I’ve had this conversation many times before with other Asian-American transplants to the San Francisco Bay Area – being an Asian-American in California gets some getting used to.
I first lived in the Bay Area the summer of 1998 for a graduate school internship, and moved permanently in August 1999. There were two things that were really hard to get used to:
1. Asian-Americans in all sorts of “normal” professions and jobs.
I grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts and worked north of Hartford, Connecticut after college, and the only Asian-Americans you would see were in your “traditional” jobs – doctors, lawyers, engineers, professors, etc. and in Asian restaurants maybe. When I moved out here – seeing Asian-Americans as police officers, janitors, bank tellers, etc. was just WEIRD. Asian-Americans are such a part of the mainstream in California (especially any descendants from the Gold Rush days), that naturally one would see Asian Americans in all walks of life. But growing up as one of a few Asian-Americans in my high school or at work, I definitely felt that I was a “minority” – or at least, not “white.”
2. Asian-Americans my parents’ age (50’s and 60’s) that had NO foreign accent when speaking English!
This was *really* weird for me. Again, having grown up in the Northeast, most Asians or Asian-Americans I knew were recent immigrants, so seeing any Asian/American adult who spoke English, that English was always accented! Did you experience this cognitive dissonance ???
The corollary to Californian Asian Culture Shock is the experience of Californian-born-and-raised Asian Americans living OUTSIDE of California – either for the first time for college or for work. Californian Asian-American natives are shocked to feel like a minority. Have you experienced this?