On looking racially ambiguous


I’m one of those people who in ethnic terms doesn’t quite look like one thing or the other. It doesn’t bother me, of course, but this ambiguity sometimes inspires odd reactions and questions from others.

For the record, my Dad is white Australian (some mix of English, Irish and Scottish back in the day), and my Mum is Indonesian (Javanese). Most Eurasian people can be identified as Eurasian, but not me. It’s probably because Indonesians typically look a little different from the stereotypical look folks associate with being Asian. So here are some of the things I’ve heard people say to or about me over the years…


Some guy at uni: “Chris? Is he that black guy?”


Some high school kid I was teaching: “Are you a wog, sir?”


The neighbourhood bully when I was a kid: “Watch yourself, black boy.”


Some stupid kid when I walked into the milk bar as a kid: “Hey look Mum, it’s a Ching-Chong.”


Indian friend of a friend: “I can’t believe you are half-Asian. I thought you were just a white guy.”


Some girl at uni: “He’s the whitest black guy I’ve ever seen.”


Some idiot in high school: “Hey, are you an Abo?”


Friend of a friend at an Asian club night: “So… what made you want to come to Asian night?”


Some Indonesian guy, to my Indonesian cousin who had just dropped me off somewhere in his car: “So you are the chauffeur for a bule (white man)? How did you get that job?”


Guy in Indonesia: “Wow, how come you can speak Indonesian?”

Me: “My Mum is from here.”

Guy in Indonesia: “Really? I thought you were Brazilian.”


Some Sri Lankan dude in a club: “Hey, are you Sri Lankan?”

Me: “Uh, no, I’m Indonesian.”

Some Sri Lankan dude in a club: “Ok. I’m bisexual!”

Me: “Ok, that’s nice… um, I need to be going now.”


Me: “I’ll have a Greek coffee and a galatobureko, please.”

Cafe worker: “??? ?? ???????? ???? ??????? ???????”

Me: “Um…”

Cafe worker: “Oh sorry, I thought you were Greek.”


Me: “Can I get some of the queso fresco, please?”

South American woman in deli: “¿Cuánto quieres?”

Me: “Er… sorry, I don’t speak Spanish.”

South American woman in deli: “Oh, sorry! (To workmate) “Se parece a un chico Cubano!” (He looks like a Cuban boy!”


French restauranteur: (speaks English to my companions and French to me the whole evening)

Me: “Um, why do you think that I can speak French?”

French restauranteur: “Oh… you are from Maurice (Mauritius), no?”


On other occasions, there have been people talking about Asians around me in a way that they surely wouldn’t if I looked “properly” Asian.

Random dude getting on train, looking around: “At least there’s no Asians on this carriage.”


Salesman at Cash Converters: “This camera also comes with this attachment if you want to wear it around your neck. Although it’ll make you look like one of those Asians.”

Me: “What do you mean? My Mum is Asian actually.”

Salesman at Cash Converters: “Er, um.. I mean like those Japanese tourists… sorry, didn’t meant to cause offense.”


Woman training me at a call centre: “… yeah, like those gooks whose parents buy them BMWs and shit.”

Me: “Sorry, like the who?”

Woman training me at a call centre: “You know, the gooks.”


The pinnacle of this nonsense is the woman who emailed me alleging that not only was I not Eurasian, but I was some kind of black person, and my focusing on racism on my blog was part of my secret agenda to drive a wedge between white people and Asians. You can read that wonderful piece of craziness here.

At least I know who I am. I think.

Author: Eurasian Sensation

They also call me Chris. I'm a community worker and educator, and I'm interested in things.To observe me in my natural environment... try eurasian-sensation.blogspot.com.

2 thoughts on “On looking racially ambiguous”

  1. Hilarous comments.
    I’m Eurasian but I thought I was a ‘wog’ when I was growing up in my hometown. There were no other asians about apart from an eccentric guy named Henry Wong. His parents ran the only Chinese restaurant for miles. They also punctured Henry’s basketball because he was playing too much. They cut his rat’s tail haircut while he was sleeping. Christ! I thought I had it tough!

  2. HILARIOUS!! About hearing stuff that you wouldn’t have heard if you looked ‘properly’ Asian – I wonder if it feels like what W.E.B. Du Bois describes it as that “peculiar sensation” of “double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity” (Du Bois & Edwards, 2007[1903], p. 8).

Your thoughts?