Appreciation of our own and other cultures is a great way to connect with people. But what if someone else’s knowledge of your culture is just stereotypes?
What if they push back when you try to correct them?
That’s the situation a 25-year-old woman found herself in recently. She turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback over her reaction.
The Redditor asked:
“AITA for telling my roommates girlfridnd (gf) that she’s not woke if she’s wrong?”
The Original Poster (OP) explained:
“Husband (28) & I (25) are ethnically Chinese from a southeast Asian (not China) country living overseas (not in southeast Asia). We rent a house with significant other’s college friend who moved his girlfriend (Anna) in during lockdown & she’s been with us ever since (with landlord’s permission & she pays her share of bills).”
“They’re not Asians, which matters.”
“Anna was initially nice, but started acting very weirdly a month after she moved in:”
“1. Telling significant other (SO) & I that we can practice our ‘real’ religion (which apparently is Buddhism, not Christianity even though SO & I come from Christian families). She even bought incense (which gives me migraines) & a random Buddha statue.”
“We politely explained to her that we’re not Buddhists, but she continued to insist & promised that she didn’t mind.”
“2. Telling SO & I that we can speak our ‘real’ language cause she overheard SO’s family talking to us in a mix of English & Cantonese. I explained to her that I can’t speak Cantonese (SO can) even though I can understand it.”
“She was, for some reason, really disappointed in me & said that I was throwing my heritage away. Plot twist: my own father is only comfortable speaking English.”
“3. Buying raw internal organs for SO & I to cook, even though we don’t eat those. I told her we don’t eat that (not our thing), & she was again disappointed.”
“She told us she read that there were lots of nice recipes & maybe we haven’t found the right one to remind us of home. SO told her he’s never eaten it ever in his life, & I’ve never liked it.”
“She was really upset, but had to toss it since no one was gonna eat it.”
“Chinese New Year (CNY) was when things got really really weird. She started ordering ‘decorations’.”
“I wouldn’t mind, but she had ordered hell notes (the ones burned for deceased ancestors). I immediately told her to stop pasting them all over the walls because they were weirding me out.”
“She ordered banners with SO & my name on it (some bastardisation of our legal English names) but they were written on white banners (again, for deceased people). I told her to please take it down.”
“She got upset (again), but then ordered kabuki masks. I told her that those masks were not Chinese, & she just snapped.”
“She started yelling at me that I should be helping her & not critiquing what she was doing.”
“I told her:”
“1. She never asked.”
“2. CNY is not a big deal to me, so I wasn’t planning on decorating but if she had asked, I would have helped.”
“3. She never asked.”
“I told her I don’t understand her fixation with us. She said she wanted to surprise me & SO, that we’ve been so ‘colonised’ we’ve forgotten our roots, & that we should be embracing our culture.”
“I told her it was a nice gesture, but she needs to stop forcing stereotypes down our throats. She could have just asked & she’s not being woke when she’s getting everything wrong.”
“She burst into tears & brought in her boyfriend. He understood where I was coming from, but thought I could have been nicer.”
“SO stands by me, & now things have been tense, but I’ve been tolerating this for awhile now & it was getting on my nerves.”
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided the OP was not the a**hole.
“NTA. Not woke? She’s straight up using racist stereotypes.”
“Ask her if she’d be buying you beans and a sombrero if you were Puerto Rican. Seriously though, she needs a frank talk about what racism is.”
“Since it needs to be said, yes, I know sombreros are Mexican and not Puerto Rican. I said this because OP received a Japanese Kabuki mask for a Chinese celebration.” ~ LMGooglyTFY
“And the roommate didn’t even answer the question of WHY.”
“It reminds me of my White friends randomly telling me happy Kwanza. ???? I’ve never celebrated it in almost 40 yeas of life.”
“All I know about Kwanza is from Futurama. Anyway, definitely NTA.” ~ propernice
“Exactly this, my fiancée is Chinese… But her parents are both from Canada. Her Father was born in Windsor and honestly might be more Canadian than me (jks, but maybe true, lol).”
“If someone was to start doing what SO’s friend did it would make my fiancée very uncomfortable.” ~ Apoque_Brathos
“NTA ‘…so colonised we’ve forgotten our roots & should be embracing our culture’.”
“If someone said that to me (I’m of Indian heritage, born and raised in the UK), I’d tell them to f’k off.”
“That’s personal to me, and so not something that a relative stranger gets to judge about me.” ~ SuperVillain85
The OP returned with an update.
“Whoa, I didn’t expect this post to get huge. Thanks for all the feedback & opinions, everyone (even the ones who think this is fake. I sincerely hope you never meet someone like Anna in your life).”
“Just some clarifications to clear the air:”
“Why did I write this post? I’ve faced many Anna’s in my life, but my comments about how it’s inappropriate has always been shut down (i.e., you’re too sensitive/ they’re just trying to be nice/ you’re not being welcoming) by others (in other similar situations).”
“It’s confusing/ distressing, but I feel like Anna really hit my limit & I wanted to make sure that I’m not TA.”
“Is Anna White? She’s of mixed heritage (Caucasian & African American).”
“I personally feel like it added another sensitive layer in this entire mix & indirectly goes back to the point above.”
“Did I talk to her about this entire thing? I moved out of southeast Asia to get rid of that ‘you’re not Chinese enough’ mentality (I faced that from my own countrymen multiple times) & I don’t celebrate Lunar New Year (thanks to those who recommended that term) outside of my home country for personal reasons (my family sucks & I don’t have good memories attached to that holiday).”
“I didn’t think I would need to justify/defend myself again. As for the separate incidences, not really (& that’s my fault).
“I just told her don’t do that again cause I don’t like it. I should have explained to her why & I accept responsibility for that.”
“How did she confuse kabuki masks & think hell notes were decoration? Based on what her boyfriend said, she went to some Chinese website that sells everything & the translation was whacky so she just thought it was all the same.”
“The entire organ meat incident: she didn’t expect me & SO to eat them raw. She expected SO & I to cook it cause she’s seen me cook some herbal soups before (none had organ meat though).”
“Hope that clarifies things for everyone!”
While OP could have been nicer—we can all always be nicer—earlier attempts to get through to Anna didn’t work.
Redditors recognized sometimes you just need to be honest when someone is being oblivious.