I Just Want Asian Grandmas to Like Me
Or at least stop looking at me like I am a great disappointment
It is official: Asian grandmas hate me.
Actually, my grandma thankfully loves me. Have you heard of the common stereotype that Asian families are exceptionally hard on their children? I’m lucky enough to say that my parents and my grandma were always very accepting of my decisions, and very supportive of my successes and failures.
But I moved from Canada to Hong Kong a week ago. Now I finally know what everyone is talking about.
I am ethnically Chinese, so at first glance, I look like I belong here. However, the minute I open my mouth, it becomes very clear that I don’t. My Mandarin is barely passable. I can stumble through ordering food, asking for directions, and basic conversations, but that is about it. I spoke English (or French) throughout my entire life, so this is all brand new to me.
I am ethnically Chinese, so at first glance, I look like I belong here. However, the minute I open my mouth, it becomes very clear that I don’t.
To the outside world, though, those pesky details do not matter. Since I cannot speak Mandarin or Cantonese, and I don’t know much about my heritage, to every Asian grandma, I am a disgrace to the Chinese community.
Does it not matter that I was born in Canada?
I have a white male friend, who also grew up in Canada. Throughout his life, he’s learned some Mandarin and can now speak decently well.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very impressed. It is very humbling. But that’s beside the point.
Let me tell you something: All the Chinese grandmas LOVE him. They think he’s the sweetest thing ever. I know that all the grandmas selling buns at the morning markets in Taiwan think every butchered Chinese word out of his mouth is adorable. And I know all the grandpas are telling their grandkids about the basketball game they played with this precious white boy who spoke some Mandarin.