Where do you come from exactly?
When I moved into a dorm last year in the US, my roommate made a new male friend and invited him to have dinner with us.
The boy looked Chinese and when he came in our dorm, I heard him introducing himself saying, “Hi. I’m Leo from California.”
I told him my name and home country. When I said China, Leo looked surprised and asked, “Which part are you from?” I answered Xi’an. He then gave me a confused look and said he did not know where Xi’an was, or to be more specific, other than Beijing, Shanghai and Fujian Province, which is his parents’ hometown, Leo knew nothing about China. Among most Chinese students, we call people like Leo “ABC,” American-Born Chinese.
Leo could speak fluent Chinese since he had spent his primary school and middle school years in Fujian. However, I had never seen him speak Chinese in front of others, even when there were only Chinese around. Once he was chatting with my roommate who is American, and I heard him ask, “Do you think I have an accent while speaking English?” My roommate answered, “No, not at all. You are good.” Leo then smiled widely.
Leo hardly talked to me after the first meeting. Usually, when I saw him, he was waiting for my roommate beside the door and would nod his head a little bit. In the middle of last semester, I encountered Leo in the library and found that he was alone, watching a drama and eating salad in the rest zone. Next time I saw him was in the dining hall and he was sitting there alone,
with his laptop on the table. My roommate gained more American friends, and I think Leo was “abandoned.”
I thought about it, and ABC may just be reluctant to talk to Chinese students, but then I found something interesting. In my writing class, there were two ABC. One is from Guangdong Province and the other is from Hong Kong. I felt surprised that during the entire semester they had never spoken to each other, although they were assigned to the same group and working on the same project.
Once, our professor asked us to conduct a short interview with a classmate. I interviewed the Hong Kong boy and asked about his hometown. He told me he had never been to Hong Kong, though his parents usually returned to Hong Kong during Spring Festival. He grew up in Texas and everything he knew about China was from movies, especially kung fu mov
ies. Unlike Leo, most of this Hong Kong boy’s friends are ABK, AmericanBorn Korean. I saw him playing computer games with ABKs in the library and hanging out with them on campus multiple times. Again, that interview was the sole conversation I had with that Hong Kong boy during the semester. For a long time, I was seeking an excuse for the ABC kids, thinking that maybe it’s just culture differences or maybe they are just shy. I don’t feel upset when they say they are from America, but I do feel disappointed when they know nothing about their roots from their home country of China.