Wednesday, May 28, 2008

yellow-tinted glasses

OK, so I know that I complained that Switzerland (and Europe in general) weren't diverse enough, after living in New York and going to school in Cambridge, but San Francisco is at the other extreme. I find myself staring at all of the Asian people as if I had never seen an Asian person before (except for in the mirror every morning). At work, most of my group is Asian, which would seem more normal if we were programmers, but we're all lawyers! I guess there are just so many Asian people in the area, and they have to work somewhere, so why not with me?

The other weird thing is that there are Asian people doing things that I'm not used to seeing Asian people do. I grew up in Delaware, where the Asian population is a small minority, but they are all there for highly skilled professional positions - they are engineers at DuPont or researchers at one of the pharmaceutical companies. Their kids all get straight A's and want to go to Harvard or Yale. Then at Harvard, well, all of the Asian people go to Harvard. Duh. In New York, the Asian people I met were my classmates at Columbia, or lawyers at my firm, or they were the doctor or banker colleagues of my doctor and banker friends.

Zurich was a big shift in perspective - instead of seeing only highly educated, successful Asians, I saw mostly souvenir brides - underprivileged, undereducated women who married Swiss guys who for some reason or other weren't able to get the domestic product. Oh, and then there were the restaurant workers (every place needs random Asian people working in random quasi-Chinese restaurants) and the "exotic dancers."

So I'm used to seeing Asian people at the top and bottom of the ladder, but in San Francisco, there are just so many of them (us?) that they (we?) take up space on the entire ladder. There are Asians who drive buses and deliver the mail. There are Asian receptionists and cafeteria workers. There are Asian policemen and security guards. It's so odd. I mean, obviously in Asia, Asians do those things, because otherwise there would be countries made up of nothing but doctors, lawyers, waiters, and prostitutes, but I'm just not used to Asians who have emigrated and end up doing really mundane things.

And they're doing them everywhere. All over the place. Where are all the white people hiding??

P.S. I bought pants and found my way to the office. So not only did I make it to work the first day, I even did so while wearing pants. Woot!


Anonymous said...

Heh welcome to my world in which Asians are everywhere... and have been the majority my entire life (Shanghai? Los Angeles? La Jolla?)... it's kind of cool. I sometimes don't relate well to white people.

t. said...

hello, new blog!

now that i've been living in japan, everytime i go home i'm all wide-eyed, wonder and awe at all the asians AND non-asians doing everything, everywhere.

see sea said...

Do you feel more or less comfortable with all these Asians around? When I'm in Asia (and I guess to a certain extent CA), I really like the feeling of being part of the majority - I guess because it's such a novelty.