Monday, April 4, 2011

Minority Report

I don't remember enough about the movie to recall what the title referred to, but it came to mind as I thought about this post.

Living abroad gives you a good dose of being a minority and changes your perspective.

A white, middle-class female growing up in the U.S. is pretty standard.  I think we only had a handful of non-Caucasian students at my school (K-12) growing up.  College brought on more diversity, but more so between those who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago v. rural Illinois (and no Bloomington-Normal is not rural).  I studied abroad in Spain at an international school.  I was only there four months and I went over with other Americans.  Needless to say, while we did intermingle with locals and other foreign students, we also spent a lot of time together.

Moving to Asia by oneself has been very different.  I especially notice it when travelling outside of Singapore.  On my trips, I will play a little game with myself to count the white people - and harder yet, count the white women.  There aren't always very many.  When I go to India and see another woman, especially near my age, I'm always intrigued by why she might be there.  I play that game too, "Why are you travelling?"

I've gotten use to it for the most part but am reminded every now and then.  When my Mom and brother visited, they reminded me how many eyes were watching us.  That's something that I don't take in any more, but people here stare.  Outright stare.  It is not rude here, but maybe a little weird for us Americans ;).

I've felt it on the bus too.  There are two rows of seats, each with a window and aisle (2x2).  Say all the window seats are taken (one being me the others being various types of Asians) but the aisle seats are free.  I will be the last option for someone to sit next to.  When they sit, they hang half off the seat into the aisle.  Not sure if they think I'm that fat, maybe I'm smelly...or what? And sometimes, as soon as another seat becomes available, they up and move, "Bye-bye white person".

I don't really take offense to it, I am just more aware of it now.  And I believe it will make me more aware when I return home.  I can also understand the need to talk to and hang with people of your same origin.  I get very excited to talk to another American when I haven't for a while and even more so if they are from Illinois or near where I live.

Hopefully this post doesn't come across the wrong way.  Nothing bad has happened and I don't feel discriminated against, you just become much more aware of yourself and how you fit in with the larger population.  I think it's a great lesson to be learned / experience to have for us folk who have largely been in the majority during our lives.


  1. We feel the exact same way here. Although the bus situation doesn't happen as much; it seems they like being near us, taking our pictures (especially Quinn's), trying to talk to us, etc.

    We do the same thing though when we see another white person where we live (not so much in the center of Beijing, but where we live, they are much less common). I feel like we're just as bad as the locals b/c we stare and try to figure out, "Who are you?" We feel like we should know them just b/c they are outsiders too.