Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Where West meets East: Ask me a question

Q1: Let's discuss this viral video that explores "What kind of Asian are you?" by Ken Tanaka, who despite having a Japanese last name, probably has never been asked this question. Because he looks Caucasian - and may or may not be merely a fictional character dreamed up by comedian David Ury. (In this interview at around 11:20, the actress and Ken referred to a "co-writer" named David. The circumstance is suspect to say the least.) Either way, I know all too well about this question. Naturally.

However, I really don't find it all that offensive. Deep down, I know exactly what people are trying to find out. (It's Taiwan, for me) People are curious, because they are making an effort to connect with you. And vice versa. But perhaps it can be asked in a more polite way... 

Q2: Back in University, a friend asked me, "Hey, how many pages did you write for the assignment?" Without any hesitation, I waved the sign for six (see below) with my hand. Or so I thought. He looked confused and said, "2?" No. I held my hand higher. Obviously, he just needed to see it better. He tilted his head and ventured another guess, "1?" No! Now it was my turn to be confused. Finally, he gave up and joked, "Umm... Just call me?" Then it suddenly hit me. This gesture I've been making all my life is basically unintelligible to most Canadians. And it's actually quite troubling that it has never occurred to me all these years - that there are different ways to count with your fingers due to culture and lifestyle.

Well, actually there are 27 types of finger-counting method depending on where you are from. Do a search on Youtube and you will find plenty of clips demonstrating just that. So maybe the next time you are feeling the urge, here is a politically-correct way to strike up a conversation: How do you count to ten with your fingers?

Q3: Fast forward a few years to Boston, I was visiting my roommate's mother's house and we had a delicious meal. Then before presenting me with the next question, she earnestly made sure that I answer it the American way. "Promise?" She explained that I was to be totally honest, and not just responding with whatever I thought she wanted to hear. But of course, in my non-American way, I never would have denied her request in the first place. So, I promised her that I'd be frank, and therefore creating a web of convoluted logic. Luckily, the question only had to do with dessert: "Are you sure you don't want another piece of cake?" Phew!

PS Want to explore similarities and dissimilarities of two of the coolest cities? Check out Paris versus New York - a tally of two cities. It's fantastic and what inspired me to design the above graphic!

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