By Jisoo Mun
About a week ago, I took a Lyft from the airport to my home in Orange County. The driver was a nice middle-aged, white man who struck up a conversation with me almost immediately. Things quickly turned sour after the dreaded comments began to come up...let’s just say those 20 minutes were jam-PACKED with terrible conversation inspired by my ethnicity:
“Do you speak Mandarin?”
“Then where does your name come from?”
Oh, it’s Korean.
“You know, this car is from a GREAT Korean company (Hyundai)! Maybe you can help me; how can I stand out to Hyundai if I have a proposition for them?”
Ummm…say anyeonghasaeyo? (Stupid answer, I know! But have I ever worked with Hyundai or any other car company? Or even a Korean company? NO and NO.)
“I admire Asians. They all work SO hard. ESPECIALLY the Koreans and Vietnamese…the Japanese work hard too, but they don’t really like to show it!”
“Now that you’re here, why don’t we talk about NORTH KOREA.”
Oh. Honestly, I really don’t know what’s been going on recently, so I think it’s best if I don’t say anything. (I assumed he wanted to discuss current events).
“Well, that MAN is so terrible to THOSE PEOPLE”
Wow. If you want to discuss something (that I don’t), at least have some knowledge on it! I was not about to have a pointless conversation about how bad dictators are.
Obviously this kind of conversation doesn’t happen every single time, but it happens pretty damn often. And I’m not alone. I decided to ask friends to share their experiences with drivers (including Vanderbilt’s Vandy Van drivers). These are the stories that I collected:
About a week ago, I used a Lyft to get picked up from Jack's barbecue. The driver was black and he asked me why I was at a barbecue place. I said I actually didn't eat there but was at the storage place right next door. He then said good cause Indians aren't supposed to eat meat. I then responded saying I do eat meat. He told me that it was unholy for me to eat meat and told me that I was white washed. I told him all my family in India eats meat. He ignored it and went on to the next point.
He then informed me that South Indians look like black people and said that I for sure was from North India. I am actually from South India and told him so. He once again ignored me. He then went on to point out people on the street and kept asking me if the person was Indian or not. I was quite fed up with his shit. He thought the fact that I was Indian made me have some kind of sensor that could detect Indians. - MB
There was this time when my Uber driver asked me where I was “originally from”. When I said Seoul, Korea he was like “Oh, that’s that country that kills babies right??” I said, “Um are you referring to the one child policy in China? I’m pretty sure that’s not really happening anymore” and all he said was “Yeah, yeah”. – JH
The Vandy Van driver once just assumed I was Filipino and started talking to me about the Philippines and I basically had to pretend I was Filipino the whole Vandy Van ride to my stop because he couldn’t be unconvinced otherwise. – AW
My white Uber driver to the airport told me as soon as I sat down that his wife is Chinese and I told him, “That’s great” and then he asked me where my favorite sushi place is except I don’t eat sushi. – JC
One time I was in an Uber sitting in the back and my friend was sitting in the front. The driver told us he was from Nigeria. He proceeded to interview her after seeing that she was Asian. “Are you from Japan? China? Does Japan speak a different language than China? Do you do karate?” When she broke the news that she in fact did not do karate, he asked, bewildered, “WHAT? Why not?? It’s the Chinese trademark!” - JM
I was Ubering back from downtown (Nashville) after a dinner with friends and got into a conversation with my driver. I had mentioned that my parents were from China, but I was born in the United States. After talking about it a little bit more, my driver then said something along the lines of, "Well you know, I think that Chinese people for whatever reason raise their kids to have better English-speaking skills than other immigrants, like Indians, for example."
I just responded with, "Well, you know, I was born in the U.S.... so I grew up speaking English." and he's like, "But I mean, still, your English is really good." I didn't really know how to respond after ALREADY TELLING him that I was born in the U.S. and had no reason to have "bad" English...
Then I walked out of the car because I had gotten to my destination. - AY