Not all Asians look the same…or do they?

“Konichiwa!” yelled some random guy as I walked down the street.  What a effing moron, I thought to myself.  Besides the fact that he was super crude and offensive, I am Chinese.  Not all Asians look the same, geez.

I mean, of all people we fobs should know, right?  I’ve traveled to and/or lived in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan…so I would consider myself somewhat of an expert in guessing which country an Asian is from. That is, I thought I was an expert until I came across this Asian Look-Alikes website, which tests your ability to guess where someone is from.

Soon enough, it became clear that I’m actually terrible at recognizing faces from different Asian countries.

But I found a loophole to this weird Asian-guessing game — if you keep clicking on China, your chances of guessing correctly are much higher.  Which makes sense, right?  One fifth of the world’s population is from China, so statistically speaking, the website’s database likely has way more people from China than from any other country.

Try it out for yourself — my tip works, right?

Want more of our thoughts on race and ethnicity?  Read about Suzie’s Fob Revelation on offensive Asian Halloween costumes, China’s “American Idol” show going racist, and our thoughts on Arizona’s racial profiling of anyone who looks like a fob.

(Thanks Frank!)

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  • K. Chi

    Actually, a psychology study was published about 2 weeks ago that helped explain the phenomenon of “all look the same” or “other race” effect: http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2010/11/understanding-the-other-race-effect.ars

    To be fair, I can’t tell the difference between someone who is German, Swiss, Canadian, or American. I also wouldn’t be able to differentiate between people from Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, or Tanzania. I think everyone suffers a little from the “all look the same” effect, not just Asians.

  • http://nikkeiview.com Gil Asakawa

    Hey Suzie, great post. Like you, I used to think I could tell Asians apart, then miserably flunk a test on the site http://alllooksame.com. Here’s the blog post I wrote about the topic:
    http://www.nikkeiview.com/blog/2006/12/19/do-we-all-look-the-same/

  • Sujan

    Lol… People think i am Latino or something and I don’t even get counted as Asian when i walk down the street.

  • Mimosa Lynch

    Wow, I did really badly at this game….LOL

  • Suzanne Leung

    @K.Chi – Thanks for the link to the article. Very interesting.

    @Gil – Love your post. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Navin Parekh

    Haha … the notion that all Asians look the same is just dumb. The clear answer is, they don’t. The term “Asian” has become one of the most misleading and incorrectly used labels in the entire world, a true testament to people’s ignorance.

    My father’s Indian, my mother Malay, from Penang. I was president of the Asian student body at university, and I speak Hindi, Malay, Korean, and Japanese. I’ve always referred to myself as Asian in school and among my friends, but like Sujan pointed out, when I walk down the street I never get counted as Asian. What’s more, when I meet new people and mention something about being Asian, I will sometimes get confused looks, hostility, or ignorant comments like “well you’re not ASIAN Asian though…”

    Frankly, it’s partially due to sites like the one above that ignorance continues to ebb and flow throughout the world about this issue. The truth is that Asia is an incredibly diverse continent. It’s true that certain Asian groups look similar to each other – East Asians (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) Southeast Asians (Thai, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos) South Asians (India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan). There is going to be overlap sometimes – sometimes a Vietnamese will look Chinese … I’ve seen Filipinos who look Indian, the Indian mizo people look more like southeast asians, etc. Most can usually tell their people apart – a Korean would NEVER mistake a Filipino for being Korean, for instance. The similarities in their features aren’t close enough. Culturally though a lot of Asians share commonalities – family & education as a priority, group harmony over individualistic success, etc. This is despite their physical appearance.

    I’ve educated people about this every now and then and have been met with disbelief or hostility. I’ve come to realize that people WANT to stereotype. They WANT to put people in a box and if they’re unable to do that they become irritated or flustered. One example was when I recently hung out with a group of people including a few Chinese friends and a Filipino guy who I met for the first time. When the conversation shifted to family customs and I made a comment about my family being different from my friend’s family, the Filipino offered “well cuz you’re not Asian … you know” as an explanation. I was confused by the ignorance of the comment. As if Filipino families have more in common with Chinese families than Indian families do. Absolute nonsense. But I just dropped the subject … I try to avoid arguing with fools ^^

    Sorry for the long rant, but the short of it is, all Asians don’t look the same, and perpetuating the stereotype that they do only encourages more ignorance about the reality of the Asian diaspora and Asian heritage. Despite differences in physical appearance most Asians share cultural commonalities and if you do the research, you’ll find that we’re cut from a similar gene pool with shorter genetic distance, despite physical dissimilarities. Websites should stop perpetuating stereotypes that make it ‘easy’ for people to put others in a box / category, and actually tell the truth.

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  • Brittany

    Can’t be as upset as when I did. A Taiwanese guy calling me Korean. I’m Chinese for Pete’s sake.

  • Brittany

    I’m a southern chinese although I guess it’s hard to tell. I’m a bit tall and very fair with a bridged nose. God knows how genes work. Ugh