Not All Asians are Chinese


Since my last post a few people have responded and shared their own thoughts about common racial misconceptions, such as “Where are really you from?” and “All asians look alike”. Ellie, a Korean Australian adoptee, recently shared her experience about visiting Korea and how culturally different it was, including how she noticed micro-facial differences between people. While Shu Shu responded with her version of “Where are you from?”

My background is Vietnamese, yet people will come up to me, show me a potential tattoo in Chinese Characters and ask if it reads “peace” or “love.” Maybe I should nod my head, hope I was right and potentially give them a tramp stamp.

If you want to know, I can’t read or even speak Chinese. Thanks to the French oppression and colonisation, Vietnam now has a Roman based alphabet.

There is a common misconception that all Asians are Chinese.

Often Lost Chinese tourists will come to me and ask for help. I don’t speak Chinese, but I still try to help them find their way. In a weird sense, it’s as though they are in unfamiliar territory, they see me as safe because I am seen as characteristically Asian and assume I am Chinese. That’s cool, this is minor and doesn’t fall into racism.

Recently I was at a hen’s night at the King’s Cross in Sydney. During the night a guy comes up to my friend and says “I like Chinese girls.” Not only was that creepy, my friend is clearly Vietnamese looking. Both cultures are so different from another.

There are moments like this that you cannot help but respond back in kind. My friend drily retorted back with “I don’t like guys who work at 7eleven’s.” Both have racial assumptions and projected a stereotype about each other. It was a funny little situation. While I’m all for conversations about race and racism, I am beginning to learn that there is a time and place for these discussions. Most importantly each person has to be in a state of mind where they are open and willing to listen. How else can we learn each other? Racism in part is ignorance. The more we learn, the more we are exposed to racial differences, the more we can learn to live peacefully with racial acceptance.

If you group all Asians as Chinese, now is the time to pause and question yourself.

Written by Suzanne Nguyen
Founder and Creative director behind “The Two Chairs” initiative, Suzanne is exploring her cultural identity as an Asian Australian. She secretly thinks B1 and B2 are Asian-Australian. In her spare time you can find her sitting in cafes, sipping coffee and contemplating about life mysteries. She loves to eat and travel. Find her on the twitterverse @StringStory or on her blog. 


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