Jaza's World Trip

No chopstick for you American

The Green Tortoise is in the middle of Chinatown, and I've been taking advantage of the good food around here already. I had a nice Chinese lunch yesterday, and I grabbed another nice Chinese meal for dinner this evening. But on both occasions, all the Asian folk around me were given chopsticks, and I was given a spoon and fork. Apparently, unlike back home in Sydney — where everyone gets chopsticks, unless they request otherwise — here in America, non-Asians are assumed to be both chopstick-illiterate and chopstick-a-phobic, and are by default not given them. I guess that this is an interesting and a sad indication of the cultural differences between the United States and Australia.

After my meal tonight, I went up to the staff in the restaurant, and asked them why they didn't give me chopsticks. They didn't speak much English, so they couldn't really understand what I was saying, or give me a very coherent answer. But I got the gist of their answer, which was that you can't assume that Americans know how to use chopsticks, or that they have any interest in learning how to use them; clearly, exactly the reverse should be assumed.

This wouldn't have surprised me so much, if it had been almost anywhere else in America. But this is the most Chinese part of one of America's most Chinese cities. And even here, there seems to be an ignorance and an intolerance by the Anglo-Saxons of the immigrants who are living in their city, and who have been established here for over 100 years.

It's just a little thing, not being given chopsticks in a Chinese restaurant; but it says a lot, and none of what it says is good.

Filed in: San FranciscoCultural divideRacismTasty