October 10, 2016
I think the biggest cultural shock I’ve experienced so far is regarding people’s reaction to me being a Chinese. I didn’t learn to appreciate America’s diversity and all these talks about stereotypes until I came to Brazil. Last week, when I went to a family barbecue, a woman told me I am very beautiful. Of course I was very flattered, but what she did next made me highly uncomfortable and upset. She put her fingers next to her eyes and stretched them, then said, “Olhos (eyes), bonita.” To be honest, I was very horrified. I couldn’t imagine anyone doing this to me in America. I was very upset and during the rest of the barbecue, I kept seeing a man stretching his eyes to mimic eyes of Asians and I kept hearing “Chinesa, Chinesa” but I couldn’t understand what people were saying.
Last night, I finally got a chance to talk to my host dad about stereotypes and racism in Brazil. He was very shocked when I said Brazilians don’t seem to be very friendly to Asians. Due to my limited Portuguese, it was very hard for us to have a deep conversation like this, but I was still able to get my point across. I couldn’t really understand what my host dad was talking about, but he was saying something along the line of, “People are not racist here. They are just curious about China and when they talk about Asian eyes, they mean it as a compliment. Racism is not a big problem in Brazil. Interracial marriage is extremely common here.” It was a concept very hard for me to grasp because something like that is clearly stereotyping. Having lived in the United States, I’ve been so used to being sensitive when it comes to racism and stereotyping. Therefore, I am having some trouble adjusting right now, but I am definitely trying my best to follow GCY’s saying – “curiosity before judgement.”