WEIRD THINGS ASIANS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN INTO THAT I NEVER IMAGINED IN 1000000 YEARS WOULD CATCH ON HERE
I’m not talking about, like, tofu and karate. I’m talking about all the odd and embarassing stuff that Asians have been running for ages that made me cringe as a kid in a white neighborhood. The sorta things they'd cry, "Eww, what is that!?" over. Or, "Why does your mom have that!?" with their big, round eyes. 20 years later? It's all the rage.
- •Energy drinksCaffeinated "medicinal" beverages have been stocked on drugstore shelves across Asia (and Asian-American neighborhoods) for decades. Visiting Korea as a kid, I remember drinking brown vials of Bacchus-D before launching into uncontrollable hyperactive conniptions in public settings. In 1987, an Aussie entrepreneur stumbled on a similar competitor, Krating Daeng, in Thailand. He took the idea - even the logo - and introduced it to the Western world as Red Bull.
- •Singing competition TVGrowing up in a Korean household, I often fell asleep to the sound of talent show singers belting out arias to an "oOOooH!"ing audience. My parents stayed up late watching Korean talent shows, much to my chagrin during slumber parties. Amateur and professional crooners serenading teary-eyed admirers and discerning judges in foreign balderdash. How could I explain this in the Cheers and Dallas era? (Can I really be that surprised though? Look at how white people took to karaoke!)
- •Anti-fashionIn the early 2000s, I’d stand at the top of Harajuku and marvel at all the wacky, exaggerated fashion. It was like the kids dove headfirst into a costume trunk. Emerging as Rainbow Brites, vampires, and even blackface. Ten years later, Japan’s fashion scene had come to a screeching halt. The Japanese had overdosed on fashion and were now practicing abstinence. Non-fashion was the fashion. Domestic retailers like Uniqlo and Muji rose from the ashes. 5 years later, America discovers "Normcore."
- •Voltron-style martial arts kids televisionAsian animation has forever been enamored with multi-colored superhero collectives coming together to defeat the baddies. I have a theory it has to do with the Eastern world’s Confucian way of life. America celebrates the individual (Batman, Superman), while Asia believes in the Community. Enter Power Rangers - a robot-less Voltron - with most footage ripped from Japan’s Super Sentai series. American kids ate it up. I was flabbergasted.
- •Korean dramasAside from talent shows, my mom survived off Korean dramas. Every true Korean does. The hyper-emotional narratives were heavy on “han” (Korean lament - too long to explain - just read http://bit.ly/1Dm02JL), which eventually played into popular Korean moviemaking. Tortured tales like “Oldboy” and “Tae Guk Ki” made so much international noise that Hollywood started buying and stealing from Korean cinema. One thing Koreans love: DRAMA.
- •Interactive video gamesI lived in Japan at the turn of the millenium and spent Saturday nights drunkenly stumbling into arcades. We’d laugh at those kooky Japanese kids playing fake guitars in front of the booth, but most of all, at the college students stomping around on blinking arrows in some form of robotic, tribalistic dance. Back home, violent gaming (Mortal Kombat) and football titles prevailed in a male-dominant, handheld gaming culture. DDR and Wii changed all of that.
- •SushiAll that Detroit-manufactured anti-Japanese sentiment of the ‘80s was tempered by the west’s fascination with sushi. Raw fish!? Sushi was exotic, surely unsanitary, and a recurring joke in popular culture. It was a meme before the Internet existed. Plus, there was always that one guy who was the sushi expert in his group of awestruck friends. Nowadays, sushi is what’s for dinner. Dreams of Jiro. Sugarfish. Whole Foods! We’ve come a long way from the California Roll.
- •MeditationAmerica loses its religion, but gains transcendental meditation! (Anyone wanna be my Headspace partner?)
- •Taking pictures of foodOMG. That’s so AZN. Hovering over your branzino to get that squared-off POV for your feed (pun intended). Asians were the original foodies. Anyone who disagrees with me hasn’t clicked on Yelp’s user profiles.
- •Taking pictures of EVERYTHINGMore than being sentimental, Asians are collectors. Especially when it comes to memories and experiences. We’ve withstood our share of stereotypes over generations, but has there been any as ubiquitous as the photo-happy Asian tourist? Coke-bottle glasses perhaps, rabbit teeth maybe, but always with a clumsy camera around the neck. Firing off snaps at Disneyland like it’s a crime scene. If you were born in the past 20 years, you probably don’t get this one because THIS IS NOW EVERYBODY.
- •Phone accessoriesThere are Asians on this planet who have built their entire career off selling phone accessories. Read that again. Phone. Accessories. Accessories for your phone. Because it’s not enough on its own. Asians were rocking ‘em back when it was Nokia bricks and flip-phones. Dangling ladybugs, Winnie-the-Pooh antennas, jelly stickers. Now, everyone needs an ironic case, a designer holster. You didn’t mind rawdogging your Blackberry, now you need a $30 Kate Spade polka-dotted piece of plastic?
- •Taking shoes off at homeOh wait, you still keep ‘em on? Please stop that. This is how AIDS happened
- •(I would make this an Open List, but things would probably get very racist very fast.)