February 27, 2013
5 Asian Stereotypes …and the Truth
Asian stereotypes are everywhere in the media. Growing up in what is said to officially be the UK’s whitest town, Harrogate, I can count the amount of Asian kids in my year group on one hand – four in total. Two girls, two boys, and then one kid who was mixed, white-Asian. So it’s pretty safe to say that growing up, I pretty much believed all those Asian stereotypes that you see on TV.
Recently, Sarah of Mapping Words wrote a great post about how Asian stereotypes and the portrayal of Asian men in western media prevented her from finding Asian men sexually attractive until she came to South Korea and was surrounded by glorious man candy from all angles. This got me thinking. What other Asian stereotypes do we blindly follow in the west?
Asian Men Have Small Penises
OK, I’ll just say what everybody’s thinking and banish the elephant in the room: One of the most prominent Asian stereotypes is that all Asian men have small penises. Men in South Korea reputedly have the smallest penises in the whole world. I’ve had some, erm, experience with Korean men myself, and penis sizes have run the gamut.
The first Asian man I ever slept with had rippling abs, yet I could barely feel anything more than the sensation of getting poked with the tip of someone’s little finger. I rolled my eyes at another guy who told me he was hung. My jaw dropped when a veritable monster flopped out of his pants. And for those curious about my boyfriend? Well, I’m no size queen, but I wouldn’t have been dating him for the past two years if I was experiencing nothing more than a delicate tickling in my derriere, if you know what I mean.
Asian Students Are All Super Smart and Diligent
Anyone who has worked as an English teacher in Korea will be able to tell you that this most prominent of Asian stereotypes is utter crap. You know, the stereotype of the kid wearing giant glasses that is basically a human calculator. Sure, I have some students that are well-behaved, always doing their homework and very nice and polite. Then I have others who seem to think that it’s acceptable to tear pieces of paper out of their textbooks and spend the whole lesson swearing at each other in Korean. There are wonderful students in every country and culture, and there are lazy little gits and complete hair-pulling nightmares, too. Asia is no different.
Asians Don’t Drink Much
This is one of those Asian stereotypes that I definitely bought into before I moved to Korea. My university, Northumbria, had a sizeable population of Chinese students, yet I would never see them out partying in Newcastle at any of the bars or clubs, at least not the ones frequented by students. However a quick look at this map of world alcohol consumption shows South Koreans to be among the world’s biggest consumers of alcohol. Hardly surprising, given the fact that Jinro soju is the most sold alcohol in the world. Koreans sure know how to drink. I have a friend who can drink an entire bottle of tequila and barely be tipsy. Work dinners often culminate in a myriad of somec (soju and beer) shots, and a night out consists of many different rounds, called ‘cha’. Asians don’t drink much? Don’t make me laugh.
Asians Are All Short
Before coming to South Korea, I had visions of my five foot eight frame towering over the local populace, being a veritable giant among a vertically-challenged ethnicity. Guess what? Wrong again. At five foot eight, I don’t feel as short as I do in my native England, but I certainly don’t feel tall, either. I have a fair few middle school students whose height easily surpasses mine, and a few of my sixth grade boys are getting a bit too tall for my liking. The older generation aren’t that tall, and a lot of that is due to the fact that many older Koreans didn’t have a good diet when they were younger, during a time when Korea wasn’t as economically developed as it is now. Now, the eleventh largest economy in the world, Koreans are shooting up in height, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same things rang true in China and Japan as well.
Asians Can’t Pronounce Their Ls or Rs
Ahh, Engrish. The west collectively chuckles at one of those Asian stereotypes that Hollywood oh-so-often perpetuates – the guy who can’t pronounce their Ls and Rs, or rather, he pronounces them as the same letter. So, lollipop becomes ‘rorripop’, locker room becomes ‘rocker room‘, and Liechtenstein becomes, ‘Riechtenstein’. OK so I haven’t heard or seen that last one used anywhere, but you get my drift.
In the Korean alphabet at least, the character for L and R, called riul (the ㄹ character), is the same, yet changes slightly when placed in a word. Placed at the beginning of a word, it has more of an R sound, and at the end, it sounds slightly more like an L. So while only one character exists for the two English letters, Koreans at least can distinguish the subtle difference, and I only have a handful of students who really, truly can’t get their tongues around it. On the plus side, it can make for some adorable mistakes – I was once playing a game with some teeny little students, naming an animal for each letter of the alphabet. When L came up, one boy excitedly yelled out, “Labbit!” He couldn’t for the life of him understand why I told him no, and accepted his classmate’s answer of, “lion.”
So there you have it, folks! Now, I want to hear from you! Which of these Asian stereotypes do you believe? Are there any more Asian stereotypes that you can think of? Do you have any anecdotes? Let us know in the comments below, or shout out on Facebook or Twitter.