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Dear South Africans, I am from the Philippines not China — and other stereotypes I want to set straight

by: Abigail Javier - 28 October 2015

Filipino South African

Every now and then I get reminded of how different I am from many South Africans – despite the fact that I am South African and have been living here for over 20 years, pretty much all my life. So, yes, I am Asian, but I am not from China as many locals assume just because of the way I look. And while I’m at it, here are more annoying stereotypes South Africans have about me.

Not everyone who is Asian is from China

How would you like it if I went around shouting in the open street, “Hey Zulu!”, “Hey Afrikaner!” or “Can you speak African?” Just because I’m Asian, doesn’t mean I’m from China; my family is from the Philippines, big difference (about 3,101 km).

We don’t all eat dogs

“So, like, should I keep my dogs away from you, ‘cause you eat dogs, right?’” said a stranger I met in university. Just because a small percentage of my people like to indulge in this weird delicacy, does not mean the rest of us Filipinos do, too. #DogLoverNoDogEater

Filipinos do not have “Asian” names

In chemistry class, there were two girls left who didn’t receive their papers back: me and a white girl named Megan Lee. When the tutor called out our names, he automatically gave me Lee’s paper. When I insisted that the other paper was mine, he looked puzzled- somewhat alarmed, and continued to shove the other girl’s paper in my hand as if I was the one mistaken. Like, dude. I’m pretty sure I know what my own name is.

I’m not a Kung-fu master

But I won’t hesitate to show you my aiming ability, by throwing my shoe at you if you ask me one more time to show you some karate moves.

Not all Filipinos look the same

We’re a difficult race to tell apart as the Spanish, the Chinese and other colonisers married into our ancestry. Even my own people think that I’m not one of them. During a cultural festival, my fellow men at the Filipino stall were astonished when I greeted them in vernac. “I thought you were Chinese,” said the one guy. *Takes off other shoe from previous stereotype and throws it at the guy*

And yes, I am really from South Africa

Please stop asking where I am “really” from. I grew up in Mahikeng, back when it was still under Bophuthatswana. My grandparents moved here from the Philippines many years ago. So if you ask me the right question, you might end up learning more about the Filipino heritage we have in South Africa.

Got more Asian stereotypes, you want me to set straight? Ask me on Twitter.