Thursday, March 08, 2007


So Alinna and I were talking last night about fobby-ness. For those not familiar, FOB is a largely Asian-American term meaning "fresh off the boat" or having characteristics that are largely associated with the country of their ancestry despite living in America. Basically, it means that the person hasn't really adjusted to life in America and carries on in life as if they were still living in China/Korea/Japan/Vietnam/[insert country of choice].

So, I, being the way that I am, set up a monochrome world of fobby-ness. It's black and white. You're either fobby or you're not. Going to Cal and Asian American Christian Fellowship, I met a lot of people I just didn't get. After a while, probably because of my frustration, I just painted the scene with the big brush and thought to myself that it's because they're fobby. They're operating out of a cultural paradigm that I cannot understand.

To my defense, this is in large, the world of Japanese-Americans. You're either fobby or you're not. It's a black and white world. There are the new immigrants, people who came over during the 80s and 90s because their company sent them here to establish the American branch of the company. Then there are nisei (2nd gen, largely grandparents now), sansei (3rd gen, middle aged), and yonsei (4th gen, kids and young adults) who been in America since the turn of the 20th century. They don't speak Japanese, might be part of a taiko drumming club for the cultural experience, have a family member who was in the 442nd, received money from the government for the internment camp experience, and don't make Japanese food except for maybe spam musubi (which isn't really Japanese, but Hawaiian).

Alinna, however, sees things in shades of gray. There's a middle ground where you retain some aspects of your culture but are not fobby. She speaks Cantonsese, affirms strong loyal ties to family, etc. but at the same time, she often craves Italian food not Chinese, speaks English without an Asian accent, etc.. I guess this is the common experience of Chinese-Americans, living in the middle ground, I don't know.


Tobias said...

Why do you make it sound that "fobbyness" is a bad thing? FOB almost sounds derogatory. I think it is good that people retain their culture, heritage, and ancestry.

charlie said...

hahaha... i've been experiencing a lot of this, especially being here in japan. maybe some reverse-fobbyness as well. but i think i have 2 more categories that i've had experience with:

1) wannabe fobs - people who aren't naturally "fobs", but try to do embrace a culture so much that they take on "fobby" characteristics. aka super-fobs.
exhibit a) if you eat,sleep,breathe anime/manga.
exhibit b) if you've ever/wanted to dress like a kung-fu master or samurai/ninja for fun.
exhibit c) if you listen to jpop/kpop/cpop but can't understand the lyrics.

2) sobs (still on the boat) - fobs who embrace their "fobbyness" so much that they seem to refuse to be open to other cultures.
exhibit a) if you choose to speak in your naitive language (despite being able to speak english) even though the people around you can't understand.
exhibit b) if you refuse to eat foods/dishes that aren't eaten in your native country.
exhibit c) if you only watch movies/tv programs in your native language. ie. satellite feeds, ch26, international channel.

i think an extensive study needs to be done. is there an equivalent to the term "fob" in reference to other cultures? my chinese friends used to call me fop (fresh off the plane) because they said japanese people were wealthy enough to not have to take boats. hahaha!

Sophia Ott said...

Great thoughts to be having! What you're contemplating is called Acculturation and Ethnic Identity. Acculturation is the process of adapting to the majority culture in which a person lives. There are 4 main acculturation strategies:

a)assimilation (taking on the majority culture and leaving ethnic culture mostly behind),

b)marginalization (rejection of both ethnic and majority culture),

c)separation (maintaining ethnic culture and mostly excluding majority culture),

d) integration/bicultural (utilizing both ethnic and majority cultures)

Here's a relatively good explanation on wikipedia:

You see a difference between yourself, Alinna, and others in terms of "fobbyness" because there are various factors influencing the acculturation processes.

I agree with Tobias that "fobbyness" is derogatory; in a way an expression of internalized racism.

Talk to me more about this if you want. It's a huge part of my dissertation and focus in my psychotherapy work.