Useless Thoughts Running Through My Head

various musings of a generation x kad

What kind of white people are these?

Posted by thoughtful1 on April 23, 2007

I went to see The Namesake two weeks ago. Very good movie. I had also read the book. However, there was one part of it that mystified me, mostly because I’ve heard other Asians talk about this, as if all white people did this:

When the main character, Gogol, brings home his WASP girlfriend, she rattles his Indian parents by immediately calling them by their first names. Horribly rude. Especially in Indian (and Asian) culture.

A few months ago I got together with several other Asian Americans – NOT adopted. They got to talking about trying to raise their children and bridge that divide between general (White) American culture and the Asian culture that they were raised with. One comment people made was how the white people in their church would call people by their first names, even if it was a child talking to an adult. I got the feeling that every white person they encountered did this, that it was perfectly normal in white American culture to call adults by their first names if they are significantly older than you.

Who are these white people? I don’t know any of them, and I live in a very, very white world!

Yes, I did call my mom’s friends by their first names, BUT only when I was told to! I never presumed to call any of my friends’ parents by their first names. I never went over to so-and-so’s house and said, “Hi Dave and Judy!” It was always, “Hi Mr. Smith! Hi Mrs. Smith!” And none of my white friends ever presumed to call my parents by their first names. My mom will tell people to call her by her first name, but my friends only do that because she tells them to, and I think they feel a little weird about it.

So, who are these white people who go around thinking everyone can be on a first name basis? Are they uber-wealthy liberal WASPs who are soooo entitled they can ignore Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post?  Or is it just a situation where a handful of white folks are doing this, and in turn have given the impression to Asian immigrants that all white Americans do this?

Who are these people?


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