88 Ways I Know I'm Chinese: Redux

The 89th way: you eat durian without holding your nose (or drawing blood)

Chinese New Year is just around the corner, so...

First, here's a fab field guide to dim sum, because that's what every self respecting Chinese does at some point (maybe months earlier or later), to celebrate Chinese New Year. To get you into the spirit, here's an old chestnut exhumed yet again, the fabled 88 Ways to Know You're Chinese.

Google that phrase and you'll come up with all kinds of variations, but this one dates back to 2002 so is probably more original (it mentions a Walkman). I've taken the liberty of annotating them based on my own upbringing.

 If you're Chinese, see how many fit you, divide by 88 and  multiply by 100 to get your percent-Chinese rating. (But being Chinese and good at math, I didn't need to tell you that, right?).

If you're not Chinese, try it and see how good a Chinese imposter you are. Score high, and you'd blend right in to a typical Chinese family, if you put on a short black wig, thick eyeglasses and don't answer back ...

If you wonder what it's like to market to Chinese, read my FastCompany post, Asian American Advertising: It's not all about me. But first, how do I know thee? Let me count the 88 ways ...



 1. You unwrap Christmas gifts very carefully, so you can save and reuse the wrapping (and especially those bows) next year. Best to use that invisible tape as it's less sticky and doesn't tear off the nice gold foil pattern.
2. You only buy Christmas cards after Christmas when they are 50% off. Or better yet, never buy them at all. And you NEVER *give* a Christmas card - you *give* a present, you *send* a card. Do otherwise and you're a cheapskate. 
3. When there is a sale on toilet paper, you buy 100 rolls and store them in your closet or in the bedroom of an adult child who has moved out. In Manhattan, you buy a dozen Scott 1000 from Western Beef and use it as a step stool. 
4. You have a vinyl table cloth on your kitchen table.  In Manhattan, something stylish from Chilewich, please. 
5. Your stove (and toaster oven floor) is covered with aluminum foil. Why clean more than you need to?  
6. Your kitchen has a sticky film of grease over it. Well, the stove area at least. Peanut oil sticks like s*** to a blanket. 
7. You have stuff in the freezer since the beginning of time. But it's dated so we know what decade.
8. You use the dishwasher as a dish rack. What dishwasher? 
9. You have never used your dishwasher. Precisely. More work to stack and unstack and every Chinese family will make you rinse them with hot water practically clean anyway, before loading them. 
10. You keep a Thermos of hot water available at all times. Nah, we just nuke the mug over and over. 
11. You boil water and put it in the refrigerator because you don't know where that water's been, right?.
12. You eat all meals in the kitchen. It's less travel because you CANNOT let noodles go cold. What's this about waiting for everyone to sit down before you pick up your fork? Are you nuts? 
13. You save grocery bags, tin foil, and tin containers. And plastic containers. And curse the lack of cupboard space. 
14. You use grocery bags to hold garbage. Because those biodegradeable ones burst out the bottom and then you've got a right mess to clean up.
15. You always leave your shoes at the door. So should anyone - have you seen the chihuahua poop out on the streets of NYC? 
16. You have a piano in your living room. One of those upright ones that sound like a keyboard in a coffin. 
17. Your parents know how to launch nasal and throat projectiles. Now come on, we came from a slightly better caste. 
18. You iron your own shirts. Nyet. I never iron nothin'. It wastes time.
19. You drive a Honda or Acura and are less than 5'8" tall. Less than 5" tall. I had a Honda Accord, that year with the pop up headlights, and a big fat cushion behind my back so I could reach the pedals. Nuts. 
20. You pick your teeth at the dinner table (but you cover your mouth). I prefer floss. Those things just drive the char siew further between your teeth. 
21. You twirl your pen around your fingers. What pen? I can't even remember how to hold one. 
22. You hate to waste food
a. Even if you're totally full, if someone says they're going to throw away the leftovers on the table, you'll finish them. (Your mom will give a lecture about starving kids in Africa) Actually it was specifically Ethiopia. 
b. You have Tupperware in your fridge with three bites of rice or one leftover chicken wing. It's called breakfast. 
23. You don't own any real Tupperware-only a cupboard full of used but carefully rinsed margarine tubs, take out containers, and jam jars. Bingo! Pity it never stacks neatly. And the Tupperware lids never sealed right so what's the point?
24. You also use the jam jars as drinking glasses. Wrong. That must have been a stray one from the 888 Ways To Know You're Brooklynese list. 
25. You've eaten a red bean popsicle. Red bean soup please, with evaporated milk. 
26a. You have never hugged your parents. Public and private displays of affection demonstrate weakness. 
26b. You your parents have never hugged you. At least, not that you can recall.   
27. You have a collection of minature shampoo bottles that you take every time you stay in a hotel. Or stay anywhere. 
28. The condiments in your fridge are either Price Club sized or come in plastic packets, which you save/steal every time you get take out or go to McDonald's. Soy sauce in particular. 
29. Ditto paper napkins. So much nicer than paper towels, especially if they have Del Posto on them. 
30. You wipe your plate and utensils before you eat every time you go to a restaurant. Have you seen how they wash dishes out the back of a Chinese restaurant? Shudder. 
31. You carry a stash of your own food whenever you travel (and travel means any car ride longer than 15 minutes)....These travel snacks are always dried. As in not just dried plums, dried ginger, and beef/pork jerky, but dried cuttlefish (SQUID). That stuff lasts for centuries too. In your gut.
32. You own a rice cooker. But of course. And one of those old, clunky, Dalek like ones, not the slick designer R2D2 looking ones. 
33. You wash your rice at least 2-3 times before cooking it. To remove starch so it doesn't become like paper mache glue. 
34. You spit bones and other food scraps on the table. (That's why you need the vinyl tablecloth). Only in like-minded company, please. Chicken feet leave a particularly lovely big pile.   
35. Your parents have never hugged you.  Can we please steer away from that topic?  
36. You fight (literally) over who pays the dinner bill. Less so with the recession. We just go Dutch. And despite being good at math, the tip calculation is a pain in the ass for we ABC's (Australian Born Chinese).  
37. Your dad thinks he can fix everything himself. He is actually pretty handy. Except when recapping the roof one day and it started to rain. Then it was God's fault. And boy, did god's ears burn ...
38. You majored in something practical like engineering, medicine or law. I wish. I was better at stringing letters together. But I did get a Distinction of Abstract Algebra, specifically groups and rings. 
39. When you go to a dance party, there are a wall of guys surrounding the dance floor trying to look cool. Hmmm, you lost me here. At raves, no one cares anymore. 
40. You live with your parents and you are 30 years old (and they prefer it that way). Or if you're married and 30 years old, you live in the apartment next door to your parents, or at least in the same neighborhood. Home cooked meals on tap are a boon!
41. You don't use measuring cups It's just more washing up! 
42. You feel like you've gotten a good deal if you didn't pay tax. Nah, it's only 8.875% in NYC. The 20% tip is the killer. 
43. You beat eggs with chopsticks. Beautifully minimalist technique that works. My dad was an expert at making egg foo yoong like this - a kind of heavenly scramble. 
44. You re-gift cookies or Christmas cake at Christmas (some could even be more than 5yrs old). You have to make sure it's that eternal kind of cake like a fruit cake. Soak it in a cup of port/rum and add some custard and it's good as Martha Stewart's latest. 
45. You have a teacup with a cover on it. Have you seen the dust that settles on your toilet cistern? 
46. You reuse teabags. And we're even ballsy enough to ask for a hot water top up at a cafe. Twice. 
47. You have a drawer full of old pens, most of which don't write anymore. Not me, I throw them out if they hesitate to write in the first 2 nanoseconds. 
48. If you're under age 20, you own a really expensive walkman if you're over 20, you own a really expensive camera. The kind with a long lens that you wear poking out of your chest like some kind of cyborg. Not me. I prefer my stealth Sony HX9V
49. You always look phone numbers up in the phone book, since calling Information costs 50 cents. Information is such a rip off. The phone books can double as toilet paper in a pinch. 
50. You don't tip more than 10% at a restaurant, and if you do, you tip Chinese delivery guys waiters more. It's a tough gig with little respect. 
51. You're a wok user. You own a giant wok. With no handle, but two metal handles like the trad kind, that you have to hold with a folded cloth to avoid burning your hand. 
52. You only make long distance calls after 11pm. Didn't everyone before Skype? 
53. You know all the waiters at your favorite Chinese restaurants. And we know all the weird things to order that are not on the English language menu. 
54. You like Chinese films in their original undubbed versions. They can be strangely compelling even if you haven't a clue what's going on. 
a. You love Chinese Martial Arts films. The comical parts. Wayyyyeeeeee!
b. Shao Lin and Wu Tang actually mean something to you. OK I'm showing my Aussiedom now. Let me go Google ...
55. You tasted bitter melon. It's actually not that bitter. More importantly, you eat Durian. See this movie
56. You like congee with thousand year old eggs. We were forced to eat it for breakfast as kids, because it teaches you to be humble (because half the world is starving). 
57. You prefer your shrimp with the heads and legs still attached -  means they're fresh. There's this technique with your teeth and lips that de-shells them in one fast pucker ... 
58. You never call your parents just to say hi. We need to build up a year's worth of itemized news.
59. You always cook too much. Hey, and eat for a week. 
60. If you don't live at home, when your parents call, they ask if you've eaten, even if it's midnight. If you don't eat, you die, right? 
61. Also, if you don't live at home, your parents always want you to come home. Secretly, it's really a nice thing, don't you think? 
62. Your parents tell you to boil herbs and stay inside when you get sick. Usually hot lemon and honey. And something from the pharmacy that looks like nuclear fallout. 
63. When you're sick, they also tell you not to eat fried foolds or baked foods because they produce hot air (Yee-Hay in Cantonese). No wonder instant ramen became so popular. 
64. You e-mail your Chinese friends at work, even though you only sit 10 feet apart. Doesn't everyone? You can have a social convo but still look like you're working. 
65. Your parents never go to the movies. It's just too much sitting and there's no fridge nearby. 
66. Your parents send money to their relatives in China. The rellos in China were doing quite well because it is cheaper to live there than here! 
67. You use a face cloth. They had to be washed in hot water each week because they'd get strangely slimy from soap scum. 
68. Your parents use a clothes line. I wish we could all do that. Dryers when the sun is blazing are so wasteful on the planet. 
69. You're always late. Isn't that where "fashionably late" came from? 
70. You eat every last grain of rice in your bowl, but don't eat the last piece of food on the table. Until it's been politely refused by everyone and the table who then guilt you when you actually stick it in your mouth. 
71. You starve yourself before going to all you can eat buffet. But of course! You have to get your $25.95 plus tax worth! 
72. You've joined a CD club at least once. And encyclopedia club. Once I sent in one of those cards about home renovations (at age 7), and got some Reader's Digest rep on the phone to my mum chasing money. I just liked to look at the pictures. 
73. You know someone who can get you a good deal on jewellery or electronics, computers. Not any more. Amazon has everyone by the throat.
74. You never discuss your love life with your parents. Love life? What's that? 
75. Your parents are never happy with your grades Grade A and A+ are met with silence. Below that, all hell broke loose. 
76. You save your old Coke bottle glasses even though you're never going to use them again. Well, my 20 year old laser vision op is starting to reverse itself ... 
77. You own your own meat cleaver and sharpen it. Shing! Shing! Shing! I remember that sound so well ... 
78. You keep most of your money in a savings account. As opposed to ...? Oh right, shares? Nope, we Asians are risk averse when it comes to money. Except in a gambling hall. I'm told.  
79. You own an MJ set and possibly have a room set up in the basement. What, Mary Jane? 
80. You know what MJ means. Ah, mah jong. I had this cool necklace made of mah jong tiles - does that count? 
81. You've been on the Love Boat or know someone who has. My mother's favorite TV show. She was shocked (and so was I) when one seen showed people actually in bed, naked, thus shattering the squeaky clean fantasy ...
82. Your toothpaste tubes are all squeezed paper-thin. It's kinda fun seeing how much you can squeeze out of it, a bit like how some Chinese business people operate. 
83. You say "whie" when answering your cell phone. It's the equivalent of a grunt. 
84. You are familiar with the term "aiee yah.....". My dad use to say that! It means "Golly gee!" or  "!@##$%!"
85. It take 3-4 days to finish sipping a can of pop and saving it in the fridge even there is only one drop left. When the bubbles leave it reminds you of flat Oolong tea. 
86. You know why this list consists of only "88" reasons. I have to add one here. Your family's furniture color scheme is red and gold, and the fabrics are velvet and silk or something shiny. There might even be some laughing buddha statues lying around who, let's face it, those Buddha's never look like they're having a particularly fun time.  
87. You enclose your remote controls in plastic to keep greasy fingerprints off them. What about the car doors, sofas et al - all with plastic still on.
88. You take this message and forward it to all your Chinese and non-Chinese friends and enemies.

Aren't you happy/envious you were/weren't born Chinese?

More mein for thought: 8 Mysteries of Chinese Dining


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