4 Asian Problems

malaysian girl living the american life

I’d be lying if I said that writing this post was easy…

For the past 24 hours, I’ve been debating whether to write this post or not. Finally, I thought, “why not?” I’m already considered a ‘banana’ anyway.

Banana: Slang term used for Oriental Asians (mostly those in my generation) who are yellow on the outside, but white on the inside.

Before I go on, I want to list the ways why I think I can write this post with an honest, outsider’s view. After all, I may be Asian, but I’m also a proud ‘banana’.

1. My education – I was homeschooled using American curriculum. Since I was able to pick up Western culture more easily, this made me think differently and act differently from my peers. More about this later in a post I’m writing about my homeschooling journey.

2. My environment – I grew up among typical, conservative Asians. My family is conservative, and the church my dad pastors were approximately 90% elderly people right up to my high school years. Being constantly in the traditional, conservative Asian environment, taught me much about what Asians value the most.

Growing up with my education and environment in conflict with each other was difficult. Sometimes, I wondered if I was more Asian or Western. I’ve tried to reconcile both in my life, but I’ve given up on that. After all, I can’t change who I am, and my differing education and environment has given me the best of both worlds. Later, I’ll probably write about Western themes I think are wrong or could be better, but right now, I’m focusing on the Asian ones.

These are some points I’ve thought about many times before. Since this is the first time I’m trying to put my thoughts about them on paper, it’s probably not going to be so well-written or expressed as I want it to, but I’ll try my best.

~~~

 1. Fear of losing – If there’s one Asian mentality that I dislike the most, it is this fear of losing. Admittedly, one of the reasons why I dislike it so much is because it is a trait that I can see in myself the most. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to teach myself that it’s okay to relax and have fun. Getting good grades is not the only goal in life. It has been hard to think otherwise because it is so ingrained in the culture and environment I grew up in, but I’m trying.

It’s no secret that Asians fear losing. In fact, it’s an ego and pride thing. Parents pressure their kids to get A’s in school, the nation seethes at an athlete who loses a game, and the list goes on. Although this is a trait that has made many Asians successful in life, it is unhealthy if taken overboard as in most cases.

For example, growing up, it was not uncommon to hear stories of my peers doing homework past midnight. After school, their parents would send them to extra classes. By the time they get home in the evening or night, they’ll have a mountain of homework to do. Stories of students committing suicide because of parental and societal pressure in school aren’t uncommon either.

This needs to stop. It’s not only unhealthy, but it’s also the wrong way to live life. The fear of losing is such a horrible cycle, and it can only be broken once people realize that life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. Life is not just a chase for money, successes, and wins.

2. Beating around the bush – I’ve always been blunt, and this is a characteristic that has become even more prominent since I’ve come to America. I don’t like the Asian way of circumnavigating around things. Asians are always afraid of offending other people.

I admit that I’m sometimes that way too, but if you’ve been reading this blog, you’d notice that the outspokenness in me wins in the end. Honestly, I don’t see a point in beating around the bush. It’s hypocrisy if you’re willing to think such things, but end up sugarcoating them instead of speaking your mind.

3. University/college degrees – I can’t emphasize enough how important they are for Asians. Asians like to be book smart, and most of them think that without a degree, you can’t go anywhere in the world. After graduating from high school, the common assumption is that the student will go on to college. I wish Asians would stop thinking so.

Throughout my high school years, I never really wanted to go to college. But I was told that I should go to college if I want to get a good job. Now, I’m being told that it’s going to be difficult for me to find a job as an ESL teacher (many Asian countries require that ESL teachers be Westerners) and that I should get a Master’s in TESOL after graduation. Frankly, studying and working like crazy (just so that I can study in college) makes me miserable, and hearing all this makes me even more discouraged. I’ve never entertained the thought of dropping out of college more than ever.

Going to college is not the only way to get a good job. I know many people my age who didn’t go to college, and yet they’re contented with their jobs. I think the main difference between Asians and Westerners is that while the former emphasize on book-smartness, the latter focuses on having good skills. Both are good to have, but really, if you graduate college with a 4.0 GPA and still not have good working skills and ethic (two characteristics most valued by employers), you’re never going to be 100% successful and fulfilled in whatever you do.

Also, Asians don’t seem to realize that billionaires like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Roman Abramovich, Michael Dell, and many others were college dropouts. College can be a means to success, but it isn’t the only way. The pressure on young people to go to college needs to cease.

4. Close-mindedness – I dread this Asian mentality. Asians are so close-minded and quick to judge anyone who doesn’t fit the mold. I know that being too open-minded is dangerous, but Asians, especially the older generation, hold on to their traditions very tightly. Compared to their Western counterparts, older Asians aren’t as accepting if the younger generation do not comply with their values. They view the younger generation as kiddos who have been brainwashed by the Western world.

The times are a-changin’, people! We live in an era where we can wear shorts without being seen as loose women, marry at 18 years old and still be married 50 years later, listen to contemporary music and know that it isn’t from the devil. If we don’t conform to the mold of wearing long skirts, marrying after college, and listening to whatever it is that older Asians think is good music, we are seen as rebellious.

I know that there are some inherent values that shouldn’t be abandoned, and there are things I wouldn’t do because of my values and beliefs. However, some things can be changed and not all change is bad.

~~~

This post, which took me a couple of hours to write, is not written to intentionally disrespect or offend anyone. These are thoughts that has been borne out of my struggle to reconcile my Western education with my Asian environment. If I had kept a regular journal in my teenage years, these will be the thoughts written out in them. I’m also aware that ‘Asian’ is a very broad term. This post refers to the general populace and not to any particular individual.

However, I’ve learned to embrace the positives and negatives of straddling both worlds, and I know that my identity is not found in either of them. My identity is ultimately found in God, and I can be secure in that. Still, it has been a rocky journey and experience.

I’d love to hear from you. Let me know what you think! 🙂

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Posted on October 19, 2014, in Inspirations, Thoughts, and Ramblings and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I think you are a smart and brave young woman! And you are 100% correct in that your identity is in Christ, and not in anyone or anything else 🙂

  2. Hi Evangelne.

    I am drilling down through a list of book reviewers I can contact, and came across your blog.

    [I don’t suppose it should matter, but I am an American Engineer.]

    Your essay, above, was fascinating. I recently made friends with a quality consultant from Japan. In recent conversation we discussed differences in our cultures. I happened to mentioned this legendary fear of failure among the Japanese, and his face got a little stiff, like maybe I exposed a nerve. He is such a kind and remarkable man, I almost regret exposing him like that.

    In the 1970’s and 80’s, Japanese sales engineers would nod their heads in agreement with my technical requirements for their products, “Hai, hai.” they would say, not understanding a word of it. Looking back, they feared looking stupid. It took my associates and me a couple of years to catch those cues, and force a slow-down in the conversation, to insure everything was clear.

    On the other hand, I must tell you, I absolutely loved working with the Japanese from Toshiba on a chip design in the late 1980’s. They were kind, humble, thorough and smart as a whip. There was absolutely no fear in working with them. If they caught a mistake in my work, they called for me to make a “refinement”. The quest for excellence was contagious. I considered moving there.

    I have poked around your WEB page. You are a sweet and beautiful lady. Maybe I have not explored enough, but I cannot discern your exact ethnicity, and being just a white boy with a clipboard, I fear making broad statements about “Asians” in general. It looks like you can get away with that. I cannot : – )

    In as much as the original Exodus was a mixed multitude, my branch of Christianity urges me to think of myself as an Israelite, being grafted in through Christ. With that in mind, I suggest the obvious: Take the best of all cultures represented in your space, and make the kingdom better.

    Psalm 84 nails it for me. Here is a sample:

    Psa 84:6 Who passing through the valley of weeping make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.

    Everywhere you go, you will make things better. Especially because you are thinking about it.

    – MB

  3. OK. I just looked up your last name, Han, and I see you have a Chinese background. Thank you so much for giving me a glimpse into your people. It means more to me than you could know.

  4. They way you were are raised has such a profound effect on you. We think it, even if we don’t want to think it any more. Change is hard. Twice, you empathized that you didn’t want to offend anyone. But still, you needed to be sure readers understood. You wrote it was an Asian trait to not want to offend. You know it’s okay to tell people who you are but generations of the way people are engrained in you. Most things – why we believe whatever religion we follow – whether we are racist or even inwardly intolerant of all people unlike ourselves – the food we like – and yes, our views about education is taught to us since birth. To have the courage to be different means we have to have the courage to face the people we love -so hard to do – because we fear their disapproval. You have to courage, but if the youth don’t step up then nothing changes.

    I was a rebel, and still am. I had a few mottoes I lived by. One was “If you don’t like what I’m doing, don’t watch me do it!” But in America it was easier to say that than in Asian countries, I think. So I did many things in my life – different carers, mostly around the arts – music and dance. You are right, not all life choices come from university classes. If you’re career doesn’t make you happy, what is the point? Money won’t make you happy. You will only have more money to spend. That temporary happiness fades.

    Keep searching. You’re on the right path.

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