Are Chinese Stereotypes True?

by Ed Lau on March 11, 2007

I’ve been called “banana” more than once in my life. It’s not because I bear any sort of actual resemblance to the yellow, easily peal-able fruit but because I am considered to be yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Since I’m born and raised in Canada, I identify more with Canadian culture than that of Hong Kong. In fact, on my first visit to Hong Kong, the locals could actually tell I was from Canada. This may have been because of my horrible Cantonese tinged with English, my complete lack of knowledge of any Chinese pop culture or the fact that I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts in the middle of winter when everyone else has broken out the scarves and mittens. Seriously, Hong Kong is hot.

Although I break nearly every stereotype about the Chinese race, there are times when I’m asked if I know kung fu or if I’m really good at math. Personally, I usually think stereotypes are in fact, stereotypes because they are true and while most of us do not know kung fu, I am rather sure that a majority of Chinese folks are good at math, can’t hold their liquor and quite a few are terrible drivers. Not me, though. I’m awesome.

Michael posted this film on his blog recently and I actually quite enjoyed it. It’s called A Chink in the Armour, a short, 25-minute documentary made by Baun Mah, a student in Toronto. While some of his tests are not very scientific in nature (I mean…just because they can’t translate doesn’t mean they don’t speak the language…), the short is pretty funny and well made. I wish he would’ve differentiated more between bananas like me and more recent immigrants, though, to see if the stereotypes are more on a cultural basis.



And just so we’re clear…I speak Cantonese, I am a great driver, I can drink you under the table, I can do math but…not beyond a high school level and I don’t know kung fu…although I’m rather sure I can still beat most people up.

in Current Events,Random

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Leo March 11, 2007 at 7:49 pm

I’m Chinese and I suck at math. I’m a good driver (clean driver aspect and road star insurance), I just choose to drive like an asshole from time to time.
I DO know martial arts but not Kung Fu, which is really WuShu anyways.
Several of my past girlfriends, current one included, were curious if a certain “little” Chinese stereotype was true ;) I’m happy to have served my fellow brothers well by proving it otherwise, but then again I am from the Beefcake Clan of northern China.

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Carl March 11, 2007 at 8:49 pm

I fear for my life when I’m in a car with you

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Kenny March 11, 2007 at 10:35 pm

A quick trip to Chinatown will prove that Chinese drivers are mostly pretty terrible :) However, I such a math, I can hold my alcohol, but don’t know a thing about martial arts of any sort haha.

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Stephen March 11, 2007 at 10:35 pm

I struggled at Math. Well, not so much Math, more Calculus. When letters and numbers are mixed together, I get very confused. I loved Physics, but it was all Calculus so I sucked.

I don’t do Kung Fu, but if you get me pissed enough, it wouldn’t matter. I fight dirty :D

My driving record is clean, and I’ve never been rear ended by “My Own People”. The two times I got rear ended, the first one was Caucasian, and the other guy was Filipino. However, my Girlfriend says my driving scares her because I tend to press the accelerator when everyone else slows down.

I’m taking Mandarin, and the white guy in the class speaks it better than me. How shameful :(

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Lesley March 12, 2007 at 10:58 am

I am very amused at the comment that all chinese people are hard workers, cause Ed, you let your “people” down big time from what I’ve seen.

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kenny March 12, 2007 at 11:22 am

LOL :)

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undefined May 15, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Some stereotypes are true. I eat rice everyday. I eat fried rice every once in a while. I am good at math. “T KNOW KUNG FU!

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Ed March 12, 2007 at 11:53 am

Just because I could care less about my “job” doesn’t mean I don’t work hard at other stuff.

For example, since I started this blog on November 6th, 2006…I haven’t missed a day without at least one entry.

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Leo March 12, 2007 at 12:23 pm

There’s a stereotype: A Chinese guy with glasses sitting in front of the computer ;)

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Stephen March 12, 2007 at 10:45 pm

Ooo… :lol:

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Michael Kwan March 14, 2007 at 9:24 pm

Actually, doesn’t Baun Mah somewhat remind you of Ed?

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Ed Lau March 14, 2007 at 9:48 pm

I’m at LEAST thrice as awesome.

Michael Kwan March 14, 2007 at 11:37 pm

Awesome in the literal sense? :lol:

Stephen March 15, 2007 at 9:23 am

Baun Mah has classic bowl cut syndrome.

Jon March 13, 2007 at 5:58 am

I’m Chinese, I use the computer, I major in math, I’m a slightly poor driver – but I don’t know kung fu :P

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Gdog March 13, 2007 at 6:26 pm

The translation part in the video was dumb, those quotes were hard…err…wait, maybe I just can’t speak CHINESE!

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Michael Kwan March 14, 2007 at 9:25 pm

Yeah, I think it was unfair to use song lyrics because those oftentimes are grammatically correct anyways.

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Leo March 17, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Well, I’m gonna fulfill one Chinese stereotype tonight. Gonna drink till I puke. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

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Nicole Avinger October 7, 2007 at 9:11 pm

Baun Mah-

Great short film! Every culture has their own stereotype, there shouldn’t race we are all people.

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Shanqing Cai October 11, 2007 at 10:31 pm

For disproving a few of the stereotypes, such as stereotype 2, you really need control groups.

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toon February 4, 2008 at 3:15 am

Umm I think like that. ^^

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Vlad May 8, 2008 at 9:09 am

I come from Romania. I also think that at least 33% of Chinese people know martial arts (to be honest, I hate these arts, if they really have this unique purpose – I would rather use my fists, in case who knows who is making me really big trouble. Anyhow, I like Chinese food, their respect for tradition and history and some other things from different nations.

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usman August 9, 2008 at 11:53 pm

I am from Asia but not from china and thier is samll amount of chinese people in my class but they all get extremely good grades in math and I either envy or became jeleaous off them!!

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eric January 13, 2009 at 12:25 am

@usman:
hey guys i am from china , i am writting something on stereotype of china or chinese people, if there is information , can you share these with me thanks a lot , by the way ,if anyone wants to learn chinese , i am happy to do whatever i can do to help (i am majoring in teaching chinese

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Carrie May 3, 2009 at 7:23 pm

We are all universal beings. If you want to associate with any of your other identities that’s cool, but whatever you are, or want to be, you manifest it’s opposition. Don’t be afraid of that. Don’t be afraid of your shadow, have compassion for it. Opposites split from the same origin.

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Job June 19, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Chinese are stereotypically concerned about good grades. That’s why their parents save up for them to come to US universities to get the top grades in the spirit of racial chauvinism, economic competition, and insincere interest in a foreign culture. They study business and engineering, attempt to take American jobs, and live boring lives. One day the whole world will be Chinese with the same color hair and eyes, parents will literally beat the success into their children, wages will globally be $1 an hour, rivers will be filled with garbage, and most life will be a horrible struggle with no privacy whatsoever.

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Job Jr. November 10, 2009 at 9:05 am

@Job:
That’s ridiculous
sure most likely everyone will be mixed eventually with the whole Chinese characteristics in them
but those will be physical
no
no one will beat anyone, you seriously wrote a load of crap. You mixed up culture with genetics and you don’t can’t see the difference between social economic societies as well as cultures and what happens if they clash
despicable

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Yuting May 31, 2010 at 2:51 am

I was doing my research on American stereotypes of Chinese people and I found here.
I am Chinese and I will go to college in the US.
To be honest, really few ppl around me know Kungfu and stuff. Mostly the elderly learn it and perform in the morning in as a sport.
Also, math phy and chem are treated seriously compared to humanities. As the Chinese saying goes,”you will encounter no trouble going anywhere if you learn math phy and chem well”. And I am sure thats why students who do well in these subjects are considered “good students” while those who do humanities are considered not so good.(I am an example)
The driving thing is ridiculous. There are both good and terrible drivers in every country, simple.
Lastly, though you didnt mention, the Communist party did kind of “brainwashed” many ppl, through the media and textbooks. I’m not complaining abt that. Thats just what it is. I didnt know that history is what ppl tell it to be ,as opposed to “the fact written on the textbook” until I learned US history taught by an American prof. But you should note that sometimes it’s hard to control a country with such a huge population.
So, “while the govt has policies, we have solutions.”
Although the govt blocked facebook and youtube, we have softwares.
Not all of us are “brainwashed”. :-)

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Stacy August 6, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Ummm well I’m among the top 18 math students in my school, and am not necessarily the best driver :P . I don’t do Kung Fu, but I do karate :) lols…

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Michael Kwan August 8, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Man, funny how this old post still gets comments. Haha.

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Kent Chui September 17, 2010 at 1:56 pm

I am Chinese and although the stereotypes arent true for everyone, this stereotype is often more right then not. A study done at the University of Chicago shows the percentage of sexual satisfaction in countries. The bottom five countries were all asian and China was forth from the bottom. When I am driving frusterated I think in my head “he is either old or asian”. When I pull up beside this person, the majority of the time I am right which is yes, stereotyping. But when do you draw the line between stereotyping and it being reality? Me even thinking about this question worries me, and should worry fellow asians. In white majority places the majority of asians seem to be shy, nervous, and find other asians to hang out with and speak Chinese/Cantenese too. In a americanized area asians typically act these ways for some reason, maybe the stereotype has turned it into reality? So if you are making a group because you want to prove to everyone that your just like every other white boy there is no real point. Lets just put the glasses on, do math, go home and study and look at cell phones on the internet until we fall asleep!

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Jho December 9, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Right or wrong, stereotypes are reality. They evolve as the product of others’ perceptions and are honed and reinforced by collective behavior (in this discussion, the Chinese). It’s a form of evolution, I suppose. Personally, I try to resist adopting sterotypes, but even I confess to an image of Chinese as fitting the popular mold, with one especially unfortunate trait: They worship money.

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CHinaman December 13, 2010 at 7:26 am

Erm…We are awesome drivers…definitely better than the whites…stop making retarded stereotypes…stop being jealous

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Wanton Noodaw Soup January 13, 2011 at 12:41 am

Wah! Why you be so cruel to my grorious nation ah! We never ever be bad ddriver one!

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Network Recovery January 14, 2011 at 10:07 am

I don’t think driving well or not shouldn’t be related to culture. Most people seem to SUCK at it, except me, of course. ;)

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Kranji April 28, 2011 at 12:35 pm

I am Chinese, born in Indonesia. I spent 9 years in Shanghai, Hongkong and now live in Singapore.

I don’t drink, not a bit.
I am OK with math, I am a very good driver but I don’t do kung fu. And I don’t speak Chinese.

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mathematician from hell!!! December 29, 2011 at 6:00 am

isn’t there a stereotype about chinese people and pianos?

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Rent Textbooks Online January 2, 2012 at 10:30 am

I have a friend who’s family moved here when he was little from Korea and he calls himself a twinky instead of a banana. But He is super smart, has a degree in mathematics, can not handle his liquor, is really good with IT stuff and computers, and his parents own a dry cleaners. He is the epitome of the stereotype. And has no problem admitting it!

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