Do you recall the first time you stepped into an international business reception at a major hotel and found yourself amidst a sea of Asian faces? If so, you may also have noticed a diversity of Asian cultures and conversations in some incomprehensible languages: Cantonese Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, and perhaps others. If you have been put off when people in your presence have spoken a language other than English, you are not alone.
When they first came to America, my parents, now Asian Americans, lived in a cramped apartment, first in New York, and then in Boston. My father likes to recount stories of how he would have to make multiple treks in the middle of New England snowstorms to buy diapers because they didn’t have enough money for bus fare.
ASIAN AMERICANS IN THE USA
Asian Americans comprise about 5.6% of the United States. Among them, the Chinese Americans, with 3.79 million—constitute the largest Asian ethnic group in the U.S. Most of them arrived at this country in three separate immigration waves, each characterized by its own set of reasons for migration.
The first wave took place during the Gold Rush in California as part of the 1800s immigration wave. The Chinese immigrants were primarily laborers from Southeast China. Some came voluntarily with the intention of returning to their home village with wealth and prestige; others were kidnapped and bought as Asian slaves. This article will follow the story of Chinese Americans and the challenges they still face.
There has been a recent and burgeoning trend towards materialism in Chinese cultures, perhaps coinciding with recent economic booms. I witness this anecdotally whenever I walk down 5th Avenue in Manhattan and see a disproportionate number of Chinese people outside luxury retail stores. After perusing through some studies, I confirmed my intuitions and discovered that 68% of people from Chinese feel a lot of pressure to be successful and make money and that 71% of people from China are most likely to measure their success by what they own. Both of these numbers are the highest among all countries surveyed. Chinese consumers have now overtaken Americans to become the world’s largest buyers of personal luxury items.
To many of us, the idea of using two sticks with one hand to pick up a piece of chicken or vegetable from a plate or bowl and putting that same piece of chicken or vegetable into our mouth without dropping it is beyond one’s imagination. However, this is what one out of every five people in the world does at mealtime on a daily basis. These people with such dexterity with chopsticks live in what we call “chopsticks nations” such as China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.