Here’s a story from Emily that we found particularly interesting about the “cheapness” of Asians from an inter-racial perspective. It’s really great to see that we can help break racial barriers through SAPL. Hope you enjoy the article!
“My mother is Chinese, while my father is a typical white guy. My mom is the stereotypical CHEAP asian woman. Once, while we were on a vacation to Thailand, a man with no legs rowed up to us in a boat. He was selling hats. My father agreed to buy one at full price, which was like $5. My mother thought this was ridiculous, and continued to haggle with the legless man until the hat cost only $2. My father paid him full price anyways. “Bob, why did you pay him an extra $3?!” “For Jesus’ sake, honey, the man had no legs. He was rowing around in a beat-up rowboat!” For this, as well as many other reasons, my father calls my mother “pake”, which, here in Hawaii means both ‘chinese’ and cheap’. This is not a coincidence.”
Is there any way to encompass the South-East Asian continent without saying “slanted eyes” or “chinky” ? If so, it has to be: Cheapness. Asians are inherently cheap. They will, as you’ve seen above, put away their shame and/or feelings in search of products. Whether it be by haggling, bargaining, or the ever popular “pretend-like-you’re-not-interested-and-walk-away-so-the-shop-owner-calls-you-back-and -agrees” tactic (deep breath), they usually get their way. How can Asians live with themselves after acting so thrifty and cheap even to a crippled old man?
The typical Asian Person knows the true cost of products. They know the price of menial and hard labor (sans advertising and hype). They’ve also produced (or at least know first hand of the atrocities of industrialization) purses, shoes, shirts, and many other products for pennies on the dollar. Do you expect for them to purchase something for retail knowing that their aunt, uncle, or 12-year old nephew spent hours on it only to come home with a few dollars a day? That’s right (heck no).
Let’s then, analyze Emily’s anecdote: Old crippled man sells hat for 5 dollars. He probably bought it for 5 cents and will be happy if he receives anything over a dollar (20 times his initial investment). Mother realizes this and bargains it down to 2 dollars. Father doesn’t understand, but feels pity for the man and pays 5 dollars anyway. End of story.
It’s something that happens all to often to travelers in Asia. Even in America, some Asians will try to scam or deceive you by any means possible:
The other day, at the Bolsa shopping center in Little Saigon, I was asked to change a Wheelchair Monk’s diaper pad (right on the street! scary, I know). I did it, and he offered to read my palm for free. I denied the palm reading though because it’s pretty easy to understand that if you have a lot of wrinkles in your hands, you use them a lot and are thus a hard worker (lol). When I told my mom the story, her friend was also sitting there. Of the monk, she said, “He’s been doing that to travelers a long time. I saw him walking around without a wheelchair and getting some food the other day. Don’t help him next time.” (I failed to mention to them that he asked me for two dollars and I gave it to him as well, I just felt so darn bad for him).
My mom’s friend was born in a time where Vietnam was peaceful and serene, only to see it transform to a war state: family against family, North vs. South. It’s only been 36 years since that happened, so you can see why so many Asians (Vietnamese especially) have a hard time trusting anyone: be it an old crippled man or the nicest looking person they’ve ever seen on the street. Now, whether the advice was to tell me not to help strange old men on the street or it actually was true, I personally found that the cynicism was rightfully merited later on. As a matter of fact, I did see the “wheelchair monk” sporting a nice car later that day buying some sandwiches at Lee’s. Guess how stupid I felt. This takes us to the end of our first SAPL post in two weeks.
Due to their history, knowledge of production, and true taste of the real world, most asians have the gift of being cheap. They’ve had to use it for so long just to survive, and it keeps them financially sound because they’re not willing to make any bold purchases or stupid decisions. Even though the occasional slip may happen, this defense mechanism protects Asians from being taken advantage of (consequentially by taking advantage of others). It’s safe to say that for all these reasons and more, Asians are rightfully cheap.
TravelTip: The next time you think that you are getting something for cheap, remember that it was probably made in Vietnam for 25 cents (as is the case for Nike shoes). The next time you see an old man on the street begging for money, realize that he might be making more than you just on “the goodwill” of others. The next time you go to an Asian country, don’t buy that purse for 70 dollars just because it’s 120 dollars in America. You can probably get it for $5.00 (as is the case with my sister in Shanghai, China).
I hope you enjoyed this post, Emily. Thanks for your suggestion and story.
Peter and the SAPL Family.
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