“You Must Be Russian” – On Mistaken Identity in China and America | Speaking of China

14 Responses

  1. Susan Blumberg-Kason
    Susan Blumberg-Kason August 15, 2017 at 6:26 am | | Reply

    I was often mistaken for Russia in China, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. I asked someone in Hong Kong once about that because I was curious about it. She said she thought I was Russian because I was quiet and not loud like Americans. Then I asked in Vietnam and someone told me that they used to see a lot of Russians in Vietnam, so when they saw foreigners, they were usually Russian. This was years before the US normalized ties with Vietnam, so there weren’t many US tourists. I never asked about this in China, but figured it was somewhere in between the HK and Vietnam explanation.

  2. Sarah Hu
    Sarah Hu August 15, 2017 at 7:07 am | | Reply

    I was always asked, more like told, about being Russian while living in Zhengzhou! In my husband’s hometown, Ruyang, the only other foriegn women are Russian prostitutes … so I always felt awkward walking around there. I love how your husband takes it upon himself to ‘protect your butt’! ???? My husband would do the same!

  3. Ryan
    Ryan August 15, 2017 at 8:04 am | | Reply

    Probably about as embarrassing as when I first met Jun and asked if he was Japanese…sorry, man!

  4. Svetlana
    Svetlana August 15, 2017 at 8:43 am | | Reply

    For some odd reason not many Americans can guess my son is a hapa. Heck many Asians also can’t guess. In Russia I would immediately be seen as a Jew, which is not a good thing…

  5. Nilma Fernandes
    Nilma Fernandes August 15, 2017 at 11:54 am | | Reply

    I’m Brazilian and live in Phuket, Thailand which has a lot of French and to everyone here, I’m also French. I gave up on trying to explain I’m not French.
    They see me and straight way says “CA VA” “BONJOUR” I just reply back hehe.
    Funny thing is even the French guys think I’m french too(apparently I look like French of Moroccan descent).
    “Je ne suis pas français”
    “Je ne parle pas français”
    2 words on my vocabulary hehehe

  6. Aorijia
    Aorijia August 16, 2017 at 5:28 pm | | Reply

    Russian? That’s unexpected. I thought the most usual assumption is foreigners are all Americans!

    I was once asked on a street in Nanjing (by an unknown person, of course) to give her private lessons of English. I had to point out I was neither a teacher nor a native speaker of English so, in any case, NOPE. Not to mention all the “hello!” while out and about with my kids.

    I honestly dislike public scrutiny and loud conversations on the bus or the subway about us, although I feel it’s getting a bit better from my first stays in China, back in 2004. I find they no longer assume foreigners don’t speak Chinese as readily as they did in the past!

  7. Meghan
    Meghan August 17, 2017 at 11:07 am | | Reply

    I too, have been told I look Russian several times. What does a Russian look like?! Here at my university, we have two Russian teachers: one very slender and blonde,the other brunette and normal weight. Can’t figure this out… I’m American.

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