- January
Posted By : talkingofchinese
Funny/awkward things about travelling as an AMWF couple

It started at the airport.

My Chinese fiance Peter was waved through security with the elderly Asian couple in front of us with me running along behind bleating something like “excuse me, that is my fiance and they are not his parents!”

This type of thing happens to us a lot (once, Peter had just finished getting a haircut and came over to me to get some change to pay – the elderly Asian man sitting next to me stood up and reached for his wallet, obviously assuming this total stranger must be talking to him because he couldn’t possibly be talking to the random white girl!)

The list:

1. People (usually white) assuming Peter doesn’t speak English (his English is more occa than mine).

I still laugh when I think about the white guy who came up to him when we were waiting for a bus in Japan and asked him reeealllly slllooowwwly if this was the bus stop.

Peter just nodded and it wasn’t until later that we wondered why the guy was speaking so slowly and realised the missed opportunity of being able to shock him with a “yeah, sure is mate”.


2. People (usually Japanese but also other nationalities) mistaking Peter as Japanese.

We have spent a lot of time in Japan and, particularly when we are in more remote areas where English isn’t as widely spoken the interaction (whether it is with a shop assistant or a policeman) goes down the same way.

They see my (very obviously foreign face) and look slightly concerned about the impending interaction, this changes to relief when they see Peter’s (“Japanese”) face and then quickly to confusion when they realise he doesn’t speak Japanese.

It’s then usually left up to me to explain that he is Chinese. To which many Japanese people respond “but he looks so Japanese” and one (no doubt extremely intelligent) white guy said “no, he’s definitely Japanese”.

Once, after coming out of a Japanese onsen Peter laughingly told me how he had put some snow on his head because he was hot and some white guys who were also in the hot spring said “that Japanese guy is putting snow on his head, that must be the traditional Japanese thing to do” and proceeded to put handfuls of snow on their heads.

3. Watching people re-arrange their face when they hear Peter speak Spanish with an Argentinian accent (he moved from China to Argentina as a child before coming to Australia).

I remember someone once saying something along the lines of “so let me get this straight – you’re Asian, but your name is Peter and you speak Spanish and you are with an Australian chick who has a weird ‘Asian sounding’ name but who isn’t Asian and doesn’t speak Spanish”. I’m almost confused after that.

Confused gaijins – except just one of us looks foreign!

UPDATE: we are proud to announce we are now booking.com famous!


If you ever happen to be in Myoko you should definitely stay with our unofficial Japanese mum and dad and their adorable dog!

As well as being incredibly warm and friendly hosts Tomiko’s cooking is second to none 🙂



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  • Ha, Andy gets mistaken for Hawaiian — thanks to his “University of Hawaii” hoodies and height — quite a bit. Mostly by shorter Asians and white people who’ve never been to Hawaii.

    But he also gets mistaken for Mexican by Latinos.

    And I mistook him for Middle Eastern thanks to his full, bushy beard the first time I saw him.

    People project, other than observe.

    • You are right – people definitely project rather than observe! I also think context plays a big role – Peter has also been mistaken as Korean but that was in a context where him being Korean made more sense. I agree that having a beard also seems to make a difference – we were in Hong Kong recently and a local woman said to him “your Chinese is so good!” He thinks she thought he didn’t look Chinese because of his beard!

  • The world is becoming so international these days it’s tough to know who speaks what and is from where just by looking at them. Especially people like your fiance who has such an international background!

    People always assume I’m from China when I speak Chinese, from the US when I speak English, and from Japan when I remain silent. Here’s to confusing people daily!

    • Haha it sounds like you have had very similar experiences to my fiance – if you were speaking to him on the phone in either English, Chinese or Spanish you would assume he is a native speaker of whichever language he is speaking. It’s funny that people also assume you are Japanese – I’m not sure why people assume Japanese rather than Chinese.

      I worked in a sushi restaurant for a short time once and (understandably, given the context) everyone always assumed that the other people working there were Japanese (I was the only white person) but in fact none of them were! They were Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese!

  • I have to say, he does look Japanese to me 😀

    I have a (Spanish, blonde, blue eyes) friend who is married to a Filipino guy and they live in the Philippines. People would just assume he is her driver… And once, a kid in the street asked her: “Are you American?”, she said no and then he said: “Then you must be Korean”, because in that city most foreigners are American or Korean xD

  • Awwww that place on booking.com looks so cute!!!! I definitely need to go! Myoko–my old stomping ground! (Niigata is basically my 2nd home).

    I haven’t traveled to Asia yet with my Chinese boyfriend, but we are planning a trip to Japan in May. I told him to prepare himself for Japanese people talking to him in rapid fire Japanese, haha.

    Interesting post!

    • You should definitely stay there! I honestly can’t say enough good things about the old couple who run it – I would go there just to hang out with them and eat the wonderful food the wife makes 🙂

      Haha I’d be interested to hear how your Chinese boyfriend goes with the rapid fire Japanese, you speak fluent Japanese though right so that will make things easier!

  • China is such a big place that Chinese from the Northeast might be mistaken for Korean or Japanese. Those from the South share similar looks to Southeast Asians (e.g. Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian, etc). Then those from the West have similar features as Tibetans & Central Asians.

    • Good point. I think it can be hard to get your head around just how big China is and the vast differences between the different areas. The incredible number of dialects (and the fact that they are mostly mutually unintelligible) really amazes me.

  • “excuse me, that is my fiance and they are not his parents!”

    Haha, this is hilarious!

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