What’s the Difference? Asian v. Asian-American

View the video on Asian v. Asian-American, the International Student POV using Powerpoint.

What’s the Difference? Asian v. Asian-American

Being Asian, for countless other Asian-interest bloggers, is an umbrella term used to describe natives of countries located on the continent of Asia. Asian-Americans can be defined as immigrants originating from an Asian country, gaining citizenship in the United States or residing here for an extended period of time. To be quite cliché, yet covering an official definition, Merriam-Webster defines Asian as “relating to the continent of Asia or its people,” and Asian-American as an American of Asian descent.

For international students I spoke with this week, however, the question’s quite simple.

Zheng is originally from Malaysia and says the difference has to do with one’s understanding of American culture. Simply, Asians typically don’t know about the little luxuries of American life, like 24 hour Wal-Mart. Accents are a big tip-off for Zheng as well, because as a self-identified Asian, her pronunciation of English words are vastly different than most Asian-Americans who are “immersed in the culture.”

Shou makes it even simpler and reflects Merriam-Webster’s definition, too. He says you are Asian if you are from Asia. You should be from an Asian country to be Asian, he said, and if you are from the U.S., but your ancestors are from Asia, that makes you Asian-American. Simple geography for this guy.

It seems that clear definitions of the two terms are quite subjective. Sources create their ideas of being Asian versus Asian-American, drawing conclusions from personal experiences, cultural upbringing and exposure to each ethnic identification.

These are just a few outlooks in developing a full picture. Many more interviews should be done to better analyze how international students at MU view the differences in the two groups – but then again, would the individuality of each respondent be lost when generalizing their statements? Maybe it’s best to figure it out for yourself. Step out of your comfort zone and get to know Asians and Asian-Americans. Befriend them. Get to know what makes them unique and paint your own picture of what qualities and characteristics set them apart. Overall, recognizing that there is a difference is enough to create curiosity to learn more.

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