Ask the Yangxifu: Why We Won't Stay in the US | Speaking of China

40 Responses

  1. Friend
    Friend April 2, 2010 at 4:21 am | | Reply

    I’m not sure if it is appropriate of me to ask a personal question but if it is alright, may I ask what area(s) is your husband interested in working with, regarding his Psychology background?

    I studied in the behavioral sciences as well, more specific in Criminology, but have always maintained my fascination for any piece of knowledge related to it.

  2. Chinamatt
    Chinamatt April 2, 2010 at 8:27 am | | Reply

    You really need to move to the NYC area if your husband misses Chinese food–we have an excellent Sichuanese restaurant in our neighborhood, and a decent Asian market nearby. Fortunately, my wife also likes trying non-Chinese food.

    My wife has better job opportunities in the US, while I have better opportunities in China now. We might consider moving to a third country. We’ll try to make things work in the US for a while longer.
    .-= Chinamatt´s last blog ..Time for Poetry =-.

  3. Crystal
    Crystal April 2, 2010 at 1:04 pm | | Reply

    Wow! I was very sad to read about the discrimination about Asians in America – never thought that it still exists to such an extent ((
    .-= Crystal´s last blog ..Marital Infidelity in Modern China =-.

  4. Susan
    Susan April 2, 2010 at 4:05 pm | | Reply

    I want to chime in here and say that my Chinese husband of 20 years has rarely experienced any kind of negative discrimination here (we live in the U.S.) That said, I’m sure it helps that we live in a multicultural, highly-educated area, his accent is very minor (not at all difficult for the “ugliest” american to understand his english), and his work is in a high-barrier-to-entry, multi-cultural field where he has achieved expertise and recognition.

    Still, you know some people are quiet about their prejudices, and you can sense it at times. But prejudice is a factor living in China, too, as any laowai can tell you. Just my two cents!

  5. G.E. Anderson
    G.E. Anderson April 3, 2010 at 10:36 am | | Reply

    Echoing another commenter, I think the kind of discrimination one experiences in America depends very much on where one lives. It doesn’t surprise me at all that your husband may have experienced discrimination in [State].

    Here in Los Angeles — especially at UCLA where half the students are Asian — I often find myself to be a racial minority. I think this is the case in most of the urban coastal areas. It is practically impossible to think in terms of citizen/foreigner because the population of these areas is so diverse.

    Contrast that with China and Japan, two places I’ve lived where I would never be mistaken for anything but a foreigner — regardless of how well I learn the languages.

    I also find it somewhat ironic that your husband doesn’t like being treated like a foreigner in the US, yet you are completely willing to return to China where that is exactly how you will always be treated. Nothing at all wrong with that (I like living in China too); I think it speaks to the differences between people who grew up in multicultural societies and those who grew up in ethnically homogeneous societies.

  6. George
    George April 3, 2010 at 12:03 pm | | Reply

    “It doesn’t surprise me at all that your husband may have experienced discrimination in [State].”

    I had a bizarre experience in Boise back in 2002. I was walking away from the state capitol when I encountered an Asian woman-white male couple. A bunch of young white women (well dressed) yelled some racial slurs from the car about evils of race mixing. Twenty minutes later I saw them gulping down food at the local Thai restaurant and speaking pleasantly with the Thai waitress. In general, I found [State] to be very racist…there are some anti-Asian enclaves in this country..[State] is the largest, for others try Littleton, CO, Evergreen CO, St. Georges, UT and definitely Mountain Brook, AL. Four years ago, in Mountain Brook High School, the only minorities were two Asian girls from Thailand, adopted by an American missionary, and they were always racially bullied and harrassed by white girls.

  7. melanie gao
    melanie gao April 3, 2010 at 8:00 am | | Reply

    My Chinese husband and I lived in Silicon Valley for 8 years and it was a good compromise between China and my home state of Alabama. There are so many Asian people in Silicon Valley that you don’t stand out and the area offers great access to good Asian restaurants, supermarkets, newspapers, radio stations, etc.

    Now we live in Beijing and tonight I’m lamenting the fact that I can’t find white eggs here. It’s really hard to dye the light brown ones that I’m sure are organic and healthy but still, darn hard to dye.

    And Jocelyn you’re absolutely right about learning to cook Chinese food! My husband *needs* Chinese food every night.
    .-= melanie gao´s last blog ..Dear Singapore, =-.

  8. George
    George April 3, 2010 at 11:56 am | | Reply

    Try Singapore..it is both a mix of China (your husband will feel comfortable there) and the west (you should be able to find a job without much problem) and definitely there is little or no discrimination..they appreciate couples like you. I lived in Singapore for a very long time and being of non-Chinese (but Asian) and non-white origin, I felt very comfortable. I did not experience any discrimination. Singapore’s economy is set to boom, jobs are plentiful and there are plenty of Chinese nationals.

  9. George
    George April 3, 2010 at 12:06 pm | | Reply

    “My Chinese husband and I lived in Silicon Valley for 8 years and it was a good compromise between China and my home state of Alabama. ”

    Melanie:
    Have you ever lived in Singapore? A perfect place for couples like you. How were you both treated in Alabama?

  10. Jessica
    Jessica April 3, 2010 at 12:54 pm | | Reply

    We live in China for now, and have for our entire marriage, but we might move back to the US at some point. The kids are a big part of that decision though, what we invision for their futures as well as what we’d be able to provide for them in both places. We can’t really afford to give them the kind of education we’d like them to have in China, and the medical situation here makes me nervous too. If things were ideal and we could afford international schools and had good insurance that would allow us access to the top hospitals here then I’d feel a lot more comfortable about the idea of making China our permanent home. We haven’t made our final decision yet but there are a lot of factors to consider and pros and cons for both China and America. We’ll see!
    .-= Jessica´s last blog ..Mao Zedong and Hu Jintao =-.

  11. Friend
    Friend April 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm | | Reply

    Thanks for the reply Jocelyn, I’ll keep that in mind regarding the website.

    For the other commentators, I think if you move anywhere in the world away from your home/comfort zone, even if it’s the same country, there’s always going to be some level of feeling like outsiders and how others in the area will make you feel like one.

    In the case of China, some Western-centric individuals (not you all who have lived there) may be unaccustomed to the idea that there exists a vast group of people who have feelings of superiority over them, relatively speaking. In my opinion, I think a lot of people around the world are less forgiving of Americans who behave that way, mainly because they expect more from us and how many Americans carry their image overseas.

    I’ve read on another site of an Artist from Oregon who lived in China with his Chinese wife and adopted daughters, about the intense pull he felt to just assimilate with the locals, something he has never felt elsewhere. That’s just his experience, but I’m sure people who have live long enough in any place feels the same way.

    Regarding moving, well if it’s for the sake of Education, my personal advice is, by all means, go to the US for that. For jobs, the US still has opportunity, it’s just harder than before. Physical Sciences, Medicine, these areas the US has a very strong foundation for. Or if you’re advancing in age and still want to gain opportunity to prosper, because throughout Asia in general, a lot of people for many obvious reasons are “made” to stop working around their 50s. People still have a lot of energy and intense creativity left to use. However, that’s if we’re talking about today, who knows, things might be different in the Future.

  12. melanie gao
    melanie gao April 4, 2010 at 10:40 pm | | Reply

    George I would love to live in Singapore or Hong Kong but the downside is that neither of us would be in our home country. Plus we want to be close to my husband’s family in Beijing.

    In Alabama I get so many questions about how I could marry someone from a different religion, race, culture, etc. In the beginning I tried to explain things to them. I don’t do that anymore because I realized that the people who ask those kinds of questions will never understand the answer anyway.
    .-= melanie gao´s last blog ..Dear Singapore, =-.

  13. Darren
    Darren April 5, 2010 at 12:56 am | | Reply

    That study sounds like a load of rubbish. WTF is “racial microaggression”? Why are only white people being blamed? Isn’t that a form of racial aggression in of itself, assuming that only whites can be capable of some amorphic racism that they don’t even realize they hold?

    Why does the article simultaneously go back and forth between saying that the whites are “well intentioned” to then saying they are “microaggressively” discriminating and belittling people of color? I mean, if the authors are going to be making the claim that the same overt racism of the past has merely just morphed and disguised itself, they cannot honestly say that the people who are allegedly “microaggressively” racist are also “well-intentioned” people. One cannot be racist (holding the belief that one race is superior to another) while simultaneously internalizing values of equality. You’re either a racist or you’re not. This article abuses the term and decreases the value of the charge to the point where its going to not be seen as serious anymore.

    I can’t take stuff like this seriously. I’m not saying racism isn’t real or doesn’t occur; rather I’m saying that a lot of it as described above is perception; people of different backgrounds incorrectly interpret things that have absolutely no racist intention as being racist. We live in a society that constantly nurses racial grievances and encourages a cult of victimhood – i.e. the boy who cries wolf.

    As a white kid who grew up in minority areas, I had to deal with lots of overt racism, but nobody gave a damn and there isn’t a cadre of pop psychologists and sociologists who want to encourage me to engage in victimology.

  14. RC
    RC April 5, 2010 at 3:04 am | | Reply

    Hi Jocelyn,

    This article is pretty good, but due to discrimination (and other factors), my wife prefers to live in the states than China. Our Chinese neighbors (and we have moved three times) will say hi to me, but completely ignore my wife. They only say hi to her if I make a comment. Not a day has gone by while living in China, when my wife and I are together that a comment is made towards us (be it negative or positive, but majority are negative).

    We have not lived in the states yet, but the one thing that my wife loved about the US (Cleveland, Ohio and Austin, Texas) was that the people were so incredibly nice to her, we did not “stick out” and unlike your husband, and a surprise to me, was that in both places, we found stores that sold food that allowed her to cook for my family more than once (as you know, not much choice in Cleveland though).

    When we eventually move to the US, discrimination is a small concern for me, but believe that it will depend on where we live.

  15. Chris Waugh
    Chris Waugh April 5, 2010 at 5:34 am | | Reply

    Darren, I will state at the outset that I did not read the study Jocelyn linked to. I did not for the simple reason is that the quotations she posted fit too well my experience. The example of “racial microaggression” from “well-intentioned” people that I encounter far too often in my daily life is my students offering me suggestions and advice or explaining basic aspects of Chinese culture and society as if I’d stepped off the plane a totally blank slate just yesterday. How this hurts me is by making me feel patronised – when my students know (or at least should know!) full well that when I first arrived in China, they were mere primary school students still very much in the process of learning the Chinese language and culture themselves. The thing is, they do mean well, and they certainly do not mean to be in any way prejudiced, but there are certain basic assumptions they are subconsciously making that cause them to put me in some kind of “outsider, therefore ignorant” position, and nobody likes being dumped in that role. On the other hand, I often notice foreign colleagues and friends talking down to or “baby-talking” Chinese, which I find equally, if less directly, offensive. There’s a big difference between slowing down and clarifying your speech for the benefit of your students and treating 20 year olds like they’re 5 year olds. Just to drive the point home: In my last year of university, I was sitting in my flat chatting with a friend and a flatmate. My friend and flatmate had both been born and raised in the very same city speaking English at home, school and elsewhere, but my flatmate’s parents were immigrants from Hong Kong. My friend asked my flatmate how long he’d been in New Zealand. This was obviously hurtful to my flatmate. To further clarify: That city had had a Chinese community at least since the goldrush of the late 19th century, so there was no logical reason to assume my flatmate was himself an immigrant.
    My point is that it’s very often sub- or semi-conscious assumptions by otherwise well-meaning, open-minded folk that perpetuate racism, just in a more subtle form than the bad old days.
    And no: Nobody’s trying to play the victim card.

  16. George
    George April 5, 2010 at 11:03 am | | Reply

    “In Alabama I get so many questions about how I could marry someone from a different religion, race, culture, etc. In the beginning I tried to explain things to them. I don’t do that anymore because I realized that the people who ask those kinds of questions will never understand the answer anyway.”

    I think race is the chief issue in your home state. A christian woman from Alabama married to a devout conservative Chinese American Christian from Hawaii got asked the same question and got harrassed as well. So, they now live in Hawaii and they have also lived in Singapore.

    By the way, it is only five hours flight from Singapore to Beijing on Singapore Airlines.

  17. George
    George April 5, 2010 at 11:05 am | | Reply

    “We live in a society that constantly nurses racial grievances and encourages a cult of victimhood – i.e. the boy who cries wolf.”

    When media lead the way, it will change.

  18. Friend
    Friend April 5, 2010 at 10:23 pm | | Reply

    Hi Jocelyn,

    It was always a good thing when a person heeds towards his or her’s calling in life and to be in service of people. It is always rewarding when that person’s other half is in full support of his or her’s mission. I’m beginning to understand this idea greatly now, and would like to say to you and your husband many blessings when you all return to China.

  19. George
    George April 6, 2010 at 9:28 am | | Reply

    “My friend asked my flatmate how long he’d been in New Zealand. This was obviously hurtful to my flatmate. To further clarify: That city had had a Chinese community at least since the goldrush of the late 19th century, so there was no logical reason to assume my flatmate was himself an immigrant.”

    NZ is interesting. A Caucasian woman who lives in Singapore married to a Japanese New Zealander by the name of Tsukigawa always gets asked by other whites including New Zealanders as to how long he has lived in New Zealand. Interestingly, Tsukigawa’s ancestor came to NZ back in the ninteenth century and his cousin plays cricket for NZ women’s team. Even more interesting, his wife’s family only migrated from the UK in the 1950s. However, she is considered a New Zealander and he is not.
    For a long time, this was the case in the US as well. When a Chinese person said that she is from California back in the 1980s she was asked where he was really from. Now they no longer ask that question of any Asian American who says he or she is from CA or Hawaii. However, if that person says Minnesota or Indiana, they immediately ask where they are really from and generally satisfied with the answer CA or HI!

  20. George
    George April 6, 2010 at 9:31 am | | Reply

    “It is so true — some people will never understand, and it’s best not to explain if they cannot.”

    As long as they dont resort to violence which some do. Happened in Caroline county south of Washigton DC where a black man was beaten up for being a white woman back in 2002. The problem was both were from India. He was from the south and looked pretty near black and she was from way up north, and pretty near looked white! And they were doctors serving in the underserved areas.

  21. adam
    adam April 7, 2010 at 10:29 pm | | Reply

    Very nice blog and very informative comments. There are too many points here. Maybe Joecelyn need open an blog only talking about discrimination about Asians in America.

  22. George
    George April 8, 2010 at 3:27 pm | | Reply

    “You echo some of my husband’s thoughts. He has told me I need to write more about the experience of Chinese living in America, for Chinese — as going to America is often so romanticized in China that some never know the other side of life abroad.”

    I know Chinese who think they are resented in places such as Australia..and feel that they are accepted because they have the money..well both accepted and resented. There are many white Aussies and New Zealanders who think it is ok for the Chinese to invest money in their countries but not ok for them to move into their neighborhoods or marry their sons or daughters!

  23. T-Wind
    T-Wind April 8, 2010 at 8:40 pm | | Reply

    @George I know white people who think they are resented in places such as China..and feel that they are accepted because they have the money..well both accepted and resented. There are many Chinese who think it is ok for foreigners to invest money in their countries but not ok for them to move into their neighborhoods or marry their sons or daughters!

    It works both ways.

  24. adam
    adam April 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm | | Reply

    @Jocelyn
    I am always catching your blog.

    @T-Wind, @George
    I think the senario you two described is quite common.
    Chinese People from other provinces feel resented by local Shanghainee.
    People from Mainland feel resented by Hongkongese.
    Hongkongese feel resented by white people, even ABC.

    Every province, state and country has this tradition or kind of people.

    When you move to a well-developed place, I think you do feel different if you move to a less-developed place.

    “What you say about Chinese sometimes treating foreigners better than their own is true, sadly”. Yes. It’s right. We called it “崇洋媚外” in Chinese. But if you know the reason or cause you will not be suprised at that this better treating usually only for white, not black.

  25. Friend
    Friend April 9, 2010 at 1:26 am | | Reply

    In terms of ethnic/racial relations, to be very honest, I do not think the US would have progress so far (and still working on it) if it wasn’t for the fact that the country has always been in a sense, multi-cultural and multi-racial since the beginning. There are very homogeneous places of course, but there’s no way to ignore the visible minorities just around the corner.

    It’s going to sound very cynical and “oh so very” wrong for me to say this but I think the arrogance of some Chinese offers a little counter-balance to the arrogance of other peoples, not just Westerners. It’s not right of course but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one thinking the same thing.

    China is going to very hard place to make people aware the equal self-worth of individuals, every place is in their own unique way. However, first things first, people have to treat their household well first, then fellow neighbors, then community, then others…real empathy has to work in that direction. Give people some time, as more and more Chinese find their unique place in the world, or purpose in life, more and more barriers will start to open up. Relatively speaking.

  26. George
    George April 9, 2010 at 9:10 am | | Reply

    “There are many Chinese who think it is ok for foreigners to invest money in their countries but not ok for them to move into their neighborhoods or marry their sons or daughters!”

    Usually there is little resentment if it is a Chinese woman marrying an Asian man but perhaps a lot of resentment if it is the other way around..and I think this is true in the US as well. There are very few places in the US (the South comes to mind) where there may be some pockets where a Chinese daughter in law would not be accepted. There are few such places in China as well.

    A suburb near Perth airport in Australia is divided by a highway..one side are wealthy Singapore and Hong Kong Chinese, some of them multi-millionaires, and on the other side are the white South African settlers of Dutch/French (Boer) extraction, mostly middle class and of modest means…they simply dont like each other…particularly there is a lot of resentment among the white South African women when they see a white man with a Chinese woman…something these whites are not used to!

  27. George
    George April 9, 2010 at 9:18 am | | Reply

    “But if you know the reason or cause you will not be suprised at that this better treating usually only for white, not black.”

    And many would rather prefer a white son or daughter in law over a Korean or Thai and definitely over a Japanese or Vietnamese son or daughter in law. Know one family here in the US which has disowned one daughter (and they have nothing to do with the grandkids) for marrying a fourth generation Japanese American (only his surname is Japanese..he is mostly Chinese), but the other daugher who married a white American is put on the pedestal..and their kids are accepted, and even shown off as a trophy!

    “In terms of ethnic/racial relations, to be very honest, I do not think the US would have progress so far (and still working on it) if it wasn’t for the fact that the country has always been in a sense, multi-cultural and multi-racial since the beginning. ”

    The 1965 Immigration Act is more like it..and the progress has been made because the US is heavily indebted to Asian countries. One tea-baggers protesting in DC complained about Asians moving into his neighborhood in the 1980s and 1990s..before that it remained white…he was talking about Garden Grove, CA in Orange County, CA. Another from Mountain Brook, AL complained about Asians in his neighborhood…there are only two Asians in his neighborhood..sisters adopted by a white American missionary. The latter also told me that the blacks will be put in their place, if “you guys” were not living in this country!

  28. Chris Waugh
    Chris Waugh April 9, 2010 at 4:05 pm | | Reply

    George, many white South Africans fled to Australia and New Zealand in the early to mid 1990s as the Apartheid system came to an end. Therefore I think your Perth story is perhaps not the best example of Australasian racism.

  29. George
    George April 11, 2010 at 2:24 pm | | Reply

    “George, many white South Africans fled to Australia and New Zealand in the early to mid 1990s as the Apartheid system came to an end. Therefore I think your Perth story is perhaps not the best example of Australasian racism.”

    I dont understand your sentence. Many left South Africa becuase they did not like non-white rule and many settled in Perth..many are not used to seeing rich non-whites..(which is what many Chinese in Perth are..much richer than most whites..and definitely richer than the South African whites)…that is a change which some white South Africans find tough to live with…and it is not made easy for them when good looking Chinese Singaporean (or otherwise) women are seen with white men…white South African women, particularly the Afrikaaner women dont like it too much…heck there are many of them in Singapore and they definitely dont like local women with white men…this I know for a fact becuase I visit Singapore every year and would be there again next month!

  30. Sylvia
    Sylvia April 27, 2010 at 10:50 pm | | Reply

    I totally agree with your comments about racism on the dl. My husband had an experience where another Asian boy cried (he was being fired- for good reason, but anyway), and someone said to my husband, ‘man what is wrong with you guys?’

    Grouping people together based on their looks (this guy wasn’t even from China) or country or language is a huge form of racism I think many people do without even thinking about it.

  31. Magnus
    Magnus May 6, 2010 at 9:40 pm | | Reply

    I understand all that you wrote, but I’m not convinced that America is a “hopelessly racist country that will never climb out of it’s racist past.” Not that anybody wrote that… I’m just getting that vibe from the answer that YANG XI FU wrote. I understand that in the great experiment that is America we have to accept her in all her warts and charms. America is a melting pot and one of the only ones in the world, population wise and size wise. It’s amazing there isn’t a race war everyday! But then again, my wife did agree that some people are cold around America. She’s been having issues at work. But I guess in the end WE (us Americans who have traveled abroad) are the ones who are supposed to spread the news about the world since we’ve been around the world. I learned a long time ago that when I was in America I was one color, then when I went to China I picked up a kind of different color and then when I returned home I was a mix of the previous color and the color that I got from China… so I was no longer the same as the people at home. They don’t get it… but I understand. So I have to slowly talk and teach to those who will listen!
    We’ll probably head back to Shanghai at some point in the near future but it’s not because of racism. It’s mainly because I am sick of paying so much in taxes and seeing my country in so much debt and on and on and on. I feel like China now provides my family and I with more possibilities. My folks would laugh at that… but it’s true. But I will always love America and I will teach my son about how great America is… and sometimes how dumb Americans can be! I want my son to be proud of where his mom came from AND where his dad came from!

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