Others see me as more Asian than I do

One of the perks of being part of the Quatuor Bozzini is being able to present music in many different countries. After concerts we love having conversations with audience members, often with a beer or wine in hand.

What kind of Asian….

For some people their first question is, « Where do you come from? » and I proudly answer, « Canada! »
« Oh, where? »
« From Montreal. »
« And before that? »
« I was born and raised in Alberta, which is a ways west from Montreal! »
« Hm. » Audience member still has a disconcerted face, and I hear a silent « Where do you REALLY come from? » hanging in the air.
Before things get too awkward, I explain, « My parents immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada to study at university and stayed afterward to raise their family. »
« I see. »

Yes, I see, too. These conversations often die quickly because others just wanted to put me in a box of « What kind of Asian. » Moreover, it’s not like they would share a personal immigrant story to build common ground.

Could we not converse about the musical moment that we had shared during the concert? Or why they were curious to attend?

Sorry I don’t speak…

A couple of times in Europe, I was the first in the quartet to be approached by some Chinese ex-pats who had moved to study or work. They tried speaking to me in Mandarin, but I apologized, « 我不说普通话 » [« I don’t speak Mandarin,« ] the only useful Mandarin phrase I know. I suppose they were trying to find common ground and generate conversation, but my lack of fluency in Chinese and my weak ties with my parents’ homeland would also curtail these chats.

Not exotic in Asia…

Back in 2002, I was part of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada Asian tour. I remember one particular meet-and-greet session where we were supposed to give Canada flag pins to members of a Japanese youth orchestra. I was quite excited to have this cultural exchange until I realized that most of the Asian girls were crowding around and giggling with one of the violists: he was tall, blond, and they thought he looked like David Beckham (um….he really didn’t look like Beckham, but that’s besides the point). Meanwhile, I stood awkwardly holding my Canada pins, knowing that I wasn’t as outwardly ‘exotic’ as my Caucasian compatriots. « I’m from Canada, too! » I pleaded silently.

So as a second-generation Chinese who loves classical and western music, sometimes I’m confronted with the apparent incongruence between my ethnic background and my musical background, or that some people seem more fixated on my external appearance than any of my other attributes. I imagine there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people with similar experiences, and my small hope is that we can have more meaningful post-concert conversations instead of superficial comments or interactions based on race alone.

More intercultural thoughts to come in this blog….

Alissa Cheung

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse e-mail ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *

Revenir en haut de page