Made in China: is this normal?

As I heard the all-too-familiar sound of the Tinder *ding* go off on my phone while I pretended to do my homework, I opened my phone with excitement just to be disappointed by another white male asking me “What’s your favorite Anime?” I sighed. I don’t even watch Anime, so why would he ask that? Then I remembered: I’m Asian.

Dating online has become the norm for anyone 30 years old or under. In today’s society, “sliding into the DMs” is how most people meet, if not through a mainstream dating app. I am no exception, as most college students in their 20s have Tinder, Hinge, Bumble and the list goes on. 

However, I don’t think it is the norm to be so specifically addressed about your particular race right out of the gate as the first pickup line to a girl. 

Initially, I thought I was the only one receiving pickup lines such as “I love Chinese food” or “Can I get a taste of that fine China?” Then I realized this was so weird. I’m not sure what makes me fall head over heels for a guy more: the microaggressions or the flat-out racism. I even got a message that said nǐ hǎo (knee how) which is “hello” in Chinese. One of the more unique ones I recently received was “Were you apart of the one-child policy adoption boom?” That one, I admit, was kind of funny, albeit true. 

Coming to Mankato and living in a predominantly white city, I have experienced so many out-of-pocket comments on dating apps that were unprovoked. In all honesty, I am guilty of addressing the elephant in the room and making a quick joke about it before someone else does. That is how I survived growing up in a white suburban city.  I even have a tattoo that says “Made in China.”

I will never forget the first date I went on with a Chinese guy. We booked a nice dinner at a sushi restaurant and had a great time chatting about dream jobs until he asks me “So, do you speak Mandarin?” I immediately blushed out of embarrassment and sarcastically said “No. Is that a deal breaker?” He then proceeded to say “Well kind of. My mom only speaks Mandarin so it would be hard to communicate with her.” Needless to say, there was no second date.

Even when I was young I remember my mother telling me that because of my race boys would like me. At the time I brushed it off thinking “What is she talking about, no boys ever come up to me in school.” I now understand what she meant.

I get this identity pushed on me that I don’t even identify with. Joke’s on them: I’m actually adopted. All of the Asian stereotypes they are looking forward to fetishizing all head down the drain.

Society, especially in the past few years, has felt so bipolar to me when it comes to their view of Chinese people. One year, everyone blames us for bringing COVID into the U.S. with former President Donald Trump calling it the “China virus,” or others calling it “Kung Flu.” The next year, I get labeled as foreign and exotic; someone who has an “exciting persona.”

As a Chinese woman, why should I have to fear the guy I just matched with on Tinder having an Asian fetish?

I am proud of being Chinese; however, my heritage is not your “How you doin ;)”

Header Photo: These are actual messages I received from guys on Tinder. (Julia Barton/The Reporter)

Write to Julia Barton at

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