You look like

When you fill in a form for a formal procedure, the most recent one to come to mind was registering for the new academic year at university, there is usually an optional page for your ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.* That is, things are usually kept for statistics (probably for marketing purposes), but should not impact your user experience. (There is no telling of whether or not they will.) If there is an option to click on a question mark or asterisk next to a question to further explain what the form-provider wants you to reply, the resulting window will tell you that ethnicity is how you identify yourself according to beliefs, ancestry, culture, traditions, and so on and so forth. Dictionaries will add that ethnicity is a hereditary factor.

I have been called a banana – yellow on the outside, white on the inside – and the perhaps more politely twanged yang2 wa2 wa (literally a straw doll kind of toy; in this case a play on words: wa2 wa, 娃娃, means doll or child, and yang, 洋, as an adjective, means Western). I have naturally inherited my outward appearance, which remains unaltered and distinctly Chinese**, but like all third culture kids, I have also amassed a social inheritance that means I skype my parents in January/February each year*** to bow and give my New Year’s greetings; I will lament that pancakes, no matter how dressed up, will never overtake the semla as best Shrove Tuesday confection; I will also complain when my tea has gone cold, and be on the fence about drinking it at all.

While I will dutifully tick the box for “Chinese” (or sometimes, “other – Chinese”, which makes me feel roughly “wow… okay… thanks”), I would very much like to know what form-providers would like to achieve with this information, other than have a heads-up on what I might look like****. Especially when I also have to fill in my name, nationality, and language skills anyway, which should give some clues (all on top of being unsure whether this sharing of information will play to my favour or not).

With that, I wish you a happy beginning to December. It’s not the “end of the year” yet – you have a whole month in which a lot of things can be accomplished. So get going.


Potential cans of worms to open:

*New addition to the registration form this year was “gender identity”, and the form does not let you register with any blank answers. Is this moving towards a new openness and awareness towards lgbt+ or inviting more trouble?

**Except I do not look distinctly Chinese after all. It is a very large country with many strands of DNA. Being Han Chinese, I have been asked in recent years whether or not I am Korean. I do not really know what to make of this so I remain happily indifferent.

***I talk to my family more often than just the once a year. Sometimes I even buy a ticket to visit them. Imagine that.

****According to a football-goer on a train a Saturday morning earlier this term, I found out that I apparently also look like a mail-order bride. I did not know that they had a look. That said, I will treat this as a reason to delve further into the world of young(ish)-men-in-groups (especially when going to large sporting events), as opposed to anything relating to my appearance.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s