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!)
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.
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 🙂