Stuff You’ve Done that Maybe You’re Not so Proud of Just Because You Miss Asian Food

You know that feeling: You’re slightly lightheaded, you’re sweating, and your stomach feels off. In fact, it’s been feeling off since last Thursday. No, you’re not in love. You just forgot to eat rice because you’re living abroad and you haven’t found an Asian supermarket yet where you can buy a proper rice cooker.

That’s right, weird stuff starts to happen when you’re living away from Asia and Asian food, and you start to do weird things to compensate. Something just happens to your body when you’re torn asunder from fish sauce, soya sauce, curry paste, lemongrass, and fermented bean paste. And godammit, where’s that spicy Korean ramen I know I bought for emergencies?!

At times, you feel like you’re hemmed in by white people carbs: you know, potatoes, pasta, bread that’s really hard. (Okay, I actually love all these cards now, but back to the point.) It’s like my grandma used to say when she went on her group tours: Pack lots of cup noodles. Everything else is secondary.

Here’s a list of stuff we all know we’ve done before, all in the name of love for Asian food when we’re living abroad.

1. You call your mom all emotional because you’ve been eating potatoes all week and you miss her cooking but you don’t realize it, so you’re being a tough guy, but really, all you want to say is …


2. You buy Asian sauce. And it was disgusting.

You know you totally bought that stuff.


3. You attempt to make dumplings at home and they taste totally awesome even though most of them ended up torn up, burnt and sticking to the pan.

You know your grandmother is laughing at you as we speak.


4. You totally freak out when you see Tsingtao, Kirin or Chang beer and order multiple rounds of it. Even though you live in beer country.

Oh yeah gimme somma that nondescript-tasting, mediocre beer.


5. You get paranoid that you don’t have enough rice to go with the main dish and sauce, and order two portions.

Why you guys keep messing with the sauce-and-main-dish-to-rice ratio? That rice on the plate is clearly not enough to do that other stuff justice.

6. You go home for a break and you start tearing up like a baby when your grandmother comes out with the food she cooked.

I love you grandma.


7. You buy the Maruchan 12-pack of ramen at Wal-Mart because you’re desperate for noodles and there are no Asian supermarkets in your town.

There’s no shame in eating American ramen.


8. You scroll faster through your Facebook when you sense food porn coming from below showing the last meal your friend had at your favorite Vietnamese restaurant for fear of Asian food FOMO.

Why do you guys have to torture me with pictures of your food?


9. You order Chinese from sketchy-looking roadside takeout places where they use canned bamboo sprouts in everything, and you tell yourself it’s okay with your morals.

Would your mother say it’s really okay to overwhelm your meat in oyster sauce like that?


10. Your flatmate who’s trying to just be friendly suggests getting Korean for dinner together and you suddenly think you’re in love.

Korean sounds sooo amazing. Credit: Buzzfeed


11. You get super excited that you’re going to Chinatown.

It’s so tacky … but it’s Chinatown.


12. You pile random ingredients together, pour copious amounts of soy sauce on it, and think it qualifies as Asian food.

This Reis mit Scheiß is totally Asian now that it has lots of soya sauce on it.

Asian Cat-Calling: Consider Yourself Konichiwa-ed

Don’t call me maybe: Not everyone knows what on earth “ni hao” means. Credit: Quasic @

Have you ever been ni-haoed? Konichiwa-ed? A few months ago there was a lot of chatter about cat-calling. But when you’re Asian, that takes on a very specific vocabulary. Asians, particularly Asian women, seem to get “greeted” with “ni hao” — hello in Mandarin — and “konichiwa” in public the same way other women might get “hey baby”.

Over the years I have had my share of bizarre Asian-cat-calling. “Ni hao” and “konichiwa” are the least of it. I’ve been “ching ching chong chong”ed. I’ve had kids and adults alike do Asian eyes in my face. You know, like when they pull their eyes apart to make them look like slits — it’s really charming. There was that time when two men yelled across crowded escalators in the metro: “Wow sooo exotic.” Then there was that time some random dude grabbed my ass on Times Square and proceeded to grin so proudly while nodding “Yea…” when I turned around to confront him. (Actually to his credit I think he was just a perv, not a racist perv.) And the absolute winner: That time on my way home from the bar when a guy threw a glass beer bottle at my head and missed. (Okay that was more a violent racist attack than cat calling.)

Last week I added another refreshing experience to the list. A guy with a soccer ball took notice of me as I was walking into the train station and came over. “Manga manga manga,” he said at me. I mean, why WOULDN’T you greet an Asian woman you have never met by calling her a comic in Japanese? “Manga manga manga” he said louder when I ignored him, and he started bouncing his soccer ball up and down to the rhythm — not all cat callers are so coordinated, mind you. “Manga manga manga” he started shouting as I pretended to be thoroughly engrossed with my Whatsapp conversation and walked away. Then the priceless moment when the station master’s voice crackled over the loudspeaker: “No playing on the platform?” as the ball dropped and rolled across the ground.

I have to admit my reactions were not always as composed as this last time. When I was first ni-haoed in New York, I was just really confused. In my head, I wanted to explain to them: Look guys, I’m from Hong Kong. We speak Cantonese there, not Mandarin. You know, like what they speak down at Chinatown. And actually, my first language is English and I’m Canadian, and I just spent four years at a university in Vermont, so actually, you can just say hello. But this narrative seemed too complicated to shout across Union Square (a lot of the cat-calling happened on Union Square, I feel like it’s cat callers central).


Over the years I developed the total-agression-massive-attack approach, which involved me yelling “Shut the fuck up you fucking ignorant racists!” across the square or whatever street I happened to be on. That was really satisfying for a while.

To the benefit of the children in those public spaces, I have matured over the years and exchanged my expletives for a more subdued, withering look which I hoped conveyed a similar message. Also in the ensuing period, the cat-calling became just something that happened from time to time, and nothing seemed that surprising anymore or worthy of reaction.

Many Asians seem to have similar experiences. “I’ve been konichiwa-ed before,” two friends separately told me recently. It’s gotten to a point where it’s nothing unusual. “Ni-hao happens too often now,” one former colleague, Jen, told me. “Anyone’s been an-yong-ha-se-yo-ed? I have. Like everywhere.” (Me too.) And it’s not just women. One friend, Austin, says he gets ni-haoed and konichiwa-ed “all the time when people ask for cigarettes”, even though he doesn’t smoke.

Often it doesn’t even have to carry the sexually suggestive element inherent in catcalling. Some people just like to yell out random greetings at random people in a random language just for kicks!

And oh my god this post from the Creepywhiteguys Tumblr which was posted in this crazy Buzzfeed list of incredibly offensive things people say to Asian women.

enhanced-buzz-30160-1365441646-38 (1)

Are we supposed to think it’s cute when a creepy guy throws out a greeting in a language that is foreign to us? Or is it supposed to be ironic?

Recently my friend Jinhee, a Korean American who lives in New York, took matters into her own hands and confront a cashier and deli worker in a store who had said “ni hao” at her.

“I rolled my eyes and said I wasn’t Chinese,” she said. “You don’t walk up to a woman who looks like she is of Italian descent with a ‘Buongiorno!’ Why do you do this with Asian women? Why do these men always think every Asian woman is Chinese? And even if she was of Chinese descent, she’s probably American and barely speaks Chinese. Or maybe she was adopted.”

Jinhee let the men have it. “So finally, I told them, please never do this again. It’s rude and offensive. I let each syllabus roll off my tongue slowly: ‘O-ffen-sive. O-ffen-sive.'”

Love it. I guess that’s one strategy. But for people who don’t have time to educate everybody, just start humming that Robyn song “Konichiwa Bitches”.

Robyn   Konichiwa Bitches   YouTube

Host on State-Run Russian TV: Don’t Drink with ‘Narrow-Eyed Mongoloids’

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The host of Russia’s Channel One show “Zhyt Zdorovo!” pulls her eyes back with her fingers to demonstrate narrow eyes, which she describes as a characteristic typical of “Mongoloids” — the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. (

Sometimes there are things that are just so out of this world racist that you don’t know whether to laugh or cry, or roll around on your carpet in spasms, or reach for your secret stash of vodka and pass out after one sip because — hey! You can’t process alcohol. You’re Asian.

And today’s prize goes to yours truly, Russia’s biggest TV station, the state-run Channel One.

To, er, get in the mood for the festive season, the producers of the show “Zhyt Zdorovo!” (a play on words meaning “Live healthy” and “Life is good”) decided it would be both entertaining and educational, and not at all racist, to tell the public that under no circumstances are they to drink with the “Mongoloid race” — you know, people with “narrow eyes” like the Chinese, Koreans and Japanese — because they can’t process alcohol.

Not only that, the host, Yelena Malysheva, shows the audience what she means by “narrow eyes” by PULLING HER EYES BACK WITH HER FINGERS.

That’s right guys. The episode, aired Monday and themed around the Novy God festivities, managed to cover all the racist things you could do or say about Asians within a 10-minute segment. (Novy God, or New Year’s, is more important than Christmas on the Russian calendar, but shares a lot of traditions, including the tree, a Santa-like figure, and the decorations.) It’s all just too classy to be true. Someone pass me my champagne.

Okay, some scientific papers do use the term Mongoloid. And it’s possible that in Russian it might not seem as insulting. But even so, its derogatory meaning is so widely recognized that producers at the country’s biggest TV station should know better. Right? Right???

Malysheva begins by posing the question: Who should you not drink with? Then she invites their first guest, an Uzbek man, onto the stage and enlightens him and the audience with her theory. (But not before she asks him whether he is Tatar. Maybe she didn’t get the memo that he was scheduled to be on her show.)

Malysheva: “There are people, I would even say nationalities, but more specifically, races — races, large nationalities…” She drifts into another train of thought: “For example we are the white race: Slavic people. Then there are black people, and then there are others.”

She decides to stop explaining and comes back to her point. “So, races. Which ones should you not drink with during New Year’s? There is no discrimination in this. There is an understanding among physiologists that different races are different.”

The man pauses and looks slightly taken aback: “Well, I grew up in the Soviet Union … It doesn’t make a difference to me. I can drink with black people, with everyone.” The audience applauds his comment.

Malysheva concedes that that’s the right way to think: “When we say who you should not drink with during New Year’s, we don’t mean it as an slight. We mean it’s dangerous for their health.”

She turns to one Dmitry Shubin, who we’re told is a neurologist. “Tell us Dmitri Nikolayevich, who should you not drink with during New Year’s?”

Shubin let’s us know: “In the interest of safety, under no circumstance should you drink with anyone who belongs to the Mongoloid race.”

Malysheva gets excited: “Do you know who they are? Let’s list them.” She and Shubin count them off: “Chinese, Koreans, Japanese.” Malysheva pauses: “Uhhhh. And our …” Shubin helps her out. “People who live in our far north.”

Malysheva is pleased: “Exactly.” Then the show cuts to music and random photos of Asians while Malysheva stretches her eyes back with her fingers to show what “narrow eyes” look like. “Their characteristics: narrow eyes and a crescent-shaped face…”

Shubin then explains how “Mongoloids” lack the enzyme required to process alcohol. And if you weren’t cringing already, they do an experiment. Enter the giant pink dishes shaped like liver.

In case you didn’t get it yet, Malysheva sums it up. Cue the festive music: “For Mongoloids — people with narrow eyes and crescent-shaped faces — alcohol is toxic.”

The idea that Asians can’t process alcohol as well is nothing new. My Asian friends and I laugh about our Asian glow. Actually, some German friends started talking about this with me over a couple of glasses of wine last night, before quickly apologizing for bringing it up and turning as red in the face as me. (I’d had two glasses by then.)

So, merry Christmas, Asians. Don’t drink too much alcohol at that company Christmas party now.

Youtube user Zhanna Idymova uploaded the video Monday. For those who understand Russian, start watching from 3:10:

Juliet Yi: Bringing the Korean TCK Story to Light Through an iPhone

Growing up in multiple cultures can sometimes be hard. For third culture kids from societies where conformity is valued much more than individuality, it can be harder. More so if they don’t have an outlet to speak about the experience.

That’s why it was great to see Juliet Yi’s video, “Finding Home,” a documentary on Korean TCKs. The clip, lasting just over 12 minutes — and filmed entirely on an iPhone! — presents the stories of five Korean TCKs whose homes have spanned countries from Egypt, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to Canada, the United States, the Philippines and Germany.

This is not your everyday Youtube video. Juliet was nominated for best film at the iPhone Film Festival this year. I am totally impressed by what she has managed to do with just her iPhone 4 and Adobe Premiere Pro.

The people Juliet interviews shed light on just what it’s like being a Korean TCK. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, check it out now.

I recently caught up with Juliet, who herself bounced around several countries during her childhood. Now based in Soeul, the 24-year-old is studying for a master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies and working toward becoming a documentary film-maker and photojournalist. I for one hope she produces more work like this clip.

CXC: What are your thoughts on Korean TCKs? Are there any issues that you think are specific to them?
Juliet: I think it’s particularly difficult as a Korean TCK, because Korea is a very monocultural and collectivistic society where everyone is required to act inside the social norm.

In fact, in a research conducted by Uehara, he found that Japanese children who had been overseas experienced more problems when returning to Japan than their American peers who returned to the U.S. This is because for the Japanese, conformity to the group is important so the returnees are viewed negatively. Being different is not a virtue in collectivistic societies. The same result can apply to Korea.

There is an unspoken list of things to follow to be inside this social norm: to be a good student at school, to get into a good university, get a good job, get married at a certain age. Social norms exist everywhere but it is highly emphasized in Korea. Everything, even beauty and your appearance, seems to be standardized in Korea and female Korean TCKs may feel the pressure to fit in.

CXC: What is your background? Yes, please give us the long version of your “I come from…, but” introduction.
Juliet: I’m originally from South Korea, but our family moved to the Philippines when I was seven. My father’s project there was supposed to last one year, but it ended up lasting seven years. Almost every year, he’d tell us: “We might move to a different country soon.” But it wasn’t until I was 14 that we actually did, and that country happened to be the United Arab Emirates. This experience was probably the first time I felt culture shock in terms of the culture, religion, and language. I had to relearn the social faux pas and what was considered culturally taboo. I came back to Korea when I was 17, and got into university here. After a while I found myself feeling restless so I took a year off and went back to Abu Dhabi to learn Arabic. Determined to finish off my studies and hopefully stay in one country as long as I could, I came back to Korea, but soon enough, the restlessness kicked in again. I moved to Egypt and spent another year traveling. I am currently living in Seoul.

CXC: What prompted you to make video?
Juliet: First of all, I wanted to tell people what TCKs actually had to go through both in their host and home countries, because I have met many non-TCK Koreans who hold prejudices about Koreans who’ve lived abroad. Some of the biases that they may have of us in Korea is that we all come wealthy families or we all speak many languages fluently, so we all land ourselves good jobs with no effort, but that’s not always the case.

Also, even among TCK friends in Korea, we hardly talk about our TCK experience from an emotional point of view, so the emotional aspect is something that I really wanted to focus on. Physically it only takes a couple of hours on a plane to move to a different country but to move emotionally — to detach yourself emotionally from the country and the people you were living in, and to attach yourself to the country that you have just moved to — I think that takes years.

I wanted to share with other TCKs who were in any way struggling with the same issues, and I’ve actually received emails from many TCKs around the world who felt that something was wrong with them but that they no longer feel alone after watching the video. Before I learned about the term TCK, I thought the restlessness and the rootless identity was limited to myself, as if it was some kind of a personal defect I had. But as I started reading up about TCKs and found out that these were actually common traits among TCKs, it was reassuring to hear that I wasn’t alone, so I wanted to share this with the audience.

CXC: Why on an iPhone?
Juliet: It just seemed easy. I did have a DSLR camera, but I didn’t want any fancy camera effects. I wanted the tone of the video to be as honest and emotionally deep as possible, while not making it a sob story. I also wanted it to be amusing and bright at the same time while getting the message across.

I tried very hard not to make this a “sob story”. In fact, some people have told me that they felt like the video was nothing more than sob stories. They were either non-TCKs or Korean Americans.

Find out more about Juliet’s work!

Where’d they go? Growth of Chinese Students in U.S. Higher Education Slows

Photo: 韓 承燁

If you’ve noticed a lot of Chinese students on your university campus in the U.S., that’s because … there are a lot of Chinese students on your university campus in the U.S. For several years now, Chinese matriculants, as a group, have been ballooning at rates of above 20 per cent annually. But two recent reports show those increases are slowing.

While Chinese students still account for nearly one-third of all international enrolments in the U.S., their rate of growth has been dropping in recent years, according to figures from the Institute of International Education’s 2014 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, published Monday.

During the 2013/14 academic year, 274,000 Chinese studied at American colleges and universities. That’s 16.5 per cent more than a year earlier, but represents the lowest increase since 2007/08, and a drop from the 30 per cent growth in 2009/10. The graph below shows how the percentage change in Chinese enrolment has fluctuated year to year. (To see absolute numbers, read on.)

The slowing growth might partly be due a drop in Chinese students going to the U.S. for grad school. A report released by the Council of Graduate Schools last Wednesday shows offers of admission to American grad schools for Chinese nationals actually dropped 2 per cent last year. “This is the second consecutive year in which offers of admission for prospective graduate students from China did not realize a double‐digit increase,” the report’s authors wrote. First-time enrolment also dropped, by 1 per cent. In all, Chinese graduate enrolment rose only 3 per cent, which, as noted in the report, was “considerably smaller than the double‐digit increases seen in previous years”.

Still, despite the decelerating growth rate, Chinese students numbers are still expanding. There is no doubt that the they continue to comprise a huge swathe of the foreign student population in the U.S. Last year, for the fifth year in a row, China led as the top country of origin for foreign students in the U.S. These students contributed a whopping US$8 billion to the American economy!

There were five times as many of them last year as in 2000. And, as the report’s authors noted, the overall growth in foreign students in 2013/14 was “once again largely driven by students from China, particularly at the undergraduate level.” The following graph the number of Chinese students at U.S. institutions.

Hello India
Still, a decline in growth in the biggest contributor to the foreign student population can be a tad worrying. American grad schools might be glad to know increasing numbers of Indians are flocking over. As the Council of Graduate Schools noted, Indians are “undoubtedly offsetting declines in first‐time enrollment among students from China, as well as the persistent declines from South Korea and Taiwan.” In terms of enrolment at both the undergrad and graduate level, Indians came in behind China at second place, with 102,700 matriculants last year.

Meanwhile, according to the IIS report, Kuwait, Brazil and Saudi Arabia — which are investing a lot in scholarships — are also sending many students to American colleges and universities.

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