Category Archives: Race & Culture

A Catalan in Berlin

Catalans are notorious for being a stingy bunch. I’m not making this up – just ask any Spaniard or even Catalan and they will nod in agreement with a chuckle.

Living in New York, as a girl, I was spoiled by free alcohol that seemed to be readily available to me and in excess at bars and clubs. When I moved to Barcelona, I quickly learned to adjust my expectations for receiving free drinks. The economy was in the tanks so people frankly did not have much disposable income. That, coupled with the stinginess of the Catalans, made sure that I never once received a free drink from a stranger my whole year living in Barcelona.

In fact, the Catalans took it one step further – I’ve even been solicited for free drinks in Barcelona.

At the Elrow party, a Catalan guy asked me for a sip of my mojito. I handed him my cup, because, well, I’m a nice person. And also I had him lend me his nose in exchange.

But I did feel a bit like a clown myself after he took a HUGE sip from my drink and I was left with pretty much just ice. Ah, well, at least I got a cool pic out of it…

A month later, at Pacha Barcelona, when my college/NYC friend Jeff and his then-girlfriend were visiting, he bought a table given the low price of table service relative to in the City. That’s when I experienced what it was like to be on the other side of the velvet rope in NYC as a guy.

Soon after we sat down, a guy approached me from the dance floor. I was sitting on the elevated VIP veranda and even though the section was separated partially by a waist-high glass partition, he started chatting me up and giving me attention.

After a couple minutes, Jeff invited him up to join us so he drank with us for free for awhile.

Then he bounced. That’s when it dawned on me: This is what guys feel like when girls chat them up in order to drink for free… And then leave! I was used!

I hope no one takes offense from this piece. I lived in Barcelona long enough to find this quality of theirs to be endearing, and of course stereotypes definitely don’t apply to everyone. My best Catalan friend Ismael is one of the most generous and genuine people I know. I’m writing this piece in good spirits and to poke fun at stereotypes that sometimes turn out to be true. With that said, I do have one last incident for you.

My best facepalm moment dealing with Catalan men and their frugality was when I was at the legendary Berlin club, Berghain, in the summer of 2015.

Up in the Panorama Bar (the upper floor room in Berghain playing minimal techno), I was approached by this Catalan guy. We chatted for a bit and got along quite well due to my Catalan connection. He asked if I wanted a drink, which I graciously accepted (“omg! Is a Catalan guy really buying me a drink?”).

We went to the bar and he placed our orders.

As the bartender was getting our drinks, he reached into his pocket and produced two one euro coins.

Unabashedly, he turned to me: “Do you have some money? I think the drinks are four euros each.”

Taken aback, I shelled out six euros for our drinks. I was appalled but at the same time cracking up inside about stereotypes. I finished my drink and let myself politely disappear into the crowd.

A couple hours later, a Whatsapp text from him came … “Hey beautiful… Where are you… Don’t you want to come over to my place and have nice sex?”

WOW!

Well, the good music cleared me of my trauma in about 30 seconds, thank god for techno.

For more of my international flirting mishaps, check out A Bulgarian in Delft & A Brazilian in Germany. If you’re interested, also read my opinion how men from different countries hit on girls in clubs.

Berlin Chinatown & Best Asian Food

Berlin is a truly multicultural city. You see Muslim women with headscarves working retail in Alexanderplatz, black people speaking perfect German, and Asians dressed like Berlin hipsters. So, you get great food from all cultures – including Asian food – which was very exciting for me as I came a long tenure in Barcelona, where the Asian food is only half decent! I was especially ecstatic to come across the Berlin Chinatown by chance.

Berlin is full of good Asian food and I’m sure this list is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are some of the places I’ve been to that I liked, ordered by neighborhood. As you can see, I pretty much just ate Asian food every day. Continue reading

Source El Periódico

Barcelona Chinatown & Best Asian Food

My love affair with Barcelona has been ongoing for the past 6 years, since 2009. Each time I visit Bacelona, I observe the Chinese population steadily increasing, spreading from one neighborhood to another. I finally came to Barcelona to live in October of 2014, and since I’m a terrible cook, I quickly found the best Asian restaurants. This article is about the Asian neighborhoods of Barcelona and its best spots. I’ve also written about what it’s like to be an Asian in Barcelona in a separate article.

Though the Chinatown in Barcelona lacks the stereotypical “Chinatown gate”, one must not underestimate the Chinese population here. In fact, the Chinese population is the 3rd largest immigrant group in Barcelona, with more than 17,000 registered residents (the first is Italy and second is Pakistan). Surprised? So was I. Continue reading

Amsterdam Chinatown & Best Asian Food

Compared to Spain, where I used to live, the Netherlands has had a longer history with Asian immigration. Main Asian nationalities here are the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Indonesian (who are primarily ethnic Chinese). Chinese population in the Netherlands actually forms one of the largest Chinese communities in continental Europe, with a population of around 80K.

Another significant group of Chinese in the Netherlands are the Surinamese Chinese (the what??)! As you may know, Suriname, which is a small country in the north of South America, used to be a Dutch colony, which also housed a Chinese population. A group of them immigrated from Suriname to the Netherlands. I have to say, off the top of my head, it’s the only two-times-migrated ethnic group that I can think of, spanning 3 continents!

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Life as an Asian in Brazil

What it’s like to be Asian in Brazil

I read a Quora question asking about what it’s like to be Japanese Brazilian. I’m very interested in race and immigration, and have been exploring the question of what it’s like to be Asian in Brazil for quite some time.

I’m not Japanese Brazilian, but Asian American and lived, worked, and traveled in Brazil for a year. I have a lot of Japanese Brazilian friends (as well as other Asian Brazilian variations) and am often assumed to be Japanese Brazilian, so I have some perspectives to share based on first person experiences and comparing being Asian in Brazil with the treatment of Asians in the US in particular.
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Being an Asian in Barcelona

It’s amazing how so much can change in five years.

Five years ago, in the summer of 2009, I did a summer internship for two months in Barcelona. It was my first time living in a foreign country on my own and everything was glorious. Well, minus one thing:

At least once a day, whether I was walking along the majestic avenue of Passeig de Gracia, or the residential streets of Eixample, or the narrow and winding streets of the Ciutat Vella, there will be AT LEAST one person to yell out at me “konichiwa”, “ni hao”, or “chinita guapa!” (“beautiful little Chinese girl!”). These are slightly less annoying than those who make unintelligible “Chinese sounds” or make Kung-Fu motions at me. The catcalls came mostly from construction workers, groups of youths, but also just regular-looking people. These daily incidents were extremely irritating to me, but as an educated person I did my best to not show emotion and walk on like I did not hear them. However, my friend/roommate Grace (also Asian), who is a lot sassier than me, could not take it anymore one day and yelled profanities at the pestering boys, with hand gestures to follow. I was super proud that Grace stood up for us, especially when no one was expecting us to speak up! I wish I had more courage to talk back at people, but at the same time, it was nerve-wrecking to confront (machistic) men in a foreign country, so I passed my summer cringing and bracing myself for any racist catcalls.

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Chinatown / Japantown / Koreatown in South America

One thing that you learn very quickly when you travel is that thanks to global mobility and immigration, Asians are everywhere. My friends are often surprised when I tell them that Asians are in South America, but in fact there are so many of them that there are Chinatowns / Japantowns / Koreatowns in many of the larger cities. People think it’s weird that I love visiting the Asian communities in every country I visit, but to me it’s a must-do because these people have so much in common with you in background yet grew up so differently. I love seeing how we are similar yet very different, and it is one of my guilty pleasures to imagine myself growing up in South America. Here is a list of the Asian communities that I’ve found (with a special interest in Taiwanese communities) and where to find them (Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Ciudad del Este).

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Little Taiwan in Ciudad del Este

I’ve traveled enough to not be surprised anymore when I see a Chinatown in every major city that I’ve been to. I usually try to visit these “Chinatown” areas to see how Asian immigrants live in other countries. Usually, the community consists of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean immigrants. Therefore, it was VERY surprising to find a piece of Taiwan in Paraguay, literally in the center of South America!

From Foz do Iguaçú, with my Brazilian friend Wellen I crossed the Ponte da Amizade separating the Brazilian city from its Paraguayan counterpart, Ciudad del Este. CdE is an important trade city in Paraguay because it connects Paraguay to Brazil. So, many Taiwanese have set up shop in Ciudad del Este, not to mention that Paraguay is one of the few countries in the world that has diplomatic ties with Taiwan. The Taiwanese trade all things, but the biggest industry is electronics. In fact, when Wellen and I stepped off the bus, we were approached by a Paraguayan solicitor asking if we wanted to buy electronics, and Wellen gestured at me and said “Look at where she’s from, do you think she needs to buy electronics?” The guy laughed and walked away.

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Lai Lai Mall in Ciudad del Este, it is HUGE and full of electronics, most of the owners are Taiwanese

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Japanese food you should try in Brazil

You may have heard that São Paulo has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan. São Paulo, in fact, has some of the best Japanese restaurants in the world, so if you find yourself there during the World Cup don’t forget to try the Japanese food!

One Japanese dish popularized by the Brazilians is the Temaki. Even in Japan and in the US, you don’t find this particular dish to be as ubiquitous as it is here in Brazil.  It’s basically a seaweed “cone”, filled with rice on the bottom and a variety of toppings on top that include raw salmon, “philadelphia” (salmon, cream cheese, green onions), tuna, fish roe, etc. They sell this everywhere, even in night clubs …

Eating temakis in Sao Paulo

Eating temakis in Sao Paulo. Salmon, cheese, cream cheese, green onions, mmm!!!

Me and Rocio eating temakis at the Pacha Floripa nightclub

Me and Rocio eating temakis at the Pacha Floripa nightclub

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Partying off the tourist trail: Asian Clubbing in Sao Paulo (Balada Japa!!)

Yes, you read right, this post is about Asian nightclubs in São Paulo, Brazil.

When I lived in New York, I spent many nights, some memorable and some memory-less, at a certain Asian nightlife establishment. It was such a regular part of my social life that when I relocated to São Paulo for work for half a year, many of my friends asked me half-jokingly if I was missing Circle (the go-to Korean nightclub in NYC).

Well, imagine my surprise when I heard that Asian clubbing exists in São Paulo too! I knew that I had to make some Asian friends in Sao Paulo and ask them to take me to one of these clubs…

Source: Verve Land

Asian nightclub “balada japa” in Sao Paulo. Source: Verve Land

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