“We don’t say that in Australia,” he scoffed, before looking up its definition.
“Let’s see if you’re using it right.” During my first year in Hong Kong, after quickly realising that men expect me – as a Filipina – to be warm, open and flirty, there was a period when I would try to avoid saying where I was from.
While drinking with some friends one Wednesday night in Hong Kong, I refused to talk to a Japanese man who was trying to chat to me.
As I walked away, his friends followed and tried shoving a thousand Hong Kong dollars in my face, as if that would change my mind.
I am not ashamed to say it, but often I have to mentally brace myself after my country of origin comes up in conversation.
A few days back, in Tokyo, an Australian man – a friend of a friend, whom I met at a birthday event – turned passive-aggressive on me when I refused to pander to him, as he was clearly expecting something else.
“Bitchy” was one of the words he used in that conversation, during which he also tried to prove that my English was bad after I used a word he didn’t recognise: “repressed”.
Here, we’re seen as opportunistic, gold-digging, lazy, untrustworthy, promiscuous, and dirty. That woman who will be all over men with white skin and/or deep pockets. A foreigner will not see or respect a Filipino woman the same way he will see or interact with a European, Latina, or Australian woman. If it were a Spanish pija (posh girl) they would never come on that way! “I’d love to go back to the Philippines.” I turn my back on the wistful expression on his face, my skin crawling. It is with a sinking feeling that I listen to the beginning of that all-too-familiar speech that has invaded introductory conversations with men (and some women) for most of my twenties. I want to be regarded with more respect and dignity.
On a night out in Madrid, my Spanish girlfriend and I were making our way out of a nightclub. An Irish man I used to date told his officemates about me once. Of course, you can prove them wrong when they get to know you.
She moved to Hong Kong in 2011 and can often be found hiking on the city’s trails or reading at a newly discovered rooftop.