Did you hear about the American civil rights activist Rachel Dolezal, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, in Spokane, Washington? With her Afro curls and honey-coloured skin (unkind people have called it orange), she fought bravely for the black cause.

One problem: she's white as milk. And her real hair is blond and straight.

I saw her on CNN saying she "didn't understand the meaning of" the question, "Are you African-American?"

I don't know whether it was for political or psychological reasons that she had pretended to be black for so many years. Perhaps being transrace is a "thing" nowadays?

How else would you explain people often warning me, "You can never be Chinese, you know."

I know. And why on Earth would I want to be Chinese? Just because I speak Cantonese and love Sichuan food, Chinese beer and Chinese poker, doesn't mean I want to be Chinese.

Do people tell Chinese people eating at Pizza Hut and dying their hair rusty, "You can never be Western, you know"?

This ties in with a phenomenon I've noticed over the years: Chinese things are seen as being only for Chinese people. Any Westerner attempting Chinese cooking or language, to use chopsticks, or even to buy garlic in the market is an "old China hand" and worthy of much applause.

I was recently in Norway and desperate for proper Chinese food. Not because I want to be Chinese but because it just tastes better.

In Andalsnes, I finally saw a promising place: China House. The waiter howled with laughter when I talked to him in Cantonese, and asked me where I was from.

"Hong Kong."


"Why not?"

"You can't be."

Then came the "you can ask for Tsingtao" wonder, culminating in a thundering crescendo of incredulous howling when I asked if they had anything on the menu containing lotus root.

The waiter spoke fluent-ish Norwegian and, when I pretended to be amazed at this, he scoffed, saying he had been living there for 20 years.

"Right, so why is it strange that I can speak Cantonese, drink Tsingtao and like lotus root?"

"That's different."

"Why is it different?" I asked, with an evil smirk, having had the same conversation in the mainland only about 32,000 times.

"Because … those are Chinese things," he explained, as if I were a 10-month-old infant of unusually limited intelligence.

The waiter, it transpired, was from Hainan and as we chatted away about that excellent island, the sad clanking of knives and forks began.

That's all foreigners can ever use, you see.