Here are a few common questions about Asians you should never, ever ask.

In an era of second- and even third-generation immigrant families in the U.S., it keeps surprising me how some people are still stuck in the Middle Ages.

If you're ethnically Asian but were born in Europe or North America and have never lived in Asia, you'll know what I'm talking about. From uneducated remarks to downright insensitive and racist questions, we've experienced it all. Let's see which of these you've come across before. And non-Asians, please take note and stop asking us these crazy questions. We're getting tired. Thanks!

(I know some of these might seem unbelievable, but they're all real-life examples of questions I've been asked — often multiple or even countless times).


Photo by Henri Pham/Unsplash.

1. "Where are you from?" followed by "No, I mean, where are you really/actually/originally from?"

To make this more cringeworthy, insert assumptions like "China? Korea?" This is like meeting a black person and asking, "Where are you originally from? Nigeria? Kenya?" Yeah, that doesn't feel right, does it?

I get that you're curious about why I said Luxembourg when I clearly have Asian features. That was my answer because I was born in Luxembourg and grew up there. So that's where I consider myself to be from. Like, really actually from.

I don't know if it's just me, but I find the term "originally" in that context so annoying. How far back do you want me to go? In the end, we're all "originally" from Africa. If I want to have some fun with you, I'll keep repeating "I was born in Luxembourg" with a bewildered look on my face and watch you struggle to formulate the question you want to ask so badly.

There are so many better ways to ask about this. Like "Where are your parents from?" or "What is your Asian heritage?"

2. Were you adopted?

First of all, none of your business. If I had been adopted, do you think I'd tell you, a complete stranger, about it in the first few minutes after meeting you?

Second of all, why do Asians who grew up in a Western country get asked this so often? Is it because I don't have an Asian accent when I speak your language so I couldn't possibly have Asian parents? Weird.

3. Is _____ your real name?

Wait there while I pull out my ID to show you that Helene is my "official" first name. Many Asians who live in Western countries use a westernized name so that their actual one isn't butchered on a regular basis. You're welcome for all the embarrassment we're saving you. My parents sacrificed a little bit of their culture and gave me a Western first name so that I would have it easier growing up in Europe and not face my name being misspelled and mispronounced all the time (it still happens with my last name, though).

So forgive me if I'm not thrilled about having to prove to you that that is indeed my legal name. I might start asking you whether your name is actually your real name.

4. Why don't your eyes look like slits?

See these four women in the photos below?

Photo by AO/Unsplash.

Photo by Sean Kong/Unsplash.

Photo by Sean Kong/Unsplash.

Photo by Oliver Shou/Unsplash.

They have differently shaped eyes, but they're all ethnically Asian. You might have a stereotypical mental image of what an Asian person's eyes look like, and it's probably like those of the first woman, right? I understand that it's difficult to differentiate between people of other ethnicities because you're not used to distinguishing those particular facial features. My mum finds it hard to tell some Caucasian people apart, but she doesn't go around asking them why they don't have blond hair and blue eyes. Because that would be absurd.

5. Have you ever eaten dogs/cats/etc.?

No. Some Asians might, though, and who are you to judge, you other-animals-eating person?

By the way, eating animals that are considered pets in Western culture is only a small fraction of weird and "disgusting" foods from all over the world. Do you go around asking every French person you meet whether they eat frog legs? Or Scottish people whether they like sheep intestines? If you do, stop that! Food culture is different all over the world, and making people feel weird about that is rude.

6. Are you good at maths?

Such. A. Cliché. We Asian people have the reputation of being smart cookies. This might be due to the fact that a strict work ethic is so deeply ingrained in our culture, and it does have its disadvantages. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean every single Asian person is super intelligent or great at maths. I'm not bad at it, but not amazing either. Maybe ask me that as part of a job interview, but not when I know it's just to confirm your assumptions about Asians. Generally people don't ask another person about their math prowess within a half-hour of meeting them. That's just weird.

7. Do your parents own a restaurant?

I wish. If they did, I could eat scrumptious Chinese food all the time. My dad is a now-retired architect and my mum a stay-at-home mum. Not what you expected? Too bad.

8. Do you play the piano?

OK, you got me. I do play the piano. Most of my Asian friends do. I guess I can let you have that one.

My Asian face. :) Photo by Helene Choo, used with permission.

Maybe I'll print a little card that reads: "Hi, I'm Helene. Yes, that's my real name. My parents are from Malaysia, and I was born and grew up in Luxembourg. No, I've never eaten dog meat. I'm not great at maths, but I do play the piano. Yes, I speak Chinese, ni hao!"

Or you could just get to know me as someone who isn't defined by their Asian exterior or ancestry. When we become friends, I'll be happy to answer any and all the questions you have about being ethnically Asian. In the meantime, you can do the work yourself — read up on the questions you have instead of expecting me to answer them for you.

This article originally appeared on helenechoo.com and is reprinted here with permission.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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