News


Pushing for integration in Palo Alto

Established Chinese immigrants blaze trail for city, community to help new arrivals adapt to American life

Karena Li's voice was tinged with loneliness as she recalled her experience as a new immigrant living in Palo Alto. Standing before the city's Human Relations Commission on Jan. 14, she expressed what many of the city's newer Chinese immigrants apparently feel: alienated in her adopted country.

Not long after moving to Palo Alto last summer, she hosted a housewarming party and invited her neighbors. But that friendly overture only got her so far, due in part to cultural differences and a lack of common history.

"I don't know what to talk about with them. We don't share the same topics of common interest. Many of my neighbors are more than 70 years old," she told the commission. "I don't know how to start — how to make friends with local people — let alone to understand the culture and the habits. It's really hard."

Li said she volunteers at her children's school and has been involved in earthquake-preparedness activities, but deeper friendships with Americans have remained elusive.

"You don't just want to live here. You need to be connected socially, emotionally," she said.

Spurred by reports of these kinds of experiences, Palo Alto's Human Relations Commission members and long-established immigrants are seeking to make Palo Alto a more welcoming place. It's not just a nice thing to do: People of Asian heritage, whether U.S. or foreign born, are Palo Alto's second-most populous group of residents. Asians now make up 29.6 percent of the city's population, with 15.2 percent being Chinese or of Chinese descent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau 2014 American Community Survey.

The stakes, say commissioners and concerned residents, are high: As one minority population grows, there's a risk that people will group along ethnic lines, essentially creating separate societies within the same community.

Longtime immigrants' efforts to forestall the divide have included launching online Chinese-language groups, parents' clubs, citizenship and language classes, and acculturation education so that new immigrants can understand how the Palo Alto and American systems work.

The Human Relations Commission has started a series, "An Immigrant Experience in Palo Alto," through which immigrants are telling their stories to the commissioners. The commission plans to recommend to the City Council actions that Palo Alto can take to help newcomers integrate more easily.

Commissioner Theresa Chen is spearheading the speaker series. She said the need to acculturate is more acute today than when she arrived 50 years ago. People are coming at an older age than did previous generations, such as hers.

As a college student in the Midwest, Chen became familiar with American culture quickly. With so few immigrants such as herself to associate with, there was no Chinese community to which she could turn.

Schooling also provided a crucial transition period, she said. But today's Chinese immigrants are arriving for their children's education, not their own.

"From the last (commission) meeting, both speakers came as business owners who were working in China. They bring in work skills without a transition period," Chen said.

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Li moved to Palo Alto from Hong Kong to escape air pollution. Her children were having health issues, and she sought a community that "is friendly to Asian people," she said.

A business woman and investor in China, Li is unfamiliar with Silicon Valley companies, but she would like to start a firm and invest here. She doesn't have any connections, however, and said she doesn't know where to find out about companies. Many new immigrants were well-established in China and invested there as venture capitalists. It would help if the city offered a seminar on local culture and business investment, she said.

Qi Ping Cai, who also spoke to the commission in January, has had similar experiences. A futures trader from Shanghai, he can work anywhere there is the Internet. But he chose Palo Alto 2 1/2 years ago to further his son's education, escape the pollution, and challenge himself.

"I think the earth is becoming a village. The next generation should be world citizens first, and the American education is the most advanced in the world, so I want that my son has a better education," he said.

Cai reads English-language newspapers, watches American television and listens to the radio to improve his English. He considers himself lucky to call the Bay Area his second home.

"I chose a good place. There is nice weather and the community is inclusive. More than 50 percent come from different countries. Although I'm a foreigner, I don't look at myself as a foreigner," he said.

He has volunteered at Jordan Middle School, which his son attends, but he wants to be more active, he said.

"We have no relatives and old friends here. I want to be involved in Palo Alto community life, but I don't know what the channels (are).

"I think we can contribute our strengths," he said, adding his hope that the city can host events to help immigrants become more integrated.

Li and Cai said they know recent immigrants who talk with each other about Chinese culture, events and news. Cai said he is acquainted with several businessmen who haven't found work here, so they gather on the golf course and stay within their own social circles.

Established immigrants view the trend of isolation with alarm. Without integration of the new immigrants, Palo Alto is likely to separate into two societies, with one that is largely Chinese, they said.

"We don't want to see people separated," said Debra Cen, a longtime resident who emigrated from China 30 years ago. "We appreciate a lot of good American culture, and we'd like to have the good culture to stay."

She said she fears that non-Asians could start moving out of the city, as happened in Cupertino. There, 65 percent of the population is Asian, with Chinese immigrants making up nearly 28 percent, according to the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey. That population has shifted dramatically since 1980, when whites represented 91 percent and Asians accounted for 7 percent, according to Bay Area Census.

Cen came to Palo Alto as a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh and has established herself professionally. But she remembers that connections with American-born residents were hard to make, no matter how outgoing she was.

Language was her biggest barrier, Cen said, followed by culture. She became friends with the mothers of her son's friends, but she didn't start making inroads with Americans until she met a third-generation Japanese-American woman through her son's school. That woman took Cen under her wing and invited her to gatherings with her American friends. Cen also remarried 10 years ago and through her U.S.-born husband made more American friends, she said.

Cen's Lowell Avenue neighbor, Amy Yang, also came to the U.S. as a University of Texsas graduate student. She said that, even two decades later, language remains her biggest challenge to making friendships with American-born residents, followed by the cultural disconnect of having grown up with different music, movies and books, she said.

Both Cen and Yang have been working to integrate newcomers in the hopes of making their transition easier and stemming the kind of cultural shift that has taken place in Cupertino. They decided to reach out to Chinese immigrants after Yang became the de facto counselor for many people who sought advice on the perplexing customs, laws and school environment of Palo Alto. In 2013, the pair started the Palo Alto Chinese Parents Club. The club initially worked to bring together the various clusters of immigrants who were staying within their own social circles, based largely on where they hailed from in China.

Cen and Yang are hoping to build more shared experiences throughout the Palo Alto community to bridge cultural gaps. The Palo Alto Chinese Parents Club co-sponsored a Chinese New Year celebration on Feb. 21 at Mitchell Park Community Center, which extended the festivities to non-Asians. More than 1,000 people attended, they said.

For Cen, it was the first small step in what she believes is the most significant way to assimilate people: "We ask every American (American-born person) to make one immigrant friend and every immigrant to make one American friend and bring the new friend into his or her social circle. If everyone in our community does it, our community will be totally integrated in no time," she said.

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Cen and others are fully aware of the unintended friction that arises when immigrants' and longtime residents' habits clash.

New immigrants need a lot of guidance, Cen said. They don't understand how their behaviors might be perceived. One of Cen's relatives, who is also an immigrant, observed a typical behavior by a new immigrant that might be perceived as rude in America. As people waited in line at Costco, the new immigrant kept jumping from line to line.

"In China, that is acceptable, but here people think you are being sneaky," Cen said her relative told the woman.

Older Chinese people who push and talk loudly at the La Comida senior lunch program in Palo Alto would not understand that Americans think they are being rude, she added.

And then there are local laws. Yang knows four new immigrant families who had issues because they did not know about various municipal requirements, such as obtaining a building permit for a house remodel. One person, a college professor, told Yang that she only learned about her gaffe when a neighbor knocked on her door to inform her she was breaking the law.

These acts are "not intended to offend people. It's because they are not aware that they are offending," Cen said.

New immigrants may also not understand their rights, including in relation to law enforcement, at schools, and when dealing with neighbors.

At the January Human Relations Commission meeting, Cai said his son's bicycle has been stolen three times since they moved to Palo Alto.

"This was a surprise. I don't know whether to report it to the police department," he said.

Immigrant parents often don't understand the American way of teaching, either, Cen said. In China, students learn by rote, which is very different from California's pedagogical approach, which encourages individuality and creativity, she said.

Parents also don't know how to participate in their child's school.

"In China, schools don't want parents involved. It's a totally different system," Cen said.

Michele Lew, a native Palo Alto resident who is president and CEO of the San Jose nonprofit Asian Americans for Community Involvement, agreed. The social-services organization started parent-education classes in Palo Alto last year to help immigrant families understand the school system.

"We see lots of opportunities to help educate parents and Palo Alto Unified School District to make schools more welcoming. Many parents are afraid to talk to the principal and teacher, something that we know happens in Palo Alto all of the time," she said.

The parent classes also address mental health.

"We introduced parent education in Mandarin to help get ahead of the curve — to help parents to identify mental illness before it becomes more severe," Lew said.

The Palo Alto Chinese Parents Club has also taken up the mantle. The group offers a handful of annual activities such as parent education, a forum for students to share their experiences, cultural education, socials, mental health and suicide-prevention discussions and an emergency preparation fair.

More significantly, the Parents' Club created a WeChat group — a mobile text- and voice-messaging service that is popular in China — to bring Palo Alto Chinese parents together. The online network has become the Chinese community's lifeblood, where new immigrants can ask longtime Chinese residents questions and receive answers to their concerns.

The initial group grew to 300 members, then spun out additional groups with a maximum of 500 members each. In all, 13 Palo Alto schools, from elementary to high school, have groups.

A neighborhood-based WeChat was started by resident Jack Sun.

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But even as groups such as Palo Alto Chinese Parents Club galvanize the new and old immigrant communities, its founders are looking at other cities for lessons on what to watch out for.

Cen said that in U.S. cities where Asian populations have taken root and grown, a critical threshold appears to be at about 20 percent. If the minority population exceeds 20 percent, and there is no push to integrate, people begin to separate into their own ethnic groups, Cen said.

"Over 50 percent, we know it starts to change the (overall) culture," she said.

In Irvine, California, an estimated 36.7 percent of the city's 185,000 residents are Asian. Among non-Asian residents, discussion on the community website TalkIrvine.com as far back as January 2012 revolved around whether Irvine was becoming "too Asian."

Some Irvine residents blamed the schism on the failure of new immigrants to assimilate.

"I see many Irvine immigrants wanting to forget they are outside of their homelands and not trying to follow the norms of the new culture they are in," a resident wrote. "This doesn't mean that one should completely forget who they are, but things like saying hello to a neighbor, throwing trash in a trash can, caring about communal areas, respecting lines and a general sense of courtesy can be absorbed."

Another non-Asian resident opined about new immigrants not extending their relationships beyond cursory pleasantries.

"You can feel like an outsider living in a foreign land because you ARE an outsider," the resident wrote.

Cen, Yang and others say that without a helping hand from the city and the community to welcome and integrate the newcomers, recent immigrants retreat into their own, comfortable cultural surroundings.

Li, who communicates easily in English, said it's true especially for those whose English is limited.

"(They) just shut the door from the outside and live in the Chinese community. And they eat Chinese food, and they don't read any newspaper or magazines of the local news," she said. "They just care about their own thing. They have no way out, I think. They are ... struggling."

Chen, of the Human Relations Commission, agreed.

"With the increased population of immigrants, it is important to break the barrier between native and new immigrants and to help this community to grow and collaborate," she said.

"If they can't integrate, it will affect the overall growth of society and the collaboration of society, starting from your spirit and your mind."

And that affects other areas, from personal mental and physical health to a city's economic growth, she said.

"When there is less collaboration there is less prosperity. Usually immigrants bring talent and wealth. How we are going to take advantage of it is a question," she said. "It keeps me awake at night."

Despite the chatter on Irvine's social forum, Yang, who used to live in Irvine, said that Palo Alto can take a page from the southern California city.

Irvine established a Multicultural and International Affairs office, which includes its sister city program, an international visitors program and a local multicultural affairs office. The office developed an introductory video on the City of Irvine, which is available in five languages — English, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin and Spanish — and it has links to senior-service organizations for Chinese and other cultural groups.

The city also hosts the annual Irvine Global Village Festival Celebration, which offers international cuisine and entertainment, cultural exhibits, and activities for children. It also offers a comprehensive newcomer's guide, a task that Palo Alto city staff have on its to-do list but which has not been produced, according to Palo Alto Human Services Manager Minka van der Zwaag.

Yang said that new immigrants would benefit from workshops on American culture and customs. The Palo Alto Chinese Parents Club is planning to create a video to help new immigrants understand the cultural and regulatory dos and don'ts, and the group has asked the city for funding. Palo Alto could also put up a web page so that people can educate themselves at home about American culture, she said.

"The city really needs to face the change. Even au pairs get three-day cultural training about American culture," she said.

Cen said that she hopes Americans can come to see new immigrants as resources who simply need help in understanding American ideals and practices.

"These are successful people. Look at them as an export of American ideology. They are a highway to influence Chinese society," she said.

She also hopes that longtime Americans can see themselves as helpers to new immigrants, able to tell them in a kind way why something they are doing isn't acceptable.

"Be friendly, instead of saying 'Why do these people come here and ruin this place?'

"Chinese people are very peace-loving people. They may be a little tribal, but they have always been ruled by an authoritarian system. They have never experienced working as a community.

"One of the best traditions of America is community," she said.

Related content:

Venerable Stanford Area Chinese Club legacy continues through Hua Kuang Chinese Reading Room

Comments

94 people like this
Posted by Chinese students
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 18, 2016 at 9:13 am

On a related note, there's an interesting article in today's WSJ about difficulties Chinese college students (who are being recruited in large numbers by state universities to balance their budgets) have integrating into the rest of the college community due to cultural barriers:
Web Link


65 people like this
Posted by East West Local
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2016 at 10:36 am

This is a really good article, because fostering community is important, it doesn't just happen. I remember once touring an open house of a big home that was for sale locally because of a divorce, and it was no mystery - the arrangement of the house made it impossible for the family to be together, it was like everyone in their little compartments and no interaction in small moments of life. It made me recall once how, as newlyweds, we bought new sofas that were really narrow. Instead of watching TV together, suddenly we each had our own sofa. Our relationship hadn't changed, but it made connecting in those small moments when you watch TV or relax so much more difficult, when we soon were looking for new sofas, our criteria were first based on them being conducive to connection. It made such a difference, it was a real epiphany for me about the obvious - Physical spaces can support or block making connections. The extreme example of that in American life is the pockets of suburban homes without sidewalks and fragmented by superhighways and no community gathering spaces. But the absence of that extreme isn't the same as fostering community.

A place feeling transient can also be challenging. Silicon Valley has always been a challenging place when it comes to putting down roots. A friend made the observation to me, 15 years ago, that you CAN put down roots here, but it's really a lot of work. She doesn't live in Palo Alto, she meant the whole area. I agree.

We lived in the East Bay for awhile and were in a really close-knit community, then came back to Palo Alto. One thing that really diminished connection in Palo Alto in the meantime was the fragmentation and degradation of residential community life from turning it into more of an office park (with a transient daytime population) than it really had the infrastructure to sustain. The City stopped even remembering the Code/legal promises of open space per new building because as a limited area, there is no more space. No attempts had been made to keep the kind of physical spaces that foster hubs of physical connection, even when opportunities came up to retain or create it. Community Center area remains closer because it's just easier to maintain connection. The South side of town used to be the more neighborly and welcoming part of town, but became a dumping ground for higher density building to house more transient workers, hotels, non-retail businesses, with no effort to create living spaces that foster community, in fact, that took away spaces that had in the past. The additional traffic has made El Camino and Alma much bigger barriers to the rest of town than they used to be, and Arastradero much less easy and welcoming to cross them. When the City had an opportunity to turn a really central place in an area that has been fragmented and isolated from the rest of town because of development changes citywide into a central hub and meeting space, for almost no money (the Maybell Orchard, near Gunn High School), fostering community wasn't even on anyone's radar at City Hall, even was actively rejected. (By the way, the property is currently owned by a Chinese development company based I think in Cupertino.) The other nearby opportunity, the Frys property, could be a hugely important central hub of community recreation and activity to foster connection, but if it is ever deveoped in the future, will never become that for lack of investment in fostering the physical infrastructure of community here.

As a biracial (Asian and European) child of immigrants who came to the US for education, as someone who has been at times both a bridge and excluded by both sides, and as someone who has been an active part of far more integrated and diverse communities elsewhere, I have to comment that a willngness on everyone's part to foster connection is important, including finding ways to make connecting just easier through our physical spaces as well. Accomplishing goals together is a huge bonding experience that can last a lifetime, too. Building a church, fixing the school lunch program, fixing a local habitat, pollution or air quality problem. Regular potlucks that are 90% fun and 10% community problem solving/activism are ideal. People need the fun, but also the glue of the purpose. In families, people bond by prioritizing the relationship while working through the tumult of life. Neighbors bond better when they are working together, while also habing the chances to connect more easily in physical spaces/hubs, in the ordinary course of life.

(As an aside, I am having trouble with the way this article lumps together all Asians or even Chinese immigrants. Early immigrants to the US from Hong Kong and southeast Asia are very different than current mainland immigrants, culturally, language-wise, and even generally in a seeming willingness to assimilate.)


48 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2016 at 11:11 am

[Portion removed.] Chinese culture is already interwoven into the fabric of America as are many cultures. Regardless of race, you just have to find your niche.

We are not some homogenous culture that is hard to assimilate into-- unless you're trying to fit into some narrow Palo Alto demographic. [Portion removed.]

I take one person at a time, all this labeling and dividing along racial lines only perpetuates the prejudice. Time to change the conversation!


18 people like this
Posted by Sequoia
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 18, 2016 at 12:23 pm

I would welcome seeing more residents from more diverse backgrounds participate in more city commissions, and volunteer groups.

The census says Palo Alto is 27% Asian, but I don't see that level of representation in our leadership.




54 people like this
Posted by Get Involved!
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2016 at 12:44 pm

Please volunteer to work in the classrooms of our schools. We have seen a marked decrease in parent participation at many levels, not just classroom help. Please give back. If you only take, it won't be worth taking anymore.


36 people like this
Posted by Lonely
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 18, 2016 at 1:21 pm

I hail from the East Coast - and have lived in Palo Alto for 11 years. I am social, active and have two kids in elementary school. I find it extremely hard to feel connected here. I am not sure why that is -- everyone so busy? Polite? Multi-cultural? I have so many friends who actually know nothing about me. Its a weird place to live.


41 people like this
Posted by Judy Kramer
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Mar 18, 2016 at 3:09 pm

Judy Kramer is a registered user.

Volunteer service to the community is a wonderful way to get to know people and the Palo Alto area. The Kiwanis Club of Palo Alto, recipient of the 2016 Tall Tree Award for outstanding nonprofits, would love to have immigrant members. Come to a Thursday lunch at the Sheraton Palo Alto and check us out. Please go to our web site to learn more.


8 people like this
Posted by Leadership
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 18, 2016 at 3:11 pm

To 'sequoia' 3 posts above -

I would also like to see more diverse representation in our local community leadership too. One of the most glaring examples is the PAUSD school board. You would never tell that our student body is 42% Asian from looking the current 5-member composition of the school board. The EMAC committee was pretty diverse but their efforts were simply put aside after some fiercely organized pushback.

Same for the City Council. So what's the reason?

No doubt weaker language skills is a barrier in political type jobs, but look at Cupertino (the leadership there is heavily Asian). And obviously you can't point to any cultural reticence to stepping up to leadership positions, since Asians in their home countries are pretty darn active.

[Portion removed.]


28 people like this
Posted by East West local
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2016 at 3:18 pm

@Get Involved,
Having also been around our schools and been part of a group (culturally and racially diverse) that heavily volunteered, I have heard about trouble getting volunteers now from quite a few friends, and think that's a different problem. The administration actively discourages - even tries to disconnect - the kinds of parents who are able to rally others to get involved, because really involved parents try to fix things (not so good for people who make a handsome living and don't want any boat rocking whatsoever). The administration only welcomes quiet compliants, not open hearts and minds, which eventually means low volunteerism, especially since the sycophant types can be hard on parents who don't want to just go along, but want to make things better. Really, I have never seen so much unwillingness to collaborate with parents anyhere, which is bizarre because how competent and intelligent families here of all cultural backgrounds tend to be.

It takes work to get people to show up, and the efforts to keep everyone under control by administrators work directly against that. There is a fundamental conflict. People have to be allowed to volunteer in ways they can be valuable and feel valued. Otherwise this rich district should just hire people to do the work. That's probably part of it, too. At some point it's hard to understand why volunteer when school people can be relentlessly unpleasant and make you feel unwelcome (I heard a complaint from an immigrant, long-time resident friend at Gunn at about that just yesterday) while also swimming in money and hiring people left and right.

I don't think the volunteerism problem can be blamed on racial/cultural reasons as we belong to a large non-school-related community group that is majority Asian, and volunteerism is very high. I would say if anything it is less work to get everyone together helping than organizing school events, where we also had lots of willing volunteers.


3 people like this
Posted by Helen Young
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2016 at 3:29 pm

I am an European-American who was married to a Chinese-American. We lived in Beijing for many years and had the good fortune to live and work on a University campus with strong collegiality within the English faculty, largely due to a British/Canadian faculty couple who entertained Chinese and foreign teachers and students in their home several times a week. Our neighborhoods in Palo Alto are not as singularly focused as a college campus in Beijing, but we can interact with our neighbors through block parties, pot lucks, book groups, etc. Even with language and cultural differences we can still be neighborly in many ways. My Chinese colleagues taught me to cook Chinese food and I exchanged western recipes for food they enjoyed at my home. We traded videos, books and ideas. We also started a women's group, which was open to men, and found huge areas of common problems. When I was in Beijing, the pace of life was slower, and I know people are very busy now, but we do have to eat, we do face medical problems, we do watch TV and read, and there must be ways we can use our activities to cross the cultural boundaries.
I hope this will start a discussion and will help us all cross the cultural divides that isolate.


33 people like this
Posted by Know
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2016 at 4:07 pm

[Post removed.]


28 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2016 at 4:11 pm

[Post removed.]


32 people like this
Posted by Alex Burke
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 18, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Palo Alto is a bubble that needs to get popped.


86 people like this
Posted by Rebuffed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2016 at 6:06 pm

According to NPR, the tech bubble will burst this year. It's equivalent was the dot-com bust of 1999-2001.

That MAY push some foreign nationals to return home. It may cause a housing crash as well, as when the Japanese over-invested in commercial and residential real estate in the late 70s thru the early 90s. The Japanese nationals lost their shirts on real estate here, and left for good. That may also cause a large number of the foreign nationals here currently to return home.

However, as for integration: do you mean assimilation? Either way, my kids have been rebuffed time after time in school as well as the playground when trying to make friends with Chinese immigrant children. [Portion removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by Gertrude
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 18, 2016 at 7:03 pm

[Post removed.]


25 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 18, 2016 at 7:21 pm

[Post removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by Tyro
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2016 at 8:01 pm

Gosh, you know what would also help integration of Palo Alto? More available housing for people to buy so they could move here.


59 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2016 at 9:15 pm

[Portion removed.]

For parents with school age children, the normal means of achieving community is through school activities. It's not happening either from the lack of participation or the school environment.


22 people like this
Posted by likewise a resident
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2016 at 9:30 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


26 people like this
Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2016 at 9:31 pm

[Post removed.]


28 people like this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2016 at 11:48 pm

[Post removed.]


29 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2016 at 12:06 am

[Post removed.]


27 people like this
Posted by Alex Burke
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 19, 2016 at 12:42 am

Americans are known around thr world for their friendly outgoing behavior. Good for us! And not coincidentally, ours is among the greatest most diverse melting pots in the world. But we need to understand most other cultures aren't like that. Also, people from China are often scarred by the toughness of life there, and many have had their childhoods stolen away and replaced with constant studying and working, growing up with no time for the playing that is so essential to become a happy well adjusted adult. Growing up immersed in a culture of oppressive competition and fear, the result can be bitterness, butvit can also be a sweet innocence and curiosity born of inexperience, and the desire to do the things and experience the simple pleasures that we Americans take for granted.


14 people like this
Posted by Debra
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2016 at 7:01 am

As indicated in the article, helping new comers to integrate into our community is actually not purely altruistic, it actually benefits long term residents ourselves. Because without passing the American culture and Palo Alto good traditions to them, the new comers will more likely act the same way as the way in their original countries. When their population reaches to a certain critical number, the culture of our community will shift. So it is to everyone's benefit to help to integrate the new comers.


92 people like this
Posted by cosmopolis
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2016 at 10:23 am

We have lived in parts of Asia and parts of Europe over a period of several years. Before we visit or move to a different country, we ALWAYS study the history and culture of that country before we go there. We try to learn as much of the language as we can, as well, and make it a point to be polite and not upset the local people with any offensive behavior.

However, this latest group of immigrants to the U.S. seems to not care to mingle, even with other immigrants other than family members. When living in Shanghai, we noticed that people there seemed to have no friends outside of family members. However, in Japan, people have lifelong friends! Not having friendships seems to be a practice indigenous to China! Is there no trust of people other than family? I am sure that many Americans find this off-putting.

[Portion removed.]


84 people like this
Posted by cosmopolis
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2016 at 10:45 am

It has occurred to many people that perhaps the immigrants from China are not planning to reside permanently in the U.S.

Many of them lived temporarily in Australia or Canada, buying homes for cash in those countries, before settling here.

Two previous generations of immigrants have escaped from Communist China in hopes of returning when the Communist regime ends, and they have died waiting. Could it be that this is also what the current wave of Chinese immigration is hoping for, the end of communism, so they can safely return with their assets intact? Could they be isolating themselves because they think this is going to happen soon, and don't want any American connections that might keep them here? [Portion removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Gerturde
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 19, 2016 at 11:02 am

[Post removed.]


16 people like this
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 19, 2016 at 11:24 am

[Post removed.]


76 people like this
Posted by sensible thinking
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2016 at 12:29 pm

Being sensible, I know that those of us who moved here from other places, even within the U.S., experienced some cultural differences. I also know that conditions and experiences change, depending on when one moves - like into a hot property market like now; or into overcrowded schools (as is sometimes the case); and many other factors. Do you have welcoming neighbors or those "too busy" to say "hi," as many of mine are? (This is not ethnic-based.)
Language differences are challenging, however the burden is on the NEWCOMER to work towards understanding. If I moved to Shanghai, China, I would know that I would be the newcomer who has to adapt into a very different society, culture, and language environment.
Running ethnic-based clubs seems to smack of exclusion and self-promotion. When one has exclusionary-based tutoring groups, etc., one wonders if the intent is to "win" over others they care not to associate with. I don't know about the club described in this piece, but I have been aware of others that were ethically exclusionary for social reasons. Not OK, just as the reverse would not be OK.
I know very well from working in Silicon Valley tech industry n the past that there were (are still?) ethnic-based high-powered professional associations that were highly successful, in particular Indian-oriented and Chinese-oriented. When I worked in tech, nobody assisted me on an "ethnic" basis, and by the way, my ethnicity is not common here.


9 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2016 at 1:56 pm

In addition (not instead) to celebrating and welcoming the new arrivals, a goodbye party should be held to those who were forced to relocate. A modest party to is the minimum that can be done to show appreciation to those who helped for many years to turn Palo Alto into a middle class heaven and now are replaced. I think that Palo Alto success was its biggest curse. Time will tell.


29 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2016 at 2:21 pm

I think it is good to be able to see some of the positives from the culture of immigrants from all cultures. One thing that we could all benefit from is the fact that some appear to value their elderly in ways that we don't often see here. The fact that the children have such good relationships with grandparents is a plus. They also appear to be very family oriented and value family activities especially meal times together. These are things that American society is lacking in and in some ways getting worse.

However, there are things that immigrants can learn about American society too. It works both ways. I have tried getting to speak with a group of people at events, but they appear to speak little English and at least at some age level have no desire to learn. A smile and a nod is not the way to get beyond a first meeting. [Portion removed.]


35 people like this
Posted by Try having a disability
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 19, 2016 at 9:52 pm

Connecting is difficult. Have you ever wondered how it is for kids, teens, and adults with special needs to feel included and connected to Palo Alto? You have no idea how easy it is for you.


22 people like this
Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2016 at 12:43 am

[Post removed.]


20 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 20, 2016 at 10:07 am

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@BP

Try again. They have a very sensitive censorship threshold and filter anything that hints of not being sympathetic. What happened to freedom of speech and the press?


30 people like this
Posted by Lynn
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 20, 2016 at 11:51 am

Dear Editor, neighbors, and friends near and afar:
I am a Chinese living in Palo Alto. I read some of the postings last midnight which were already taken off by the editor. The editor might think those comments are too harsh and negative. However, I'd say they are candid thoughts on many of our American neighbors. They are helpful for us to reflect on ourselves and help us learn the American customs, etiquette, culture and values. So no matter how harsh you write, we sincerely appreciate your feedback! Dear editor, would you please share those deleted comments to us (you may keep sender’s identity anonymous) using pacpc.contact@gmail.com? This is a public email account of Palo Alto Chinese Parents Club. We also has a website Web Link BTW, we set up our club to help new Chinese immigrants to integrate into local community, not to isolate ourselves.
And friends, we really hope to hear any feedback/comments/suggestions/criticisms from you, no matter how harsh they are! Thank you for helping us understanding ourselves better and make us better citizens! Don't be afraid of writing your candid comments -- anything which doesn't destroy you make you stronger!
I went to graduate school here but worked in China for most of the past years. China and U.S. each has its own strength and weaknesses. And it is often true that we see each other’s strength and weaknesses more clearly than we see our own ones. We need to work together to make America a great nation again.
Chinese people are very friendly people in heart, if not on face or by gesture. Ask your American folks who have lived and worked in China before. Ask them how Chinese people treated them like royalty and family friends.
Hope we can have keep alive our open exchange -- our values, your values, suggestions, criticisms ... everything. Please feel free to send us emails or leave your feedback on our website. Let us build up our community together!


112 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 20, 2016 at 12:33 pm

[Portion removed.] Palo Alto is close to hitting a tipping point where "white flight" will begin. We are already seeing the very early signs of it. Most every Caucasian is whispering about the Asian invasion and many are contemplating selling out to a Chinese investor who will surely overpay for their property. There are far more ghost homes in Palo Alto that most people realize. Very sad.


95 people like this
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 20, 2016 at 1:49 pm

White flight? It already has begun. Ask the realtors why so many Palo Altans are moving to Campbell or Morgan Hill


21 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 20, 2016 at 3:24 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Lynn
Thank you. You are bold and brave in supporting all views to be heard on this issue. I have a personal interest and story to share. Our daughter, Susan, met Albert Yeh when they were classmates at Cubberley High School. They were in the last graduating class there in 1997. They fell in love and eventually married, a true success story. Albert's family came here from Taiwan. When Albert told his parents he wanted to marry Susan, they were opposed to it. They thought he should marry a woman from Chinese ancestry. Well, to make a long story short, love won. It has been a wonderful experience sharing our cultures and values. Susan has been welcomed into their family and Albert into ours.


19 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 20, 2016 at 6:29 pm

Contrasting cultures:

They've been with us for a few centuries. It can't be ignored. When immigrants came here years ago, I'm thinking mostly about the early 1900's, the ones going thru Ellis Island, they tended to settle in neighborhoods with people from their country of origin. They spoke the same language, ate the same food and celebrated their own holidays and traditions. They felt good about enjoying the good life in America they were promised with the unlimited job opportunities, but also being able to hang on to their culture's values. But eventually they were assimilated into our culture, learned English, and went to school and learned about America's culture. They might have done that for survival, to get jobs, etc., but they never lost their identity and that is wonderful, and it's wonderful they didn't have to.

I think our situation today in PA is different. And I'm referring mostly to the new generation of Asians coming here. My generation witnessed the abuse of Japanese internment camps and the discriminatory real estate market against Asians years ago. Thank goodness that is behind us, but it has totally flipped around with realtors now giving bus tours to prospective Asian buyers (mostly Chinese) who have a lot cash to spend on homes as investments, not as places to live and become a part of and contributors to our community. And I think that's what a lot of the commentors were trying to say before they were abruptly cut off. Too many "post deleted" and "portion deleted". Palo Alto Weekly Online, please let the people speak!

And you will never hear a CC member commenting on this. They have their own thoughts but they are smart enough to not commit political suicide. So, maybe we have elected smart people to the council after all.


Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park

on Mar 20, 2016 at 11:20 pm


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20 people like this
Posted by Debra
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2016 at 7:49 am

As a co-founder of Palo Alto Chinese Parents' Club (PA-CPC.org), I can assure you that this club was created purely to help immigrants to integrate into the community because we foresaw this potential crisis 3 years ago. The club's mission is to promote good parenting, school involvement and community integration. By acting as a bridge, we have helped PTA and school district to reach to Chinese immigrant community, getting more immigrant parents to volunteer at schools and donate to PIE and PTA. Recently We also helped to make the first Palo Alto Chinese New Year Fair a community building event by inviting all ethnic residents in Palo Alto. We got about 15% non-Asian participants in this year's Fair and hope non-Asian participants will increase next year to make it a truly community building event. This Fair were put together by over 100 Chinese immigrants and their children as volunteers. The Fair donated all its ticket sale ($4000) to PTA Council.

To further facilitate the integration, we need more community members to step up to help. The new immigrants who moved here all came legally. For those who don't like current immigration policy, you should talk to the White House. For those who think ghost houses are an issue you should talk to the city hall. For those who love Palo Alto and would like to see Palo Alto kept its charm and traditions, please join us to help to integrate new comers. We should do what we can. Your kindness will make a difference and benefit the community and yourselves.


68 people like this
Posted by Worried
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2016 at 9:46 am

[Portion removed.]

My family has made many, many efforts to reach out to new arrivals from other countries. Those efforts have always been successful, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THOSE FROM CHINA! [Portion removed.]

As a friend from England once said, " If you can't get along with Californians, you can't get along with anyone!"

[Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2016 at 10:39 am

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Correction...class of 1979.


24 people like this
Posted by Reaching out
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 21, 2016 at 10:58 am

@Worried, I hear your frustration. Sounds like Lynn, Debra, and their group are working towards the same goals you had in reaching out to newcomers. Why not join them in their efforts?

When I arrived in Palo Alto nearly 25 years ago I remember feeling lonely and put off by Californians who would say "let's get together soon" but would never follow up and were always "too busy" when I would invite them to do things. My first impressions of California were not friendliness but overemphasis on work/stress/achievement and what I perceived as a lack of patience. People here are great but there are definite cultural differences -- and I was just moving here from the East Coast!

Let's be good neighbors.


91 people like this
Posted by Worried
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2016 at 12:32 pm

The most worrisome thing to many of us, I think, is the way parents, especially mothers, from China disapprove of their children having American friends. Do they fell that American children, even preschoolers, are a bad influence? It is so hurtful to both sets of children, and sends a bad message to American citizens. No doubt, it appears racist, even elitist, like," you and your children are beneath us".

I feel that after five-plus years of this, the onus should now be on the newcomers to make peace. Don't complain of loneliness if you refuse offers of friendship from the people of the country you are living in. It is by the grace of the American government and people thatChinese immigrants have the ability to live, work, and go to school here. They should not be disrespected and treated as inferiors.

I think I speak for many Americans when I say these things.


15 people like this
Posted by Reaching out
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 21, 2016 at 1:00 pm

@Worried, if a new family from China moved in next door to you tomorrow I don't think you would let your past negative experiences with others keep you from being a good neighbor, would you? I think it is incumbent on both new neighbors and old neighbors to make peace. When I first arrived in Palo Alto the friendliest people were the couple from Japan down the way and the visiting scholar from China in the apartment upstairs -- maybe because we were all new to the area. Otherwise it took quite a while to feel like part of the community here. Yes, the new folks absolutely should work at it. Just remember it is a bit harder for them! I think we all can benefit from the help that this group is trying to provide.


84 people like this
Posted by Worried
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2016 at 1:34 pm

Actually, five years ago, the family next door, who were good friends with whom we still keep in touch, were called back to Japan by the husband's company. The house was almost immediately bought by a couple from Beijing.

I should mention, BTW, that I learned Mandarin as an honor student in middle and high school, through Stanford.

About two weeks after moving in, the wife's parents moved in with them to care for their infant daughter. The older parents spoke little English, but that was not a problem for me. As the daughter grew, I invited her grandparents to let her play in our front yard, which has large trees, a bench for sitting, and some bird feeders ( as well as plants to attract hummingbirds and bees).

All was well, we had a nice relationship with the older parents of the homeowners, UNTIL the the little girl's mother became pregnant again and took maternity leave. She did not like her daughter ( now 3) socializing with us so much!

The little girl quickly learned only to wave or say hi when she was with her grandparents, but ignore us when her mother was around [portion removed.]

One evening, after the second child was born, the mother came to our front door and told us to stop trying to befriend thei older daughter. The reason: she was in preschool and had homework. She also had Mandarin school and music lessons, and no more time for friends!

I was speechless! Now, we have a daughter of our own, and what I thought was an isolated situation happens almost weekly! My daughter, age 4 now, speaks two languages and is trying to learn a third, has learned to read before she turned 4, loves math, and has many activities, but still has time for friends, which is her personal priority. However, whenever she tries to make friends with Chinese children at any park either in Palo Alto or nearby, the child's mother will take the child and leave ( as soon as the mother looks up from texting and sees her child playing with a "dirty" American-- remember I understand basic Mandarin).

We have neighbors from France, Switzerland and Singapore who have become friends. At preschool, my daughter has friends from India, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Denmark and France-- they socialize after school, at birthday parties, etc.

If another neighbor moved in next door from us who was from China, I would certainly make an effort to be friendly, but I would certainly give up sooner. We have had rude things said to us at the gym, the grocery store, in line at the bank, as well as various playgrounds. When we are in foreign countries we are unfamiliar with, we make every effort not to offend anyone. [Portion removed.]


34 people like this
Posted by Reaching out
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 21, 2016 at 2:19 pm

@Worried, I am so sorry to hear that. It sounds like your daughter is a good friend and has many good friends. I hope she never stops trying. I suppose I am lucky never to have seen such negative experiences with my kids.

One of my kids does have a friend that my kid rarely sees outside of school. We have had this child over several times but our kid has never been invited to the other house. The parents are from out of the country. They don't volunteer at the school. The kid's mom once told me outright that she has concerns about her child spending a lot of time with others from a different social/economic background. Maybe this kid's family is isolating itself from the larger community too? They're not from China, but Mexico.

I think as parents there's a lot we can do to make our communities as inclusive and welcoming as possible. Don't always know what that is, but the Parents Club sounds like a good start.


28 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2016 at 3:18 pm

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2016 at 3:24 pm

Please, Worried, let us not perform the old [portion removed] trick of sanctimoniously trotting out some straw man, alleged real-life example of egregious behavior by one non-white person and then regard that as proof that the whole race is at fault.

My parents are Chinese immigrants, but I was born in and grew up in the US. The hysterical "yellow peril"-esque examples people here are throwing out on this forum are increasingly ridiculous. Chinese people don't have friends! They only talk to their family members! They call all white people "dirty Americans"! Sometimes it really sounds like it’s 1916, not 2016, here.

And BTW, I speak some Mandarin too, and that story of yours sounds very suspect. Care to fill us in on what was the exact Mandarin phrase for "dirty Americans" you heard and translated for us? You can use the pinyin romanization you learned in high school. I’d really be curious what you heard, because that is simply a phrase that is not commonly used.

Strange how you always read about this horrid behavior by Chinese people in these forums while my experience--and that of my many white friends living in Palo Alto--never comes close to matching the awful accounts found here.

Are some Chinese people, especially those who speak little English and are new to this country, uncomfortable speaking in English and thus come across as quiet or unfriendly? Sure. Are there some bad apples in any bunch? Yup. You don’t want to know how many times growing up in a very non-Asian, overwhelmingly white part of the US, I heard the word “chink”, the n-word, and various racial slurs thrown around like they were the funniest thing in the world. But I didn’t take that as evidence that all white people are bad.

If some of you have had disappointing experiences with a small number of Chinese people, I’m quite sure that there are 10x more well-behaved, family-oriented, basically good Chinese people also in your community who you’re just not paying attention to.

Please, people, try to keep an open mind and don't be so quick to embrace your worst instincts. I'd rather not have to fear that Palo Alto has become a "Make America Great Again" kind of place.


47 people like this
Posted by Worried
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2016 at 5:22 pm

I only know the Stanford romanization: bu, bu hau, hen bu hau Mei gwo ren, hen bu hau, bu, bu hau


Like this comment
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2016 at 6:05 pm

Haha, well that's not quite calling Americans "dirty", is it? And I think you just proved my point about the veracity if your anecdote.


59 people like this
Posted by Worried
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2016 at 6:29 pm

Several negative intensifiers before "bad", or "not good" = "dirty". According to Stanford.

I certainly hope you are not anti-American, because if you were born here, you are an American. I am the child of a German immigrant, but born here, so I am an American, too.

However well-travelled I am ( I also speak German), my husband is more so. Of all the Asian countries he visits, he says that the people of China are the most impolite. He attributes it to communism, because he has also found the natives of Cuba and Russia to be rather rude. [Portion removed.]


72 people like this
Posted by Reaching out
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 21, 2016 at 7:53 pm

Sounds like a number of kids have been rebuffed by parents from China in their attempts to make friends with the kids. Maybe it would be helpful if someone from the Parents Club (or anyone else from the perspective of new arrivals from China) might provide possible explanation(s) as to why the parents from China would not want their kids to play with the others? Do members of the Parents Club think this a type of misunderstanding attributable to a cultural difference or something else?


9 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2016 at 10:04 pm

This is not at all as common as Worried is making it out to be. It's akin to a certain GOP frontrunner saying immigrants from our neighbor to the south are mostly criminals and rapists. If you are predisposed to thinking badly of a certain group, you seize upon some negative anecdote, whether it even really happened or not, and then sanctimoniously present this as justification for spewing bigotry.

Worried, I'm sorry that you had a bad experience in the park. But don't use that as an excuse to promote prejudice and negative stereotypes of Chinese people. You and your husband say the Chinese people are the rudest people on the planet? Tell that to my nice, elderly Chinese parents and all their nice Chinese friends.

A white person was rude to me in the checkout line at Safeway the other day. I do not fixate on this one incident and tell everyone that this is proof that all white people are rude and that Palo Alto would be better off without them.


9 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2016 at 10:15 pm

And Worried, Chinese people don't say "bu bu hao" and no Chinese textbook would ever translate "hen bu hao" (ie. "Very bad") as "dirty", certainly not one from Stanford. I don't deny that sometimes people have bad experiences in parks, but your story, at least what you allegedly overheard, doesn't sound like it really happened.


6 people like this
Posted by Carlos
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 21, 2016 at 10:31 pm

[Portion removed.] Some people just aren't willing judge individuals for who they are, preferring the convenience of putting them in some ethnic/nationality bucket and placing a general label on it.


57 people like this
Posted by Worried
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2016 at 9:42 am

The problem has never been, that I know of, with people from China over the age of 65. It appears to be younger people under 45. Our neighbors appear to be very ashamed of their live-in parents, and boss them loudly.
[Portion removed.]


42 people like this
Posted by Worried
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2016 at 9:45 am

BTW, my father was actually a Czech, whose family escaped to Germany, attained German citizenship, than came to America, and attained citizenship here.

Very few people from China become citizens, though people from Taiwan ( the gwo ming tang) usually do.


22 people like this
Posted by Reaching out
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 22, 2016 at 10:22 am

@Worried, I know someone born in mainland China who became a US citizen, who said to me they have had a difficult time with the Chinese government refusing visas required for them to return to China to visit family. Just one story, but maybe that is part of it? I think Taiwan does allow dual citizenship.


29 people like this
Posted by Reaching out
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 22, 2016 at 10:33 am

@Worried, your comment about younger people from China is interesting; China's "one-child" policy took effect in 1980. I thought it was mentioned somewhere above but I am not seeing it now. Personally I find it terribly sad that an entire generation could grow up without nearly anyone knowing what it is like to have a brother or sister. And for the parents of that generation, having so much love and only allowed one child to share it with.


24 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2016 at 11:19 am

[Post removed.]


42 people like this
Posted by Erin- Go-Lightly
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 22, 2016 at 12:52 pm

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 22, 2016 at 1:37 pm

In some of the postings above, substitute "[those of a certain religion] are cheap.", "[those of a certain race] are dumb.", and "[those of a certain other race] are lazy." for "Chinese people are rude." Do that, and you'll see how intolerant many of you here sound.

Attempting to buttress your promotion of racial stereotypes with purported empirical evidence (eg. "My husband agrees...", "My friend also thinks..." ) doesn't make one's prejudice any more justified or less repellent.


25 people like this
Posted by Elliot Margolies
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 22, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Most of our families were immigrants at some point. It's not an easy transition what with language barriers, cultural differences, and starting over from scratch. At the Midpen Media Center, we launched an archive of immigration stories 3 years back, called Made Into America Web Link where everyone is invited to use the online form and summarize their family story. The stories erode our sense of "us" and "them". I apologize if this is somewhat off topic, but am responding to the voices here who see the need to create bridges of empathy and understanding.


12 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 22, 2016 at 1:59 pm

Erin, what are you saying? Your friends abroad have met rude Chinese tourists. You've met others who feel that certain Chinese people are rude. It's a pretty big leap to say that based on this, it's OK to tar the entire Chinese race as rude and look down your nose at your Chinese neighbors.

If some of those Dutch and French friends of yours hung out at the Jerry Springer Show or some venue with similar folks, they might get a certain impression of American, one that would differ tremendously from what most Americans--and Palo Altans--are like. In this case, would it be fair for your friends run around telling everyone that Americans all cheat on their girlfriends and beat each other up on stage?

The majority of mainland Chinese families at our local PAUSD school are Silicon Valley professionals, usually with at least one PhD per couple. I'm not saying that those with graduate degrees can't be rude, but in my experience, these families are not rude at all and participate fully in our school community. Palo Altans should be proud to have people like this in our community: they are frequently brilliant, entrepreneurial, and always dedicated to their families.

That's why it's so jarring to read the odd collection of stereotypes and intolerance that often crop up here. Because the subject is Chinese people and not some other minority group for whom Americans are more attuned to racism, people posting here somehow think it's OK to blithely toss around the kind of prejudiced statements that they would never dream of applying to other groups.

It's all very, very disappointing. Fortunately, I've met enough Palo Altans in real life who are a lot more open-minded. [Portion removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by Reaching out
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 22, 2016 at 2:17 pm

@Elliot Margolies, I couldn't get your link to work.

Moderator's comment: We have corrected the link and it now works.


36 people like this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2016 at 2:48 pm

[Post removed.]


38 people like this
Posted by Erin-Go-Lightly
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 22, 2016 at 3:06 pm

[Post removed.]


39 people like this
Posted by moto- mama
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2016 at 5:35 pm

moto- mama is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by Don Carlos
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 22, 2016 at 7:12 pm

Don Carlos is a registered user.

I see a very dangerous trend when posters take their individual experiences or selected negative incidents (or those of their so-called friends) with members of a particular ethnicity (Chinese in this case) and make generalizations and place labels on the whole race.

Once you stop judging people as individuals and use biased perceptions to deal with all people from that race, you'll end up with some horrible events that all started by grouping and bashing a certain demographic group. Nazi Germany, former Yugoslavia, segregation history in the US, ...

It's usually impossible to remove people's deep-seated prejudices, but we should raise our voices when we see this kind of behavior. Yes, you'll find it in Palo Alto, just like in any other community with ethnic and cultural diversity.


46 people like this
Posted by Cricket
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2016 at 12:12 pm

Cricket is a registered user.

If there are lonely immigrants from China, I think the best thing they can do for themselves is to be friendly.

Not looking down on others of non-Chinese extraction would go a long way to alleviating isolation, too. Distancing, cold stares, whispering and pointing only alienate others.

No one, especially someone who is a visitor, should put themselves apart from or above other people.


17 people like this
Posted by How would you feel?
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 24, 2016 at 10:45 am

How would you feel? is a registered user.

Just some observations.

My wife is Chinese and she and her parents emigrated legally and are now U.S. citizens. Her grandfather fought the Japanese invasion in WWII and as a reward for his patriotism was executed by the communists. Her father and mother lived through the cultural revolution and were sent to re-education camps to make bricks because they were considered intellectuals.

If you visit China today, you may not notice it but things like Google and access to news from the outside world are censored. There are also literally tens of thousands of government workers trolling the internet and chat sessions to delete unwanted information and build profiles of people thought to be subversive.

Periodically, political power shifts and a few mid level leaders are tried for corruption (Even though everyone is doing it) and killed. In the past, the family might even be required to suffer through a public kangaroo court and pay the bill for the bullet. Even if not prosecuted, there is always the risk of everyday injustice and the frustration of no recourse.

There is a Chinese saying for managers roughly translated as "The first ten years you work, the second ten years you make the money and the third ten years you try to hide the money". The point is keeping large sums of money in China or getting it out of the country is difficult and risky. If a family has resources, they are continuously a target for a shake down by either the powerful and/or the criminal.

I have noticed that people coming from that type of environment become introverted. It is not a matter of politeness but rather a matter of self preservation. When you have lived in a system that is inherently unfair, it is hard to trust institutions as well as neighbors.

In America, we have our issues but it is nothing like China. Keep that in mind and try to have a little understanding when you walk up, ring the doorbell and ask to barrow a cup of milk.


32 people like this
Posted by Cricket
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 24, 2016 at 1:10 pm

Cricket is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Sham
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2016 at 8:56 am

Sham is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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