Are you an ABC?

Posted by Marianne Yu on 4/24/2017

“Are you an ABC?”

            “If you are from America, why do you look like me?”


            While the other exchange students were asked questions about their life in America or asked if they had time to correct their English essay, I was questioned about my ethnicity. After experiencing about a month of school, I am definitely able to point out the difference between being an American Born Chinese in China, and being an American Born Chinese in America.

   In America, there are five distinctive stereotypes that I can think of that are associated with Chinese people: 1) We’re unable to properly dress ourselves, 2) We’re only good at one thing — math, 3) We have no social skills, 4) We have thick-Chinese accents, and 5) We all have stupid names.

            I have been told countless times that I don’t dress like a Chinese person. The reaction is always the same — startled because I don’t wear jeans with Puma sneakers. They are even more surprised when I tell them that I hate math. Additionally, I love talking! I could talk about anything with anyone without a strong Chinese accent. Finally, my full name is Marianne Stacie Yu. I don’t have my Chinese name as my middle name which is something I pride myself in. My parents believe that if I was going to be raised in America, my name should be only in English. Because I defy these stereotypes, I’m always either asked if I’m actually adopted or if one of my parents is American. It’s always a constant struggle when meeting new people because they automatically point out how I don’t fit the common stereotypes given to Chinese people in America.

            On the other hand, being a Chinese person born in America is a blessing in China. I’m not judged as much. In fact, students in Jingshan School acts as if I have hit the jackpot and won the lottery. I have realized that Chinese people perceive ABCs as the lucky ones — the ones whose parents or grandparents were privileged to move to America, and who is living the “American dream”. After talking to the Jingshan students at English Corner, I have learned that the American dream to them is being accepted into a college in America. As a result, we talk about what it’s like to be Chinese in America, and mostly about colleges since I’m a senior. They love hearing about how I balance American values and traditional Chinese culture.

            However, there are moments where because I’m American, I do face some unpleasant stereotypes. One of them being that Americans don’t take school seriously and just party on the weekends. To be honest, I was upset that that was their first impression of us. I want to become a pediatrician when I grow up, and work very hard in school. That stereotype definitely felt like a slap in the face. I told the students that academic life and social life depended on the student. Not every student is the same; some do well academically, while others do well socially.

            Overall, talking to the students at English Corner has taught me that you can’t escape stereotypes. It doesn't matter where you are in the world, people will have an opinion of you before actually meeting you. I’m going to have to accept that I will be treated differently in America, but also China, due to where I live and due to who my parents are. But, one good thing that comes out from this conflict is that I can educate others about what it truly means to be a Chinese girl living in America.