April 10, 2014

Unlocking the great unknown

The West as a whole doesn't distinguish between Asians. I can comfortably say this after years of hearing Westerners' clueless ignorant statements.

In the US, we know of two Asian nations, China and Japan. China is in the American psyche because for the past 10 years, everything we own was made there. There is also a media bias to spreading fear about China as a currency manipulator, a future competitor to global dominance, and as a trickster nation not to be trusted. This is how the media in the US presents China.

The perspective of Japan is vastly different and is not seen as a threat. They are the makers of manga (Japanese comic books), sushi, and cosplay (in which people dress up in cartoon character costumes).

Outside of these two countries, almost nothing is known of Asia. Americans have a vague idea of North Korea as the current day USSR who require us to be suspicious due to the possibility that they launch nuclear warheads at Los Angeles at any given moment.

In the most cultured parts of the US, Thai curry is a thing, and if you're lucky, you may even have an Asian friend, though its dubious whether you're certain which country their family immigrated from. I am an unabashed Asiaphile. I call myself an American-Asian in that I don't intend to spend my life in the country where I was born, but rather in Asia. The culture of my family feels foreign and has for years.

My English morphs depending on the listener and I find myself using phrases that no American in their right mind would use. When low-level English speakers say to me that I'm the one of the only English speakers that they can understand, I explain that I speak International English, though the truth is that I simply speak in their culture and subconsciously choose subject matter and vocabulary that translate well to their life experience.

Intercultural communication is a matter of exposure and acceptance of another culture. This is the secret to opening the door to the rest of the world.

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