…But Your Name Sounds Chinese?

The Identity Series

Part 2

The Trials and Tribulations of being a Global Citizen

“My last name is Yao.” I’ve had this conversation hundreds of times. I know that it’s hard for people to undo the classification boxes they have in their minds. I step on the invisible stage and proceed to answer gently, even though I have performed this scene hundreds of times.

“My last name is Yao.” I’ve had this conversation hundreds of times. I know that it’s hard for people to undo the classification boxes they have in their minds. I step on the invisible stage and proceed to answer gently, even though I have performed this scene hundreds of times.

“Isn’t that Chinese?”

“Yes, it’s also Chinese.”

“Are you Chinese?”

“No, I’m Ivorian and Italian.” I know I’m confusing the person even more. But identities are complex and I want to fully engage with this person.

“So how did you get your last name.” I bought it at the grocery store in the Chinese food section.

“It’s actually a pretty popular Ivorian name.”

“Really?”

“Yes, it’s a common last name in Cote d’Ivoire”. It references a boy born on Friday in the Baole tribe.” Now I’ve caught the person’s interest. I’m preparing for my solo to discuss the Queen Pokou, who founded the Baoule tribe in Cote d’Ivoire, one of the largest ethnic groups in Cote d’Ivoire.

“Oh cool. So you’re not Chinese?” Or so I thought. No solo for me.

“No, I’m not.”

“But you studied in China?”

“Yes, I studied Chinese Business Law at Peking University.”

“But I thought you spoke French and Italian?”

“I do, but I was in an international English language program.”

“I know it’s confusing. I’m not Chinese, but I have a Chinese sounding last name and I studied in China.”

“Wow, you’re really international.” Ah, the trials and tribulations of being a global citizen.

This is Part 2 of the Identity Series. Look out for Part 3 about my experiences living in Europe.

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