The other night after New City’s worship service I had an interesting conversation with, Oong Lee, our British-Korean pastoral apprentice. We had a good laugh as he recalled some of the ridiculous questions he’s been asked over the years:
Do you know kung fu? “Sorry to disappoint you but all Asians don’t know martial arts. (Kung fu is Chinese while taekwondo is Korean)
Why don’t you have a name that English speaking people can pronounce? “I don’t know – ask my parents.” (Should we really expect parents to name their children with names that are easy for English speakers?)
Where did you learn English? And with such a brilliant accent! “I’ve always spoken English as I was two years old when I moved to London from Seoul, South Korea.” (Many immigrants who move to an English speaking country at an early age will speak without much of an accent.)
Of course we should ask questions of those who are from a different ethic background from ourselves. It’s great to find out about someone’s culture along with their story. You’ll find that most people like to talk about themselves. But use a little common sense, before you open your mouth. No culture is monolithic – every person will have a unique experience within their culture. Expect this.
So go ahead – ask that question. But use a little discretion.
And let’s cut out the kung fu questions!