I grew up in Canada and my family is rather disconnected from the Chinese community. Now I live in Sweden, and people keep asking me stuff about China and things Chinese people do. The other day I was asked what Chinese people drink in China with their meals. I grew up drinking water and, occasionally if I was lucky, I was allowed to have Coke with my dinner. What do Chinese people drink in China with their meals?
- Not very Chinese in Stockholm, Sweden
The Swedes must already view you with intense fascination, so may I suggest tousling their blond locks a little? How about "the sweat from Yao Ming's used gym socks" or "the blood from a dragon's torn anus?" In the interest of maintaining Swede-Canuck relations, the short answer is tea (boba and otherwise), Tsingtao beer and glass bottles of knock-off lemon lime soda, which appear on every lazy Susan at every Chinese function I've ever attended. So what's it like in Sweden? Is it endless blocks of lkea and H&M stores serving meatballs and blasting death metal? Do Swedish college students fill their dorms with cheap Levitz furniture? I'll lay off, since you're already dealing with dumb questions.
I live in the South Bay, and I swear there are more Asians shopping at boutique stores than any other race. What say you about Asian people's fascination with "label" clothes and bags?
- Carlos Santana's Row, San Jose, CA
I will say this about Asians and labels: Status and class are still major components in Asian American life, especially for recent immigrants. We want to show how well we've "made it" by slapping some name-brand number from the swap meet on our backs and flaunting it in everyone's face. There is severe irony that underneath all the preening, materialism and perceived status gleaned from the purchase, the garment was probably made by an overworked Chinese girl for a dime a day in some dank sweatshop. I can't implore folks to look beyond the label and embrace the inner more than I can ignore the Zappos' catalog.
Why do you suppose Asians save so many bags and twist ties? What is it that they think these stockpiles will one day be good for?
- Unprepared for unknown emergencies
Oh my, I can't count how many times I've been saved by two strategically placed grocery sacks when the jetliner I'm traveling in parks itself in the frigid Pacific waters.
I think this is a cross-cultural thing, but Asian Americans have multiple uses for bags. It's luggage, a laptop bag and a dental dam. It's an umbrella that fits in your pocket. It's a bathroom wastebasket liner. It conveniently disposes animal feces and kitty litter. It's a cheap salad spinner (really, place rinsed lettuce in a CLEAN plastic grocery bag and do some Pete Townshend-like arm twirls. Pour out the accumulated water, and voila, moist salad!). Paper bags are for transporting Pyrex dishes, wrapping postal packages and to use as cheap countertop liner to cool chocolate chip cookies from the oven. What's not to love about bags, besides the environmental impact?
The real reason why Asian Americans stockpile bags is simple: to give leftovers to take home.
Don't know Henry Cho from John Cho? Send your questions on Asian culture to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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