Tuesday, August 4, 2009

kung pao tuna hand roll pancit pho

So I was listening to a radio program today, and they were talking about how people are when they're drunk and trying to talk. And one of the people made some comment about how when people are drunk, they're talking so weird and slurring their words so much that they all sound like they're speaking asian.

Excuse me?

Speaking "asian"? And exactly what language is "asian"?

Yes, I was screaming at the radio at that point, especially when he said it again another couple times.

Now, I know that I might be more attuned to this sort of thing than some others. I can understand the use of "asian" in some contexts - ok, so you can't tell if someone is Chinese or Japanese or Vietnamese or Korean or whatever, fine, refer to them as being "asian". And no, I don't know why I have a problem with the word "oriental" when used to reference people. I don't mind it nearly as much when it's used to refer to objects, usually expensive art for some reason, but it just bugs me when it's used to describe people. I'm not offended - it just sounds weird to me. Yeah, I know, personal preference.

But speaking asian? Yeah, it's faster and easier to say that than "speaking Chinese or Japanese" (not to say those are the only two choices, but they seem to be the most widely used as examples), but NOBODY SPEAKS ASIAN. I liken Asia (not the singing group) to Europe. Most people from Europe are not referred to as Europeans for the most part. Sure, in some cases, they are, but more often, they're English or Spanish or French or Italian or German or whatever. Can you tell the difference between someone of those different countries just by looking at them? In some cases yes, but I don't think everyone can do that, and I'm not even sure most people can do that. Similarly, some people can differentiate by sight people of different Asian countries but not everyone can do that.

But it just seems so incredibly acceptable in many cases to lump everyone from Asia into the same group, no matter what you're talking about. Now, some of it may be from ignorance. I will admit that I didn't know that people from the Philippines did not use chopsticks until a friend told me. There are probably a lot of other differences I don't know about that exist among the different Asian cultures. But I don't dismiss the existence of the differences.

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've heard "Chinese, Japanese, what's the difference?" when it comes to something that IS IN FACT COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. If we're talking use of chopsticks, ok, I'll grant you that. As far as the look of the written language, ok, I'll grant you that. If we're talking how different they sound from English, ok, I'll grant you that. But if you're talking culture and history and traditions and things like that? NO. I won't grant you that. There are very big differences between them, as there are with the other Asian countries.

So, suppose you were saying that you were craving Italian food and asked for recommendations. And someone told you about a place they knew that had great bratwurst and sauerkraut. And another person told you about a place that had really good paella. And a third person told you about a place that had the best ratatouille. And yet another person told you about their favorite pub that had really amazing Shepherd's Pie. Would those recommendations help you? Well, they're all foods from Europe, so isn't that the same as Italian? No?

Well, on a discussion board I'm on, someone recently asked for a recommendation for a good place for Chinese food. And the recommendations ranged from a Thai place, to a Benihana, to an outright sushi bar. Ummm, yeah, while there might be some similarities between some of the dishes, none of those are actually Chinese food, ESPECIALLY NOT THE SUSHI.

Thank you for reading. I'm going to go lie down now.


JeffG said...

This type of thing becomes even more ludicrous when you consider how large a continent Asia really is. While overlooking the differences in culture between Japan and China is slightly understandable in the ways you mentioned, Asia also includes India, most of the middle-east, and a large percentage of Russia.

Anonymous said...

Hope you had a nice cup of English tea for your lie-down.

Sherry said...

Dummy. All of those foods you mentioned from Europe are actually called "Caucasian Food."


Cindy said...

JeffG - You know, I don't even think of India and Russia et al as being part of Asia. (But then, admittedly, I suck at geography.) Only the "asian-looking people" qualify. ;)

Anonymous - English Breakfast tea is one of my favorites!

Sherry - I bow to your superior intellect and humor. :)