Thought Catalog

Things I’ve Learned From Being White In The Presence Of Asians

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As a fairly normal American white dude who has spent an inordinate amount of time hanging out with my girlfriend’s high school crowd from Singapore, I have observed a few things, some pretty interesting, others that make me question if  I’ve been doing everything wrong my entire life.

Take, for example, the ‘Asian Squat’, a position where an individual can rest in an upright squatting position, feet flat, that is a mostly unattainable and borderline spiritual mystery for large, Western individuals such as myself. They find this comfortable. I played catcher in Little League and found that squatting should not be maintained. Their position of comfort is something I need to rest from in order to be comfortable. An informal study participated in by three young, white men in a subway station confirmed a 33% success rate, as opposed to the 100% seen among the group’s five individuals of Asian descent. Evidence, purely anecdotal, confirms the consistency of these results.

Then there is ‘Yellow Fever,’ the phenomenon where white guys are said to have a disproportionate interest in Asian girls. I’ve discovered it may be a misnomer, coined as a term of jealous derision by other white bros who weren’t lucky enough to score an Asian girl. I checked my facts and noted that all the Asian girls who white guys dated were generally also attracted to those white guys in return, and that we had performed no kind of magical ritual to make this possible. Why isn’t that called White Fever? I get harassed by my friends when an Asian girl walks by–they ask if I think she’s hot–while my girlfriend is free to befriend the entire white population of America without incident.

I’ve observed that the so-called ‘Asian Glow’ is very real, as in flushed, red faces that actually emanate heat to the touch. However, to assume this is in any way indicative of anyone being a ‘light weight’ when it comes to drinking, is to fall into a very deadly trap that results in you, the overconfident white guy, vomiting in a cab while the rest of your red-faced group continues partying.

There also seems to be this universal rule that if you are indoors, your shoes need to be off, no matter what. This one especially makes me feel like I’m on another planet. A fifth-floor walkup in the West Village and I need to remove my Converse to sit on the couch? My shoes generally come off when the day is over, not when a roof appears over my head. Also: see the opposite of this, like when my girlfriend was the only one barefoot at Thanksgiving dinner.

It hasn’t been productive to get all cute with the cultural nuances. My girlfriend, who is of Taiwanese descent and speaks Mandarin, finds it pretty annoying when I try to practice mine with her. She says it’s the language she gets yelled at by her parents in and I’m only reminding her of that. Sometimes she says it’s like talking to a slow child. I’m actually not sure if she’s referring to me or my Mandarin, to be honest. Though, the old Chinese women I worked with at a cafeteria seemed to find my shallow grasp of tones and eagerness to learn adorable. Know your audience, I guess.

I actually thought Asian parents would be terrifying but that’s not really the case. I haven’t met any ‘Tiger Moms’ but they do seem to have high expectations and differing parenting methods than what I’m used to. Their families actually expect them to pursue careers and life choices that are profitable and will bring them respect and success. This seems reasonable, but my experience with white parents has been the opposite. I am firmly convinced they don’t care about us. I majored in History and write for a blog occasionally. I have a feeling this shit wouldn’t fly otherwise. TC mark

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    • Jsree84

      The reason why you’re asked to take your shoes off before you enter a house is because the owner of the house doesn’t appreciate dirty prints of orchard road, clark quay and holland village on their clean tiles :)   

      • Anonymous

        orchard? we were walking in geylang searching for durian to eat. doesn’t get any dirtier

        • Leianne T.

          You like durian?! Gosh you’re even more Singaporean than I am.

    • http://www.thedailyawe.com Captain Obvious

      I’m white and I always, ALWAYS take my shoes off at my home and in the homes of others. Were you born in a barn?!

      • http://www.facebook.com/t.jason.ham Jason Ham

        HAHAHAHAHAHA. Yeah. In Canada practically everyone regardless of race takes off their shoes before entering a home. It may be because we spend at least a third of the year in Sorels… In America I find it’s more like 50/50, but that also includes Asians born down south!

        • http://www.thedailyawe.com Captain Obvious

          I live in Canada but I was raised in the US.  Even in the part of the USA I hail from, people take their damn shoes off. But you’re right…up here in Canada, that’s just what people do! 

      • Anonymous

        entire USA is a big barn

        • Leianne T.

          HAHAHA. well.

    • Sophia

      I take off my shoes before entering anyone’s house, and I’m white. I expect others to do the same in mine, and if they don’t, I’ll ask them to please do so.

      • http://karyninny.com/ karyn

        the thing is…dirty floors are unacceptable in this case. people ask me to take their shoes off in their house and then i’m walking over a dusty bunny…no thanks.

        • http://www.tinacris.ca Cristina

          But the floor is more likely to be clean when no one ever wears shoes on them.

        • Anonymous

          Here’s how I see it: you wear your shoes on the subway, in the public restroom, maybe you stepped in some dog feces.  Then you come home and walk it all over your carpet.  Might as well let the dog crap inside…

    • Anonymous

      bro i’m 6’7″ and I can ‘asian squat’ like nobody’s business

      you gotta hit the gym, work those weak-ass legs

      • RG

        You said “bro”, “gym” and “weak-ass” al in one comment…. are you sure you’re on the right website?

        • Anonymous

          real talk I love me some TC

          get those browser tabs poppin off, Steph G’s all “Why I No Longer Feel Love” and I’m feelin hyphy

          then Kat George like “I just pooped” an I’m fucking rollin like im in the cage pushin reps

          post up on some RyanOC stuntin real hard in the NYT and I’m like DAMN BRO

          ya i’d say i’m on the right website

        • http://karyninny.com/ karyn

          i totes have a major crush on jack. 

        • http://www.twitter.com/mexifrida Frida

          join the club! haha

      • Anonymous

        i think the answer is in the stretching.. never been too flexible

      • gueston

        weak azz legs LMAO!

    • http://www.facebook.com/mieulium Michelle Ng

      Yellow Fever was most probably coined by Asians guys who are disgruntled about having to compete with white guys for girlfriends.

      • Popdatshist

        false

    • coffeeandinternets

      My only criticism is about your analogies and explanation of “Yellow Fever.” 

      The phenomenon of white dudes liking Asian women isn’t weird because it’s purely based on the physical — if a person happens to just be attracted to Asians because of their shiny hair (SO SHINY!) or something, then that’s all fine and well.  Fetishizing happens when the suitor presumes that Asian women will act a certain way/have a certain demeanor due to their ethnicity — basically “Orientalizing” them into a person they believe will be demure, passive, and willing to cater to a man’s whims…I mean, ew.  I’m presuming you didn’t have these preconceived notions about your girlfriend, and just found her to be an attractive woman on the onset before learning you enjoyed her personality. Thus, you would not fall under the category of having Yellow Fever.  But as an Asian, I have found that a depressing amount of dudes do have the classic case of the disease, and believe me to be something I’m not — someone they can be dominant over.

      I have a preference for White Dudes myself, but not because I have a stereotyped ideal in my head that they’re all charming, funny, and attentive lovers.  I just like how they look in jeans.

      • Hmm

        it’s always the jeans that get you in the end…

        • https://twitter.com/iamthepuddles Jordana Bevan

          it’s always the genes that get you in the end…

      • Anonymous

        good analysis. my feelings for my gf have nothing to do with ‘orientalizing’ into passivity, believe me. maybe her background was something interesting, but never the reason i pursued her, or a device to frame our relationship in such a way as you suggest. her being asian, and me dating her, are completely unrelated and coincidental. a happy coincidence though, because she’s great.

        • coffeeandinternets

          I’m happy to hear your reply, but just want to point out that I never suggested you Orientalized her —  quite the opposite! To quote, “I’m presuming you didn’t have these preconceived notions about your girlfriend…Thus, you would not fall under the category of having Yellow Fever.”

          I was just trying to say, in my Wordy McTypesALot manner, that the phenomenon you described in your essay mostly gleaned the surface of ethnic stereotyping and didn’t really get to the crucial aspects of Yellow Fever and why it’s a problem.

    • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

      “This seems reasonable, but my experience with white parents has been the opposite. I am firmly convinced they don’t care about us. I majored in History and write for a blog occasionally. I have a feeling this shit wouldn’t fly otherwise.” — Truth hurts!

      • Anonymous

        my parents found this article today and were almost offended at that line. take a joke guys..

        • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

          EVERYTHING ON INTERNET R SRS BIDNZ.

    • Rachel

      There’s such a thing called “white fever” – in Singapore it’s called SPG, for sarong party girl, in reference to an Asian girl who goes out exclusively with white men. It’s a derogatory term

      • coffeeandinternets

        Well, I guess if the women are dating these white men because they believe the dudes to be monied caretakers (which is an assumption, correct me if I’m wrong), then I guess they probably wouldn’t mind if the guys are into them as Oriental, meek sex objects.

        Ah the old symbiotic, creepy relationship of placing assumed character traits on to lovers. Gets me every time.

        • Anonymous

          reminds me of the sick feeling i had when we went to orchard towers and saw all the old creepy white men w/ young asian prostitutes

    • http://twitter.com/tannnyaya Tanya Salyers

      “I checked my facts and noted that all the Asian girls who white guys dated were generally also attracted to those white guys in return, and that we had performed no kind of magical ritual to make this possible.”
      hahaha amazing.  I am half-Korean…and so much of what you say is true.  Some guys do fiend for Asian girls, whether by conquest or fetish.  I’ve even had one come up to me in a bar and say “I have yellow fever.”  It was truly creepy.  Most girls that I know that are Asian American, or halvsies like me, really lean toward white men, and not Asians. 

      • ooo

        i’m a halvsie and i like asian guys :)

        • http://twitter.com/tannnyaya Tanya Salyers

          *most girls that I know*

          welcome to the exception.

    • Emmieisadork

      I am the only one of my friends to take my shoes off whenever I visit their apartments. I was born and raised in SC from a long line of Irish. Definitely not Asian or Canadian. /oddball

    • John Snow

      My Laotian girl is Whiter than me… I’ve been had!!

      • Ned

        +10 points for the name.

        Winter is coming.

    • kk08

      well all you guys who do take off your shoes before entering a person’s house, you guys are exceptions. i’ve never met any whites who do that even after 3 years in australia.

    • kk08

      well all you guys who do take off your shoes before entering a person’s house, you guys are exceptions. i’ve never met any whites who do that even after 3 years in australia.

    • Nicole Nejati

      I love this! I’m half-Filipino and most of this is true sans the Asian glow. I don’t have that thanks to my Iranian dad. Taking shoes off is mandatory in both my cultures, not just my Asian side. I also lean toward white guys and most of my Asian friends do too, so I guess we all have White Fever?

    • Robert L.

      Chinese guy from Singapore here and I’d just like to say that I’d have the same reaction as your girlfriend if someone tried to speak Chinese to me. Dropped that language as soon as I could. Frankly, in Singapore, many people suck at Chinese, hate Chinese and in fact treat failing Chinese as a badge of pride, perhaps because the system uses it to preach morals. We literally have to write essays which are highly moralistic and positive just to pass, and we’re subjected to constant bombardment with positive messages that wouldn’t look out of place in a self-help book written by the older generation. It’s actually the official policy here to use Chinese and other “mother tongues” as a way to moralise the younger generation.

      • Leianne T.

        Hey Robert, this comment got me really worked up and for the first time since I followed the Thought Catalog I’m compelled to reply here. Perhaps my experience is different from yours because my parents are conservative Chinese and I grew up speaking Mandarin at home while talking to almost everyone else in English. 

        To me, being Chinese is special, speaking to a friend in Mandarin feels more 亲切. Also ‘Asian’ Confucian values are not necessarily bad, it’s the reason why your parents sponsor your education and put a roof over your head, and why we’re taught to be filial and 饮水思源 (be grateful for the source of your blessings — sorry let me sidetrack a bit, there’s a grace and elegance of form in Chinese words, it condenses long strings of words into handy 4-word phrases). Whereas in Western countries, most parents won’t feel an obligation to take care of their children till adulthood. Not judging, just giving an example. Singapore is very Westernised, maybe that’s why you’re turned off by the Chinese language and culture. I’m guessing you’re an ACS/Raffles boy? Personally, I think it’s great to be Singaporean because we get the best of both worlds, English opens the door to many worlds and perspectives while our mother tongue keeps us rooted. I know you’re probably gonna groan and think “One of those brainwashed Singaporeans again…”. Simply offering another viewpoint here.Also Dan, I’m happy for you and your girlfriend :) I wonder how Singaporean she is, did she grow up here? I’m in a long distance relationship with my Canadian boyfriend and yeah, about the parents don’t care thing…I’m sure white parents care, in a hands-off style of parenting. Also I will never understand how you can wear shoes that have tread on grass, dubious brown clumps, the floors in public toilets and walk into your own home…

      • mabelllh

        Chinese girl from Singapore and I don’t agree. Most Singaporeans drop Chinese the moment they can because it’s just so damn difficult to learn the language properly when our main language of instruction in school, at work or even with friends, is usually English. And cliched an assertion as it may sound, the standard of Chinese in Singapore is fast declining because kids are increasingly exposed to Western media, culture and language from a very young age.
        Personally I’ve never had the experience of having to write “highly moralistic, positive” Chinese essays just to pass. And while I must admit that I’m a fairly “Westernized” person in terms of personal beliefs and philosophy, I find it absolutely disgraceful for a Chinese to hate his own language.

        I don’t understand why anyone would be PROUD of failing their Mother Tongue. To be honest I am fairly upset at my less-than-perfect command of the Chinese language. I feel like I am missing something. 

        Make NO excuses. People don’t “treat failing Chinese as a badge of pride because the system uses it to preach morals”. They are proud of their lack of proficiency because they think it is cooler to be more Western and less traditional Chinese. 

        No Chinese-hating Chinese will ever admit to it (admitting to it will just make you less “cool”), but I will. Because I was once that kind of person, and I’m damn well ashamed of myself.

    • Maxwell Smart

      Half-Filipino gal here. I refuse to leave my shoes on in anyone else’s house and I only do it in mine because we have hardwood floors and no carpet. I assume my family in Hawaii does this to keep that annoying-ass red dirt/dust out of their house.

      I also get hella hot-faced when drinking and it is way embarrassing.

    • http://twitter.com/emisheamon sheah lin

      white fever is actually called sarong party girl in singapore. there you have it, equality.

    • padface

      Every Asian girl I’ve ever known has said they don’t find Asian men attractive or they find them too feminine. Sad times.

      Also here in the UK it’s pretty common to take your shoes off when you’re at home. If I’m at someone else’s house I always ask.

      • Anonymous

        i’ve heard other azn girls make similar claims, i don’t get it

        • Cuddles

          self hate, white worship, colonial mentality, white beauty standards, etc.

    • S&M

      My pop’s got yellow fever! :D then came me… white fever ftw!

      • Anonymous

        happy for you, bro

    • Sadfsd

      Shoes in the house is nothing short of gross, in Asian households. If you must, wear indoor slippers. Easier on the owner to clean, and plus, the occasional airing of feet is a good way to prevent fungal growth!

      • Anonymous

        this all seems pretty reasonable

    • http://twitter.com/THEoffbeatgirl sueann

      The squat isn’t a representation of us all!!!!!

      Says a Singaporean girl.

      • Anonymous

        the squat is not a bad thing, it is a gift!

      • Leianne T.

        Maybe the ah bengs smoking outside Zouk? 

    • zephyrous

      Dude, you’re clearly having problems with your girlfriend but I don’t think you should take it out on us.
      Also, these annoying traits of hers should not be put down as Asian. Hypocrisy, insecurity and emotional baggage about our mothers are not unique to Asians.

      Remind your girlfriend that when in Rome, do as the Romans do – remove her bloody shoes if the entire family is doing it. If she doesn’t understand that, you can remind her in the Mandarin equivalent – 入乡随俗.

      Btw, I really don’t think failing at Mandarin despite having been schooled in it for at least 10 years is something you should so proudly wear as a badge of honour. As much as I am terrible at it as the next Singaporean Chinese, I am ashamed because it is really a beautiful language and part of my culture.

      • vickyvickyvickyvicky

        what?

      • melodrama

        …Did we read the same article?

      • Anonymous

        i appreciate you taking the time to respond incoherently to points i did not make

      • http://twitter.com/tashny Tashny Sukumaran

        you’re singaporean, aren’t you? 
        no wonder you kind of made shit up.

    • Paladin0037

      I hope all of the whities are hit with yellow fever . Then there’ll be an all-you-can-eat buffet of white girls for my taking :)

    • GrammarLord

      I’m a white New Englander living in China, and THIS IS ALL TRUE.

      • Anonymous

        cool, thanks for reading grammarlord, and not pointing out my grammar mistakes

      • Kate

        I’m a white North Easterner living in China, and I concur.

    • Schmidt

      Remember the days when finding a hot asian at the mall was extra points.

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