What the Chinese did in 1951 was not on the terms of such approach but a take over of the land and deposing of anyone who had any influence in Tibetan society. There were no wars between Tibet and China because Tibet never had a proper army organized on military parallels. The Tibetan concerns nowadays is not the annexation of Tibet with China, its the erosion of their culture and the complete civil society takeover by Han Chinese. Since 1951 Tibet never had an ethnic Tibetan governor. Do you believe there is no one capable of the job? In the politburo there are Tibetan members but they are not considered fit for office maybe? The truth is that if a Tibetan is elected as governer of Tibet he will be representing the minority with 6.3 million Tibetans and 20 million Han controlling all types of business in the region. This was not achieved by the invasion of 1951 but by careful strategic planning over the years relocating Han from other provinces to dirt cheap properties and well though incentives to attract Han to the area. The same opportunities were not offered to the Tibetans but actually the opposite, they were restrained from any type of development. And what about the Dalai Lama? Since when did the religious leader be elected by the Chinese central government? The monks want to continue this tradition but the politburo thinks that a religious leader should be appointed by government not by its own regulating body. Who is creating these problems? You think it is westerners? I would appreciate if anyone on this forum apart from you tell me otherwise. Probably what I wrote here is not in line with the indoctrination given to you by an official school or from home, but if you research independent sources or talk directly to Tibetans this is what you get. Personally i’m not involved in any of this, i’m here for the money, but while here i cannot deny the stark truth of reality. And my belief on this issue is that what Tibetans cannot achieve for themselves no one else can. This has been the case for all oppressed nationalities the world over.

          • Frank says:

            You say I am a hypocrite and I’m neither British, French, American or whatever grudge to whom you have it. What is a person denying his own history called? And by the way I’m a Maltese and have a good background on what occupation of your country means, much more than any Chinese has. And about getting along with other nationalities other than my native nationality I spent the last 22 years living outside of my country. I do feel lucky that i never had to deal with people like you.

            What i wrote and care about at the moment is the environment in where i’m living. You have a lot of Chinese nationalism/sentimentalism but you opt to live outside that sphere and attack those that don’t see eye-to-eye with you. As a Chinese you should also mention how other Chinese see you as a Chinese living outside of China. To give you a taste of your medicine, most of you are considered either runaways from a legal point of view or as a snob that cannot co-habit with his own kind. So if you want to discuss further Chinese perspective we can also discuss this perspective of how Chinese see other Chinese.

          • NobleSpirit says:

            Racism is essential in China to justify oppression and genocide against natives. I guess having rudeness towards temporary travellers is just a tiny fraction of actual situation.

            Contrary to current situation those Chinese occupied territories were dozens of different countries with close interaction and harmony. However rise of Chinese destroyed the peace, Leaders preached hate against non Han Chinese or Chinese people who fail to hate other races. As result millions of people slaughtered under massive genocides including little kids, Main victims were Manchurians, Mongolians, Uighurs, Tibetans, Thais and Other non Han Chinese groups. Genocide was so massive survival was only possible if those victims Sinicize and change their names to Han Chinese and Speak only Chinese.

            Genocide slowed down but still continues especially towards those left over groups, Like Uighurs and Tibetans being under heavy oppression and constant blackmailing. Chinese special security forces often orchestrate terror attacks to slander Uighurs and Tibetans sometimes falung gong and Christians. Since independent journalism is totally banned there is only Chinese government version is available for people who wish to find out what happen.

    • Naiwen says:

      How would Mainlanders feel now? Surrouded by enemies, even their own people.

  4. Vincent says:

    never been to China and all the Chinese people I met used to live abroad since longtime and didn’t seem to me so rude. But don’t care about and just keep expressing your own mind!

  5. Erica says:

    I TOTALLY understand. TOTALLY. I’m actually going to write a post about being Mexican in Latin America. I’m the underdog. And I sure as hell don’t fit into Mexico because I’m American (and everyone laughs at my Spanish since I’m Latina and still have a weird accent).

    • Juno says:

      Right, I think that’s the same thing. I’ve never been to Central/South America, so I can’t tell but it’s very interesting to hear your story. I don’t like people just canceled out your effort to fit in; like trying to speak their own language. And just because we looked like them, it doesn’t mean that we are them. Well, I guess that’s the thing what we are learning about the world; people are different, and some people don’t accept the differences.

  6. I remember mentioning on a previous blog post that ‘it feels weird to be a backpacker in Asia when you’re Asian’. I get you *hugs*

  7. Rachel says:

    It’s really interesting to see this from the other side. It sounds like you’ve had a really frustrating time.

    I recently spent a few months in Nepal, where I couldn’t have stood out more if I tried – I’m white and blonde, and though hardly tall in the UK, definitely taller than most Nepali women. And honestly, I hated it. It was horrible to be stared at, pointed at, have people take pictures of you everywhere you go – even people calling you beautiful, because they don’t say “she is beautiful”. People in Nepal looked at me and said, “It is beautiful.” It! Like I’m not a person, but a thing it’s OK to stare at and talk about as though it doesn’t have feelings. Like an animal in a zoo. Apart from all of this being an invasion of privacy and dehumanising, it upset me because I knew they thought I was beautiful/amazing/exotic not because I actually was, but because they have been taught for years that Westerners are awesome and better than them. And like you said about the pictures in the classroom, that’s not nice. It’s just sad.

    And after a while, you feel like you don’t own yourself any more; you feel like you are THEIR property, to stare and gawk and shout at. So though we have had absolutely polar experiences, I don’t think either of our experiences have been the best! 🙂 Thanks for this post, it really opened my eyes to the fact that fitting in might not always be as desirable as I thought!

    • Naiwen says:

      And have you forgotten USA and Afghanistan? Is USA freeing the Afghans? No! Still occupying their lands, so Americans have taken what’s their? Are they Americans leaving them alone? No.

    • Naiwen says:

      And Frank, haven’t the Whites done the same to native Australians or didn’t the British do the same to first nations in Canada? took everything they had, even their rights to be humans.

  8. M. says:

    Thanks for the insight, as I sit here on my vicarious butt forever thinking of travel. Well, I’m not (detectable) Chinese and have never been to an asian country. Because you are obviously an awesome person, I accept you for whatever/wherever you are and came from. If you ever want to do a piece on small town living in the US, just jump on over to Sequim, WA. I’ll show you the sights and sit for a coffee… Until then, keep up the good work and safe travels!

  9. That’s too bad.

    I didn’t notice when I travelled in China 20 years ago, but it was a different world in China then. At the time I probably stood out more clearly as a forgiener so they had low expectations right from the start. Or I was just too young to notice it!

    • Naiwen says:

      Yes indeed… I don’t mean any offense here, just saying that’s the way Westerner husbands or European wives are “seen as” or “considered as” in Mainland China. And my own parents would not “let” me marry a French, an American or a British guy even if I liked him and he loved me back. Wouldn’t be possible in some traditional Chinese’s parents’ minds.

      • Naiwen says:

        And aren’t White Europeans or whomever’s in charge of this right now , trying to calm or to appease such grudges/tensions between Tibetans and Mongols and Hans then? And why are they still deliberately and intentionally instigating them? I’m not talking only about them, also about Jews-Arabs.

  10. Edna says:

    I absolutely know what you mean. I lived in China for a few years on and off, but my Chinese isn’t perfect, and I’d always get the same old question: If you’re American, why do you look like us? If your parents are Chinese, why can’t you speak Chinese properly? They couldn’t separate nationality from ethnicity. I got so tired of repeating the same spiel to every taxi driver or man on the street that I’d become rude whenever anyone asked me about it, which only made them rude back. It was a vicious cycle. And when I taught English as a sub, I would get some pretty dirty looks from the parents who wondered why their kids were being taught by someone who looks just like them.

    • Juno says:

      That’s exactly it; they can’t separate nationality from ethnicity. And I totally understand why you got the dirty look from those parents. It happened in Korea as well, and I believe it’s not so harsh as China though.

  11. Jillian says:

    A very interesting perspective. I am a fair skinned Western woman, and throughout China I was stared out and touched by random people at random times. It sucked, and as Rachel said above, you feel as though you are an object. For a few days in China we traveled with an Australian girl of Chinese parents. She spoke rather fluent Mandarin, so for her it wasn’t as intense as it was for you, but she still felt out of place and felt as though the local people treated her with distaste. I wonder what the root of all of this distaste is and whether the racism you describe above translates to other cultures as well – for example, do blacks experience racism the same way in countries where the majority of the population is black? Is it jealousy? Fear? Anger? Hatred?

    Thanks for reminding us that every situation has two sides- sure it sucked to be touched in markets, but at least the people we relatively friendly.

    • I’m mixed – black/white – and people tend to assume I am whatever race they are. In other words, white people commonly presume I’m a white person with a really amazing tan (but that happens less often), black people presume I’m black, Indians think I’m Indian, Arabs think I’m Arab….it goes on and on.

      So almost wherever I travel, people think I’m one of them and speak to me in whatever foreign language. Then I look at them confused and they switch to English. Some have angry faces, some don’t. This happens to me in my daily life in Montreal, especially because I shop in a lot of ethnic shops. However, there’s no doubt I’m not Asian, so I don’t have this issue with Asians, only other races.
      I think in my case, they’re mostly just confused.

      So I can totally understand Juno’s problem, but luckily I haven’t really experienced it from other black cultures.

      I’m heading to Japan, China and Korea in April, so I’ll let you know how it goes there!

  12. Rachel says:

    Great post. I’ve heard from Korean-American friends that it can be tougher to be a Korean-American in Korea than to be a blonde, white American in Korea. Though I think not to the same extent that you’ve found in China.

  13. Hannah says:

    Thinking about it, I had quite a similar experience when travelling in Siberia, Russia. I’m a blonde haired blue eyed Brit and whenever I tried to buy train tickets from the babushkas at the railway station it would inevitably end up with them being completely confused as to why I couldn’t speak Russian – I looked it, but it normally ended up with both sides being incredibly frustrated!

    On the other hand, when we reached St Petersburg, people would regularly stop me in the streets to ask for directions in Russian, which felt kind of cool and I pretended to be like a local. I think sometimes there are advantages and disadvantages to fitting in with the country that you’re travelling in…

  14. After living in Korea for 14 months I definitely understand when you talk about the East Asian obsession with blonde haired, blue eyes, English speaking foreigners. I’ve had 7 year old girls draw pictures of themselves as adults with blonde hair and blue eyes. It’s kind of heartbreaking.

    Also, as a dark haired person most Koreans think I’m Indian or African American (though, to westerners I’m very obviously neither) and they don’t approach me or talk to me like they do my whiter looking friends. It’s a very strange phenomenon. I’m sorry you had to deal with such negativity in China!

  15. Erin says:

    I mentioned in my reply to Kevin that I can see it happening and have had friends who encountered it here in Taiwan — one was from Thailand and the other was from Holland (but he was Malay Chinese by birth). As for the “western” stigma, I actually died my hair dark when I first moved over in hopes of “fitting in” more, but it didn’t work so I just went back to blonde last year. I’ve never been touched inappropriately and seem to encounter more of the interest and picture asking in Japan over Taiwan. What bothers me is everywhere I go, people automatically assume because I am westerner living abroad, that yes, I’m an ESL teacher. While there is nothing wrong if I was, it bothers me that there is a belief from many people back home that the only way to move abroad is to be a teacher (or in the military). Ironically, I get grilled every single time coming back into the US as they question why I’ve been so many places since I was last in the US and then when they realize I live abroad, a line of questioning on why I live in Taiwan, etc.

  16. ciaraysabel says:

    Great insight! Indeed, when you’re tall and blonde you are most likely a celebrity when visiting Asia. It has always been like that.. to see Westerners as beautiful and perfect. That’s why southeast Asians (Filipinos, mostly) are so crazy about whitening products! lol It’s all part of our culture and colonialism.

  17. Anis says:

    Hey Juno, being Asian, I can relate to how you feel, although you probably have it worse because you look Chinese whereas I don’t. A lot of my ethnic Chinese friends go through the same thing; not all of them can speak Mandarin or Cantonese and they always get stared at in China when they try speaking it, and fail. Hang in there. Maybe you might want to go around with a South Korean flag on your backpack to make it clear to them you’re not Chinese 🙂

    • Juno says:

      True, it’s worse when I started to trying writing/ listening Mandarin. They just laughed or annoyed. Some people were helpful, and some were surprised as well, but most of the cases.

    • test your temper says:

      Seriously, when travelling in China, don’t put Korean flag on your backpack, you will get more dirty looks and bad treatment!

      If you put Japanese flag on your backpack, the worst thing will happen to you, trust me.

      In fact, it is nothing wrong there, just different history,culture, mindset.

      Enjoy the trip.

    • Naiwen says:

      Being an Asian in Canada, I’d say this : I’ll never or I’d never become White.

      • Rick says:

        Of course you won’t! Why would you want to? What a ridiculous thing to say!

        • Naiwen says:

          then why are you forcing Asians to “become” White too then? And to live/ to think your way? And Frank yes, I see it as a very bad thing for my country, too many foreigners trying to “free” China. And why such am I so negative about it ? Because I’m different from White Westerners even though I grew up there.

          • Rick says:

            Of course you are different from White Canadians, even though you grew up there! So are French Canadians different from Anglo-Canadians, different from Indo-Canadians, different from Latin Canadians, different from Afro-Canadians… All are different from First Nations. And it’s the differences that make multicultural societies vibrant, interesting.

            I live in Vancouver. I don’t encounter many people trying to force Asians to become White. They are doing their own thing quite comfortably. They will become more CANADIAN if they do not isolate themselves in a mental ghetto away from the rest of society.

            Whenever someone moves to another country, over time, they will inevitably take on more aspects of that country’s culture. My wife is Chinese. Her families have been in Canada for three and four generations. They are not White. They are Canadian, and they are not upset by that in the least. They are in an advantageous situation of being able to live in / understand more than one culture. Unfortunately, your excessive xenophobia prevents you from seeing this. It’s really quite sad.

          • Naiwen says:

            So Mainland Chinese living in the West should acculturate themselves according to you then, like the Westernized Japanese, Hong Kongnese and Taiwanese or Koreans? Hence why Mainlanders cannot accept them as Asians nor Chinese.

          • Juno Kim says:

            I don’t think you are making a good case by writing such a negative comment. Racial issue is such a big problem in any part of the world, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it’s not right to attack each other in a negative way. I think your argument stopped being a discussion.

          • Rick says:

            If Mainland Chinese move to another country and cannot acculturate themselves to that country, why they hell did they go there in the first place? If there is no compelling reason, they are just parasites!

            There are plenty of Mainlanders who accept people for who they are. You, on the other hand, have some serious identity issues.

          • Naiwen says:

            No, Mainlanders find Hong Kongnese and Tawainese and especially American-Chinee extremely smug and snobbish, like French from France find the Quebecers and as some British from the UK find some American-Brits and vice-versa for an American (an American might or may think of Brits to be arrogant. For example, one of my Brit friend, said American-British are “holier than thou” and vice versa from a Brit’s perspective. and to not old traditions and this is part caused by their “friendship and interactions” with the Westerners.

  18. Ekua says:

    I’ve had similar experiences in Asia, but because I’m black. I got a lot of attention in Vietnam and India, but unlike my fellow lighter haired and lighter skinned travelers, it was often negative in certain places.

    I know what you mean when you ask if people truly dislike the positive attention they get from being “exotic” in such places. I’ve had some honest travelers admit to me that they do enjoy that attention. It depends on the person and the place they’re in (the Indian subcontinent can be overwhelming for a lot of people), but I think in many cases, underneath, travelers really do like when locals place a high value on them simply for possessing Euro-centric features.

    I was born in the States but my family is from Ghana. When I’ve gone there or other places with large populations of black people who assume I’m a local, a lot of people make assumptions that I’m from there or have comments about me not speaking the local language… it can be irritating, but I’ve never felt animosity about it. I think the kind of reaction you’re discussing here may be a cultural thing.

    People often assume I’m from anywhere EXCEPT the States – anywhere in Africa, Brazil,Cuba, France, and in Thailand, I was once asked by a local if I lived there. I’ve learned not to worry about where people think I’m from. The most important thing to me is that I’m treated fairly… and that isn’t always the case.

    I’m glad you’re speaking out about this. Serious and uncomfortable topics are not often talked about in travel blogging and I think it’s important to discuss them and have people understand that these kind of issues are still present.

    • Juno says:

      Ekua, thanks for sharing your experience. It’s truly amazing to share this kind of experiences with others. I’ve never heard a story about African American traveler. You’re right, I think this is a cultural thing. It includes with some level of jealousy. American dream still exists. That’s why people think I’m a show off sometimes. And look down on them. No matter how now I am, they just are being negative to me. I Can’t help. I want to know more about these kind of a case. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Edna says:

    Hi Jillian, I saw your question “do blacks experience racism the same way” and funny enough, I just read this post yesterday: http://imblacknitravel.com/travel-black/ Apparently, they get the opposite reception. It’s another interesting perspective!

  20. Lin says:

    Great post! I experienced a lot of this in China….and only in China.

    I was born in Korea but adopted as a baby – so I only know English, my family is white, as well as my fiance.

    When I traveled to Asia this past summer for the first time with my fiance, I was approached several times in Japan and asked directions – and each time I would respond “I’m sorry, I only know English” and they were very understanding. They’d smile and walk away.

    In China, though, not so much. I was yelled at and given looks. I even learned how to say “I only speak English, sorry” but that wouldn’t stop people from continuing to yell at me in Chinese. I remember this one time I was at Beijing West and an older woman sat down next to me and started talking. I tried to be respectful & indicate that I didn’t know what she was saying. She spent the next 20 minutes slapping my arm trying to get my attention while screaming at me in Chinese – as if she thought I was lying when I said I didn’t know the language. I just smiled and tried to be a good sport about it.

    I honestly think it may be fear or disbelief that someone who looks like a certain nationality doesn’t know the language. Who knows. 🙂

    On a side note, in China I definitely felt too uncomfortable to hold my fiance’s hand – we’d got stared at the first couple of days and just didn’t want to added attention. That’s not too out of the ordinary though…we get a lot of disappointed looks here in the U.S. by older Asians.

  21. Wow, really interesting perspective here. I’ve heard of black-on-black discrimination, where one person mistreated another because their skin tone was darker or lighter, but I had no clue there was a similar thing in Asian nations of the world. For me, the best part of travel has always been the opportunity to break down walls that divide cultures and get a chance to see/understand the world from other cultures’ perspectives. Can’t imagine what it must be like to have those walls reinforced by racism. Must be very frustrating!

  22. Melvin says:

    You should all give them a business card & add the link to this post. 😉

    Even if you might have a bad experience in China with the locals, you are doing a difference.

  23. What a unique perspective Juno. I can recall the same things you mention…kids saying hello, random photos, etc. It was crazy, but yet who wouldn’t love that kind of attention? Has to be weird falling in this in-between like you describe. As a white guy from America, I can’t really relate 100%, but I’d imagine it gets really old after a while…

    • Juno says:

      Thanks Deej. Sometimes I got really envious for those of you who are from ‘exotic’ places. I never got that good attention from any of the people. It’s a silly thing, but I just wanted to be appreciated.

  24. Giulia says:

    A very interesting read indeed hun, and I probably would never realize the reality as a complete outsider.
    It’s hard to believe that anyone would hate you 🙂 But I know what you mean. Stereotypes and prejudices are a problem everywhere. But I am sure that if they had the chance of getting to know you a little bit better they would certainly start loving you.
    Big hug dear!

    • Juno says:

      Thanks Giulia! For once in my life, I want people to like me because of my appearance! 😀 They are just not used to something different, that’s all. And I really don’t know it’s going to be change, ever.

  25. AXY says:

    I’m a Filipino of Chinese descent, who couldn’t speak a word of Mandarin in Taiwan. I could only speak broken Taiwanese–what most Filipino-Chinese people speak at home–so I can soooo commiserate with the Thai girl mentioned by a poster below. Local Taiwanese people ended up ignoring me. I can even remember a bus driver shouting out that I had a learning disability for not being able to respond in Chinese. I ended up befriending American students with whom I could speak English.

    The Taiwanese had a hard time believing I was from the Philippines; they ALWAYS made it a point to say how most Southeast Asians–Thais, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Indonesians–were uneducated and fit only for menial jobs, Whenever I talked to a local, they’d always remark on how I “didn’t look Southeast Asian.” Whether it was a compliment or thinly-veiled insult, I would never understand. Asian-on-Asian Racism, indeed.

    My Chinese is now up to par, but I still get nasty looks for my weird accent. I’d much rather live in Hong Kong or Singapore which are much more international than Taiwan.

    • A says:

      Hate to say this – but Hong Kong would have the same result.
      I’m a CBC with family in Hong Kong – as a kid, my literacy was worse than an average Hong Kong kid though I spoke the language fluently. You would not believe the dirty looks, and the “Are you stupid?” comments I got when I joined craft classes, etc.

      • Rick says:

        Actually, I would because I’ve seen it. My wife is of Cantonese descent, third generation Canadian. Her first language was a Cantonese dialect, but her parents wanted her speaking flawless English so that she would not experience the discrimination they faced. So, I actually speak more Cantonese than she does. Ironically, she found discrimination in Hong Kong when she was accused of being “not Chinese”. The trick, of course, is not being drawn into the game, or turning it to your advantage. The game? Status! What is higher status than speaking Cantonese? Fluent English! As soon as my wife understood the game and stopped trying to be “Chinese”, she won every time.

  26. Really. You have to get used to other culture and understand what world they are living in.

    I grew up in Taiwan and speak perfect Chinese, but I also have bad experience in China. However, when you understand the reasons of their behavior, you won’t feel so bad.

    They are trying to survive in the world most competitive place. They have to learn how to be rude to compete, to show off and to lie. That’s their survival skills. Many travelers went to China with the wrong mind-set. They think they are foreigner and live better than the people in China. So they often look down to the people in China without self-awareness.

    This gives Chinese people a very wrong impression. If you are traveling to other countries, don’t expect they understand your culture and the world you live in.

    Lots Chinese people are lack of self-esteem. So they don’t like to see other people living better than they are. So they try to be rude to feel better or they will try to take advantage of you. That’s just the way it is for hundred years or longer. They are trying to survive.

    Honestly, I have hard time to deal with people in China even I am Chinese. They can tell the difference that I am Chinese from oversea. So they actually treat me worst than treating other non-Chinese foreigners.

    This happen every where Not just in China. So stay cool and don’t feel bad. Enjoy the travel and take more photos. 🙂

    • secant^2 says:

      Honest assessments like this help people to understand the people that they are dealing with so that they can change how they react to such things. Thank you for sharing. It’s important to understand how mental manipulation works in this world so that you can avoid being a victim. If one is treated poorly long enough one will automatically feel depressed and have low self esteem because they will assume it is their fault. The reality is that people don’t mind tearing other down in petty ways just to satisfy their own egos.
      The day that we build each other up and make everyone feel accepted will be the day that evil will have disappeared.

  27. Michi says:

    I’ve experienced similar racism, though not in Asia (I have yet to visit!). I’ve easily been mistaken for Colombian, Bolivian, and Peruvian here in Spain, and unfortunately the Spanish aren’t always huge fans of Latin Americans. In the 5 years I’ve lived here, I’ve been bluntly insulted countless times (mostly racist name calling) and have even had medical service denied (three times) because medical staff didn’t want to bother with “another lowly South American immigrant”. Like Ekua, I’m not as concerned anymore where people think I’m from, but it is important for me to be treated fairly. At first, you do just sort of go with it, but it can get tiresome seeing how divinely your anglo-looking companions are treated. The only advice I can give is to just not let it get to you too much (even if it can be hard at times), and to just enjoy your experience as much as you can. There may be a handful of rotten apples amongst the locals (as in any other country and culture), but there are also a handful of golden ones. 😉

    • Juno says:

      Wow, I only heard about Latin America and Spain, I didn’t know there’s such a differences there. Yeah, same. I don’t care how people see me, but just treated fairly is important. I don’t deserve to be treated wrong from anyone, right? And yes, because of the experience, I learned a lot about cultural differences and also could see how people think as well. That was a golden apple for me. But also at the same time, it was a bit traumatic, I admit.

  28. Elisse says:

    I had breathtakingly stunning racist encounters while living for 5 years in Germany (Germans walking up to me pointing their fingers at me, saying “Du bist eine Jude!”/”You are a Jew!” to me, for one example); Puerto Rican friends have had racist ugliness flung at them in Florida by other Puerto Ricans because they were “too light-skinned” and other Puerto Ricans thought they were “faking” being Puerto Rican(!), my Chinese friend in NYC has problems all the time in NYC because the dialect she speaks/understands isn’t what’s expected, and many Chinese people in NYC think she’s lying about not understanding them, and my husband lived in Vietnam and Korea for many years and is familiar with what you are describing… so, sadly, I’m not surprised. It happens… That’s the way it is- in a way I think it’s part of “human nature”. Sadly, I don’t believe it’s ever going to change, except perhaps superficially- as people are often so scared of not being seen as “politically correct” now that they go off the deep end in the other direction. Seriously: If we let this stuff upset us too deeply then WE are the losers…

  29. I think it’s important to remember that everyone has their cross to bear. (I hate that phrase, but it seems apt here.) It’s absolutely true what you say – my wife is Korean-American and she has encountered pretty much everything you describe and has done so on a daily basis for the past four years, in both Korea and China (although I hate to lump them together; they’re very different countries).

    It’s tough for her and I get to see it up close. People come up to me all the time and tell me they love me because I’m white. It’s weird and awkward and I used to hate it, but now it’s just something that happens. But she is all but invisible. Except when we get in a taxi or shop, when the attention turns to her because they expect her to speak the language, which she doesn’t. Ironically, I speak Korean and Chinese, and she doesn’t, and so people look at her and think she can speak without moving her lips.

    I don’t mind the staring and photographs and so on, but I used to, and I used to envy Amy’s powers of invisibility. Even now, there are times when I’m sick or having a bad day and I really don’t feel like having 1.5 billion people staring at me for whatever reason… and I just wish I could blend in. But I can’t and I never will in this part of the world.

    It’s a bit different in China. It seems from your post that you’re lumping “East Asia” into one category, but having thoroughly explored this part of the world, I find that our experiences (being a white male and an Asian-American female) vary wildly from place to place. In Korea it was outright hostility. They don’t admire and love foreigners (which is good to a degree; the adoration Chinese have for white people is definitely sad) . When they saw me, they’d act with deliberate rudeness, most of the time. To Amy they’d be a little more understanding of her inability to speak the language ,but would be quite condescending to her and it was frustrating for both of us.

    One more thing as I’m rambling too much: You mention that people think of you as a show-off of some kind for looking Asian and speaking English. That’s definitely true and a lot of my Chinese friends get that. When they speak English, taxi drivers will accuse them of “pretending to be foreign”. Which is silly, of course.

    Anyway, I’m sorry that you feel people in China hate you. It sounds to me like they don’t and that they’re just being ignorant because they aren’t used to outsiders (whether they look like what they expect outsiders to look like or not).

    • test your temper says:

      Couple of people mentioned Chinese or those local people are just ignorant because they are not used to outsiders , what I will say is, you’d better stop self-centered thinking, to me it’s becasue you ARE ALL ignorant and expect other people (how many? China, Korea etc) to understand you.

      You got into other people daily life, you should try to understand them.

      Think again why I said you are all ingnorant, how much do you understand them? those behaviour are their normal life and seem everyone there don’t have problem with it….. then you have problem…. think again….. whose problem?

      • Rick says:

        Don’t be an ass! Who is saying there is an expectation of locals understanding you? The reason why probably the majority of people commenting on this post travel IS to understand other people, thereby better understanding themselves and their place in this world. The problem Juno is speaking of is of people having no respect for this, simply based on outward appearances, prejudice.

  30. Steve says:

    Having travelled with American born Chinese, it’s true all over China. As an obvious foreigner speaking Mandarin I’m given leeway to make all sorts of mistakes, but anyone that looks vaguely Asian is expected to be fluent and given bad looks if they’re not.

    It’s quite common that two Chinese people with strong dialects can barely understand each other, then they both get angry at the other for not speaking Chinese…

    • Juno says:

      Thanks Steve. Yes, I’ve heard even Sichuanese people are treated bad in other parts of China because of their dialects. I wonder, how come the country of 47 minorities can be so stiff about the differences.

      • Rick says:

        If you think of China as a hierarchical culture, it becomes more understandable. There is a pecking order, with light-skinned Beijing ren speaking Beijing hua representing the elite. Radiating outwards from there are concentric circles of condescension. The minorities mostly live in the borderlands. They have only featured prominently in Chinese history when they took over the government. Then, they became more Chinese than the Han!

  31. Juno, this is really powerful. I remember meeting several Chinese American backpackers who said that they too were treated very poorly in China. That somehow there’s this notion that if you look like them but don’t speak fluent Chinese than you’re not worth their time. I’m sure it’s incredibly difficult to face. Though as several others mentioned, the more people in China see Asian backpackers around, over time, their opinions will change.

    I’m so sorry that you’re having this experience. I really loved my time in China and I really hope that this isn’t what you take away from your time there!

  32. Laura says:

    While I can only relate to the opposite side of the spectrum (white, blond haired, blue eyed) I can at least empathize with you. It is interesting how these feelings develop in certain areas, as I’ve traveled with black Americans in Africa and usually people from rural villages there are just more in wonderment than anything. They are surprised to see a black person who can’t speak any African language. But I’ve never seen a negative reaction, just more of surprise and giggles that a black person could only speak English and nothing else. Thanks for sharing!

    • Juno says:

      Thanks Laura sharing your experience! Yeah, small parts of people were surprised that how am I not Chinese and not speak the language. They weren’t rude, more surprised. It is hard to get out of the stereotype, if you haven’t experience many. And I think a lot of Asians didn’t.

  33. Sally says:

    I can’t say I’m that surprised by this (saddened but not surprised). I’ve worked with a number of Asian-American/Canadian/British, etc people both in Japan and China and they’ve told me similar stories. I don’t think the racism is quite as extreme in Japan, but there definitely are a lot of misconceptions there about who is foreign and how foreigners should look. I had one friend tell me that her school was disappointed to find out they had been appointed a Japanese-American to work there as they wanted a “real” American.
    It can be draining and disconcerting being constantly stared at and singled out for being visibly foreign in China, but I guess I should be thankful that I’ve never had to deal with the same kind of hostility that you have. I hope you are able to see past the hostility and enjoy your time in China! (When are you coming to visit me in Wuxi? 🙂 )

    • Juno says:

      Thanks Sally! You’re right, the ‘racism’ is not so serious in Japan or Korea but it exists. But since Koreans and Japanese’s culture really don’t include ‘being rude’, maybe they are just not showing. I don’t think I’ve ever been ‘exotic’ for any of the people in any places in the world I’ve been. I guess I have to travel more. 🙂 Asians don’t have ideas about ethnicity and nationality. Just like Korea and Japan, Koreans using Korean and live in Korea. Hope the ideas will change in the future.
      (PS. I spent 3 months is China, but still China is a huge country! Wuxi was really far from anywhere I’ve been! :D)

      • test your temper says:

        “But since Koreans and Japanese’s culture really don’t include ‘being rude’, ”

        Are you sure about this? I heard so many stories about how the Janpanese men and Korean men treated their wives or even mothers so bad.

        I’ve heard the males have absolute power in their family, it must be ignorat, but not sure if it is true in certain degree.

    • test your temper says:

      Send a fair skinned or black guy to teach you Chinese, how will you feel?

  34. Brynn Kinnee says:

    This is a saddening situation. Racism is scattered all over the world not only in Asian countries. I guess people should try to be more open-minded and lessen their prejudices. Thanks for sharing!

  35. Meaghan says:

    Asian on Asian racism is one of the strangest things I’ve had to encounter since living in HK.
    Seeing them deny a person a job simply because they’re not blonde is weird. I sometimes don’t even get gigs simply because I’m not western looking enough. (brown hair/brown eyes make me too asian looking I guess.)
    Have they seen my big boobs?!
    I’m glad you got to experience China both the good and the bad. But I’m happy you have moved onto a place that seems a bit happier.
    Let me know what you want me to do with your stuff.
    I found your undies the other day. I’m sure you want them back!

  36. Kate says:

    Hello Juno, I’m Chinese-Filipino and living in China for a couple of years now, I know exactly how you feel. I’ve been shouted at by people in the bus and a woman here almost slapped me since she didn’t believe I could only speak English.My friend had a glass thrown at him in a bar by a Chinese because he did not believe my friend was Navajo Indian. It’s frustrating that people don’t believe you just by the way you look. Also my Chinese being horrible didn’t help either.

    I have a hard time understanding and becoming close to locals because of the huge divide of culture, ideas and morals. what Terence had said really opened my eyes that for the Mainland Chinese to be ‘rude’ to others, lie, cheat, to show off and look down on others who are underneath their social standing, was just a way to survive. I don’t think I could not live with such negative morals hence I’ve never grown to appreciate their culture fully. I’m not quite sure if this has been the case for the last hundred years or so — I think this mind set came to be after the Cultural Revolution which just succeeded to wipe out most of their unique and beautiful culture. this explains why Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan behave very differently from their Mainland counterparts- no spitting, cutting queues or squatting on Western toilets.

    On a different note, you might be interested in reading a different perspective on what attracts and repels Western Men and Women (including Western Asians) to East Asians –
    http://diaspora.chinasmack.com/2011/australia/monica-tan-ode-to-the-chinese-male-and-lady-laowais-can-have-yellow-fever-too.html

    • Rick says:

      “why Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan behave very differently from their Mainland counterparts- no spitting, cutting queues or squatting on Western toilets.”

      You couldn’t have been in Hong Kong that long, Kate, or you didn’t venture far beyond Central, TST, Causeway Bay, and Stanley. I saw it all there. In fact, an expat joke is… You know you have been in Hong Kong too long when the footprints on the toilet seat are your own. The difference from the Mainland is in terms of degree.

      • Naiwen says:

        Simply because foreigners or Westerners shouldn’t be there and therefore do not belong there (Mainland China) and Westerners are wanting their lands (here referring to tibet, Mongolia) and their resources.

        • Frank says:

          Total crap. You have no idea what you’re talking about. Who wants to take Chinese lands? The westerners in China? Your brain is dead.

          I’ve been living here in China and never heard any such statement from any foreigner living or visiting. The cases of Tibet and Mongolia are local cases with no foreign intervention at all. It is the people of those areas who want their land back.

          If you have any familiarity with the situation you would know that Inner Mongolia does not belong to China because the traditions as well as their language and culture do not concur to Chinese traditions. They are part of China today because of how communists shared spoils between each other. Tibet is also a recent addition to Chinese territory. In fact their traditions resemble more Indian than Chinese. And what about Xinjiang? Do they look like Chinese as well? The terrorists there are aiding westerners? They hate westerners nearly as much as Chinese, but not so much because westerners never occupied their lands.

          This is what i hate about Chinese like you. They blame westerners for this rife in their own country, rife which they brought upon themselves by their greed for resources. And greedy you are, because i live in this situation everyday. Even when you claim that historically these lands were yours, history itself defies your claims. Who built the great wall to eliminate foreigners from China? Maybe your history book says it was the westerners?

          I think you are using this blog for your own agenda which was not what it originally intended to convey. When you write these subtle political statements blaming westerners for everything crooked in China i have no option but to reply because this method is the same in use here in China. The exact same way fed by the government to people here and using the same subtle method as you are using in this blog.

          And one last thing about your ideas, if you think that kicking foreigners out of China will solve all your problems why does not your government do so? You did it for the previous 2000 years already but the test of time showed you were wrong. And if you’re so proud of your country why don’t you live in it. I have no problem living here so why should a Chinese traditionalist like you have it?

  37. Shtina says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I would never have imagined this existed! I hope you keep enjoying your travels and make the best of your situation!

  38. Rob says:

    There are lots of interesting places in the world that aren’t China. LOTS. If the Chinese are a PITA you can leave them to their isolation and move on to nicer places.

    Just sayin..

  39. Morgan says:

    I’m really sorry that your experience of China has been quite negative so far. I can’t really know difficult it has been for you and while my boyfriend (who is British-born Chinese) never experienced any direct hostility or aggression whilst travelling in Asia, the locals in every country we’re really bemused at the sight of us and couldn’t understand how he could be Chinese and English at the same time. (One kid in Varanasi even argued with him saying it wasn’t possible for him to be English and that he must be Korean!). Although he was lectured ALOT in China about not being able to speak much Mandarin or read/write Chinese.

    In every country we visited he was mistaken for a local – even in Southeast Asia, despite the fact he most definately looks more Eastern Asian! Also even though we tried to be respectful to local customs in terms of dress and behaviour (no public displays of affection etc), there were a few occassions where we experienced some negativity for being a mixed-race couple.

    It’s not fair that you’ve had a hard time and I imagine it is incredibly frustrating but please don’t let this experience bring you down. Like others have said, I’m sure once more Asian backpackers visit China, these opinions will eventually change. That’s one of the exciting things about travelling, having the opportunity to learn about a culture with all its idiosyncrasies andto be able to try to break down old barriers of stereotypes/racism.

    Thanks for sharing and happy travels x

  40. Waegook Tom says:

    Ahh Asian-Asian racism. I think Koreans can behave the same towards other Asians. My Korean friends and my students often label the Chinese as “rude, noisy and dirty”, the Japanese as “cruel” and every south-east Asian “dirty” and lacking in intelligence.

    Asian-Asian racism is sad, and the sooner that East Asians can accept their differences, the better. Being a European, when I went travelling in Poland and Poles realised I didn’t speak their language when they came up asking me for tram directions (it happened a few times – was I the safest bet and most Polish looking?!), they just smiled, laughed and asked someone else when I replied “nie mowie po polsku” (I don’t speak Polish).

    I think a lot of east Asia is still used to the concept of just “one race”, but people need to realise that it’s not the early 20th century any more and that they’re part of a diverse and global society, and that race does not define nationality.

  41. Jade says:

    I’ve been living in Spain for 4 years now, and before I had lived in Chile for 1 year. I was 26 years old when I lived in Chile, everywhere I went, people there shouted at me “China!”(Chinese girl), and now I am 36 years old and living in Spain and people here still shouted at me “China!” Last week I heard it on the street like 9 times in 2 days. I feel like I am cursed by China even though I’ve never been to China nor know any Chinese. I want to make a movie about a Asian woman (not Chinese) who has a terrible day and hears someone behind her back shouting, “China!” every time something happens. Anyway one of my friends asked me why I care so much about whoever calls me whatever, and accused me of being an racist like, I don’t like to be called Chinese because I myself look down on Chinese people. I am not really sure what should I think about this. at first I thought her comment was just dumb and ridiculous. I’m not particularly proud of being Korean but just don’t want to be shouted at on the street by some stranger. On the other hand, it could be my own insecurity of being Korean as we are desperately shouting to the whole world that we are not part of the 3rd world anymore.

  42. Nellie says:

    Aww don’t let them get you down! It’s strange, but I have quite the opposite experience with the Chinese. I’m ethnically Chinese and I speak Mandarin, but most Chinese (whether in China or in foreign countries) assume I’m Thai, Filipino or American and are pleasantly surprised when I speak Mandarin to them. I’ve met plenty of Chinese folks who have been very kind and friendly to me.

    I think what you’re encountering might boil down to the fact that (as what you mentioned) – that in most parts of Asia, there seem to be a twisted mentality that Westerners are above us, that they are somehow superior and most kids idolize them – even in Singapore (where I’m from), there is still some hint of Western-idolization. And because of this fact, people who are locals, or who look like them, is just not worth the attention.

    I had quite the same experience as you in Vietnam, the Philippines and even Thailand – some occasions of locals shouting at me, ignoring me or simply being rude to me – but my husband (Spanish) had no problems at all. In any case, I just don’t think we can generalize a country like that. I understand it must have been terrible for you – and in your situation, I would have felt miserable too – but perhaps we should look at things in a new perspective and things will come to light.

    Hope you’re feeling better in Vietnam now! We’re off to China in a week’s time, heading to US in August as well, catch up soon.

  43. […] For more on Asian-Asian racism, Korean traveler Runaway Juno wrote about her experiences in China here. […]

  44. SHAIFULLAH says:

    I can relate to this. While I was in Thailand, a few times people ignore me until I started speaking in English. Suddenly the mood changed and I was a celebrity. Also, according to my Malaysian Chinese friend some backpackers hostels in coastal areas of Thailand do not accept Asian backpacker because they want to maintain a western atmosphere.

    • Juno says:

      I think that’s really sad. People can’t appreciate what they have and their root. Can’t believe that’s happening in 21st century. But I guess that’s how the world works now. Hope that will change, gradually.

  45. test your temper says:

    Hi Juno, you can delete my comment later if you don’t like it, tell you some truth you won’t like, westeners won’t differentiate Chinese, Korean, Japanese but they can, I think some chinese people just recognize that you are korean and not chinese.

    And just let you know some truth if your parents never had the chance to tell you: Chinese people don’t like Japanese and Korean, Japanese don’t like Chinese and Korean, Korean don’t like Japanese and Chinese.

    Wish you get it.

    Don’t be ignorant and brain washed, you (and all the people lived here in Canda and US and other western countries), look how the visiable minority being treated (still on the way to change better), you really sould know why.

    Unfair is part of human nature to survive individually.
    Fair is human’s desire to achieve as civilized creature.

  46. Alex says:

    Interesting perspective.

    I have a friend who is half Japanese, was born in Tokyo, and currently lives there. He explained to me that one of the biggest differences he sees between east Asia and America is that in some of the Asian countries, just being from that country is almost like a religion and it’s something that can only be inherited by being from that country. That’s why foreigners in Japan always feel like outsiders to a certain degree. Especially in China, where being Han is almost like being a dominant class, I think some locals might look at Asians who aren’t ‘conforming’ to the normal Chinese perspective as almost denying their culture. My buddy has told me he feels like an outsider in his home a lot because people can tell he’s part white and because of this, hangs out with more expats as they are a bit more accepting.

    From the perspective of a white guy with light curly hair and blue eyes, believe me that people aren’t any less racist towards me. I’ve been living overseas in Asia (mostly Thailand) for 7 years. Yes, I speak Thai and people smile and westerners and kids want to play with us, but many people talk down to you with a smile on your face if you don’t understand their language. Have had the same feeling in China, India, Cambodia, and parts of Europe. Only places I hadn’t felt strong racism was in Vietnam (go figure being from America), and Mongolia.

    Racism is an inherent part of all cultures and sometimes is only perceived when you are the victim of it. People tend to have ‘asymmetrical perception’ of outsiders where they think that they can understand everything about the outsider, but the outsider has no understanding of them. All in all, it can get a bit annoying at points, but don’t let it ruin your trip. There are still good, normal, open people everywhere who won’t judge you negatively or positively on your race, but on your character. The ones who would judge either way aren’t the people to spend your time with.

  47. Rick says:

    I like this quotation from Mark Twain:

    Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.

    Unfortunately, there is a lot of discrimination in the world based on prejudices learned from family and peers or from feeling inferior. This is universal. It’s one thing to experience this when travelling, quite another if you have to live with it daily in your own country. It’s also an issue for immigrants — how much you have to try to “fit in” versus how much you can be yourself.

    I think the best approach is don’t expect people to be fair or to understand you. Travel is a privilege, not a right. No one owes you anything. Once you let go of all expectations, you will not be as bothered. Nevertheless, if your experience in particular countries is commonly unpleasant, don’t go back. There are a lot more other places to explore.

  48. […] a Chinese taxi driver threw a rock at me. Chinese people hated me. Basically she was angry that I was fooling her by speaking English, not Chinese. She took us in to […]

    • Naiwen says:

      We Chinese think the same about British. they are rude and impolite merely by speaking English only and not “trying” to learn Chinese. Whereas French, at least, they try to say “Hello” in Chinese Mandarin

      • Rick says:

        There are many Chinese living in Vancouver who do not speak English. Does that make them rude and impolite? No. It does place limitations on interacting with broader Canadian society. That is their choice.

        Now, more Chinese are coming to Canada for tourism. Will all of them be speaking English? I doubt it! Does that make them rude? No. To expect everyone to learn the language of the place they visit is impractical. Of course it helps to learn some basic phrases, but not everyone is good with learning languages. It can take time. May not be worth the investment if you only will visit a country once in your lifetime.

  49. So sad to hear your experience. Fortunately for me I had a completely different one when I was there in 2008. I was traveling with a western boyfriend and didn’t feel being stared at. I don’t get followed by kids but I go chat with them, take their photos and show them in my camera. I do speak passable Mandarin and I felt people were curious and ask a lot of question about me and my boyfriend (who was a student of Mandarin). So in effect we get a lot of time practicing our Mandarin and meeting the locals. We even shared some tea and snacks with a Tibetan family in their tent in Shangri-la, China.

  50. George says:

    My experience in China as a person of South Asian origin is that people followed me around calling me Inturen or Indian. However, I noted one thing. If they see an Indian-Chinese couple, they follow them around shouting Sinchaporen or Singaporean.

  51. I am an African-American female who lived in Korea for two years and never got used to the staring and pointing. The most obvious stares came in China however when people actually PUSHED their kids toward me to take a picture…. I look back now and laugh but at the time it was so awkward!

  52. Bennett says:

    Just came across this whilst browsing your site. I once met a Russian guy on an overnight train to Beijing. He was from a border town with China so looked very Chinese. He was happy to find me as I could speak English and he couldn’t speak Chinese at all. The next morning when we ordered breakfast the waitress asked him something and he couldn’t reply in Chinese obviously and because the Chinese talk really loudly, everyone was watching and wondering why this “Chinese” man wasn’t speaking Chinese. It was a bit sad to be be honest.
    I hate being “adored” in China now, to the point where I’m actually sometimes quite rude to people, like staring at them back if they stare at me.

  53. […] A few of my favorite Runaway Juno posts are the one where she talked about how she took a giant leap and also discussed things that I would (cowardly) rather sweep under the rug. […]

  54. […] a roller coaster for three months. I wrote about several unfortunate incidents in China (including Asian-Asian racism: Why Chinese people hate me, Top 5 worst travel moments), and also chanted how beautiful this country was (Tiger Leaping Gorge, […]

  55. Stephen says:

    I had friends (from America) that were teaching in China the same time as I was, and though they mentioned it I don’t think I ever really got it. This actually does sound horrendously frustrating, and I could definitely see how it would leave a negative tint to your memories of a country.

    • Juno Kim says:

      I think this is kind of hard to recognize if you are not the subject of the situation. The three months in China was full of joy, at least a half of it, but the frustration was quite a big part as well. I don’t think I want to travel China in extended of period anytime soon.

      • Stephen says:

        Hmm, interesting to see the other half of that strange foreigner thing that happens so often. I’ve left a place once because the attention was just too much (well, or really that I just wasn’t in a mindset to deal with it properly), but most countries feel like that eventually just fades into the background as you begin to move into more substantial connections.

  56. rob says:

    Funny, whenever I get an email with a comment on this post “Why Chinese People Hate Me”, I always think – “Hate them back.”.

    Certainly when they travel in herds they make themselves infinitely easy to hate.

  57. Jessica Hill says:

    Wow. I just stumbled across your blog, and this is the first post I’ve read. You’re so honest I can’t wait to read more. I just spent four months in China, and I can say they are the most racist of the Asian countries I’ve been to, but I can only imagine what it must be like for you to feel like you don’t fit in. You’re brave for sticking it out!

  58. Faisal Admar says:

    Wow! I enjoy reading your blog and comments.

    Some are pretty harsh but still I have fun reading them.

    Hmm I never realize about this Asian-Asian Racism. But when I think about it again, yeah… it happens. Another story is about double standard that happen between us Asian and foreigner, who are not Asian. The hospitality is totally different.

  59. Secant^2 says:

    If stupid people do stupid things to you and act in stupid ways towards you the only human thing to do seems to be to look at yourself and say, “It’s because of me.” That seems to be how every childhood issue is born and I doubt that we change that much as we grow! Those people have lived next to asians who don’t speak their language for thousands of years. They have no reasons other than “they want to be that way.” You can call it rude, the desire to start trouble, ignorance by choice in the face of an overwhleming reality or just stupidity and you will probably be right. It’s not you though.

  60. Wow, I relate to this so much! Thanks for a great post.

  61. Brooke says:

    Just discovered your blog and this post caught my eye, simply because I’ve so often been mistaken for a Korean or sometimes Japanese! Anyway, I think many Chinese are just too used to homogeneity. Confession: when traveling, I sometimes pretend I don’t speak Chinese because I just don’t like how they assume I’m Chinese (I’m Singaporean).

    Love your thought-provoking posts!

  62. Lani says:

    So glad I found you Juno. I experienced enough of that Asian Asian racism that you shared to write about it when I was in Ecuador. Wrote about it here: http://tellthaiheart.com/konichiwa/ and don’t laugh – even wrote poetry about my experiences: http://tellthaiheart.com/i-am-asian-american-or-cuenca-poetry-corner/

    I guess b/c I was feeling outed and definitely invisible and not in a good way. Sometimes it was advantageous like when my Jewish friend got mugged but I didn’t and I was standing right next to them. But other times I just felt like I didn’t fit in or belonged.

    I’m back in Thailand now. I’m half-Thai and half-Chinese so I COMPLETELY understand the “they think you are being superior” when you don’t use the language. I get that less and less now…maybe my Thai has gotten better 😛 but I think the huge influx of Chinese tourists have changed that.

    Cheers Juno!

  63. Kate says:

    I find other gay people don’t tend to like me so I have some understanding of being rejected by people who on the surface I should have something in common with.

  64. Naiwen says:

    And because foreigners DO NOT look like Chinese nor Asians, then of course, they’re going to stare at you.

  65. parul says:

    Oh how you make me want to be exotic if i can get some attention. jokes apart i know what you mean thankfully being an Indian i rarely get any attention. i don’t think i’ll get attention anywhere coz indians are everywhere. but i have thankfully never had people being rude because you don’t understand the language. here you have almost every state with their own language english and Hindi will get you through. but you will get stares if you look and dress different.
    I hope you have a better time in India

  66. Joy says:

    This is a huge problem in China – among SOOOOO many other problems. I’d love to tell you that you just had a bad experience but after living in China for 2 years I understand your pain. I’m white but have heard countless stories of this happening. They are so sheltered in China. Actually, I think it’s rough for anyone. I’m having a very bad Chinese week so anyone else having a negative experience is comforting. Sorry! 🙂

    • Naiwen says:

      Because you don’ t belong to China and vice-versa, an Asian person doesn’t belong in a White Western country. I’m almost born in Canada, yet I don’t think I’m Canadian nor do I belong in America. I belong to Asia. For I’m Asian, not White. I’ll never belong in the White World either.

      • Frank says:

        Naiwen, your comments are so negative on racial differences, they run on the verge of sickness.

        The feeling of belonging comes from the environment and people surrounding you not from your racial background. If it is otherwise then it is a social / educational problem.

        If you are in this world you belong to humanity, so you need to behave humanly irrelevant of the continent you were born in. To mention but one example, should Obama resign because he also doesn’t belong there according to your principles? Incidentally in the US even the white people do not belong there for all that matters even to the extent that whites are not called natives in North America.

        And if you are mainland Chinese then you are surely against all currents as well. Do you have any idea of the efforts the government is doing in getting more westerners to China? There is nothing extraordinary in this, it is just the buzz word “globalization” which you haven’t caught up with as yet.

  67. Marielle says:

    Yep, I’ve had similar experiences. But I liked flying under the radar for the most part in Asia since that meant no one trying to sneak a picture by shoving their camera in my face. I’ve puzzled a lot of locals, but they come by their racism naturally, and it’ll take time to fade. What really makes me burn is that I stand out more as a foreigner in America (I’m not), where racism really shouldn’t be an excuse.

  68. Frank says:

    I’ve been living in China for the past 8 years. In general the Chinese are rude people if not in their words in their deeds. This is not a generalization, its a habit of a people which are brought up individually rather than communities. And the reasons for this are political rather than social. It all starts from school.

    Now with regards to your difficulties, if I may surmise, you don’t actually look very Chinese from the photo above but more of the SE Asian type. Unfortunately for you, if you haven’t been yet told by anyone, SE Asia is considered scum by most Chinese. A friend of mine, Chinese, she divorced her American husband because he moved to Cambodia and her kids deserve a better country than Cambodia.

    When you hear such stories you have to be disgusted, there’s no better word for that. Its even worse than racism. These action are done by the same people that are milking their resources bone dry, but still have this impression of these same countries.

    In Europe I presume we had the same mentality 200 years ago, so luckily we can use these experience to reflect on how horrible our attitudes used to be.

    I’ve travelled around China extensively, photographing over 250 sites. When they see me as foreigner (and i’m not blond absolutely, got over cooked in the Middle East before I came here) everyone is flashing cameras and mobile starkly in my face and when i point my camera back at them some even threatened me. Isn’t this Chinese rudeness as well?

    • Marielle says:

      I’d just like to point out that “type” in East and Southeast Asia is a rather fluid thing. I’m ethnically Korean, and from traveling around Asia, I’ve learned that I pass for Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian-Chinese. From living in China for eight years, you probably have a different perspective on what “Chinese” looks like than a local. To a local, the “type” can be pretty generic Asian-ness.

      • Frank says:

        I didn’t intend any offence by the use of “type”. The same occurs in Europe, many types of Europeans, nordic, mediterranean, continental etc..

        The fact is, in Asia you can still differentiate between different regions. Unfortunately the behaviour is not standard as well, and rudeness is a feature shared by the norther parts of China and the North Koreans have the same attitude as well. This makes them in a class of their own. From my experience, when I tried business with N.Koreans, it was an experience never to be forgotten.

        Be patient and you’ll overcome this obstacle. The only way to piss them off is to completely ignore them.

  69. Nice post. I can definitely relate. This was actually my experience in Korea when I was teaching English. *sorry* There were many times it was actually rough to be Asian and not kyopo. Rough even to be Asian, foreign and my Korean teacher’s age. . I was taking Korean language lessons to so I could immerse myself but I got so much friction that, I quickly unlearned what I learned and tried my best to speak it badly so people knew I wasn’t Korean. For a while, I wasn’t very fond of Korea.

  70. xj says:

    Chance upon this blog while searching for more info on inner mongolia province lol

    I wish to pen down my experience in China to provide a more balance view to this topic.

    I am a Singaporean of Chinese descent. My putonghua is not fantastic and am terrible when it comes to reading Chinese characters. Thus in my extensive travels to China, I always have difficulty ordering off a menu that is completely written in Chinese. Not once did I experience the “Asian- Asian” racism thing when I couldn’t recognize a few of the Chinese characters on the menu when ordering food; the waiter/ waitress was still polite and friendly when I say a few words wrongly/ or couldn’t recognize that word at all and at no point in time did I feel I was obliged to be proficient in the Chinese language just coz I am ethnically Chinese. I just explain to the waiter/ waitress that I am not from here and my ability to read Chinese is not good and I need help with the menu, and all is well.

    As a solo traveller (perhaps solo travellers are more approachable) I do get approached by the locals once in a while wanting a conversation while travelling on the bus/ train. Alas, I could only entertain them with my lousy putonghua, but the locals never demand that I speak putonghua fluently just coz I am ethnically Chinese. They understand that there are overseas Chinese who are not proficient in their mother tongue.

    I am actually somewhere in western China right now tracing the silk road, and had just went on a day trip somewhere with a bunch of local youngsters I met on the bus. Nice and friendly bunch.

    Thus, to all those who experience the “Asian-on-Asian” racism thing, could it be the way you talk/ present yourself to the locals such that you deserve their wrath? I have personally seen how some people think they are a notch above the locals just coz they know a few words of english and are from a supposedly better/ richer country. Tatz extremely obnoxious behaviour man.

    Just be nice and chances are other people will be nice to you back.

    Cheers!

  71. Ruzhi says:

    Hi, I came across your blog from your comment on Wes Nations’ site. I gotta say, considering its writing style, this is one of the more interesting travel blogs out there! And nope I don’t brown-nose.

    This entry really got my attention as I’m Chinese myself (from Malaysia) and I can totally relate to your frustration, having lived in a Chinese society for 28 years and counting. Rudeness, conformity, being stoic, greedy, racist…there’s just so much that I hate about my race. I guess that if you’re Westernised and believe in being independent and adventurous, China (and countries with large Chinese populations) isn’t the place. The Chinese live in their small world and you’ll be amazed how happy they are to remain there.

    I have to say though that I find Koreans very similar, no offence intended here. Having worked with the Koreans I do find them rude and aggressive, and also very competitive, all these traits belonging to the Chinese as well. They too are racist towards certain Asian nationalities and glorify Westerners. Maybe it’s an East Asian thing, with the Japanese beig an exception.

    • Juno Kim says:

      I live in Malaysia now, and I get more racial profile here. It is very open society, but at the same time, people differentiate their race very much.

      But all the points I made in this article is mainly about East Asia. I don’t know well enough about Southeast Asia to say anything, even though I’ve been in and out of Malaysia for about a year now.

      Glad you found my blog!

  72. Asian Chinese says:

    I am a Singaporean Chinese and just landed myself in Beijing 2 weeks ago, with my Caucasian husband who is here to work. I have never felt so down traveling in my entire life! I have travelled to other parts of China but never felt this way. Perhaps, I weren’t travelling with a Caucasian then?

    I was horrified by how sheltered and negative the people were! C’mon! We are all human beings living on one Earth together! Can’t we come together and live in harmony? Does anyone owe them anything? What I see is no one intends to offend these people but they just start feeling offended themselves, through their ignorance about the world and start hurling abuses/stares at others!

    I have to point out that what Ruzhi said is absolutely correct! Chinese overseas dislike Mainland Chinese. They taint the image of us, Chinese in general, everywhere! There are really nice Mainland Chinese around and I love befriending them but I am also sorry to say that I have also learnt to be very cautious towards every Chinese here in China.

  73. This is really sad Juno 🙁

    We travelled with our English Chinese friend from back home during a trip through China. She spoke fluent Mandarin and Cantonese and could understand everything that local people were saying about her.

    She had dark skin and a good sun tan, and people were calling her a ‘peasant’ and a ‘farm worker’ and things like that!!! We couldn’t believe it.

    i don’t think it’s specifically a China thing – I think human beings in general fear or resent what they do not know.

  74. Jenny Lai says:

    It sounds too bad! I think it was because they couldn’t communicate with you. You looks like Chinese that’s why they spoke either Mandarin or Chinese to you. Misunderstanding caused for lack of communication. I am so sorry about that you felt uncomfortable that time. I am Chinese but lived in Hong Kong. Wishing you had a nice trip in Asia next time.

  75. Steve says:

    This is crazy! Why do people have to be nasty to each other?
    I never would have imagined asian-asian racism – I suppose it’s the same everywhere in the world.

    It’s bad enough in the west 🙁

  76. I’ve only just come across this post Juno, and yes I understand.

    “I’m neither one of them nor a foreigner.”

    You know what’s worse? The idea of having a non-Asian husband. Ignoring the ring, everyone thinks you are either 1. a hooker 2. mail order bride.

    It’s getting better I think, after all, the world is getting smaller. One of these days we’ll stop questioning less on race and more on nationality. I hope. Because some of us really don’t associate anywhere in Asia, home.

  77. Cherry says:

    Dear Ms. Kim,

    When I read your post, I saw it as I had similar experiences. I am an Asian, South East and from Myanmar. But my whole life I have lived in India at an American school and 5+ years in the United States for college. And recently I came back to my country and had several re-culture shock if you will. I am not a small person as in I am quite large but not in height and here, if someone of that mass moves as quickly as I do, people make snark comments and geeing here every single time I go out…It is as if it is not lady like. And also I travel a lot around South East Asia and recently I traveled to Yunnan China region. I visited many shops and eateries there and like you have experienced, the shop keepers were very rude and had no customer service mind or an decency in being ‘nice’ the slightest as in they did not like the fact that I even asked how much something cost. I understand Mandarin a little bit and I understood one of them say, “She looks too cheap to buy it! Why is she even asking?? She should not touch things that don’t fit!”….In my mind I thought, that was simply rude…I also had the “whites revered” prejudice in many Asian countries that I visited. I mean I am a tourist also when I visit, but it seems that the shop keepers and the locals on the street manner is a lot sweater to ‘whites’ than they are to ‘yellow skin’ and ‘black skin’ people in Asia. It is as if they think that the white people are seraphs to them. But I have also experienced that there are some Asians that call the white people “white trash” in equal amount. The Asian to Asian racism happens most when I visit either Thailand, Shanghai, Yunnan, and Hong Kong.

  78. Grace Zhou says:

    So what is your response in terms of Asians meeting hostility in countries such as Korea? I’ve been there to travel, and experienced similar things. More so though, I found that Koreans grouped together and foreigners are often shut out in general. There are also sayings that Koreans look down on other groups of Asian people, Chinese specifically. From my experience there, it seems quite true, and not necessarily a stereotype. Could it be that within the realm of the category of Asians, each individual Asian country, like China or Korea, have negative views on other kinds of Asians? I wouldn’t necessarily say that those feelings are feelings of hatred though.

  79. C says:

    “a girl looks like one of them can’t speak their language but English and hang out with foreigners. To them, I’m a show off. ”

    Ah, in America, when a Hmong person can’t speak Hmong and hang out with non-Hmong/Asian people, especially Caucasian folks, he or she is not just a “show-off” but considered “white-washed”. Perhaps, the person grew up in a less Hmong dominated community and went to schools with less Hmong people, have parents who rarely converse in the Hmong language with them, who knows. But automatically, people think, “You’re so white-washed” or “stop showing-off”.

    But to relate to your blog: an acquaintance once spoke of his experience in China. He is Southeast Asian and went to teach there with an American contract. He traveled with his wife, also Southeast Asian, and his assistant, a Caucasian woman. At the airport, the security beckoned the assistant to the front of the line to “go ahead”. He did not understand what happened but assumed that the assistant was given a special treatment due to being a Caucasian “tourist”. His reaction was, “Hey, what is going on? She is my assistant.” The security folks were like, “Oh, okay. Sorry” and bewildered, then beckoned him and his wife to join the assistant.

  80. Hellen says:

    Hey Juno! I stumbled across your blog while Googling a bit about my own rant on living in China as a Chinese-American.

    I can completely relate to you! After 6 years in China, I can see that the “Asian-Asian racism” that occurs here is a serious and annoying problem.

    I attend an IB school, so my friends are from all over the world. Namely I have 4 best friends, one of whom is Indonesian, one of whom is a Thai-born Australian, one of whom is a Chinese-Malaysian and one of whom is a white Australian. As you can imagine, being Chinese-American myself, going out with my friends isn’t quite so easy.

    A few weeks ago my white Australian friend suggested that we all go to a salon for a hair makeover to celebrate the end of exams. We walked around until we found a nice-looking, clean, but inexpensive hair salon, which we entered. I didn’t envision a problem as we walked through the door, but as soon as we were inside, the entire place went quiet and everyone was just staring at us.

    Next, the manager came over and asked us nicely, if not a little tentatively, how she could help. We told her that we simply wanted to style our hair, so she sent us to another room to get our hair washed.

    As soon as we were through the door of the other room all heads turned and jaws fell open. The girls who would be washing our hair immediately started giggling and pushing each other, disputing very loudly and audibly in Chinese:

    “I wanna wash the white girl!!” (“让我来洗白的!!“
    “No, you washed the last white person, now it’s my turn!!” (”上次是你洗白的,这次让我来吧!“)
    “It’s not fair! I never got to wash a white girl before! Let me!” (”来来来,这不公平,我从没洗过外国人,该我了吧?!“)

    As I am quite an aggressive person, I tried very hard to control the temper that was boiling up within me and decided to keep my big mouth shut. I simply turned to my Chinese-Malaysian friend and said very quietly: “I hope someday this racism goes away in China”. She nodded in agreement.

    Of course, unrelenting of this “Asian-Asian racism”, my white Australian friend instantly got priority, and the girls swarmed about her, all wanting to wash her hair first. A much calmer, much nicer, and much less racist young man came along and shooed the girls away, and went about washing my friend’s hair himself. He didn’t ask any questions and didn’t stare or take pictures, which I am thankful of.

    Just as I decided to calm down and forget about being offended, one of the girls who had been shooed away, and who was now crouched in a corner with her coworkers, giggled and took out her phone to take a photo of my white Australian friend having her hair washed. I thought: seriously? A photographic souvenir of a random stranger getting their hair washed?

    I wasn’t particularly offended yet, but the next incident tipped me over the edge. One of the crouching girls said, softly this time but still audibly:

    “老外怎么这么漂亮?我皮肤为什么不能像她那样?!…” (why are Caucasians so beautiful? Why can’t I have skin like hers?…)
    Another girl replied: “我猜那白的是法国人,那两个黑的是印度人,然后另外两个是中国人吧…” (”I bet the white one’s French, the two blacks are Indian, and the remaining two are Chinese…”)

    At this, my self-control completely broke. Yes, I was annoyed at the fact that my white Australian friend was treated like a princess just because she has “white” skin. Yes, I was annoyed at the fact that everyone took pictures of her just because of her “Caucasian” status. But what I was most annoyed about was the fact that these young girls, who are supposed to be the hopeful seeds of the new Chinese generation, who are supposed to be much more open-minded than the last, are instead shockingly racist and insensitive! Angered, I marched over to the girls and told them that some people could be offended by their conversation and by their taking pictures, and that they should understand that there are beautiful people from other races too, who weren’t white. The girls were obviously startled by my reaction, but they simply giggled and nodded and shied away out of the room.

    I understand that I’m sometimes a rather aggressive and hot-tempered person, and that I should, myself, make a better effort of getting to know the Chinese culture, and understanding why people act as they do.
    I understand that China is still a developing country, and that it has made a lot of progress in the past few years, and that sometimes people don’t mean to be rude–in the case of the hair salon girls, it might be true that they have never seen a single living white person in their life, and so over-reacted when they did.
    I understand that I should try to put myself in another person’s shoes before judging them and their actions.

    However, as you have said in your blog, sometimes, incidents like this are simply too irritating, and my frustration reaches a breaking point.

    I try not to complain about this “Asian-Asian racism” that happens here in China, and I know that it is not right to be so quick on judgement, but sometimes I can’t help myself.

    And that is why I have written this extremely long comment.

  81. Yuna says:

    I know what it feels, I’m Indonesian, my face looks like a Thai or Philippine, when i traveled around Asia, especially Southeast Asia (actually i haven’t travel that much), when i was replaying their greets in English, you know, they gave me ‘that-face’…owch, that was irritating me… and yes, when we are hanging out with foreigner and speak not our language, esp English, they think we are showing off, when we think we are just trying to make a possible conversation.

  82. Kat says:

    Hey Juno! I like your travel posts, and I admire the fact that you can take on a travelling experience on your own without being intimidated.

    The posters and people on your blog probably are all in the same boat as you and me, namely they’re in a foreign country or they like travelling. To those who said “it doesn’t matter, stop being so sensitive about locals seeing you as one of them and not giving you the celebrity treatment, but giving it to Europeans/North Americans”, I will say that it is human nature to not notice your own folks, but it is Not Mature to treat anyone who looks Oriental as a second class citizen or loser, but treat a person with caucasian features as a rock star

    Why isn’t it fair? Do you need me to seriously tell you why? And if you say life isn’t fair, i ask you why You as an Asian and your people are reknowned for treating each other poorly (asian on asian racisme) but treat Caucasians like rock stars? Snapping photos, marriage proposals?

    I went to shanghai and beijing with my sister two months ago, and the réactions we got were very different, to the point that i couldn’t help but feel insulted, sad. I am taller, i like fashion trends, but am 100% East Asian and have no problem with it lol. So the différences between me and sis is that i am 1. taller 2. i had dyed my haïr a nice dark red for the big trip 3. i dress fashionably 4. she has glasses and i don’t.

    I also tan and wear makeup, nice clothes. Well, you wouldn’t believe the comments we got. People straight-up said to us “wow you’re so much prettier than your ugly sister” “you can’t be sisters! she is so beautiful and you are so short and asian looking” (YEAH cause my sister is Asian, way to insult someone who spent 3000$ to take a trip to your city). Others inquired about whether i was the daughter of a caucasian lady in our entourage and my dad (they thought dad and this woman were a couple). OK even if i was the daughter of this caucasian lady, why is this something so incredible?? Why is it so cool that i’m supposedly more caucasoid looking than my sister??

    Seriously, i don’t go around saying this to those people who insulted me and my family, i just ignored them, or said thanks but please don’t call my sister UGLY TO HER FACE. You don’t have to say anything to make a point, but do understand THIS BEHAVIOUR ISN’T NORMAL AND CAUCASIANS OR WHOEVER ELSE DON’T RESPECT YOU FOR IT.

  83. Kat says:

    Oh and, because i tanned before the vacation, the people in beijing and shanghai (lots strangers) who conversed with me said to me that i should be paler and i’m insane for tanning. That i’m too pretty and making my skin darker is mental. I asked them, why do i look horrible with a nice tan?? Why are you so obsessed with pale skin? And some answers i got were so archaic/bizarre i won’t even go into it.

    East Asians, i’m one of you, but please stop being such a crazy ignorant bunch sometimes.

  84. NobleSpirit says:

    Racism is essential in China to justify oppression and genocide against natives. I guess having rudeness towards temporary travellers is just a tiny fraction of actual situation.

    Contrary to current situation those Chinese occupied territories were dozens of different countries with close interaction and harmony. However rise of Chinese destroyed the peace, Leaders preached hate against non Han Chinese or Chinese people who fail to hate other races. As result millions of people slaughtered under massive genocides including little kids, Main victims were Manchurians, Mongolians, Uighurs, Tibetans, Thais and Other non Han Chinese groups. Genocide was so massive survival was only possible if those victims Sinicize and change their names to Han Chinese and Speak only Chinese.

    Genocide slowed down but still continues especially towards those left over groups, Like Uighurs and Tibetans being under heavy oppression and constant blackmailing. Chinese special security forces often orchestrate terror attacks to slander Uighurs and Tibetans sometimes falung gong and Christians. Since independent journalism is totally banned there is only Chinese government version is available for people who wish to find out what happen.

  85. Da says:

    “In other standard, they adore foreigners.”

    You need to be careful with generalizing foreigners. What type of foreigners get preferential treatment? WHITE/EUROPEAN/WESTERN foreigners. Fore example, a black person compared to a white person in China has a TOTALLY DIFFERENT experience in China and faces discrimination as well.

    • Juno Kim says:

      At the end of the article, I said “I generalized and simplified the world”. This is my view of the world, not a news article. Thanks for your thoughts.

  86. Lindsay says:

    Oh! This made me sad. 🙁 When we visited China (we’re both white Europeans) the staring was almost unbearable by the time we left, but we understood it was because we were different and we managed to cope…just! But, to read your story really opened my eyes to how much more isolated you must have felt. Powerful stuff.

  87. Lala says:

    Dear Juno,

    I would like to reply to your article on behave of a Taiwanese who has studied abroad in N. America for 9 years and come back. I can’t speak for mainlanders as you know the two countries are different places and thus with slightly different culture. However, my experience in Taiwan is that people do not see you as one entity and thus “the same race” as you described here. Taiwanese are used to a lot of Asian travelers from all over the world and therefore Taiwanese do not curious at all if you are Asian but do not speak any Taiwanese/Chinese. In fact, Taiwanese are also used to other travelers from other nations/races. Think of Taiwan(Taipei) as any metropolitan cities in Asia like Hong Kong or Singapore.

    About the girls in the bar, I wonder if those girls represents the majority woman in Taiwan. I doubt that. Most girls I know are very decent people and respect others. Any countries or places have bad people, racist people, or ignorant people, but without knowing deeper, I would not make any conclusion on any nations. By the way, the race and gender issues are always controversial and sometimes lead to stereotyped statement. As a respectful writer as yourself, I do hope you could encounter more people and make friends with locals more before writing articles to generalize any country or race.

  88. […] Asian-Asian Racism […]

  89. Amz says:

    Omg I feel so much the same…I live in China now ,teaching ESL. My parents are Indian, but I was born and bred in the US. People say openly racist things towards me. I know they don’t think it’s rude. They’ll TELL ME I’m not American because I look Indian. It broke my heart the first time I heard it. America is all I know. My childhood. My whole life…it doesn’t count because my skin isn’t white? Some students I have even make fun of me and not participate in class and tells me to go back home. I grin through it all, laugh it off. Then I have to deal with subpar EVERYTHING, from bugs in my apartment, stains on walls, people pissing everywhere, bad service, no taxis stop for me, getting ripped off wherever I go – and I accept it because I understand this place is different. But how much can I say is ok? Even when my white teacher friends talk to me, they tell me all these stories of Chinese people buying them drinks, taking pics of them, praising their beauty, helping them out at airports and restaurants, etc….I get none of that. I even get overworked in my hours and felt very uncomfortable trying to tell them they can’t overwork me. I do my best to go out and keep busy, but I feel out of place here.

    Everyone keeps telling me to not be a baby about it all and don’t put a different culture down. I’d make Chinese friends any day – if they wanted to be. I have never had problems with other races. So it’s not about their race. It’s about a culture. And I really don’t like it. but I’m not even allowed to think that apparently! I can openly admit Americans have their drawbacks too – but I don’t find Chinese people to be friendly at all…not as a society anyway. I went off on a tangent but still…I’m American…no one in the world has a right to tell me otherwise, and their ignorance is not an excuse. They should think for themselves and wonder if they would like someone to speak like that to them…

  90. nashz says:

    I totally get this. I’m south east asian, but my features look more south asian (probs have some indian/arabic ancestry). It was weird to be the “other asian” while I was in China. People still look at me weird, would wonder where i’m from, why I’m alone etc. I speak Chinese so if their gossiping gets uncomfortable I tell them off.
    My asian-american friends get this kind of treatment as well from time to time. And i can’t imagine how it would hurt them, to be discriminated in their ancestral land. 🙁

    Fortunately I haven’t met to many judgemental people in china. I think the younger , more educated generations are more open-minded now 🙂

  91. Christabel says:

    My ancestry is Indian, but I look anything but and often in India get thought of as a foreigner – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people tell me how jealous they are of the color of my skin, even from relatives! In their minds, being white or closer to white is appealing, and it’s such a terrible mindset. But, how do you go about changing what years of colonization has instilled?!

    Also, interesting were my college years in California- I tend to fit in with a lot of different ethnicities, and my last name is Spanish for wolf. So, unless I told people where I was from, they assumed I was Mexican. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the looks of disgust and judgment I got every time I said no habla espanol. I always wanted to follow it up with I’m from the Middle East!!! Or the looks of disappointment and anger, mainly from older folks, when I’d walk around with my then-boyfriend, who was African American.

    I wish we eventually get to a place where the color of our skin or how we look does not determine how people treat us..one can hope, right? I truly believe that change starts within ourselves, and what we experience when we travel is a learning experience. Your experiences triggered a discussion and varied points of view were shared – I appreciate you sending me this link yesterday!

  92. Myra says:

    Great post, .Juno! My husband and I experienced the same thing in the Philippines. I’m Filipino, but grew up in the US. I can understand Tagalog better than I can speak it. I don’t look Filipino either and my arms are covered with tattoos so I definitely stood out. My husband is tall, blonde, and blue-eyed so we were gawked at, touched, etc. I could understand the mean things people were saying about us and it was really hurtful. I was so excited to visit the Philippines, but after a month, I was ready to leave.

  93. Christine says:

    I have similar experiences as well. I look Chinese but I’m from the Philippines. I always get stared at when I go to a Chinese Restaurant because I don’t speak the language although I look Chinese.

    I had a really bad experience in Taiwan this year when I went for a foot massage and I didn’t know what they were saying to me but they started laughing at me. I’m sure they said some nasty things too.

    It just sucks how people can just assume. I’m almost tempted to have a shirt with a print saying, “I’m Filipino!”. I speak my own language fluently but everyone automatically assumes I’m Chinese.

    Although when I was in the Philippines, everyone thought I was Chinese and I would wait for them to say something then speak back in Tagalog. I always caught people off guard haha.

    I’m at a point where I just ignore everyone now. I can’t be bothered with people being rude to me. I let my Caucasian partner deal with everyone.

    -Christine

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