So the other day I went to get 2 suits tailored before I head off to Japan. I checked Yahoo Yellow Pages, and called the three tailors closest to my house. One sounded like a Russian lady, one sounded Chinese, and the last was a somewhat creepy-sounding old man. Since I was afraid the old man would want to test my inseam a bit too personally, I decided to head to the second place I called. It was right off Gravois, in the back lower part of this building that looks like it used to be a house. I walk in, and to my surprise there was a waiting-room type area, complete with a TV and everything. For some reason, I wasn’t expecting a waiting room. But anyways, the back part of the shop looked more like a basement filled with sewing machines and clothes racks, as expected. There was one girl sitting working, and then an older-looking Asian lady, the owner I suppose, comes over and tells me to put the suits on so they can measure them. Right after I get out of the changing room, I was asked the standard question. I think this is some kind of universal question to Asians living in America, thought of and almost always asked when encountering another Asian that you don’t already know. Like a secret handshake.
“So where are you from?”
No, the answer to this question is never something like “I’m from St. Louis.” She is of course inquiring as to what part of Asia I’m from ancestrally. No, this isn’t rude or anything. We always want to know. We always wonder. Even if you’re not planning on speaking with the other person, let along starting a conversation in an Asian language, this question tends to be based on one of the first curiosities we Asians have when encountering another from that region of the world. Although sometimes you can tell just by looking, even when you’re walking past some other Asian at the store, you think to yourself “I think that guy’s Chinese” or “maybe he’s Korean?” Do any other types of people do this? I can’t imagine white people asking each other what part of the world they’re from. Maybe European tourists do this within Europe. Well?
Anyways, the lady was half Chinese and half Vietnamese. She was born over in Vietnam, while I’m third generation Chinese. She spoke Mandarn dialect Chinese and Vietnamese, while my Cantonese language ability can be best described as “retarded 5-year old with a forked tongue.” Luckily she didn’t speak Cantonese, otherwise I would have been forced to make myself look like an idiot. But anyways, I suppose this is a somewhat interesting phenomenon among Asians. Do non-Asians wonder this kind of thing when they see Asians?