My Neighbor must think I'm racist! What do I do? (plus a question about racism)

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Shemtov

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Before the main post, 2 facts about myself:
1. I am learning Chinese and Japanese
2. Unlike the stereotypical version of a white American, I can usually tell the difference between East Asian nationalities just by looking at them.

Anyhow, I have a neighbor who's East Asian. For some reason, I thought he was Japanese. I saw him tonight and greeted him in Japanese,"Kombanwa". He gave me a nasty Look and I realized my mistake: He was in fact, Chinese.
He must think I'm a total racist!
What do I do?

Also, was it racist of me to try to greet him in Japanese seeing as I thought he was Japanese?
 
Well, you just made my night. :lmao:

Just tell him what you just told us.
 
...no.

Speaking of which, I can't tell the difference between a American and Canadian...although if they like hockey a lot that may be a sign...
 
Before the main post, 2 facts about myself:
1. I am learning Chinese and Japanese
2. Unlike the stereotypical version of a white American, I can usually tell the difference between East Asian nationalities just by looking at them.

Anyhow, I have a neighbor who's East Asian. For some reason, I thought he was Japanese. I saw him tonight and greeted him in Japanese,"Kombanwa". He gave me a nasty Look and I realized my mistake: He was in fact, Chinese.
He must think I'm a total racist!
What do I do?

Also, was it racist of me to try to greet him in Japanese seeing as I thought he was Japanese?

I would talk to him and explain your mistake. If he still takes offense there really isnt much you can do except be nice and courteous and give him time to forgive you.
 
...no.

Speaking of which, I can't tell the difference between a American and Canadian...although if they like hockey a lot that may be a sign...

The Canadian accent is a dead give away, but yeah we dont look different.
 
So, was it racist of me to try to greet him in Japanese seeing as I thought he was Japanese?
 
Take some advice from a couple of fortune cookies and just go with it.
 
It's not that big of a deal unless he's over-sensitive.

I know Dutch people who get mistaken for Germans (kind of a close analogy).

Just apologize for your ignorance if it's an issue.

Odds are you're not the first guy to guess the wrong background.
 
It is the same feeling when I talk to polish girls (they are very beautiful). When the conversation finally reachses the point where I tell them that I am german, they suddenly dont like me anymore. Guess they re still pissed because Germany owned Poland in 1939 in less than 2 weeks.
 
Well, your people (and the Soviets) did destroy their country. Sort of one of those things people hold a grudge over.

Maybe in the future not say it as "my country owned yours in 2 weeks". Probably go over better.
 
The Canadian accent is a dead give away, but yeah we dont look different.


:o

Eh, mate. Eh, NHL eh. Syrup Eh. You watching eh, Lost Girl, Flashpoint, Rookie Blue this week, eh, eh, EH. Maybe XIII, EH.
 
I would have said "Hello" in English and when he responded I'd have more to work with. lol
 
Then you both said hello and can both go on with your day.
 
So, was it racist of me to try to greet him in Japanese seeing as I thought he was Japanese?


Since most people can't even tell the difference your probably in the clear. I never greet someone in a different language though. It could easily backfire like your situation did.
 
Especially since the East Asian cultures aren't exactly known for loving each other.
 
Yes, but most East Asians, especially living in a country where they're a minority are probably used to people making that mistake.

If you're white, go to sub-sahra Africa. How upset would you be if someone said bonjour to you?
 
Yes, but most East Asians, especially living in a country where they're a minority are probably used to people making that mistake.

If you're white, go to sub-sahra Africa. How upset would you be if someone said bonjour to you?
Well, the fact is is it's usually the opposite Mistake, thinking a Japanese or Korean person is Chinese
 
Yes, but most East Asians, especially living in a country where they're a minority are probably used to people making that mistake.

If you're white, go to sub-sahra Africa. How upset would you be if someone said bonjour to you?

:o I'd say Luc Besson is a God of filmmaking...Fifth Element...for the win.
 
I never greet someone in a different language though. It could easily backfire like your situation did.

This.

I noticed he didn't respond to the common sense you just left him.
 
So, was it racist of me to try to greet him in Japanese seeing as I thought he was Japanese?

It wasn't racist, just ignorant at worst. Do what Marvolo said, go and apologize and explain like you did here. There's no rational reason to be afraid to apologize. The worst he's going to do is maybe tell you to **** off. At best, he'll be happy that you're trying to learn his language and help you by teaching you a little and giving you someone to practice speaking with (which is the most important part of learning a language).
 
It's actually never hurts to ask people since more often than not, they'll tell you a little of their backstory, which helps you avoid awkward situations like this.

As far as East Asian language, I know some Chinese, but it's definitely more in line with what you'd say if someone cut you off in traffic than greeting someone. Plus, with my niece and nephew being in a Japanese immersion school, I've picked up a little (and I do mean little) Japanese.
 
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