Letters from the dorm

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 November, 2009, 12:00am

The international prospectus of each British boarding school should have, in my opinion, a large-print warning on its cover, stating in bold letters: 'Overseas students may be subject to tiresome stereotypes during their stays at boarding school.'

In the past year that I have spent in college, I have been on the receiving end of these stereotypes, as have my friends. It is annoying.

Perhaps some overseas students do, but I do not fit the mould of the typical Asian teenager. For example, English people almost always assume Asians are good at maths, science and computers.

On several occasions, boys in my house barged into my room, demanding that I finish off some binomial algebraic equation for them.

Each time I had to try to convince them I was hopeless at maths and science. Luckily, they seem to have realised I am not lying and have stopped coming to me for help - my other Chinese friends now bear the brunt of this extra homework.

The English also assume the Chinese survive on a diet of noodles.

Once, when I was preparing a meal of delicious chicken curry rice, my housemaster rammed open the door and shouted: 'I don't want a noodle bar in this house!'

And in addition to all this, there are the usual questions, such as: 'Isn't Hong Kong in Japan?'

Chinese students are not the only victims of the distorted identities that English people assign to other nationalities.

Germans, the second largest minority in my college, are often asked questions about the second world war.

For the boys, it is a tradition to yell out a German-sounding phrase in a fake German accent when a German student walks by, such as 'schnitzelweiner'.

And earlier this term, the Form Six boys held a 'German Hair Day'. They put tonnes of gel on their hair and swept it back, creating 1920s hairstyles.

I suspect American movies are largely to blame for stereotypes. So many films feature the Asian techno wizard or the evil German Nazi soldier.

But until Hollywood grows - up and becomes more mature in its characterisation of ethnic groups, we will have to stick with the hope of warnings on the prospectuses.