What Type of Asian Are You?

The ‘Family Tree’ is like a complicated mathematical problem—that cannot be solved using algebra.

Instead, the only way to see the full picture is in the form of diagrams. First, you draw yourself. Then, you add your father and mother just above you. If you know your uncle and aunt, draw them beside your parents. And if you still remember your grandparents, add them above your father and mother. Your end result should turn out something like to this:


Illustration by Akiradesigns

At this point, you are happy because the first few branches prove to be an easy task. But you start to hit a roadblock once you realize that your great, great grandparents never made history through World War I. And in an instant, everything you thought you could find out about your family line, vanishes.

Now what?

Well, if you’re anything like me, you’d probably go back to watching Gossip Girl on Netflix, because it is much easier to swoon over the irresistible Ed Westwick, who plays bad boy ‘Chuck Bass’. But even I know more about Chuck Bass’s family than I do, mine. And that was when my friend, Caryn, dropped the bomb for the very first time.

   “No, I mean, where are you really from?”

   “I live in Toronto.”

   “So you were born in Toronto?”

   “No, I was born in Singapore.” I said.

   “Oh! So your grandparents are Singaporeans!”

   “No, they’re from Calabasas, LA.”

The cruel truth is, if you are an Asian living anywhere apart from Asia, you’ve probably been asked this question, ‘where are you really from’, more than once. And of all the introductory questions I dread, this is at the top of my list because I never really know how to respond.

Do they want to know where I’m from as in where I live? Or do they want to know where I was born? My grandparents are from Calabasas, and my great grandparents are half Italian. But both of my parents are Singaporeans because they were born there. So what type of Asian, exactly, am I?

I’ve come to realize when people ask me this question, they don’t want to know the geographical co-ordinates of where I was born or raised. Instead, they want a breakdown on where my roots are, based on the color they see on my skin. They want to hear that I’m from a different country because I look different. I sound different. I act different. Of all the similarities that I possess along with anyone else, they are looking for that one-percent difference.

The distance between Singapore and Calabasas, LA might be 8,769 miles apart, but in reality, it is hardly that far when the blood of two generations, still runs through me.

Featured image by Crystallenia

What Type of Asian Are You?

One thought on “What Type of Asian Are You?

  1. I like how you pose the question of the question: Where are you really from? It’s not always the best question to ask someone based on their color or just because they look different. Not everyone knows their roots and not everyone wants to be defined by their roots. So I think this post brings up a really important question in life which is “how do we want to define ourselves?” I like how you explain the diagram of the family tree when trying to retrace your roots and how ultimately we don’t really know where we come from exactly since our ancestors are spread out. So instead of really delving back into the history to explain your background you should instead define yourself by what you really consider to be your roots even though it might not be. These stereotypes for what kind of asian asians are disrespectful. People assuming that you’re somewhere from Asia and not from somewhere else must be painful, and I understood this from your blog.


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