Subtle Asian American Quarantine Traits ★

The letter combination “ABC” refers to the alphabet but also sparks a special meaning for me, as I’ve spent my life exploring my identity as an ABC, or an American-born Chinese. Growing up in America with immigrant parents has opened me to a unique culture that binds me to my Asian American friends in the same way an invisible red cord ties destined spouses to each other in a popular East Asian belief derived from Chinese mythology. From silly to grave, from slapping the fat stuffed rice bags at the Asian grocery store to being greeted by Caucasian people with an Asian language that I’m unfamiliar with, our shared experiences relate us as an unconventional family and remind us that we are not alone. 

In this season of shelter-in-placing, I’ve noticed from staying at home and what I’ve heard from other friends that this time has only emphasized and produced new attributes and manners common to our cultural community. And so, instead of completing my psych assignment like a good quaranTEEN, I’ve compiled several quirks of Asian American life during lockdown.

✧  I also want to mention beforehand that these points do not apply to every single Asian American! This list is not a textbook definition of what it looks like to be an Asian American nor a checklist to determine a person’s percentage of “Asian Americanness.” This is a post I’ve intended to write in good fun regarding my experience in quarantine and what I’ve heard from others. Dim Sum

☆ This is time for all Asian mothers’ collections of hand sanitizing wipe packets and napkins to shine

A common feature of Asian culture that young Asian Americans like to poke fun at is the urge to stay clean. I’ve caught myself carefully avoiding getting my hands dirty on many occasions such as when I eat Cheetos and pizza with chopsticks or when I use a paper towel to open a public restroom door and throw the towel away and run out before I get slammed by the door. 

Keeping several hand wipes on hand serves as a precaution at restaurants before meals and after eating pretty much any finger food. I have multiple memories of going out to eat with my family, watching my mom pull out several individually-wrapped lemon-scented moist towelettes from her purse, and wondering, “Where in the world did those come from?” Moreover, it’s an ordinary occurrence when I never leave my house yet wipe my mouth on napkins from Chipotle, Dunkin, and the local pho restaurant on the same day. Saving napkins 1) saves money and 2) comes in handy for cleaning tables that haven’t been wiped down when eating out. 

These habits are often thought of in a joking light, but during this time of social distancing, I’ve become very thankful of these behaviors I’ve observed, and I will surely not take them for granted in the future.

shallow focus photography of condiment bottles on table

☆ Scrolling through Subtle Asian Traits instead of the slides for class

Originally created in late 2018 by a group of Asian Australian teens, the Subtle Asian Traits Facebook group boasts almost two million members from all around the world who connect over relatable posts about the Asian experience. And sometimes, it’s easier to relate to memes about eating nothing but baozi, or bread buns, at home than notes about the requirements for seed germination in angiosperms. 

black Samsung Galaxy Note 5 on Facebook login page

☆ Animal Crossing 

To be honest, I’m not completely sure what Animal Crossing is all about, but I’ve seen so many posts about it on Subtle Asian Traits, and many of my friends from an Asian American Christian fellowship have been glued to their Nintendo Switches fishing, catching bugs, and decorating their avatars’ customizable homes with BTS wall hangings. Set in a colorful village with an objective of selling objects to earn Bells, the game’s form of currency (you best believe I looked all this up), I can see why the game is so addicting!

black tablet computer displaying game application

☆ And for those who don’t have a Switch, at least they have Netflix, Viki, and Crunchyroll— even if their long list of animes and Korean/Chinese/Thai/Philippine dramas to watch is rapidly dwindling

With no one to see, nowhere to go, and the absence of having to hop buildings for food, there’s a lot more time in the day. And unless there’s a morning Zoom class, your sleep schedule has probably shifted, allowing time to zoom through catching up on shows, finish new ones, realize there’s not much more content left before watching everything available on Netflix… 

Goku and Vegetta anime action figures on soil beside plants

☆ Daily life hasn’t actually changed that much since going into quarantine

I’m a legal adult, yet when I come home during breaks, I still ask my parents if I’m allowed to meet up with friends in town (not during quarantine, that is). Young Asian Americans often joke about growing up with parents, who are on the more cautious side, and being pelted with the flurry of “Where are you going?” and “Who are you going with?” and “Give me their phone number!” demands. Before going to college, leaving my house and spending time with friends was considered out of the ordinary, and now that I haven’t left my house for two weeks, I’ve only been reminded of my routine in high school of coming home, studying, rice for dinner, studying, Korean drama, repeat.  House Interior Photo

☆ Despite the normality of staying home, the desire to go out for bubble tea is quite real

The number of TikToks I’ve seen of adorable children sobbing captioned something along the lines of, “Day 17 of quarantine: when my parents say I can’t go out for boba” is astoundingly high. Probably time for me to dig out the tapioca pearls my older brother bought a while ago and make my own bubble tea!

person in gray cardigan purchasing bubble tea

All jokes of staying home aside, I’ve recently seen several pictures on social media of cheerful doctors and nurses in hospitals holding up signs that spell out, “We stay here for you; please stay home for us!” “Thank you” is insufficient to cover the risk that these doctors and nurses are willingly taking; they’ve set a very good example to me of true sacrifice for our country. Hearing the news of so many former doctors and nurses coming out of retirement for the sake of helping others with the deadly disease is incredibly humbling and reminds me that a healthy body should never be taken for granted. Please take care of yourselves— drink lots of water and wash your hands even if you don’t feel like it! I am praying for you!

If you would like to write for Her Campus Mount Holyoke, or if you have any questions or comments for us, please email [email protected]