Inescapable ABC

I entered a Chinese book store earlier today. The shop lady, a middle age Chinese woman was chatting happily with another person then stopped suddenly when she saw me.

(The following dialogue is in mandarin)

Shop Lady: What you looking for?

Me: Chinese novels.

Shop Lady: Are you sure? You strike me as an ABC.

Me (defensively): Yeah, I want to practice reading Chinese by reading Chinese novels.

Shop Lady: Ok. Furthest row in the back.

As she turned away, I wanted to ask her what was this ABCness (American Born Chineseness, or in my case, Taiwaneseness) she could smell a mile away. I wasn’t hurt, this has happened to me about 5,000 times when living in Taiwan, but I’m always curious because people have a hard time to articulate what that ABC feeling is concretely.

Instead, I went to the back row looking for some literature. I found all these Chinese romantic novels the kind, if they were in English, you’d see sold at Rite Aid with a scantily clad buff guy holding a woman in a torn dress on the cover.

I left empty handed and disappointed.