Subtle Asian Memes

Did you check the Facebook group Subtle Asian Traits we shared last week?

With 1.2 million active members, Subtle Asian Traits (SAT) is becoming a significant part of the Asian American pop culture. Tagging each other in SAT is now an indication of tight relationship among friends. Getting a submission published in SAT is now a bragging right of one’s authentic Asianess. Inspired by its booming popularity, a handful of other projects are also taking over the community: Subtle Asian DatingSubtle Curry TraitsSubtle Christian Traits, etc.

It is fascinating how the meme-fication of Asianess is now a cultural phenomenon. These usually exaggerated yet fairly accurate portrayal of Asian American culture is the perfect articulation of Asianess. To continue last week’s thread, we will dive into a few more major memes in the Subtle Asian Traits group.

Meme #1: “… and I think that’s beautiful” 

Expression of affection is highly muted in Asian culture. Physical intimacy is frowned upon, and verbal expression of affection is almost non-existent in many Asian cultures. This is especially true when it comes to parenting. Unlike American parents, “I love you” is an extremely rare thing for Asian parents to say. It doesn’t mean they provide any less for their children. In fact, Asian Americans frequently talk about the sacrifice their parents made in order to provide the best for them. You may recall an ad called “World’s Worst Parents” going viral recently building on this exact insight.

That’s why this particular meme is so endearing. By sharing alternative ways their parents express their love, Asian Americans poke fun at this common knowledge they share about their parents. In a way, verbal expression can be superficial in Asian culture, but real actions never lie – and that is beautiful.

Meme #2: Boba Life

Americans may need alcohol to survive. But for Asian Americans, it is all about the boba. Usually consumed with milk tea, boba is a tiny chewy tapioca ball that has quickly gained popularity throughout the country. Although seen as a trendy novelty by the general population, boba has been the staple go-to snack for decades for Asians.

In fact, boba is not just a tasty snack. It is a lifestyle for Asian Americans. For many Asian American millennials, the default location to hang out and socialize is at milk tea shops. These shops are more or less the equivalent to bars. They open late at night, serves late night quick bites, and usually located in high-density Asian areas. You can get a drink, hang out with friends, play board games, and even grab a late dinner. “Boba life” is the nostalgic experience that many Asian Americans associate with their worry-free college years. One of Fung Brothers’ most popular music video is exactly about this lifestyle. It has 2 million views and even branded merchandise. It is safe to say boba is the iconic Ground Zero in Asian American pop culture.

Meme #3: A celebration of stereotypes

Like many other minority groups, Asian Americans have their own ways of coping with stereotypes. For Biculturals Asian Americans who are proud of their cultural heritage, they gladly embrace these stereotypes with humor.  Whether it is their poor reputation of driving or being super loud in restaurants, these behaviors are not thought highly of in the U.S., but are often completely acceptable in Asian culture. Poking fun at these differences is a way of recognizing their dual culture values. It is also a celebration of the diversity only their biculturalism can appreciate.

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