Readers' Submissions

The Chinese The World Over

  • Written by Simon Kho
  • March 28th, 2006
  • 8 min read

Simon Kho

As a Canadian-Chinese, that is, born in Canada but of Chinese descent, I would like to shed a little light on the recent article on Thai-Chinese going under the title of Thai Thoughts and Anecdotes Part 125. Without further preamble, here is some information you might find useful.

My name is Simon, and I am proud to be a Canadian, but first, I am Chinese.

I grew up in the strictest all-Canadian sense. I assimilated the language and the culture; I played with children of all races, colors, and creeds. Frankly speaking, out of about 120 children in my elementary school, only 6 were of any Asian descent. From all outward appearances, I was Canadian to all my friends, but I knew somehow that I was different.

In my home we never followed the traditions, religion, or values of our ancestors. My father drank Molson Canadian, my sisters would gossip on the phone about Caucasian pop stars (Bryan Adams if I recall), and even more telling, none of us could speak passable Chinese.

However, the closer I got to adulthood, and this must have been around the time I turned 18 years old, I started to find Asian culture interesting, alluring, hypnotizing even. It was a tie to my background that I could not ignore, and it was apparent to me that finding out the what and why of my background would allow me to form a firm foundation on what would turn out to be the rest of my life.

I started off by travelling to a bunch of Asian destinations including Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, China, and Manila to name but a few. At first, I was overwhelmed by the culture shock of Asia, the culture and people being so much different than my contemporaries in Canada, US, and UK; I could not have been further away from the truth. My family is well scattered around the region, and they live in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore, and they have helped me to understand how the Chinese live in Asia.

To better understand the Chinese, you have to first understand that many Chinese people believe that they are superior to all non-Chinese. The lowliest Chinese beggar may look upon the successful, rich Caucasian as an intrinsically inferior being, regardless of station or accomplishment.

This is true.

The belief is true, I personally do not believe it myself, but I can understand the roots behind that belief. It is a belief that has been passed down through the ages, and it is not unique to the Chinese. The Japanese, Koreans, British, French, Americans, Germans, and other groups such as the Jews among others have believed and still believe in this racial superiority complex.

That being said, not all Chinese think this way, and the tide against this belief is mounting, and in many cases, have already overwhelmed old-fashioned thinking. It can be said that most modern Chinese families also value wealth, status, and face, and that the right combination or outright excess of one of these traits can easily overcome the fact that you are a "gweilo" or in Thai-terms, just a "farang".

It is also true that non-Chinese will never be able to fully understand the Chinese because of inherent differences in culture and religion. It is in these cases that I see the Chinese often lambasted for their lack of acceptance and prejudice against non-Chinese, but in my experiences, non-Chinese are just as, if not more, unforgiving in these circumstances.

Let's take the aforementioned article in consideration and describe how the Chinese mind would look at these situations. This will be more useful in describing what is really happening than if I were to preach all day, so let's begin.

1a. "Overcharging" for the corn.

Simply put, this is good business economics. You buy low and sell high, and frankly, you sell at whatever price the market will bear. You could simply walk away if you believe she is "overpriced", but if you buy it that is not "overcharging", it is good business sense. She knows you will buy from her even if it's twice as expensive, so why should she lower the price? It's not because she's Chinese, it's because she wants to make money, just like how British Petroleum can make tens of billions of dollars a year selling black crud (not a typo) extracted from the ground.

1b. The baby on the floor.

Frankly you don't know who's baby that is, or whether it was conceived or being raised in a good environment. How would Dana, or anybody not close to the family know if its a baby of good circumstance or not? Maybe the father just died. Maybe it was conceived due to a rape/incest in the family. Maybe … well there's a lot of maybes isn't there. Judgement without facts is ridiculous. And honestly, I never knew that buying yogurt from a corner store also bought the cashier's life story. You're just buying yogurt, get over it if the cashier doesn't want to talk to you. This is akin to buying a McDonald's meal and complaining that the cashier won't tell you why she isn't smiling today. It's not because she's Chinese, it's because she doesn't want to talk to you.

2. Unfriendly and another baby on the floor

As Dana said, she has a host of unattractive physical attributes that make her "hideous" to men, especially to him I imagine from his relentless tirade. Fact is, even very unattractive people can get married, and they can have kids … it's amazing isn't it! Maybe she's rich and the guy who impregnated her was poor and desperate, this would not be the first time it happens in this world, and it's not a Chinese thing. Look at Britney Spears and Kevin Federline, need I say more? The baby thing is just like in (1). Who knows the real story, and buying items from her doesn't entitle you to her life story and happiness or lack thereof to her child, if it is even her child.

What Dana doesn't see here is, an unattractive women, never mind if she's Chinese or not, watching an obviously middle-aged to old man buying tons of Viagra. You're not unworthy because you're not Chinese, you're unworthy because you probably come off as a massive pervert who showed too much interest in her child. Buying Viagra isn't the most socially correct thing to do if you are trying to pass yourself off as a respectable old man (I actually don't see it as a bad thing, but I doubt all women think it's a good thing).

What Dana is saying about the tendency of Chinese to live on decrepit junks and generally living in poor conditions is metaphorically, if not figuratively true. Chinese are often low key, and try to hide their wealth. This is a combination of modesty (to promote the fact that they are not rich, thereby increasing their stature once people realize they are rich), secondly, for security (to ensure that they aren't kidnapped or targets of theft), and third, because you have to be cheap to become rich. That's a very good rule of thumb. Only in the last few decades have you been able to spend like a madman and become filthy rich (mergers and dotcom). Otherwise you just had to be prudent to save and invest your money.

I would like to state that I'm not all for the Chinese, I believe that there are many things that they do wrong. I think it's wrong for some of them to believe that Caucasians or other races are inferior, I believe that many of their beliefs are outdated, or at the very least, not applicable to today's society, and I believe that some of their attitudes towards business (the bad service many times) is something that can be worked on and improved. However, I believe this attitude is quickly changing, especially among the new Chinese generations.

To wit, the reason why some things happen or do not happen to you, as per Dana's article, are not because you are not Chinese. It's because you are seen in their eyes as an undesirable or meddling in affairs that are none of your business.

Most Chinese I know don't look down on Bill Gates, Buffett, Mittal, or even the clean-shaven middle-class white guy driving a clean Honda Accord. However if you're a foreigner buying tons of Viagra from a Chinese pharmacy, don't expect a lot of respect or playful banter. You're undesirable to most societies, not only the Chinese.

And to add to Stick's comment, on how Chinese businessmen will lock themselves in a room and discuss business only in Chinese. Yes, I can assure you that this is very true and it happens all over the world. The Thai-Chinese definitely do it. So do the Chinese in Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia. They're guilty.

However, try to get onto the major board of a Japanese company if you aren't Japanese, or try to crack the inner sanctum of HSBC if you're not English and male, among others. Discrimination is worldwide, it's not restricted just to one race.

Dana suggests for the Chinese girl to look in a mirror. I suggest that you look in a mirror, and think how much of your misfortune and bad experiences are self-inflicted. It won't be pretty.

Stickman's thoughts:

Very thought provoking.