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.

 

Konglish is a much bigger problem than the whole L/R thing. Somehow, Koreans seem to think that people use the word ‘overeat’ instead of ‘vomit’ – as a noun, not a verb. Just…no, Korea.

 

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

Asian stereotypes good student

Braddy is one of my favourites, but does that look like the face of the perfect student to you?

 

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

Why hello, my lover.

 

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

I don’t know why I assumed I’d be tall in Asia. According to my students, I have no neck. But I do have what appears to be a personalised crown. Hey, being short isn’t so bad.

 

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.

 

The letter L, its misuse providing hours of entertainment to rovers of Engrish.

 

 

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.

44 Responses to 5 Asian Stereotypes …and the Truth

  1. Elizabeth says:

    oh man, i love this!
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  2. The Chinese can put away some booze. Instead of toasting with “cheers,” they say “ganbei” which basically means bottoms up. And you are actually expected to drink your entire drink in one gulp, no matter if it’s a beer, a shot of liquor or a glass of fine red wine. It’s not uncommon to see people stumbling out of a banquet or business dinner completely lit.
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  3. Ged says:

    Fabulous post Tom! Very entertaining! :-)
    Ged just posted A six-pack in six weeks – feasible or futile?My Profile

  4. Thanks so much for the shout out, Tom! As I mentioned earlier, I completely agree with you about the penis size issue– Asian or not, you can’t judge a book by its cover!

    Also, you are so right about initially assuming that all Asian children would be diligent, innocent and sweet. When I first came to Korea as an exchange student, whenever I met English teachers I would mention, “Korean kids must be so well-behaved.” And they would reply, “Kids are kids, man.” When I started teaching 5th and 6th graders and learning more Korean, I would hear the insults hurled at the wangdas, fat and ugly kids and hear so much swearing! Oh, and the piles of ripped paper underneath every desk–so annoying! I yell at kids when I see them doing that and make them sweep the floor. Anyway, I completely agree– there’s a range of bratty to well-behaved kids in every country– just in Korea, they’re still afraid of being hit with a broomstick. (even though it’s technically illegal in Seoul.)

    About the drinking– My exchange adviser convinced me to study abroad in Korea in college because she fell in love with Seoul when she lived here. She would tell me about how much Koreans drink, and I never believed her–until I saw for myself. Why do we all assume that Asians don’t drink? Maybe it has something to do with Chinese culture, because in Taiwan, my Taiwanese friend and I roamed around Taichung for an hour looking for a bar, and I asked, “Why aren’t there drunk men in business suits on the street?” and she just laughed and said, “Sarah, Chinese people aren’t like that.”

    I think the L and R thing also comes from China– my Taiwanese friend’s parents call me “Sala” and they also pronounced my name that way in Thailand. I was as surprised as you to realize that the L and R exist in Korea, even though students constantly mix them up.

    Lastly, I am short and I am constantly asked by Asians why I’m so short. Also, everyone back home assumes that all Asians are my height. People need to realize that short and tall people exist in Asia and the West. Just look at Yao Ming.

    Ok, I kind of rambled, but I thoroughly agree with all your points! Great post!
    Sarah @ Mapping Words just posted Radio interview with 1013 Main Street on tbs eFMMy Profile

    • Dayummm Sarah, your comment is almost as long as the post itself! ;) Thanks for taking the time to analyse it thoroughly – you should write a thesis on my blog! Seriously…

    • Bryan says:

      Just want to clear something up. The mixing up of L and R does not originate from China or from Mandarin Chinese. In the Sinophone world(regions that have a population of native Mandarin Chinese speakers), there is a clear distinction between L and R. 乐 and 热 are pronounced le4 and re4. Music tune and hot(weather) respectively.

      The reason why people in Taiwan call you Sala, is because there exists not a sound/character/word in Mandarin with ‘ra’ in it(there is re, ru, rou, ran and a lot more, just no ra). The closest sound to Sarah would be Sala.

      If I were to take a guess at where the mixing up of the two consonants stem from. I’d say it’d either be Korea, with it’s non-distinct L/R, K/G, B/P, T/D sounds. Or should I say, blend of them. I have never heard a native of Seoul pronounce Gyeonggi, with a definite K or G to start, it always sounds like it starts in a K but ends with a soft G on the same syllable. Or Japan, though I’m not as fluent in Japanese to say that for a fact.

  5. Kaylin says:

    Asian men might be taller than some people think but as a relatively tall girl even in the US (I’m 5’10″), I towered over every single Korean female by at least 4 inches, usually about 6 inches. I’d say most Korean guys were about my height.

    I can’t speak for the Asian peen issue personally but considering the range of sizes I’ve seen among white dudes (from ” really?? that’s all?” to “HOLY CRAP”), I can imagine Asians have a pretty good range of sizes too.

    And I think the stereotype of diligent Asian students is more Asian-American than anything. Almost all the Asians I knew in the US were super studious and smart. Why, I don’t know, though. There’s that stereotype of the Tiger Mom pushing their kid to get the best grades and stuff, I guess, which does kind of exist in Korea too (considering all the kids that go to hagwon).
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    • Hagwons do not a diligent student make….I’ve heard kids are MUCH better behaved in public school than they are when they come to academy afterwards…And I have also experienced the same thing with white men. I’m simultaneously disappointed and shuddering as I recall collective memories.

  6. It’s funny reading this blog post just after I met a group of white guys making a big deal about my being an Asian a few hours ago. Ha!

    And about the alleged short joysticks of ALL Asian men – bitch, please. And even it was true, I have always believed in the Filipino saying that, “It’s not about the size, it’s about the performance.” :P
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    • You’re totally right. One of the worst lays I ever had was with a white guy with an absolute whopper between his legs. TERRIBLE. And I’ve had some not-so-well-endowed Asian gentlemen who have been fan-effing-tastic.

  7. Richard says:

    A great read, thanks. Funnily enough, I read in the Independent today that the average North Korean man is over 3 inches shorter than the average South Korean (in height, obviously).

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if the other thing you’re alluding to is true as well, Richard. As for the height thing, I’ve read that a lot of North Koreans have had their height stunted by regular bouts of food shortages and severe famine.

  8. Hahahah yeah… I guess I went a bit overboard, but there’s still so much to say. Each stereotype to be a post in itself!

    • You’re right, it could be! Hmm, maybe another day. I like to include photos in my posts though, and point number one could be a bit problematic…maybe I can get snap-happy in the showers at the gym?

  9. Haha! So many of these could apply to China as well. I am so sharing this! Er.. ovesharing it, that is. :)
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    • Interesting to hear that most of them can be applied to China, too. I figured that that would be the case! And don’t act like you don’t love the oversharing – ply me with cocktails and I’ll mentally scar you haha! ;)

  10. Talon says:

    I had never heard the one about Asians not drinking. All the Asians I’ve ever known can seriously hold their own. And there are definitely a lot of tall Asians. I think your theory about the diet is really spot on.
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  11. Jaslyn says:

    Funny post ! I have to agree on a lot of things especially the height. You can see the height difference on Asian girls actually averaging from 4″9 to 5″4 based on my observation. And you know what? I’m in between that range I have just given ;)
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    • I’d say Koreans are easily the tallest Asians – young men average around 5’10″ and the women are getting taller. I have a lot of middle school girls who are easily 5’6′” or 5’7″.

  12. Scarlett says:

    Haha I love it when you overshare my darling! I have to admit, a couple of Stereotypes I’ve kinda believed myself – which is awful considering I have such a hard time trying to rid myself of the stereotypes laid onto me for being a scouser. Somec sounds like a terrifying drink… I have to try it! xx
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  13. Beverley says:

    I love this post! I have to say that I’d bought into some of these stereotypes but having never been to Asia I didn’t know for sure. Thanks for setting the record straight!
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  14. Sally says:

    Totally have to agree with you on the student thing. Even after teaching at a Japanese university for 3 years where my students were, well, your typical university students, I was shocked when I got to China and discovered that, yes, my students were also typical college students. I’d say half of them actually studied, while the other half totally slacked off… that is if they ever came to class. But, for some reason, I thought Chinese students would be more hard-working. Turns out an 18-year-old is an 18-year-old no matter where you are!
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  15. Erica says:

    P.S. I think this is the greatest post EVER. Love love love!
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  16. Amen to un-perfect students, though that also makes them perfect in their own little way :)

    You have to say, though, that Asians tend to be pretty wreckless at driving… or maybe I’m just trying to blame my countless “oops” moments behind the wheel on my ethnicity…
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    • That’s why I didn’t include driving – Koreans are by far the worst drivers I’ve encountered, and I’ve heard that they’re nowhere near the worst nationality in Asia when it comes to getting behind the wheel…

      And yes, AMEN to imperfect students. It’d be so boring if they were all perfect, diligent, and didn’t ask me inappropriate questions.

  17. There’s a truth to all stereotypes…but the stereotypes are not universal truths! I’ve met plenty of people who definitely fit three of these examples to a T, but I’ve also met many who disprove them.
    Alana – Paper Planes just posted >> Moment in: a Burmese Market >>My Profile

  18. JUN THE KOREAN says:

    being tall and alcoholic only strictly applied to koreans…

    • Still, it’s a stereotype that people have about ‘Asians’ in general, and Koreans disprove it for sure! I’m getting a headache just thinking about soju…

  19. Jaeho says:

    Wow its amazing how a foreigner can fit that well to our culture especially SOJU. Yes as Korean student studying in the u.s I’ve always felt that many people in America or Europe don’t know well about Asian culture. Well Aafter all Asians actually know much about Americans and Europeans than you guys think ;)
    As a Korean I saw the post interesting and accurate thx for sharing! An English person enjoying soju is like an Asian enjoying brandy with thr Russians to me wow.

    • Hi Jaeho, welcome and thanks for your comment! I think you’re right, Asian countries are more exposed to western culture than the other way around, that’s for sure. I didn’t even know that Koreans drank a lot, until I moved there haha!

  20. Pingback: Sexy Asian Men, Or A Rant From A Sort-Of Rice Queen - Waegook Tom

  21. gerard says:

    Hey,what about the stereotype of asians being terrible drivers,personal experience with some of my friends is even if it is their car and i need a ride i’ll make sure i drive,it’s no stereotype its fact…asians are deadly when it comes to driving,my friends mom makes sure someone else drives him in his own car because he terrible, and what about the whole “don’t bring your dogs or cats to a asians because your never see them again stereo…anyone know if theres truth to that,to the girl who wrote this i can agrees to most the busted stereotypes here beside the penis thing,now im gerard’s girlfriend and i’ve been with a few asians in my days,now just like a few white guys it is possible to find a white guy with a penis bigger then 7 inches and im guessing same could be said about a asian….but most have tiny dicks,as for a monster hunny i don’t think you know what a monster is,either that or you where drunk each time you guys fucked,finding a asian with a monster is very unlikely….very,unless ugly cause thats how it goes, asian don’t pack heat like that,the only conclusion i can come up with as to why you’de say that is because you dated him for a long time so psychologically your body to fool it’s self into believing you could get satisfaction so you played a trick into believing it was bigger then it actually wa,poor thing

    • OK, a guy (aka me) wrote this, not a girl – the clue is in the blog name. Tom isn’t exactly a gender-neutral name. And yes, I’m pretty sure the penis inside me was a monster by any standards – I’ve been with a fair few guys, so I know what I’m talking about. I’m not talking 10 inches (who’d like that anyway? ick!) but he was packing heat…and no, I wasn’t drunk. And I didn’t date the monster guy, we just had sex…seriously, if you’re going to comment, please actually read carefully before writing something.

  22. -_- says:

    http://korean-penis.blogspot.kr/

    you should read this.

    korean don’t have the smallest penises in the world.

    • Interesting read, thanks for the info. Although in my experience, Koreans are still the smallest out of any nationality that I’ve come across…but how you use it is more important anyway.

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