An Asian American Abroad Begins

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Me marveling at the mountains of Zhangjiajie, China

I’ve been travelling for a total of a 15 months and I plan to travel indefinitely for at least another year or so. This blog is long overdue and I’m here to share my experiences with my dudes. I’m going to tell you what it’s like to be an Asian American abroad in some fantastic places, but specifically an Asian American guy from the Midwest:

I was born and raised in Chicago, the third largest city and heart of America, and I have a small animosity towards it. It’s a very homogeneous place and it’s always felt like people have never taken an interest towards me. I recall a friend of mine from Austria claiming Korea was “a bit racist” because people were reluctant to smile or say hi to her on the street, but to me this is how I felt my home to be.

I think I was socially malnourished there. You don’t learn to socialize well if you believe yourself to be socially inept, and growing up where people are more likely to interrupt you or be disinterested in you is bound to have a lasting effect. I think many of us grew up embarrassed to be Asian and even now I think it still haunts us, with many of us pursuing only white partners or refusing to take part in Asian community events.

I can’t attest to imagined slights or the like, but a proxy for our social environment, our dating environment has data on the bamboo ceiling in Chicago. For one, Princeton found it to be the worst city (by far) in their sample for Asian men to date. The study is limited in scope (only surveys white, yahoo singles data from 2008) but I think it’s a decent indicator: http://paa2008.princeton.edu/papers/80046

If you couple that with other studies showing Asian men being the most undateable men in America, needing to earn $170,000 more per year than their white male counterparts to receive a message on a dating site, and it’s a pretty shite social environment. http://bigthink.com/dollars-and-sex/do-women-value-ethnicity-over-income-in-a-mate

I don’t blame anyone for who they’re attracted to though. I attribute it almost entirely to media and incremental advantage here. Major corporations dole out money on ads every year so that we attribute their products with positive feelings. American shows and movies largely do the same advertisements for white men and it’s pretty clear that they refuse to cast an Asian man as a lead:

Michael Lewis, the author of “The Blind Side”, “Moneyball”, and “The Big Short” (all adapted into academy award winning films) quoted as saying his newest book won’t become a movie because they don’t want to cast an Asian protagonist and also don’t want fallout from whitewashing another movie

The effect is pretty clear: here’s a study that shows whites are seen as individuals while minorities are seen as products of their culture.

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Individuals

Asian men by comparison are largely negative characters on TV. We get characters like Ken Jeong, William Hung, whoever that guy is in Two Broke Girls. It’s almost a rule that we’re not allowed to be seen in a positive light, we are replaced with whites whenever that should be happening.

In the Midwest we’re quite rare, so our perception is entirely fueled by media. It’s an interesting effect in other ways:

Before I had met many Europeans, I always perceived Englishmen as suave, debonair, gentlemen. Now that I’ve traveled a decent amount, popular opinion among Europeans (including the English themselves) are Englishmen are a loud, chaotic, and overall rowdy and rude group of people (of course this only applies to a minority of people but it’s more accurate than the other stereotype)

Whatever it is, I enjoy travelling because I’m just more interesting out here. People of all races will tell me I’m handsome, people are more enticed by the stories I tell, people are more curious and open towards me. It feels like the social environment I was robbed of when I was in America and it also helps that I’m seeing and learning about more and more of the world as I’m travelling.

Follow me and I’ll show you what it’s like to be An Asian American Abroad in Asia.

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