What do the French think of Asian People?


 

 

First, I wanted to commend you on your wonderful blog! I love returning to the site to see what new information you have to offer us. It’s incredibly enlightening, even for a “halfie” (I’m half French, half Vietnamese) as myself! =P
Second, I have a question for you, though I know this might be hard to answer without some generalities. My question: I have visited the south of France (in particular Montpellier) with my family on several occasions. I’ve never noticed any dislike for Asians while visiting (though I also didn’t notice too many Asians period), but I thought I’d ask anyway. What do the French think of Asian people?
Thanks for your consideration.
I hope to hear from you soon,
PDD

(asked by PDD from Vietnam)

 

Ask a FrenchmanHi,
Thanks for the kind words.
It’s actually pretty hard to answer your question accurately because I don’t feel that there’s a consensus about what the French think of Asian people.
I’m gonna try to cover all the different aspects of the topic, and if I miss some and somebody wants to jump in, feel free.

Let’s start with the fact that most French people are pretty ignorant about Asia and Asian cultures. Most of them can’t distinguish different Asian people, or worse, different Asian countries and cultures. I feel that for most French people, Asia, and by that I mean East Asia (I know the Brits tend to think India and Pakistan when they hear “Asia”, but the French are closer to the Americans on that issue, for us “Asia” means more or less “East of India,” although technically, we’re all aware it’s actually “East of Istanbul”) is just one big blurred entity where names of countries are pretty much interchangeable, except maybe for former French colonies of course (Lao, Cambodia and Vietnam).

Thing is that most French people are very unfamiliar with Asia and Asian people, although this has been getting better in the past few years, partly because of globalization, partly because of the rise of China as a prominent country.

Before continuing any further, I think we need to distinguish between different parts of France and different Asian countries and people.

Let’s start with different parts of France.

As you mentioned in most of France there are little to no Asian people. Of course, this is in those parts of the country where people are mostly ignorant about Asia, but as you also mentioned, there aren’t really any prejudices against Asians beyond “they are rice eaters.”

I grew up in the South West of France, where a few refugees camps for people from Vietnam were set up after the Indochina war, so there is a significant Vietnamese minority in the area (There aren’t any statistics and I could be wrong, but I’d be tempted to say that people of Vietnamese descent constitute the second largest minority in South West France). There may be other parts of France that are in a similar situation, I’m not too sure. There, in the South West, Vietnamese people are now a part of the local culture (don’t get me wrong, they’re still a very small minority) and don’t really face any prejudice. The fact that they’re not technically immigrants may have helped, as they always were French citizens, especially nowadays, when the ones who were born in Vietnam are very old, and their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren are nowadays as French as they are Vietnamese, or actually even more French than Vietnamese. I’m talking about culture here, in terms of nationality, they are 100% French.

And then we have Paris.
There’s also a significant Vietnamese community in Paris, but it has recently been overwhelmed by the Chinese community (I feel that both are kinda merged as the same community nowadays, but maybe I’m wrong, I’m not sure). There are actually, not one, but three Chinatowns in Paris!

The first and original one is very small, as it’s only made of two small streets in the 3rd arrondissement (rue Volta and rue au Maire, near Arts & Métiers metro station). I don’t know the exact history of the place, but it’s basically people from that one town in China who moved to Paris about a Century ago and all settled down together in those streets. Nowadays, the descendants of those people still live there.

Then, we have the most famous one, that is south of Place d’Italie, in the 13th arrondissement (for most people in Paris, just saying “13th arrondissement” implies: “Chinatown”) I feel that it actually was the Vietnamese immigrants that started it, as there are a lot of Vietnamese people there, but nowadays it’s really the main place for Chinese people in Paris, although they don’t all live there, far from it, this is a place to shop, socialize and all. From what I understand, back when Vietnam was a French colony, there also were a lot of Chinese Vietnamese there and I believe that they are the ones who settled there first after the Indochina war.

The newer one, that has been “Chinatown” only since the 90’s I feel, is Belleville, which is actually a very diverse neighborhood as there are also a lot of African people there, but the Chinese are more and more prominent in the area.

 

Chinese New Year in Paris.

 

Also, in Paris, there’s a significant Japanese population (there are about 20,000 Japanese people in France, most of them in Paris and Paris area), but the biggest difference from the other Asian communities is that very very few are actually immigrants, most of them are just expats that live in France for just a couple of years, and one cannot really talk about a community at all.

All in all, there are about 1 million Asian people in France, most of them in Paris area, most of them Chinese (I think France has the largest Chinese population in Europe), so it’s not uncommon at all to run into Asian people in Paris.

But the relationship between White France and its Asian population is strangely very different than the relationship it can have with North African and Black people.

Why?

I think it’s because the history is not the same.
The relationship between France and Africa (and the Caribbean) over the Centuries (colonization, slavery, etc.) has shaped the relationship between the people of those areas in different ways than with Asia. The different ways different cultures have shaped people’s behaviors must have played a role too. Of course, the way immigrants arrived in France plays a huge part too.

So nowadays, I’d say that the way French people interact with Asians is very strange. On the one hand, it’s true that Asians seem to experience less racism and discrimination than North Africans and Black people do, on the other hand, I feel that a bunch of French people are patronizing and condescending and generally they disrespect Asian people in ways that would be deemed totally unacceptable against other minorities. It’s never violent, it’s never open, but some behaviors, comments, interactions are very racist, but strangely somewhat socially acceptable. It’s a general attitude towards Asian (from White French people, but also from North Africans and Blacks). For example, I advise you to read this excellent blog post from an Asian-American in Paris talking exactly about that.

Finally, I cannot talk about the relationship between the French and Asian people without talking about the strange love affair France and Japan have these days.

On the one hand we have two countries that don’t really have any kind special relationship (I’m talking on political, historical, official levels), but Japanese people (especially women) seem to be obsessed with France, and love France and move to France, etc. Of course, they have a very unrealistic view on the whole thing.

And on the other hand – and it’s a very new phenomenon – younger generations are more and more obsessed with Japan, and fantasize about it, idealize it in ways that remind me of the way many Americans idealize and fantasize about France.

The reason is simple: pop culture.

Japan is a strange country on the international scene on many levels, mostly because it’s an economical (and technological) super-power, but it’s a very minor country on almost every other level. Except that there’s one domain that has been overlooked for a long time, it is its “pop cultural” influence. Nowadays, I feel that French kids are more interested in Japanese cartoons, comic books, music even than in the ones coming from the US (that was my generation, although to be fair my generation is at the crossroads).
The consequence being that nowadays the French youth seems to have an extremely positive (although sometimes unrealistic) view of Japan and Japanese people.

And while we’re on the topic of “geopolitics”, the rise of China has also an influence on French people that become more and more anti-China the same way there were anti-America not too long ago. But this is more about countries than the people. But I’m not sure what the future will bring on that issue. While there was a strong resentment against the US as a nation, it didn’t really translate against Americans as individuals, mostly because the US and Europe are still roughly the same civilization, we have roughly the same history, and while our cultures are different, they’re not that different. Things are very different with China and Chinese people (not the immigrants in France, the ones that live in China), we don’t really seem to have anything in common, Chinese tourists (I know Chinese tourism is brand new, so it will evolve) don’t interact at all with the French, it’s really two worlds that are colliding.

What the future has in store on that issue is a big mystery to me.

Finally, I didn’t mention anything about Korea. But the thing is that the French don’t really know anything about Korea, they don’t really care either, and they don’t seem to be a country and a people that the French really think about at all… (I could be wrong, and I have heard that some French teenagers are starting to become interesting in Korean pop culture, as the new “cool” thing, Japanese pop culture having now become mainstream among teenagers and young adults).

Also, concerning South East Asia, French people don’t really have any opinion about it, except maybe a few clichés about Thailand (which is a quote popular tourist destination).

 

(note: this text was written almost three years ago. While most of it is still valid, things may have evolved a little with Korea and China)

 

 


About David Billa

David was born and raised in the French South West. After a few years in the US and a few more in Paris, he finally settled down in Japan. He blogs here about his various experiences and travels, with an emphasis on his home country, France.

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25 thoughts on “What do the French think of Asian People?

  • Evelyn Post author

    (it’s my face appearing there, because – long story short – there has been a bug and some comments were lost and I’m republishing them – David)

    Thanks, David, for the very interesting discussion of French/Asian interaction. I don’t there are many Asian people in my part of the Midi-Pyrenees. I know of an Asian restaurant in Cahors…
    I think it’s Thai, tho. I ate there once…not much business. Maybe the French don’t ‘get’ Asian food? There is a certain fascination for Japan in America as well…again, it’s the pop culture thing.

    • David Billa Post author

      I’m not sure about Midi-Pyrénées much, although the main Vietnamese refugee camp I mentioned in the post is quite close to Cahors (in a village called Ste Livrade), but maybe people stayed in Aquitaine, I don’t know.

      The relationship between the French and Asian food almost deserves a post in itself. I have the feeling that a lot of French people are “attracted” to Asian food (its exoticism, its novelty, the fact that it’s eaten with chopsticks, etc) but are quite ignorant with it.
      In recent years in Paris, sushi became very popular and almost every Chinese restaurant in town became a Sushi restaurant, which is the worst thing that could have happened, as those sushi are lower quality, not prepared well, nowhere near authentic and give the false impression to French people that sushi is some sort of fast food thing (it’s not, sushi should be high quality and quite expensive actually).
      I’m not even talking about the hit the global fish stock is taking because of that craze (which is not only in Paris, but in all of the Western world I’m afraid).

  • academoiselle

    Thanks for addressing this question! I found this not only educational but very sensitively written, as well as insightful. You mentioned: “…some behaviors, comments, interactions are very racist, but strangely somewhat socially acceptable. I wish I could give specific examples, but I can’t really find any.” I actually just blogged about some frustrating encounters I’ve had as a Chinese American living in Paris, if you’re at all curious … I’m glad you were able to examine the matter in a balanced way as I’ve gotten the feeling that addressing casual racism in French society is a bit of a taboo. It seems that “political correctness” is looked down upon, and unfortunately it seems sometimes well-advised delicacy in human interactions is the victim of this attitude.

    • David Billa Post author

      Thanks for your comment.
      I just read your blog post, and yeah, this is exactly what I was talking about (actually, I’ll edit my post and link your post for examples).
      Now don’t get me wrong, I hate political correctness as much as every other French person, but I think that there is a fine line between stupidity and political incorrectness, the same way there is a fine line between stupidity and political correctness, the trick is to manage navigating in between both lines.

      • academoiselle

        I absolutely agree re: stupidity vs. political incorrectness, it’s just that it seems to be for some a knee jerk defense in cases of what is actual stupidity. Thanks for reading and referencing my post, I’ve linked to your article as well. 🙂

  • Maria

    Well I’m almost looking forward to this. I’m a Filipino-American from San Francisco. I lived and worked in Germany as an expat for 7 years. I speak German, Spanish, Tagalog and of course English. As I always said, I never realized I was Asian until I moved to Europe. As you know San Francisco is a perfect melting pot with lots of very strong Asians / Hip and smart. We don’t notice….

    Unfortunately, most Filipinos in Europe are domestic helpers or wives for $$$. I felt another level of consciousness for their misery that never even crossed my mind before. I can’t count the number of times I was subjected to humiliating situations. My education / my successful career / my big company car could only protect me so far. Thank god I was transferred back to heaven ( the west coast of America).

    As I eluded to earlier, I will be in Paris unfortunately alone. I was to meet my Parisian boyfriend of 1 1/2 years and stay there for 3 mos. to study French. He is missing in action and everything is booked and non-refundable. So I guess this is dumped Parisian style. Anyway, I’ll be alone without a word of French in the beginning. Do you have any phrases / tips on how to protect myself from harassment? Good comeback lines, I’ll never learn at the Sorbonne. Any networking groups that I can meet people and feel safe? I love Paris and I will definitely make the most of it. I’d like to feel comfortable as a solo person while I’m there – Yes learn the language, immerse myself in the culture and have fun at the same time.

    I was really happy to find your blogs. Thank you. David any tips from you? These Parisian guys are a bit flaky.

    • David Billa Post author

      Not sure what advice I can give you.
      First, are you going to be there for just a little while (vacations?) or for longer term?
      If it’s just vacation, just enjoy it and don’t over-think it.
      If it’s longer term, well, yeah: learn the language, immerse yourself and have fun.

      I can’t give you any come back lines, as those depend on many factors, and it’s more than tricky to use them properly when you don’t know the language. To avoid harassment, the sad but true method that every French woman uses is to be cold and unfriendly in situations when harassment could happen. If it happens nonetheless, pretend you don’t speak French (not hard) nor English and the guy will quickly give up as he can’t make conversation with you.

  • Karlie

    Hi David,

    What a great post – written beautifully and very insightful. I appreciate that you give explanation to any claims and points you raise, and that makes it very convincing. I chanced upon this article while typing into Google “What do Europeans think of Asians.” because I am of Asian descent (though raised in Australia and as “white-washed” as any Caucasian person) and am backpacking in Europe at the end of this year.

    I never really thought of myself as Asian as I’ve grown up in a very Caucasian and multi-cultural society and it was until recently I realized that Europe is probably not as multicultural as Australia. I remember meeting these lovely German exchange students who commented on how they’ve never seen so many Asians before, and though I ended up being VERY good friends with them – I did wonder if Europeans may discriminate against Asians because they are less exposed to them. (For example, I do hear that in Eastern European countries, the anti-Asian vibe is strong).

    Even in some parts of Australia, the smaller towns and suburbs where it’s predominantly white, Asians (and other minorities) are discriminated against blatantly. I wonder, David, if you could tell me if the discrimination (if any) is strong in Europe (i.e. France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy)?

    By discrimination I mean on the whole, the “vibe” of the place.

    Many thanks from Australia

    • David Billa Post author

      Hi Karlie,
      Thanks for the kind words.
      To answer your question, well, I think I’ve answered as well as I could as far as France is concerned. For the other countries, really I can’t tell, I don’t know them well enough, although I assume you have nothing to worry about in Germany.
      Also, as a tourist, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. I mean, be careful with pickpockets and your general safety as a tourist, but racial prejudice is not something that affects tourists much if at all. When it exists it’s aimed at people living in the place, not people just visiting through.

  • Ona

    Hi David,

    Just want to say that I’m a fan of your blog and it has really helped me in understanding French culture a bit more, and it really aided me in assimilating real quick. I’ve been living in Paris for almost a year now, and will be heading back to San Francisco soon…which makes me sad because I really love it here (I took up some classes in Communication Visuelle)

    I’m Asian American (well Filipino-American to be specific–labels you know) Born in the Philippines but grew up in the US. My experience in Paris has been terrific (so far so good) People often mistook me for someone Latine or South American as they say. Sometimes Chinese…but a majority of the time, they think I’m a local, so people often speak to me in French. Locals ask me for directions, etc. In Paris, I was only approached once by a guy asking if I was Chinese, Vietnamienne, Thai, etc? (many guys have approached me…but that was for another thing)

    In Tours, they were very charming to me since I was this exotic girl who can communicate in so so french.

    Anyways, I don’t know what others have experienced but with me all I have to say was that the French are so nice to Asians. Most of the people I met were interested in the culture. One thing that excited me as well was the exposition on Philippine Pre-Colonial Art at the Musee du Quai Branly–I mean they have that in Paris but in San Francisco (where there is a HUGE Filipino community) there never was anything special like that!

    Now with my friend, it’s also great but quite different. He’s Chinese from mainland China. He would tell me a lot of the students in his class were interested in befriending him. But there were also times when he lied to people and told them he was Japanese and not Chinese. My friend also told me that the gypsy pickpocket groups would often target Chinese tourists as well because they know that they’re carrying loads of cash.

    Anyways, keep up the good work with your blog. Bonne journee!

  • Ona

    Also wanted to add another thing; a difference I experienced:

    When I attended High School in the US and even in my experiencing in the world of work; True there was a huge Asian presence and a strong one…but what disappointed me was that most of them stuck to Asian groups as well. They were all in Asian clicques. What hurt me the most was that when I was trying to be friends with the Filipino group, they rejected me and called me a FOB (Fresh off the Boat)

    Even after high school, my sister’s husband only had friends who are Asian-Americans only. Some of my cousins are friends with Filipino-Americans only.

    Of course, not all Asian Americans are in all Asian groups though because like me, there are also people who are friends with Latinos, Caucasians, Russians etc (a mix)

    But here in Paris (just my personal experience at the school I attended) even though the French don’t open up easily, French people of all colors were very welcoming to me. Plus what really got me was that they were interested in my Art and what I knew (traveling, reading, etc)

    Anyways, just wanted to give my 2 cents on that.

  • Aurélien

    I’m a Frenchman from Paris, with a half-vietnamese half-sister. A few points :

    Some stereotypes of Asian people (Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese) in France are, you know, hard-working, pushy with their children, esp about school – think of the “tiger mother” thing – and so on. Positive stereotypes but stereotypes nonetheless.

    About Japan : the first french Judo school was founded by a Japanese master during WWII (my grandfather attended after the war), today 600,000 people practice Judo in clubs, I believe it’s the biggest number in Europe. Also, France is the 2nd largest market for manga, behind Japan and before the US. Lots of young comics artists are influenced by the manga style.

    I’m 38, and I have known several people who were born in Korea and adopted as babies. I think there has been a wave of adoption of Korean babies in the middle-late 70’s. Nevertheless, the Korean community is very discreet… For a long while lots of “Japanese” restaurants were staffed with Korean people. Now it’s mostly Chinese people ! It’s only in the last few years that several Korean restaurants have opened. For “authentic” (whatever that means) japanese restaurants, go rue de l’Opéra 🙂

    Regarding Vietnamese people, a not insignificant number of so-called “boat people” took refuge here (including my sister’s mother), and generally attracted sympathy.

    Also, most Asian immigrants and their children learn the language, keep a low profile (I’m *not* saying that they should do so, just that in practice they do), and solve their problems discreetly & between themselves.

    And lastly, for the last five years, lots of typical Parisian “bistrots” have been bought by Chinese people, and *that* is not going unseen by locals.

  • David Billa Post author

    Hi Aurélien,
    Thanks for your feedback.
    Actually, I wouldn’t call “pushy with their children” and “tiger mother” to be positive things, but that’s just me (but maybe that’s because I deal with some tiger-mothers almost daily and I see how their behavior is detrimental to their kid’s development although they think they’re doing the right thing, but that’s another topic).

    Also, one correction, there is no rue de l’Opéra in Paris. Japanese restaurants are mostly on rue Ste-Anne (and the neighboring streets), but those streets are indeed in the Opéra neighborhood, I guess that’s what you meant.
    And yes, the food there is pretty much authentic, what’s not is the price, the same dishes in Japan costing three to four times less.

    On the other hand, unauthentic Japanese food can be found almost everywhere else in town, with those gazillion “Sushi, Sashimi, Yakitori” restaurants that have nothing Japanese about them.

    Actually, I have a post about that (and more): https://www.davidplusworld.com/hotaru-best-japanese-restaurant-paris/

    • Aurélien

      Yeah, rue Ste-Anne, sorry, brainfart 😉

      Also, I wanted to add an anecdote : a good friend of mine is one of those Korean babies. She came here when she was, what, 4 or 6 months old I think. She never had any contact with the culture of her bio parents. Her first and last name are typical of her region.

      Well, for years and years she was asked spontaneously “Oh, where do you come from ?”. She developed a very funny way to say “From Pithiviers” [small ‘uninteresting’ town] in response. It’s much less frequent now, curiously and fortunately, but it did really bother her at some point.

      • David Billa Post author

        No problem.

        The “where are you from” question is always delicate one. On the one hand, it’s a very common and legitimate one, I tend to ask it fairly early in a conversation when I first meet someone (I guess I got that from my time in the US), it also can be a very legitimate question to your friend in relation to the fact that she was adopted. But yeah, I understand how it can also be asked in a very borderline racist way.
        Let’s say that if I meet her and hear that she has a French accent, I may ask the question, but will expect a French city as an answer, not an Asian country. If I know her better, and know that she’s been adopted, I may also ask her where she’s from, this time expecting an Asian country, but just as a part of getting to know her better.

        I guess it all depends on how it is asked.

  • Thirstone

    I was born in S. Korea and moved to Philippines. So looking from outside, what I think about my country is that, we don’t have a color or we’ve lost one. It’s obvious that people doesn’t care or be interested by Korean culture unless they are k pop fan or are very passionate about other’s culture. Japan has color, yes China surely has one but Korea? it’s gone. We’re used to have one but because of dramatic economic growth, which is called, “Miracle on the Han River” made money and lost its color. It also brought highly competitive society which mostly affected our education system. Consequently, we are number 1 in highest teenage suicide rate and highest plastic surgery rate. In Korea, one’s potential, ability or even a person himself will be determined by the school you graduated and your physical appearance. Rejection is what Korean people fears most. It’s not surprise that they also care too much about foreigners’ reaction and other country’s media. On the most popular web site of Korea, when something happens, the most searched words are like, “other country’s reaction or comments on our…”.
    Discussion will be squabbles, opinions soon will be pedantic, and the difference will not be accepted but they will try to convince you till the end of the world, to prove that they’re right.
    They need self-criticism. They praise themselves too much. They don’t look into their foundation, the origin of the problems. The more they achieve the more they’ll lose.
    I was emotional but, I just wanted to inform you that there’s reason why french people and all other people don’t care about Korea much. It’s because we didn’t care ourselves.

  • Ali

    Excellent blog. I have a question. Well let me give you some background. A french national of African origin has joined our firm recently. During conversation I learnt that French people refer to Pakistanis as “Pak, Pak” or “Paki”. I am of Pakistani heritage but am a third generation British national. For me the expression smacks of racism and I was quick to point out that the use of the word “Paki” was offensive and was akin to a white man calling an African American a “Nigger”. My colleague informed me that the use of the word was not derogatory and was used in common parlance.

    The plot thickens. I asked my wife (who is also of Pakistani heritage) who worked and lived in Paris for a few years of the above use of the word “Pak, Pak” or “Paki”. She was actually quite shocked and asked me how The French refer to her (being of African and a first generation French national). It was a valid point and I recall from my reading of French history that France’s relationship with her African colonies was usual in that despite the long relationship the French people were still not comfortable with people of African heritage. My question is stemming from the above and my now lack of interest in visiting France with my family. I appreciate that my question is generic; however, I believe it has some merit and would be grateful for some insight. As a disclaimer please note that we in the UK no longer call the French “frogs” because that was a term used in ignorance and with the increase of French expatriates leaving France to come and work and live in France the use of the word has now vanished. Unlike the French we in the UK are obsessed with political correctness fueled by our relationship with the USA.

    I would love to hear your thoughts.

    Best,
    A

    • David Billa Post author

      Hi Ali, thanks for stopping by.
      Sorry, I won’t write a full post about your question, mostly because I don’t have much to say about it, but also because this way it won’t take a year or so to get an answer from me 😉 .

      So, in short, I have never heard the expression “Pak, Pak” although I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a Parisian thing (sounds like something a Parisian would say), but I have heard “Paki”, and I may have even used it in the past. And no, it is not derogatory nor insulting in French.

      When dealing with derogatory, racist and insulting expressions, one must keep in mind that they don’t exist in a void and don’t have an absolute value.

      France and Pakistan don’t have much history in common and as such, there aren’t any set expressions and such to call Pakistani people (the same way I’m sure Pakistani don’t have any specific way of calling the French). Add to that the fact that a common way to invent a familiar term in French is to just shorten it. Add to that the fact that the expressions “Pak Pak” and “Paki” may have been heard and imported from England without being aware of the context in which they exist. And there you go, two expressions which are insulting in one context and not in the other one.

      Do I make sense?

      Those kinds of things happen all the time. For example, the French also call the Japanese “Japs” because it’s short for “Japanese” and they must have heard it in war movies or what not. For them, it’s just a way to shorten Japanese, and they’re unaware it’s an insult in an American mouth.
      A little different, but when I lived in the US, I remember my spanish speaking co-workers having the hardest time teaching the word “negro” to their black students for obvious reasons. Except that in Spanish, “negro” simply means “black”, not even the people, but the mere color…

      So, do the French should say “Paki”? No they shouldn’t (and definitely not in England). Is it a bad term in French? No it isn’t.
      Context is the key as usual.

    • Bers

      I’m a mixed race person but for French people I’m black because my skin’s not light enough. I’ve been in Paris for almost five years now and find that it’s rather racist. Using a “in context” reasoning is questionable as it’s easy to look up something and find out if it’s meant to have a denigrative impact on the subject. My parents (one of whom is white) ensured that I never used any terms that might offend any person because of the amount of melanin in their skin or their origins or anything. It’s simply unjust to treat a person in a particular way for something neither you or they had any control over. Intelligence, sensitivity how you treat your fellow man/woman is a choice. I definitely feel the “discomfort” (aka racism) white French have towards blacks ; they don’t want to rent their homes to any blacks, professional or otherwise. As for the Asian women, I’ve been told some horrific things about French men’s beliefs about them and the fetishist behaviour has made me dislike men..well the French ones. Yes, I’m looking to leave this place

  • Jacob

    this is a very interesting article. Unfortunately, the cultural perceptions can differ from countries to nations and individuals. I am korean who lives in the US presently. Even in the US the perception about asians in general can differ greatly. I think most american will consider most asian person to be chinese. The generalization tends to make things simpler as definition.
    In Brazil, where I grew up most asians were seen as Japanese since they were the oldest asians to get there. Due to good credit created by Japanese immigrants koreans also benefitted when looking for apartments. Brazilians thought as long as you look asian you had the same credit standing of Japanese people so it was very easy to get apartment rentals even as a first time renter without any credit. Now in Paraguay different story. The native americans Guaranis were subdued by early european settlers and no Blacks in this smaller country so the next on the line were the Korean Immigrants. In some neighborhoods, the locals would call names when we walked around “Oh Corea!! Corea!!” It was their way of calling names.. Bothersome in the beginning but now after many years, it is a topic of laugher since my close friends from high school do call me corea corea as a joke and it does not bother me a bit. I never been to France but today my wife told me GACKT who is a superstar singer stated he was treated differently in a high end restaurant within a hotel in Paris recently. They were sitting all Asian customers in the back area and all white customers were sitting in the front area. Who would know for sure what was happening in this particular restaurant in Paris with GACKT but I think it is difficult to find a place with zero discrimination. Even in Korea there is discrimination based on region. Now, some asians living in California tend to claim it is really great there but in my view exposure does not mean that 100% of people accept you because there are personal views on everything.
    In some areas of US where I don’t see too many asians and sometimes I am the only non white passenger in the Plane but I never felt mistreated since I sort of accept the variabilities in the human behavior and society. It is obvious that I am against the systematic discrimination but I think zero difference in treatment is impossible in my view.

  • Matt

    Sure, such kind of imagery would be probably criticised today, but I guess the general perception hasn’t changed a big deal. I’m Italian and I think “how the French see Asian people” is roughly the same as any other European country. Asia is still seen as alien, mysterious and inhuman. This is the sad truth, sorry for putting it bluntly. Europe is by and large still far from being educated about Asia even to a basic level. Actually we do have a significant cultural continuum between our two continents, and I feel it would be more proper to talk about Eurasia instead of artificially splitting us up, but nonetheless there stands an invisible border in people’s mind, so that from Portugal to Russia you will find pretty much the same extent of racism and exotification of anything Asian.

  • soko

    mmh, i have to disagree about korean culture. A lot of french young adults and teenagers love Kpop and Korean dramas. we translated the subtitles and we watch their music video on youtube.
    some of them even have concert in Paris in 2011.
    so of course it’s not like Japan when they have anime, music, manga, food but at least it’s not inexistant like you’re saying.
    maybe it’s because you’re a bit old( sorry ^^) than you don’t see it much but as my age, a lot of my friends online or irl like koreans musics more than japanese musics.
    And now (like with japan) a lot are trying to learn korean language (hangul!)

    so yeah this is my small addition to this post.