Embracing Ethnic Foibles

I stepped out to run some errands and hopped on the streetcar because a friend was kind enough to lend me his Metropass.


It was busy so it was standing room only. Not a big deal- I didn’t have far to go.


A Chinese man and woman got on at University and approached a seat that someone had just vacated. They offered it to each other- with each declining, of course. Before they could move to the next stage of the decline-accept protocol, another woman (not Chinese) nudged the man out of the way, redundantly stated that if neither of them would take the seat she would and sat down.


I almost laughed out loud.


The Chinese man and woman just looked at each other and let it go. I tried to keep my eyes on the floor. If I had caught anyone’s eye who had witnessed the exchange, I would have peed my pants! It was opportunistic, rude and very funny.


There is a song and dance that happens when something is offered. It has to be turned down at least twice before humbly accepting. It gets even more vocal (and sometimes physical) when it comes to picking up the cheque at the end of the meal.


I didn’t understand this when I was small. I wanted to crawl under the table when my parents and relatives made a spectacle of themselves trying to pay for dinner. But if they didn’t do it now, I would wonder who these people were and what they did with my real parents.


Every child swears up and down that they will never turn into their parents and yet some of the lessons they tried to instill in us actually stuck.


When you are young, you don’t want to stick out. You just want to be like everyone else.


To belong.


I never really felt “super Chinese” (or Canadian for that matter) growing up but the older I get the more I realize I am a crazy combination of both cultures. I remember seeing Ang Lee’s Eat, Drink, Man, Woman at Bloor Cinema with my sister and one of my brothers. We laughed through the entire thing. Sometimes we were the only ones laughing in the theatre because we could see ourselves and our family in the characters.


As we get older we learn (hopefully) to celebrate our differences. These are the things that make us unique and that is good.


I wish someone from my family was with me- we would have talked about it in Chinese and laughed our asses off.


~ by angryegg on April 9, 2009.

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