Why I started writing Asian stories for a mainstream audience
Two years ago, I had the worst dating experience with an Austrian man.
We met while staying at a backpacker’s lodge on Christmas Eve. He seemed fascinated about history, especially Chinese history. The more ancient it was, the better. We got to talking, and surprisingly, I found it really easy to open up to him.
We caught up a few times afterwards at his place, and that’s when I began noticing things, niggly things that started bothering me.
My point of view
We’d order takeaway online and instead of offering to come to the store with me, he’d sit on his couch and wait for me to pick it up.
It was raining that day and I wasn’t too familiar with the area, so I got a bit lost in the rain while walking from my car to the store. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling and made me feel like I wasn’t worth his time, especially since we were just getting to know each other.
When I brought this up with him, he told me that it was such a petty thing to bring up, that if I really wanted him to come, then I could’ve just asked.
I found this to be really weird. I’m pretty sure that there is an unspoken rule of hospitality, that the host is responsible for serving food to the guest, and not the other way round.
Maybe the rules of hospitality don’t apply when you’re dating. But why would you treat someone you’re dating worse than the way you would treat a guest?
This honestly perplexed me. I asked him what his previous girlfriends had thought about his hospitality, and he said that they didn’t care. If they wanted him to come, they’d ask. If they didn’t ask, he didn’t come. He made it seem as though his actions were totally normal.
This is completely opposite to the kinds of relationships I have seen growing up. At home, if my mum is washing the dishes or cooking food, my dad will make a huge fuss about it, and tell her to sit down while he takes over. This goes with all of my family members and their friends. They all take the initiative and go out of their own way to make the other person feel comfortable, no matter how many years they have been in a relationship for, no matter what mood they are in.
Anyway, that was one of the many small incidences that left him thinking I was really high maintenance.
His point of view
One time, I went over to his place to say goodbye to him before he went on holiday to visit his parents.
At the time, I was still living with my parents, so I couldn’t stay out too late. I was worried about waking them up if I snuck in at odd hours of the evening. Also, I knew that they would be worried sick if I didn’t come home before they went to bed.
So I didn’t stay at his place for too long. I left at around 10pm and didn’t think too much of it. At the time, I thought it was perfectly normal.
But the next day, I found it odd that he hadn’t texted me back. He was leaving to go to the airport and it was just strange that he hadn’t even bothered to text me goodbye.
When I checked in with him, he was honestly surprised. He thought that because I had left so early, that I hadn’t enjoyed his company and didn’t want to hang out with him anymore.
I tried to explain to him that that wasn’t the case. That I had my own reasons for going home earlier, none of which had anything to do with him. This made him feel a lot better, but by then I had started seeing a pattern; our differences was causing a lot of unnecessary heartaches and misunderstandings.
When he came back from his holiday, I tried to have more conversations around our differences, but at the time, he was always tired from work and didn’t bother talking or listening. That created a domino effect where I would get annoyed at him for not listening, and then he would shut down even more because I was nagging him.
There were other things that he said and did during this time that was culturally insensitive. I won’t write them down because they were quite personal. But I ended up getting extremely upset over it. The whole relationship began revolving around me getting upset everytime I was around him. And I couldn’t be my normal self around him anymore.
As time went by, I realised that his fascination with Asian culture, was purely on a surface-level. He’d say that he wanted to go to China to learn about the history, talk to the locals, but it seemed as though if he wanted an Asian girlfriend, she would have to adhere to Western standards.
He didn’t want to learn about the way I thought or how my culture affected the way I thought, or where my frustrations came from.
I didn’t think that was fair.
Being born in China and raised in New Zealand, I know the nuances of both a Western and an Eastern culture. I understand where someone is coming from even if they may not understand where I’m coming from. Because I have both of these perspectives ingrained in me, I know how to bridge the gap between the two when I need to, and I embrace both sides, which makes me a unique person to get to know.
But back then, I didn’t have the words to explain myself. How can you possibly explain a thought process that’s deeply rooted in your culture when you’re angry, on edge or the other person simply just doesn’t want to listen?
It angers me and breaks my heart knowing that I didn’t have the words to speak out.
So now, when I write stories, I write about Asian characters, Asian strengths and the beauty of Asian culture in the hopes that other people who read these stories can better understand our actions, our thoughts, our difficulties, and care to listen to our side, when differences arise.