Chinese & Asian Stereotype

Jun 6th, 2008, in Opinion, Society, by

An Indonesian-Australian looks at stereotypes of Chinese in Indonesia, Asians in Australia, and western men who like Asian women.

Stereotypes & Generalizations

When I first came to Australia, I went to the Blue Mountains. While sitting in a café near the Three Sisters, I accidentally spilled some ice cream on to my clothes. I went to the bathroom to clean it up at a sink. While I was doing that, an old lady went in, checked out the cubicle -- and then swore at me –

Bloody Asian! You just can't keep things clean, can you?!?

I was gob smacked. I was not even the one using the toilet!

Most of us have experienced narrow mindedness like this in our life, but a lot of the time, we make generalizations about people ourselves. Why?

Indonesian Chinese in Jakarta

I am of Chinese descent, grew up in Jakarta. I really did not realise the "Chinese problem" until I went to Universitas Indonesia to do my bachelor in Politics. I made a few friends in the first few days of University – everything was hunky dory, until one of my new friends asked if I was Chinese. Well, no point of lying, so I said, yes. Next thing I know, I lost my first new friend.

I found what happened really baffling as I was friends with mostly non-Chinese when I was in High School. I rang my friends from High School who then told me that they saw me as my own person first before they saw me as a Chinese, therefore I was OK. But in general, they said they would prefer to have "Indonesian friends".

  • Chinese are rich,
  • Chinese keep to themselves,
  • Chinese are arrogant,
  • Chinese think that money can buy anything.

They said I was not like that, though.

Alrighty – so those are the stereotypes.

Indonesian Women Who Date Foreign Men

After university, I worked for one of the foreign embassies in Jakarta. By chance, I met a very nice Dutch guy and we started going out. It was long before all the movie stars started going out with foreigners and set the trend. If I could choose whom I would fall for, I wish it was another Indonesian person. Going out with this guy was hard, not because of him. But because I was living in Jakarta and Jakartans had in their minds that if you go out with a foreigner, you are a gold digger, an ayam, someone who should not be respected, - it was really difficult.

What made it more difficult, my family was against the relationship, too. They said he was just going to 'use' me. He would leave me when he returns to his home country. No way would he marry me – I was just his holiday romance. I should break up with him at once, or I'd be disowned. I was a disgrace to the family according to them.

Fantastic. This silly thing is also in my own family!!

Australian Men Who Like Asian Girls

Things got more interesting once I realised that I unconsciously do exactly the same thing, judge people according to stereotypes.

It's not difficult being an Asian girl in Sydney these days. Sydney has a huge Asian population and you will see many mixed-racial couples. However, every time I was approached by a non-Asian guy – the first thing that came into mind was

hmm.. is he an AA?

(this is a joke amongst some of my friends, that some guys who are really into Asian girls, or the other way around, should join Asians Anonymous)

"Does he like me for who I am, or does he like me because I look Asian?"

I have a huge chip on my shoulder about this. If a guy dates only Asian girls, no way I'd date him.

Only now I have realised, I have generalised about these guys too. How would I know that they date Asian girls only because of the way they look and other stereotypes that are attached to Asian girls? Maybe they are just like me, I like tall and dark guys, I have my own preferences -- maybe they just find girls with dark hair and darker complexion more attractive?

Well, that was small in the scale of things, but the question I guess, how can I stop making generalisations and treat people as they are? Maybe we will live in a better world if we stop making silly generalisations about others?


134 Comments on “Chinese & Asian Stereotype”

  1. avatar Lairedion says:

    Kudos for you, Heavenly Sword. 😉

  2. avatar Shloka says:

    @ Sputjam,
    Kalinga is not in South India, its in Orissa, an Indian state in East India. I know that there are people from Bengal and Tamil Nadu who went to Malaysia but from Orissa- I don’t think so. The word for South Indians is Dravidian.

  3. avatar Mia says:

    I’m an Indonesian of Chinese descent, and growing up in a small city I’ve had my share of being generalised and discriminated against. From kindergarten to university, every paperwork required never failed to ask for my proof of citizenship, even though I I was born here, my great grandparents were also born in this country. My grandfather was half-Javanese, which made my situation more tricky: the Javanese didn’t want to be friends with me cos I look Chinese, the Chinese thought I didn’t belong cos I couldn’t even say what time it was in Mandarin/Hokkien/whatever dialect. And I just wanted to be an Indonesian.

    When I lived in Jakarta, I thought people are more tolerant towards other race than in my hometown. But every once in a while I still encountered generalisation, not only towards the Chinese (“dasar Cina”) but towards tribes – let’s face it, we often jokingly insult the Batak, the Betawi, the Padang, the Manado… maybe it’s meant as a joke, but I sense that sometimes they really believe those stereotypes are true.

    But this doesn’t only happen in Indonesia. When I was a student in Germany, I boarded a train next to a black guy. Then two German policemen came and started asking anyone foreign-looking for their papers. I showed my student ID, the black guy showed his German ID card. The policemen kept asking him, where are you from? Berlin. No, really, where from? Berlin. Were you born in Berlin? Yes, I was. But your parents, where are they from? Also Berlin. No really, where are they ORIGINALLY from? Finally the black guy said that his parents immigrated from a country in Africa (I forgot which one), only after that the policemen were satisfied. And I only sat there with my mouth open.

    What to do? I guess berating people about stereotyping could backfire, you might end up doing the stereotyping yourself. In the above example, I could easily deduct that all Germans are racists, which would be a generalisation all on its own. Then I would be just as bad as those two policemen, right? No need to insult our intelligence and stoop as low as those stupid people. What we could do is use common sense, always try not to fall into the trap of stereotyping or generalising other people. Hopefully we can influence others to start doing the same.

  4. avatar GJ says:

    Well put Mia!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. avatar Purba Negoro says:

    Boo-hoo. Sob-sob. The colonial imports don’t like that the savage natives now have power and wealth.

    Atypical Chinese cry-babies have full liberties in Indonesia- including the freedom to leave and never come back.
    In which case they’d do all involved a favour.

  6. avatar dewaratugedeanom says:

    Shloka

    Kalinga is not in South India, its in Orissa, an Indian state in East India. I know that there are people from Bengal and Tamil Nadu who went to Malaysia but from Orissa- I don’t think so. The word for South Indians is Dravidian.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I thought that in ancient times the term Kalinga – although its territory overlapped that of nowadays Orissa to a certain extent – was the name of a tribe with enormous political power stretching from the Ganges river to the Godavari. So it could be that the word Kalinga (keling) came to stand for Indian in general because it coincided with the rising influence of India in the Malay archipelago. Because Kalinga had also been conquered in the 3rd century BC by the Buddhist Maurya king Asoka, Buddhist religious practice might also have spread from there to Indonesia.
    The reason why the term became derogative can maybe be found in the rise of Islam in Indonesia and its contempt for the indigenous beliefs, which finally led to Majapahit being forced out of Java.

  7. avatar dewaratugedeanom says:

    Purba Negoro said

    Boo-hoo. Sob-sob. The colonial imports don’t like that the savage natives now have power and wealth.

    Many of the savage natives that now have power and wealth are the ones who have been educated abroad, mainly in Singapore which is full of Chinese.

  8. avatar Shloka says:

    @ Dewa,
    No, you’re not wrong at all. I hadn’t thought of it that way. But your knowledge of India’s history is bang on! Yes, now I too feel Keling came from Kalinga.

  9. avatar Farah says:

    I live in a town that have lots of chinese in Sumatra. I am a malay from sumatra, light brown skin, just like any sumatran people.
    I have lots of chinese friends… basketball team from my province is more than half is chinese. Just to prove that if they want something they know how to fight for it.
    I think my friends chinese hate being generated with other chinese. But i think its also their mistake. They talk with hokkian/mandarin, language when they were among local girls.. including in school wher you should speak indonesian language. Keep your mother language at home. We, people had same hair color here but we had different thought and perception.
    Maybe when you talk in chinese, mandarin, kantonese, etc you didn’t really talk about other person next to you or around you. But people who doesn’t understand you might have mis perception. You try to be indonesian, act like one, first with speak indonesian language when ever you’re in public. And my friend if ask, they really want to go back to their “land” in china to visit their “reall” family. So how come we “see” you as indonesian ?
    And the grouping. At high school i had several schoolmate that also chinese. They just want to be friend with other chinese. Made study group with other chinese students. They come to someone if only they need that person. Like to me if we are about to have english test !!
    How could you ask for assimilation if you insist to keep the whole culture (language, customs, etc) back there from China ?
    But sure its just my opinion.. some people in here might have different point of view ofcourse.

  10. avatar kinch says:

    Farah: Interesting. Perhaps we whiteys should insist that you all speak English when you come to our countries?

    Common opinion in western countries at least would have it that only uncultivated uneducated country bums would get upset about a foreign language they cannot understand.

    Funny… your post reminds me of the people who always say ‘I have some good Jewish friends, but…’ and then you get the usual boilerplate anti-semitic rant.

    Chinese are far from perfect… but in the game of life they run rings around you pribumi – precisely because Chinese are too busy studying or working hard… far too busy to waste their time in paranoid fantasies that someone might be ‘talking about them’ just because they happen to be using another language.

    And why would they want to assimilate anyway… when they know that no matter what they do, you and your ilk will always have excuse to go burn their houses down when you’re feeling a bit unhappy with the state of the world?

    And maybe their culture IS a damn sight better than yours in a few ways (e.g. no mentally stultifying religion, not the usual malay dream under the palm tree in the kampung all day except when it’s time to run amok culture..)… you see perhaps they look at you and don’t see something worth emulating 🙂

    Now your caricature of them is not fair… just as mine (not necessarily one I totally believe) created for your educational benefit is also not 100% fair to you.

    Think about it.

    Now go back to your corner and hang your head in shame and don’t come out until you’re prepared to be a bit more open-minded and tolerant.

  11. avatar kinch says:

    PS Farah. Oops… I forgot… it’s a Friday… Your kind have a tendency to go a bit stupid on Fridays, don’t you?

  12. avatar Farah says:

    @ Kinch
    You could bark too beside rolling on floor…. good boy !! now fetch !!

    Oh sure i would speak english in your country. Especially if my GRANDMOTHER and my PARENT or my GREAT GRANDPARENT live in your country. I would SURELY speak your language. Thats what normally happened.

    Thats what i see, thats what i feel, thats what i think about chinese.

    I just commenting on Mia, who seemed really want to be part of indonesian but dislike the stereotyping that actually come from the chinese them self.

    I am not a back stabber if thats what you trying to say. I am just truly said what i feel if i am around them. And said what my friends said about them.

    But as you said.. because THEY STUDY TOO HARD, and THEY WORK TOO HARD and FAR TOO BUSY TO WASTE THEIR TIME they doesn’t have time to socialized with other people.. and then BLAMING them because they were sided ! blaming local people because they feel they were stereotyped or BURN their houses.

    So, YOU think about it again for what you write here, before calling someone if you have brain.

  13. avatar Farah says:

    @ kinch

    Now go back to your corner and hang your head in shame and don’t come out until you’re prepared to be a bit more open-minded and tolerant.

    Letting them to sit next to my seat on highschool, letting them to be my friend is tolerant..
    Read my comment BEFORE you bark about nonsense thing.

    And why would they want to assimilate anyway… when they know that no matter what they do, you and your ilk will always have excuse to go burn their houses down when you’re feeling a bit unhappy with the state of the world?

    where do you hear sumatra people burn chinese house ?? not in my province. You ask me not to generalize people u just generalize a malay here.

  14. avatar kinch says:

    Wouldn’t catch me barking up the other end of Sumatera – there are still too many lawyer and metro mini driver types there who fancy BBQ Fido 😀

    So it’s ok for you to stereotype Chinese and not for me to play the same game with you? Anyway, we’re not going to get involved in some kind of Kampung Socratic Dialogue… waste of time. Back in your box please!

  15. avatar Farah says:

    @ kinch

    So it’s ok for you to stereotype Chinese and not for me to play the same game with you?

    and thats made you have right to judge me ? and think you’re better than me ?? yes you’re waste of my time mister.

  16. avatar kinch says:

    I hate it when they call me mister 🙂

  17. avatar Aluang Anak Bayang says:

    Aussie – no stereotyping but a fact.

    Most racist beer drinking white parasites.

    Whitey’s end of the food chain.

    Demanded excellent service but never tip.

    Stealing ideas from the Asians and claiming their own innovation.

    Always complained to take advantage of freebies.

    And that is only a starter.

  18. avatar Farah says:

    Good… its just less than a small slap on the face to refresh you up 😉

  19. avatar kinch says:

    AAB: Got a bit of a chip on our shoulder, have we? Let me guess, you’re a men’s room attendant in a Kuta nightclub? 🙂

  20. avatar Farah says:

    ..doesn’t have to be in Kuta to know your type 🙂 and.. if men’s room attendant in kuta nightclub is your….. preference…. you shouldn’t announce it here.

  21. avatar Aluang Anak Bayang says:

    @ kinch

    Name calling doesn’t diminish the FACTS.

    Show some class, Ozzie – in personality and in writing.

  22. avatar kinch says:

    better concentrate on sorting Farah out, matey – she seems to be showing a bit too much arm in that pic. nothing a good flogging won’t fix.

  23. avatar Farah says:

    @ Kinch

    she seems to be showing a bit too much arm in that pic. nothing a good flogging won’t fix.

    i am only showing my palms not the whole arm or too much as you describe…. i am currently using my kampung dress mister !

  24. avatar kinch says:

    Kampung sums you up nicely. Carry on.

  25. avatar Farah says:

    @ Kinch
    Sure do i will carry on 🙂 kampung style is the most ozzie like btw… hehehehe

  26. avatar Lairedion says:

    kinch seems to have a crush on Farah. Quite understandable. Malay women are way more beautiful than Aussie sheila’s. 🙂

  27. avatar Farah says:

    @ Lairedion
    husssshhhhhh ! you will made him shy…..

  28. avatar kinch says:

    Lairedion: Sundanese, if you Please!

  29. avatar Lairedion says:

    kinch,

    Agree. Pamajikan abdi urang Bandung ogé! Still I prefer Malay women over Ostrali sheila’s…

  30. avatar Farah says:

    hehehehe……. (speechless…)

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