The Woke Person’s Guide to Offending Asians

Jackie M
4 min readFeb 9, 2022

How many ways do you know how to say “How are you?”

I know someone who can say it in, I don’t know, 30 languages? Impressive, no?

When I hosted him for a week as an overseas guest, the first thing he would say to any service staff we encountered was “How are you?” in their native language.

A Chinese yum cha waitress was chuffed, a Vietnamese waitress rolled her eyes and stifled a sneer, and a Burmese restaurateur asked him a question in return, only to be met with a blank look because “How are you?” were literally the only Burmese words he knew.

He thought he was being woke and I thought he was being an annoying show-off. It was a long week.

Before you think I’m unnecessarily harsh or that I think everybody should stop trying to learn foreign languages, let me come back to this further down the piece, because I want to first talk about the reactions to what, on the surface, seems to be a benevolent, culturally-aware gesture.

The reason is that these three different responses are broadly representative of the comments I see online whenever public exercises in cultural wokeness go awry, as in these instances –

So, to the woke bureaucrat, this is what you can expect as far as social media reactions next time you stuff up –

Jackie M

Cook, TV presenter, food coach, Down Syndrome advocate, pot-stirrer extraordinaire | |