Are Asians Bad Drivers? My Thoughts on 10 Asian Stereotypes

After living and travelling around Asia for two years, I have a few things to say about East Asian stereotypes. But before I begin, I need to say that this is meant to be a funny portrait of the wonderful Asian people I've met and the diverse Asian culture I've experienced. I'm fully aware of the sweeping generalizations I'm about to make, and for every one of those generalizations I can think of exceptions. Generalizations, which I believe are a necessary part of the human experience, become stereotypes if they're hold too intentlyand can get one in a lot of trouble. Why am I writing about it when I know it's a dangerous topic that could get me into trouble? Because it's a learning experience. I came to Korea knowing nothing Asian culture and am leaving with a greater knowledge and admiration of the people I've met and places I've seen.

  1. All Asians are skinny. This is a personal stereotype I held before I came. I don't think I had ever seen a fat Asian before I moved here, which probably says more about my hometown (two Asian-looking kids went to my high school, brothers of Korean heritage who were so not Korean that they didn't know how to say hello in Korean) and lack of exposure to Asian culture than Asians themselves. I wish I could say it's true, but it's not. Asians, like everyone else, have the ability to get fatI just don't know where the bigger girls shop, since most clothes here are free size (one size fits all).
  2. Asians are super stylish. Another personal stereotype, one that held for about the first week I was here. I remember watching Sook-Yin Lee on MuchMusic when I was younger and being impressed with her fashion sense; she was able to mix and match things I never would have dreamed about putting together in one outfit. But something's changed: either Korean women aren't as stylish as I imagined Asian women to be, or I don't have the same fashion sense I did when I was growing up in the 90's. The final straw came when my co-teacher (whom I adore) came to school wearing an oversized yellow-and-black plaid shirt, brown vest, and navy blue sparkly leggings. Sigh.
  3. Asians are bad drivers. Nonot unless you consider consistently running red lights, passing buses in intersections, ignoring emergency vehicles, and switching lanes and turning without signalling to be "bad driving." To be fair, I wouldn't say the same thing about all Asians (the Japanese, I noticed, actually do know how to follow the rules of the road), it's just certainly true about Koreans.
  4. Asian men are effeminate and have small, well, "little guys," and Asian women are submissive. Effeminate men? Yes. Evidence: thinner body shapes, lack of body hair, and "pretty" fashion choices (think hot pink cardigans, tight-fitting shirts and pants, and "man purses"). Add to that some cutesy behaviour when in a relationship, like wearing matching "couple wear" and carrying his woman's purse as if it were his own, and yes, I'd say men here are pretty feminine. This is not a judgment call; obviously some women out there love it. Would this country be so overrun with couples if it wasn't a good thing? As for the...other thing about Asian males, I'll just say my research sample size isn't large enough for any conclusive results. I haven't dated any Asian women to get any first-hand stories about their submissiveness, but from what I've heard from my guy friends, it might even be the other way around. After all, purses don't carry themselves, and it's rarely the woman who carries it herself either. And if a guy wants to go on a date with a Korean woman, he should make sure his bank account is ready to take a hit. In all seriousness, though, submissiveness is a trait of Korean culture, where elders are to be respected at all times, no matter what.
  5. Asians are hard workers. I've written about this a lot, but here's my belief: Koreans are inefficient workers, appearing to be harder-working than they are. Or maybe, Koreans are hard workers in an inefficient system. Either way, something's not working.
  6. All Asians look alike. Yes, there's the whole everyone-has-black-hair-and-black-eyes thing. But no, it doesn't mean that everyone looks the same. Sure, I joke that everyone in Super Juniorthat 13-member Korean boy bandlooks the same, but that's because I actually haven't taken a look at their faces. When I see them, it's more of a blob of singing and dancing black-haired boys than individuals. When it comes to real people in real life, there are luckily infinite differences, even without a variety of hair and eye colours.
  7. Asians are good at math, playing musical instruments, and playing computer games. I don't teach math (that's for the benefit of all students everywhere) and I joke that math is not allowed in my classroom whenever I catch students finishing their math homework in my class. What I will say is that Koreans are good at memorizing and terrible at creative thinking, thanks to their education system, and math is one of those subjects that plays to their strengths. I don't know what to say about music and video games, though I would agree both, like in North America, are popular after-school activities.
  8. All Asians can do martial arts. Taekwondo is to Korea as what gymnastics is to North America: it's a popular sport for children. That's it.
  9. Asians can't pose for photos without the peace sign. No. Koreans have an array of poses to choose from, of which the V-sign is just the most popular. There's also hearts, horns, tears, fists, and other options. Or, if it's a professional photo, say for school or work, there's also the popular angry stare. Take your pick!
  10. Asians eat cats. Wrong. I don't know where this comes from, but I'm pretty sure it's a Chinese stereotype. My old university roomies like to ask me, "So have you eaten cat yet?" to which I always reply, "No, come on, they don't eat cat here...Koreans eat dogs." Okay, that's not true either. Dogs are available to be eaten, though many, many Koreans won't eat them, either. And if restaurants do have dog on the menu, it's hidden from foreigners since everyone is well aware about how foreigners view that practice. I, however, think it's fine. It's meat: cat, dog, chicken, beef, fish, duck, pork, pigeonit's all good. Except for that last one. Too boney.