Words by Chris Lei | @herohchris Photo: © Shutterstock

If you’re an Asian guy like me (East Asian to be specific in my case) then not a week, or often a day, goes by when I don’t have to endure some form of casual racism. I’m not talking about the out and out abusive, shouting at your face just because you’re a different ethnicity form of racism, but the sort that infiltrates day-to-day conversation and is almost subliminal in nature. 


Quite often you don’t catch it, and often they don’t realise what they’re saying is wrong. However, I have fine-tuned my ears and eyes to sense these slights and this list is my gift to you. If you say or have said any of these things, you might want to reconsider future conversations. 

1. “You’re cute for an Asian!” 

For some of us, a backhanded compliment like this might be difficult to say no to, especially if you’re also attracted to them (because you might risk losing the opportunity to sleep with them), or you feel the need to thank them out of politeness. But by doing so, you’re actually making the situation worse and condoning this offensive behaviour to the rest of the community. Please don’t make them feel like it is OK to put other people down in order to get what they want.

P.S. You’re awful for a human.

2. “Oh I love Asian guys!”

Look, it’s nice to know that you have a preference, and of course you’re absolutely allowed to approach someone because you prefer how they look, but starting a conversation with this just makes us feel like you are only talking to us because of our race or culture. How we look doesn’t define who we are, because I could be an Asian and a serial killer, then cut you into pieces and feed you to my pet dragon.

3. “Where are you REEEEALLY from?”

When guys ask me this, sometimes it makes me think that if I am just misinterpreting their original question - are they expecting me to say “Jupiter” or “test tube”? Just because I look a certain way, it doesn’t mean I can’t be born in that country. I do love it though when guys try and get to the bottom of this. Shall I give you my genetic code next?

4. “Ni hao ma?” (That’s ‘how are you’ in Mandarin)

As this phrase is rather well known, it would be understandable for you to show off your vast knowledge on culture and languages. But then again, just because I look a certain way, it doesn’t mean I can automatically speak the most spoken Asian language. You’ll also just embarrass yourself if you can’t continue with the conversation in that language. Personally, this isn’t too annoying because I can speak a bit of Mandarin, but for others, it can get rather offensive.

5. “Can I guess what you are?!”

This one is just ridiculous. Sorry, but you’re not on Antiques Roadshow. Half of the time you are just going to start naming random countries based on the size of my eyes or how smooth my body is. And do you know what’s worse? When I reveal my ethnicity and you respond with “Oh I was close!”. Congratulations, here’s your medal. Can we not talk about something more meaningful such as the colour of your ugly curtains or the old stains on your mirror? 


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