I’ll never be ethnically Chinese. It’s just not going to happen.
Despite this, I feel Chinese (as weird as that sounds). I was so accepted and integrated during my time in China, I felt like one of their own. Sure, my proverbs sucked. Yeah, I couldn’t read all the Chinese characters. Still, I was invited to almost any and every outing, and many of my Chinese friends treated me like family. I hung out with the locals like I was their neighbor, and they treated me as such. Thanks to the kindness and passion of my friends in China, I felt like I truly discovered what it means to live and understand China.
After living in China for five years (and now living with a Chinese boyfriend), I picked up a few Chinese habits. When I found myself using chopsticks instead of a fork, listening to Wang Lee Hom instead of Maroon 5, and screaming ‘aiya’ every time I was frustrated with someone, I knew it happened.
So, You Know You’ve Turned Chinese When…
You make sure all of your meals have the mighty four
Unless all four of these dishes are present, I feel empty. Like a part of my soul is missing.
When I first moved back to the states, I was constantly served carbs, carbs, and more carbs (pasta with mashed potatoes anyone?). When I asked where the vegetables were, my white friends piled the salad on me thick (by the way, Chinese people hardly eat salad–they consider it ‘raw’ and ‘uncooked’ and thus inedible).
In China, having a balanced meal is crucial. Stir fried vegetables. At least one dish with meat in it. Rice or noodles to match (and heaven forbid, don’t eat rice and noodles at the same time). While soup can’t always be done, it’s better to have to ‘whet’ the meal.
Able to Make Stir Fried Egg and Tomato (番茄炒鸡蛋）
In America when we first leave the nest, our first dish straight into college usually involves pasta with a jar of Prego.
In China, most young adults learn how to make the famous stir fried egg and tomato.
It sounds simple: Eggs. Tomato. That’s it.
But oh, it’s more than that. It’s a glorious mix of sugar, soy sauce, fluffy eggs and moist and tender tomatoes. Deceptive in name, this dish can actually be tricky. Use a recipe at first.
Other famous egg dishes include eggs with leeks (韭菜炒鸡蛋）and eggs with carrots (或萝卜炒鸡蛋). Again, use a recipe at first.
The first few hundred times I made fried eggs and tomato, Z said she could taste the American in it. Even when she stood by my side and watched me make it, she could only say, “this was made by a white woman. No doubt.”
On the 300th try, she finally gave me the thumbs up. She said it was somewhat passable under Chinese standards.
The Bed is Sacred
If I crawl into bed with my jeans on, Richard will scream bloody murder.
When I used to lie on top of the sheets (not tucked inside) wearing anything but my pajamas, Richard would sweat bullets. You could tell he was trying his hardest not to push me off the bed.
Z, unable to endure like Richard, actually pushed me off her bed when I casually sat on her bed wearing my jeans and t-shirt.
“Your clothes are dirty!” she cried. “Not on the bed…! Not on the bed…!!”
Since then, I am careful not to wear ANYTHING but pajamas under and on our bed sheets.
You Make Chinese Noises
I say this. To people who know nothing about China. It needs to stop.
You Argue With Friends and Family About Treating Dinner
“I’ll get it!” I scream as Z shoves her credit card at the waitress
“Dammit, woman, I’m treating!” I snap the card out of the server’s hand.
“No, STOP!” Z tackles me, pries her credit card from my hands and throws it at the server as she holds me down.
I lose and accept defeat. But there’s always next time.
While splitting the bill (AA, as called in Chinese) is more commonplace among young people, it’s still very customary to treat friends and family to meals and start a mental tab on who should pay for whose dinner. Surprisingly, it all works out and no one usually gets the shaft.
When You’re Sick, You Want Congee. Stat.
Soup doesn’t cut it anymore. You need congee (粥), that glorious bowl of rice soup. Preferably with quail eggs.
Oh, how I miss my special congee shop down the street that delivered right to my door (despite living virtually next door). Now I have to settle for Campbell’s Chicken Noodle.
You’ve bought and worn a fugly down feather coat 羽绒服
China gets really, hell-freezing cold. And there’s only one solution.
A down feather coat. A fugly one.
Most down feather coats in China look ghastly–but you’re so cold, you don’t care. Mine was neon pink and could stop traffic with its colors. It was not pretty–but boy, was it warm.
You have WeChat on your phone (and QQ music and Dazhongdianping and every other Chinese app) and use Chinese versions of Western media (youku, tudou, etc…)
Despite living in the USA, I still use Wechat and QQ everyday. I miss Xiami (the Chinese equivalent of Spotify, which is blocked here). I still watch Chinese videos on Tudou (the Chinese youtube).
You worry about hot and cold things
Basically, you know you’re Chinese when you drink hot water on a regular basis. From a clear, glass cup. And at restaurants.
And you stop using ice in mass quantities.
And you start thinking maybe your stomach ache is from all that ice cream you ate, which misaligned the temperature and chi in your body.
Or maybe not.
You not only learned to enjoy karaoke, but you’ve sang this song:
You’re not only forced to go to KTV, but you realize–by god–I think I like it! You become addicted. You start memorizing songs, Chinese and English. Bon Jovi, Journey, Wang Lee Hom, S.H.E… you give it all you’ve got in the booth.
And then, there’s the final test to being accepted into Chinese culture (and tossing all your pride out the window).
It’s singing this song at KTV.
The minzu feng song.
Did you pick up any habits from your time in China or your Chinese partner? Why do you think you’re turning Chinese?