Asian Travel Blogger-woman standing on top of Chefchauoen

Screw Your Asian Tourist Stereotypes – Confessions From An Asian Travel Blogger

The Problems With The Lack Of Representation Of Asian Travel Bloggers Or Travelers In The Media

Where does your mind jump when you think of an Asian travel blogger or “Asian tourist”?

Selfie sticks, bus tours, peace signs, and giant DSLRs, maybe? Google Images just about summarizes it

Asian Travel Blogger-Photos of Asians with selfie sticks

Well hey guys, my name is Christina Guan… and I’m an Asian tourist.

I’m also the full-time Chinese-Canadian travel blogger behind Happy to Wander, which means yes, being an Asian tourist is my actual career.

Over the years, I’ve snapped up my fair share of adventures, from sailing around Croatia, working on cruise ships in 13 countries, scaling some of Europe’s highest peaks and road tripping through the Dolomites. I’ve lived abroad, speak multiple languages and document my travel experiences for a living.

… But most people who pass me on my travels won’t believe these things are true.

Instead, when they see me, all they see is another Asian face for them to barrage with “Ni haos”, “ching chongs” and snooty, judgmental stares,… An all-too-common reality for many Asian travellers, myself included.

That’s why I’d like to address not just the blatant racism that “Asian tourists” are subject to, but how the travel industry works against us, and what I think we can do about it.

Asian Travel Blogger-Asian woman staring out of window to mountain
Taking a break from candidly staring out windows to bring you this PSA

NOTE: The term Asian is incredibly broad. I speak mostly from my experience as a Chinese-Canadian who gets mistaken for Filipina ridiculously often. That said, most of these observations speak to those of East Asian descent, although I’ve heard similar complaints from friends who are all different kinds of Asian. If you have stories to share, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

But first, a little more about me

Once upon a time, two Chinese immigrants made their way to Canada in search of a better life for their future family. Knowing zero English, they worked their way up from minimum wage roles at McDonalds and local hotels, eventually saving enough to open their own restaurant.

… but things took a turn for the worst, because a short time after, they gave birth to me, a fat little trainwreck that provided regular heart attacks and enough sass to last ten lifetimes.

Asian travel blogger-a young Asian girl with a medal
The face of trouble

I was born in Vancouver, but spent most of my life in Burnaby, a colourfully multicultural city where I was surrounded by people who looked like me or came from a similar background. Virtually every friend I grew up with was the child of an immigrant, mainly of Asian or Eastern European descent.

This meant a few things… first of all, class potlucks were totally lit. They were like the UN of party snacks. But secondly, I never really experienced racism. That is, not until I started travelling.

Asian Travel Blogger-A woman holding a plate of food
Turns out travelling isn’t just bougie skyline brunches

NI HAO NI HAO! Traveling while Asian: A Brief Summary

Travelling abroad was the first time I realized I was different and treated accordingly.

My first time in Europe, “ni haos” and “konnichiwas” would follow me wherever I went. This was the first time I witnessed innocent greetings being weaponized as agents of mockery and belittlement. Little did I know, these microaggressions would become just as commonplace as tacky keychains or criminally overpriced airport food.

I mean hey, a fun drinking game for Asian travelers would be to take a shot every time one of the following happens:

  • Someone randomly shouts “ni hao” or “konichiwa” at you for no reason
  • Someone continues to guess your identity like it’s an effing game show. China? Japan? Philippines?? Ugh. “I’ll take ‘none of your damn business’ for 200, Alex”.
  • You hear “but where are you REALLY from”
  • Someone straight-up does not believe you when you say where you’re from (apparently someone who looks like me can’t possibly be from Canada)
  • You feel the need to police yourself and be on good behaviour just to prove you’re not one of “THOSE” stereotypical Asian tourists, the ones that arrive loudly by the bus load, pillaging department stores for Louis Vuitton purses

Not a great drinking game actually, because we would probably all just die.

Asian Travel Blogger-A woman laughing with a castle in the background
Trying to laugh off my low tolerance like…

I’ve had boys shout “NICE CHINESE PUSSY” at me while walking down the street. I’ve had people assume I was a prostitute while holding hands with my White boyfriend. I’ve been called chink, cheap and “SO Chinese” (as if that’s the worst thing in the world)… and that’s not even half of it.

This is the reality that horrible stereotypes like “the Asian tourist” have helped cultivate. I’ll be honest though: I’m not angry about this because of my own personal experiences. My brushes with racism and stereotyping, while abundant, have been nothing compared to some of the stories I’ve heard from my fellow Asian travelers. As a Canadian Native English speaker who passes for mixed thanks to my perma-tan and double eyelids, I don’t even get the worst of it.

I’m angry for people like my parents, who feel obligated to tip extra and whisper everywhere to avoid people thinking they’re too cheap, or too loud.

I’m angry for people like the Asian girl I saw taking a selfie in Cesky Krumlov, only to get swarmed by a bunch of rowdy idiots harassing and taunting her, yelling “SELFIE” as they invaded her personal space just to mock her.

Most of all, I’m angry for the countless badass Asian travelers who face this sort of discrimination on a daily basis, who get treated like they’re inferior for no reason other than they’re Asian, and ALL “Asian tourists” are meant to act a certain way.

Asian Travel Blogger-a graffiti wall

So, is Amplifying Diverse Asian Voices the Answer? Where Are The Asian Travel Bloggers?

Okay, I could whine all day about the injustices of the world, but I like to think part of the solution could be increasing the representation of Asian voices in travel media.

Sometimes, it feels like Asian travel bloggers are invisible, despite the fact that there are thousands of us. Even more troubling is the fact that local voices in Asian countries are regularly cast aside in favour of expats and the like.

I realized this one day when I naively decided it’d be fun to Google “Asian Travel Bloggers”. The results left me distraught, confused and in need of multiple adult beverages.

Here’s what I found:

Asian Travel Blogger-a woman sitting in bed with coffee looking at her laptop
Trying to laugh off the pain of these search results

The Need To Include Asian Travel Bloggers

And okay, sure, some might say that this isn’t a racist thing, that most of the local Asian bloggers don’t blog in English, or that foreigners are more keen to read a foreigner’s experience that would be more relatable. Some might also say that these lists are not exclusively lacking in Asians – they’re missing in diversity of all shapes and sizes. Yes, these are all fair statements.

But these statements don’t fix the problem, which is that there are so many wonderful, talented Asian voices that are regularly cast out of the spotlight for no apparent reason. And if you think I’m exaggerating, fight me on this one: Even this post via Expedia’s HomeAway Singapore’s Best Travel Blogs, which (thankfully) does have a fair share of actual Singaporean bloggers, lists their #1 blogger as a Russian travel blogger who had a grand total of 1 article on Singapore at the time the list was published. One article.

And while we’re in full rant mode, can we please appreciate how those “POC you must follow” lists, AKA 2018’s favourite clickbait, usually throw in like… one token Asian, and that’s it?

Asian Travel Blogger-woman sitting in front of flowery shop drinking tea
*sips tea angrily*

It’s BS like this that breeds a horrible nagging feeling my Asian peers and I know too well: a feeling that no matter how hard you work, you’ll never be recognized as one of the “big names” in the industry.

A few months ago, my mom even apologized for the fact that I wasn’t White. She told me “you would just have so many more opportunities that way”. How infuriating, heartbreaking and baffling is it that a mother would ever need to apologize to her child for the colour of her skin?

These are just some the unique struggles of an Asian travel blogger… and that’s not even including some other struggles that I could never begin to comprehend, such as having a weak passport or weak currency that limits mobility.

Asian Travel Blogger-woman with her parents in front of mountains
At least my parents read my blog (they even created fake Instagram accounts to keep tabs on me. I don’t think they know that I know).

But where’s the Asian pride though?

I have to admit: in some ways, we are our own worst enemy.

Travel media has traditionally been (and still is) a very White dominant industry. But at a time when the Black travel movement is bigger than ever, and like, every second magazine is publishing “POC you must follow” articles, it might be tempting to think that things are getting better.

Sadly, that’s not really the case for us Asians. We don’t celebrate ourselves with awesome hashtags like #blackgirlmagic… We don’t band together and bask in the glory of our Asian-ness. In fact, we’re barely ever vocal in standing up for ourselves.

Asian pride honestly isn’t a thing.

And I think this lack of pride is common among the children of immigrants. With me for instance, as an Asian-Canadian, much of my “success” growing up hinged on my ability to simply blend in and assimilate. I even used to be a self-proclaimed “banana” (yellow on the outside, White on the inside), almost as if that made me better than other Asian people because I acted White. I refused to speak Chinese and hated doing things that were “too Asian” like shopping at Asian malls or bringing rice to eat for lunch when the other kids would be eating sandwiches.

But on another level, there’s also an unwillingness to talk about these things because we’re raised to hate vulnerability. In Chinese, we talk often about the idea of “losing face”, which refers to being in a situation where you’re harming your reputation and your pre-established position in society. In a way, Chinese culture primes us to hate shame and avoid it like the plague.

So we’re conditioned to never talk about it.

… And it’s for this reason that being an Asian travel blogger can feel so lonely and isolating.

Asian Travel Blogger-woman with llama
Sometimes I walk llamas to de-stress and that’s not even a joke

Why the world needs to hear from more Asian travel bloggers

Let me quickly break down why all of this matters, and why you should care, whether you’re Asian or not.

No matter who we are, we need role models that look like us

Representation (or lack thereof) shapes us as people. Especially when we’re young.

I know this because Asian stereotypes heavily shaped my life growing up and I still feel its effects today. For instance, I grew up thinking it was normal that Asian people didn’t go camping, skiing or hiking. In my mind, those were “White people” things. I never stopped to think maybe it’s because these activities take lots of money and leisure time, two things that aren’t exactly abundant among immigrant parents. As a result, I never thought I could be athletic or adventurous… and I never tried.

Asian Travel Blogger- young child sitting at computer
I spent all my time on Neopets instead

But I don’t want young Asians growing up to think like this, to think that they’re not meant for certain paths simply because of the colour of their skin.

That’s why I’m more devoted than ever to being a positive role model to the Asian community, to show them that there’s a world of possibilities out there, including becoming a reckless and financially unstable travel blogger if they wanted.

Asian Travel Blogger-woman sitting on top of wall looking over a lake
Proof I did exercise once

Recognition of Asian voices is key to eradicating stereotypes

While casual racism against Asian tourists (and Asians) remains commonplace, the reality is there are literally thousands of us out there who are proving that the “Asian tourist” doesn’t have a single look or type of behaviour. Are there annoying Asian tourists? Absolutely. But there are equally annoying tourists from everywhere.

I truly believe that the more Asians we have churning out stereotype-defying content, the more people will stop seeing us as one-dimensional anime characters to look down on. Our collective voices can help shape a new image of the Asian tourist, one that reflects our true diversity and strength. The first step is, of course, finding these voices, recognizing them, and amplifying them when we can.

Asian Travel Blogger-woman sitting on top of pumpkins
My obnoxious way of letting you know I’m out here

Asian perspectives are unique

Last but not least, I’d like to think that people read blogs or follow “influencers” because they offer a unique perspective of the world.

So why do we keep spotlighting the exact same stories?

I will readily admit that some days I become a total cookie cutter insta-bitch in a vain effort to fit in with the IG masses…

Asian Travel Blogger-woman in morocco amongst tiles
Exhibit A

But hey, instead of avoiding differences, maybe we should be trying our hardest to cultivate and showcase them.

This is why: my experiences as a female Asian travel blogger (often solo) will be drastically different than a blogger of another background. For instance, Caucasian backpackers who frolic around Vietnam might rave about “the amazingly smiley locals” while those same locals might sneer in my direction thanks to my tan Asian skin (a direct violation of their beauty ideals of paleness). Both of our experiences are valid and would be helpful to different audiences.

That’s the beauty of blogging.

The world needs Asian travel bloggers… just as they need bloggers from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences. There’s a very real danger though when we routinely exclude some of these voices in the spotlight, and yes, brands… I’m looking right at you.

Asian Travel Blogger-woman smiling
Don’t make me come over there

… So now, what do we do about it?

There are so many talented and creative Asians in the travel space, and quite frankly, I’m sick of them getting zero recognition.

To my fellow Asian travel bloggers and creatives: I urge you to be more vocal in representation and equal treatment. In that process, make an effort to uplift and support your peers. Pass opportunities onto them and praise their good work when you see it.

To the rest of the world, here are some easy, actionable steps that I think could make a huge difference:

  • Ask yourself “how can I help support Asian voices in travel media?” Even if it’s to leave a comment, acknowledge their talent, pass their names on to people who matter, whatever it is – even a small act can make a difference
  • If you’re putting on an event, recognize that maybe some representation would be good in speaker or panel positions
  • Think about how you can amplify local, lesser-heard voices. For example, do you have a sweet guide to Singapore on your blog? Awesome, maybe think about supplementing your content with links from local Singapore bloggers. Is a friend asking you for travel tips? Consider linking them to a local resource

Small changes like this may not seem like much, but I promise they’re a step in the right direction.

Asian Travel Blogger

About The Author

Christina is a Chinese-Canadian travel blogger who is terrified of exercise, responsibilities and talking about herself in third person. Originally from Vancouver, she chased her happily ever after to Europe, where she is likely chugging a beer as we speak.

To make Christina feel important, read Happy To Wander for filterless oversharing or stalk her on social media below:

25 thoughts on “Screw Your Asian Tourist Stereotypes – Confessions From An Asian Travel Blogger

  1. Thank you for this. I also have a travel blog and found myself downplaying my Chinese background. You’ve made me reconsider and perhaps I should be more bold.

  2. Love Christina and all her sass! Well-written piece and we definitely need more representation in Asian travel bloggers! I can think of no better person than her to speak out though! 🙂

  3. Christina, Thanks for sharing your authentic travel experience as an Asian female solo traveler. I once had a big fear of traveling solo and thought I never could. I decided to do my first solo trip in 2016 to Scotland. It was one of the best experiences for my personal growth proving to myself I could do something I never thought I could do! I came across you on IG in the middle of the night here in Germany as I’m jet lagged and can’t sleep! (It’s 2am). I totally feel the need to blend in and was a bit disappointed in myself that I haven’t been so inclined to take pictures and was pondering this. And I think it’s related to your post. I do feel a bit isolated as well but I think the main difference is the language barrier here vs in Scotland they speak English, albeit with a great accent! Anyway, come find me on IG @tienhuey I’d love to connect with you! Thanks for sharing your insights!

  4. You know what? I’m not a travel blogger of any sort, so I never even thought this deeply about it, so I’m thankful that an article like this was written so I can see how even things like travel blogging are subject the covert racism and negative stereotypes.

  5. Thank you Christina for sharing. Very thought provoking and I can say as an aspiring travel blogger starting out in my 40s (gasp!) of South Asian-Canadian descent, I agree that IG dies tend to have similar voices, experiences shared by bloggers with a similar worldview. We each have our own perspectives, viewpoints and stories that are valid, and worthy of being shared and celebrated. Just like I was over the moon to see myself represented on TV in shoes like The Mindy Project and Master of None, I hope to offer my unique perspectives of the world as I experience it.

  6. I am a New Zealander who lived in China for a year and since then, I have really noticed how Asian travellers/tourists are treated and spoken about in countries I have visited since. Even in my own country and the country I live now. It’s fucken embarrassing. I am sadly not surprised at your stats on Asian travel bloggers and the lack of representation and I applaud you speaking out about it to bring awareness to it. Thank you!

  7. This article was so needed. IT is the first article in the travel blogging industry that I’ve come to find on Asian travellers and made me think from a different perspective, which is always great. Thanks Christina for writing this incredible piece!

  8. So so on point. I wish people would be mindful when doing listicles. Shameful that most aren’t even embarassed about point the ” top Asian blogger…” list that hardly include any Asians. That just goes to show how narrow their circle of people around them is. The fact that they are not even aware of just how weird and perhaps wrong it is to put lists together that barely represent the titles of what they are putting forward for the blog post.

  9. Ah yes yes yes! It’s true how you touched on how we don’t bask in our Asian-ness. I feel as if African Americans are more vocal and loud and proud and that’s why it seems like they move the needle towards representation a lot faster than the rest of us. and in away because of our upbringing we have been conditioned to be perhaps more obedient or less likely to rock about , hence many asians may be a lot less outspoken yet feel frustrated

  10. This is a really interesting piece. I think having a broader representation of people in the blogging world is so needed, particularly in travel. I also hate the ‘where are you really from?’ question. It’s so rude.

  11. Amazing! Super valid points that even I have never even thought of. I travel a lot and have a photo blog ish on IG. My friend says I should be sharing my photos in a travel blog but I’ve never gotten around to it. But reading this has gotten me a bit more motivated to put my photos and experiences out there !
    My travel IG is @wherewerunwild

  12. As a non-Asian Canadian, who has spent most of her life in Asia (mostly China), I totally appreciate the need for diverse voices and Asian representation. Awesome travel blog Christina. May you inspire many others to follow in your footsteps.

  13. As a Dutch-Chinese lawyer and avid traveller (with humble beginnings of a travel IG account: taketotravel), I recognize many things in your article. Whenever you are in Amsterdam, let’s hang out! 🙂

  14. I think Asian travelers should put more effort into documenting the travel establishments that tolerate racist behavior. For example, there are United Clubs in Newark Terminal A and Philadelphia that rudely disallow Asian customers from coming in. There are boutiques in Paris that insulted my Asian appearance. There are restaurants in Germany that will wait on Asian customers only when everyone else has already been waited on. There’s the restaurant waitress in Rapid City, SD that carded me, then declared, “I can’t guess the age of black people either.” There’s the South African hotel concierge who kept insisting that the restaurant was already closed (it wasn’t) and that I’d be happier at the bar. These establishments need to be outed, and loudly.

  15. Thank you for writing this thoughtful and sassy post! I could totally relate to people shouting “ni hao” and “konnichiwa” because this exact thing happened to me when I was getting off a plane in my hometown of Seattle (Seattle, of all places!).

    Your post encourages me to find Asian travelers/bloggers and follow them 🙂

  16. Very much enjoyed this article. The issues you raise are very important and serious ones indeed. I am deeply concerned for my double-nation daughters as they grow up. I am Canadian (from Vancouver too!) and my wife is Japanese. As parents we are very serious about our daughters having strong, independent, educated, and articulate role models and mentors that share with them elements of their identity and culture. Relentless resistance to stereotypes and ignorance and stupidity seems our only course of action. But we carry on, especially as we need to leave a better society behind than the ones we grew up in. We have simple rules in our house for our girls. Always have good manners, and always work/play/fight/try/run as hard as you can. This way, I hope they turn out like their mom.

  17. We travel blogger is here loudly in particular Chinese , Taiwanese on our country specific channels and written in Chinese. Here the most important point to think about is the language and target audience. I based in Hong Kong , my target audience is Hong Kongee. I Have to write in Chinese since when I blog in English the read rate is very low here.

  18. Identify politics at its best/worst. Probably helps you get published in the short term, but in the end editors don’t really care what your ethnic background is, they want good writing

  19. Oh I hate the stereotypes so much! I grew up in different countries and an expat bubble but the blatant “racism” and “ favorite-ism” of Caucasian and mixed race in Asian countries is alarming. The older I get the more my appearance changes and I become more ambiguous because of my pale skin and pink undertones. I get guesses of where I’m “from” all the time. Most of the time I find it annoying. Anyways I’m now a published author of a Swedish chocolate cookbook, I’m not Swedish but spent quite a bit of time there and speak decent amount of Swedish to get by. I stress the fact it’s written and created by global nomad perspective. I’m proud to be a third culture kid and global nomad. My Travel and food blog has opened up some opportunities by making it about the place and my observations and research. To all the people straddling multiple cultures, embrace it all, break stereotypes, and Chin up to ignore all the people who want to pigeonhole into a mere caricature and stereotype. I hope the media, tourism boards, brands take notice that the world is globally diverse and to leave behind old colonial views behind.

    P.s. A strange compliment I receive from people in Asia I frequently get is “oh you’re so white!” The white skin compliment is always weird to me.

  20. Thank you for articulating so powerfully and bluntly what I’ve been feeling and contemplating but couldn’t put into words. Tears welled up at the part about your mother apologizing to you for not being white. How much things have NOT changed over centuries…

    I agree with you that we are our worst enemy. I’m an ABC (aka American Born Chinese) but lived in China for the last 8 years, so now when I meet with my ABC childhood friends who have stayed put here in Boston, they poke fun of my “Chinese” behaviors. It makes me squirm when they say “You’re SO Chinese!” but I don’t know how to defend myself–us, for goodness sake. But even me, I’m my worst enemy. I’m the one who shushes my Chinese family to whisper and tip more. I feel so ashamed!

    I just attended TravelCon where I noticed for the first time how underrepresented Asians are in the travel industry. I’m at a stage of blogging where I’m stuck finding a niche, my target audience, because I didn’t know which identity I was an “expert” in. In which category could my voice have authority? Solo female traveler? Asian female traveler? American (nobody would ever take me seriously as an “American” travel blogger..)?

    Anyway, thank you again for writing this super important, super empowering post. I have A LOT to think about…

  21. I loved this article. I witnessed when living abroad how often even people from ethnic minorities encourage the stereotypes. It’s important that not just one minority group is rasied for sure, we got to be in this together!

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