16/11/2012 11:49 GMT | Updated 16/01/2013 05:12 GMT

Asian...Or Asian?!

I happened to come across a hilarious (and equally annoying) moment when in conversation with a recruitment consultant recently when on a telephone call with London. Despite me telling her that I am in China, and that I speak fluent Mandarin Chinese, and also that I am a British man of Indian origin, she repeatedly kept on asking me if I knew anything about travel to Asia, and Asian languages.

I am not sure if it was her being completely ignorant, or she was just not aware that Mandarin Chinese is also an Asian language. She went on: "So you live in China sir, and you speak Chinese...but is that an Asian language? I am specifically looking for someone who speaks Asian languages, sir". At that moment I asked her which 'Asian Languages' was she looking for. To my shock and surprise she answered: "I don't know, I just want to make sure if you know any Asian languages, sir. You said Mandarin Chinese, but is that an Asian language?". "Yes, of course it is". I said. "Are you sure? OK, I will give that feedback to the company then" She replied back with a rather unsure tone in her voice.

To be honest I was not surprised by her answers and the lack of serious global knowledge. We all know that for some strange reason the word 'Asian' is interpreted differently in different parts of the world. In North America, the word 'Asian' is referred to someone that is of oriental origin (Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese etc.); while in the UK the word is associated with people from South Asia (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal), and everyone else are known as oriental, or just as Japanese, Korean, and Chinese (in the UK).

Many a times in the UK when I have filled out an application form it normally asks you for your ethnic background (for equal opportunities purposes), and this is what it normally says:

"Please tick the one that applies to you:

Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Other);






For the geographically retarded: China, Japan, and Korea are all IN Asia; and Chinese, Japanese and Korean people ARE Asian people too.

'Asia' is formed of 48 countries, and extends right the way from Saudi Arabia to East Timor covering 30% of the earth's land (44,597,000 km2). Of course, within this area you have parts of the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, and South-East Asia. Nevertheless, despite all this public common knowledge, there are some individuals who think that China, Japan, Korea, and 'Asia' are different (I feel sad for you).