Subtle Asian Traits

What happens when a handful of high-school students start an invitation-only Facebook group?  Apparently, it resulted in 1 million users in 3 months, with an average of 500 posts a day. No joke.

Subtle Asian Traits, a closed Facebook group, started by 9 Asian Australian students in Melbourne is now a global cultural phenomenon. Initially, the group was just going to be a place for close friends to share jokes and memes about growing up in both East and West cultures. But its extremely relevant and resonating cultural memes quickly attracted Asian descendant from all over the world. It is now one of the most popular groups on Facebook.
The group has mandated a policy of authentic creations only, but that didn’t stop hundreds of posts getting posted every day. Some posts are real life texts or quotes from family and friends. Some are spin-offs from popular internet memes (i.e. distracted boyfriend meme). Some are group-exclusive memes that poke fun at specific culture elements that only those grew up in Asian culture can pick up.
For many, this is not just a funny addition to their newsfeed. The group has became a therapeutic place to self-express and feel a sense of belonging. Like New York Times put it, the group is a “reflection on the complicated experience of first generation Asian immigrants who have grown up reconciling the expectations of their heritage and the identity of the country they call home.”
Luckily for us, there is no better place to uncover Asian American cultural insights this. For the next couple of Dose of Asianess, I’d like to share some trending memes from the group and discuss the cultural significance behind them. After all, great insights come from research, but amazing insights come from real conversations.
Today, let’s look at a popular spin-off of the “Some of you… and it shows” meme.
Previously, we’ve discussed how Asian Americans are famous for their high academic achievements. On the flip, they are often measured against a much higher standards. For many, childhood is a constant struggle between video games and homework. The tension is even higher during college and graduate school when you have to choose between indulgence and self-control. The background image is one of the most popular video game among millennials 10 years ago, Maple Stories. The post received 6,000+ likes and 1,600 comments. Many related to the struggle and even criticized their younger self with great regret – a deeply Asian thing to do.
Frugality runs deep in Asian culture. From getting dressed in hand-me-downs to never having allowance for anything, Asian American kids often feel ashamed for how “cheap” their parents are. Kids discount is something no Asian parents can let go, even when their children are way pass the age. The funniest irony is when another member posted a similar post about how Asian Americans take advantage of Student Discount. Thanks to their slow-aging facial appearances, many Asian Americans continue to use their student ID way after they’ve entered work force. I guess something never changes and we are all just some form of our own parents.
Native language is extremely important to Asian Americans. Parents often exclusively speak their native language at home, especially in multi-generational households. For some ethnicities like Chinese and Korean Americans, not being able to speak the native language is a shame to the family. Many Asian American kids are required to go to language schools to maintain their skills. Unfortunately for some, that’s simply not enough, especially for those who were born here. As you can see from the 19,000 likes and 3,100 comments, this continues to be a pain point for many as they start to have family of their own.
We will share a couple other memes next week. If you come across a meme in the group you’d like me to dive in, send them my way!

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