Stop calling me an Oriental

Stop calling me an Oriental

In a big, diverse city like London, it probably would have happened at some point; and it did, two months after I moved here for graduate school.

I was bashing the bags in a grotty Muay Thai gym where, not unexpectedly, I was the only Asian among the mostly young white male crowd, when someone came up and asked hopefully if I was Japanese.

No, sorry to disappoint you, but I'm from Singapore.

The guy said he was learning Japanese and thought he could practise his newly acquired language with me.

We chatted about this and that for a while, before he said, with the same anticipative look: "You must have lived in London a really long time. Your English is so good!"

Okay, I thought to myself, time for The Explainer.

Press play for the story of why Singaporeans' English is "so good"; the same tale I've had to recount whenever my ability to string coherent, grammatically correct English sentences together is met with surprise.

Truth be told, I was far less annoyed than I was amused.

He had meant it as a compliment and I took it in that spirit, rather than feel offended and accuse him of being culturally condescending, racially presumptuous and generally ignorant.

Singapore doesn't even register on Google Map when you view it on a scale of 2,000km.

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