Juri Nakahara , lives in Japan
In Berlin, a lady distributing something on a street, asked me, "Are you Chinese, or Korean?" (and Japanese was not an option).At Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, an officer asked me, "Are you Chinese, or Japanese?".In Paris, a waiter at a restaurant asked me, "Are you Chinese?".What I had in mind was just, why don't they just ask me like "where are you from?".I agree with Misako's answer and I cannot tell the difference between the western people just by the way they look and I assume it's the same about Asians for western people. (In Kuala Lumpur, a guy asked me if I was a Japanese. I asked him why he thought I was a Japanese and he said, "it's just because you look like a Japanese".) I just wonder why they were specific when they asked me, and I asked some of them the reason they thought I was a Chinese or Korean, but no clear answer....
Hashem Nazar Ono , lives in Japan
I am only half Japanese so my experience to people's reaction in this regard might be not so relevant but interesting . Being half Pakistani and half Japanese I have always been treated as a foreigner in my two countries.
While in Japan I would get comments about my appearance being Indian and in Pakistan people would mostly mistake me as Chinese.
It makes sense for the majority to assume brown people are from India and that all yellow people are from China or Japan cause that's how the social media, news, movies and ads, society in general, presents people. That's how stereotyping works. I feel both countries had a relatively low understanding and tolerance for different races but are gradually shifting away from being conservative.
Hashem Nazar Ono ，在日本生活
大多数人认为棕色皮肤的人来自印度，所有黄色皮肤的人来自中国或日本，这是有道理的，因为社交媒体、新闻、电影和广告，乃至整个社会都是这样向人们展示的。 这就是刻板印象的作用。 我觉得这两个国家对不同种族的理解和宽容程度都相对较低，但都在逐渐改变保守的态度。
The most number of people who could actually guess where I was from were the people in Indonesia and Malaysia for some reason.
Over my life I've been mistaken for Indian and Chinese when I was Pakistani and Japanese in real, but it has never bothered me. Basically I go with the answer that's easier to explain at the time to that specific person. I react according to the situation. There are times I take advantage and play the foreigner card which aids me to break social norms of the country. At times where being a local was the upper hand I would be one of them. For people who knew me I was both.
Masaru Oka , studied at Stanford University
I don’t know if I’m the person you’re wanting to respond to this. I’m Japanese but I’ve always lived in the States, and this is my experience with other Americans thinking I’m Chinese.
Depending on the person’s attitude, my reaction varies from something like “nice try” to rolling my eyes to being kind of insulted. I had a black woman say “ni hao” to me in Philadelphia’s Chinatown - granted it was Chinatown so it was a reasonable guess. But just a few days ago I was at the mall’s food court. There was a “Japanese” restaurant (the kind that’s Japanese by virtue of having teriyaki chicken) giving out samples. The Latino guy hawking the food says “ni hao” to me. To the Japanese person, at the Japanese restaurant. My initial reaction was an eye roll because what do you do about someone whose job is sort of being obnoxious? Then I realized the irony of it.
But to summarize, it’s usually some sort of “I don’t know why you automatically assumed I’m Chinese” (if I’m not in Chinatown or some other highly Chinese environment)
So…. I’m Japanese, born and raised in Brasil, have lived in the US for 30+ years, have a midwestern American accent, which is to say, no accent at all. Unlike my father’s side of the family, I am 5′10″ (tall for a Japanese), fairly dark and smile a lot. Usually, if I’m around Asians, people assume I’m one of the Asians. For example, if I’m a Chinese restaurant, most people assume I’m Chinese, if I’m in a Korean restaurant, they assume I’m Korean. When I went to Thailand, they thought I was a Thai giant! Here in the States, if I’m not around Asians, people think I’m Mexican. Yeah, Mexican. It really doesn’t bother me to be mistaken for another race and I am not so totally Japanese as to think that others should see that I’m Japanese. I just tend to roll with the punches. Although, sometimes if someone is really rude and obnoxious, I will just talk to them in Portuguese, just to throw them off.
Mario Kubota (Kubota Mario) , was born and have lived in Japan for more than 30 years
My parents are Japanese who were born in Japan, I was also born in Japan so I’m a pure Japanese. However, I have ever been mistaken as being a Chinese, in Japan, by a Japanese.
I was looking for an apartment and dropped in at a real estate agent 4 years ago. And I had a little talk with a staff. In the conversation, she asked me if I’m a Chinese. I said no. I asked her why she thought I was a Chinese and she said it was because she interacted with a lot of foreigners in her job. Then I remembered my Chinese friend had told me I looked like a Chinese.
But a guy I met in India somehow recognized me as a Japanese soon. He said Chinese, Korean and Japanese are different in how they dress, how they walk and how they behave.
An Indian could tell where I came from and a Japanese couldn’t. Very bizarre experience.
David W. Rudlin , knows Japanese
I’ve lived in Japan for 30 years, have a Japanese wife, and we both lived in Hong Kong for five years (where even the Chinese people thought she was a local).
I think the first time or two that people are mistaken for another nationality they might be a little shocked or upset. But it happens so often, in both directions, that most Japanese aren’t bothered by it.
To close, a largely irrelevant story. I was once on a train where a Spanish guy was arguing — in Spanish — with a French conductor who was speaking French. Frustrated that the other party couldn’t understand them, they turned — in sequence — to me. I hadn’t a clue what was going on, but nodded sagely. That seemed to satisfy them and they left with smiles on their faces.
David W. Rudlin 懂日语
我有一个很大程度上不那么相关的故事：有一次我在火车上，一个西班牙人正在用西班牙语和一个说法语的法国列车员争吵。 由于无法理解彼此的意思，他们感到很沮丧，于是依次看向了我。 我不知道发生了什么事，只是睿智地点了点头。这似乎让他们很满意，于是他们满脸笑容地离开了。
That and many similar incidents made me think I have a sort of Basic Model face, where people from many European countries think I’m one of them. But I was shocked when a woman told me I looked just like her son.
This was in Hong Kong.
And she’s Chinese.
Moral of the story: most people stink at recognizing where people are from. Don’t assume an insult when it’s just inability.
John Garrison , I can speak Chinese
I’d walk around China with my Japanese friend and everyone would always speak to him in Chinese. They just assumed he was Chinese.
My Japanese friend didn’t like it very much, but then again Japanese people can’t tell the difference either.
When I was in Taiwan with a different Japanese friend, we heard a couple speaking Japanese a few seats back on the high speed train. It was really muffled so he couldn’t make out what they were saying, but he turns around and looks at them, and then turns back to me and says “Wow I haven’t seen Japanese people in a while.”
I turn around and look at them and then say to him, “I think they are Taiwanese, they aren’t Japanese.” But he was insistent, he kept telling me he knew a Japanese person when he sees one.
We wait like 5 minutes and then the one “Japanese” guy had to make a phone call and in perfect Chinese, no accent, he speaks on the phone. He was Taiwanese, no question about it, he and his girlfriend/wife were probably practicing Japanese together.
Alec Fougue Aoyama , studied at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
I am 100% Japanese, but I was born in Switzerland and lived almost all of my life in the New York City. While majority of New Yorkers (Manhattanites) do recognize me for who I am by blood, there is a number of people in the outlying boros thinking I am Chinese. I usually say, “Wrong language, buddy/ma’am. I am Japanese - American” and keep on going.
Mari Seto , spent half of my life in Tokyo.
I would actually be impressed if a Westerner recognizes me as Japanese. I mean, even I sometimes can’t tell the Asians apart. It’s a reasonable assumption since what, almost 90% of the East Asian population is Chinese.
I usually politely correct them, teach them the Japanese greetings (Konnichiwa), and walk away to get on with my life.
P.S. In reverse, I will also confess that despite living in Germany for the past two years, I have never been able to tell Italians and Germans apart.
Mari Seto 我大半辈子都在东京。
事实上，如果一个西方人认出我是日本人，我会留下深刻的印象。 我是说，有时连我都分不清亚洲人的区别。这是一个合理的假设，因为几乎90% 的东亚人口都有中国人的血统。
Te Wheke Medea Pai
I think this would highly decided by context.
As Asian living in a place Caucasians are majority I understand the mixed up is most likely not intentional. Just like I can’t tell Danish from Norwegian ( although I can tell a few major other European countries apart by their language, even I don’t understand them. Studying musics have its advantages ), to most of Westerners , East Asians all look alike. It even took me a few years in NZ to tell Kiwis and Aussies apart.
Of course there are Japanese who considered Chinese are not as desirable as themselves and get offended, but this is minority. Sure, there is no doubt that the younger Japanese generation do not know their war history well.
Te Wheke Medea Pai
作为一个生活在白种人占多数的地方的亚洲人，我理解这种混淆很可能不是故意的。就像我分不清丹麦人和挪威人一样(尽管我可以通过语言区分几个主要的欧洲国家，即使我不懂他们的语言。 对大多数西方人来说，学习音乐有这方面的好处) ，东亚人看起来都差不多。 在新西兰，我甚至花了几年时间才把新西兰人和澳大利亚人区分开来。
Daichi Kitayama , studied at Waseda University
From my personal experience, I can say “ I am Japanese.” But I don’t feel comfortable to be talked by saying “Ni Hao”. We, know that there are much more Chinese people than us all over the world except in Japan.
In short, if I am mistaken as being Chinese, I don’t feel anything in particular, but I would appreciate it if they would know people who look like Asian are not always Chinese.
Leong Wenyi , Random Chinese guy from Malaysia
Well, most people won’t be offended if you mistaken them for a different race/nationality.
I lived in Dubai (diverse place, indeed) for a while, sometimes people ask if I am Japanese, some just greet me in Japanese ( some of them can actually speak fluent Japanese ) , and I just normally tell them I am Chinese (although I can speak decent Japanese).
Although some times I complain in my heart when some people (those fluent in Japanese) immediately speak Japanese to me without confirming if I can understand them, but I don’t blame them because some Japanese themselves assumes that I am Japanese and speak to me in Japanese.
In 2001, I went to a small town in Queensland Australia during my first overseas backpacking trip. Many locals asked me “Are you from Japan?”
In 2003, I went to Teotihuacan in Mexico City. The street vendors greeted me with “Konichiwa” and tried to sell me souvenirs.
In 2014, I went back to the same Teotihuacan. This time, street vendors greeted me with “Nihao” and tried to sell me the same souvenirs.
I don’t know how Japanese people will react to being mistaken, but I feel nothing as such mistakes are expected. In 2001 and 2003, most Asian tourists were Japanese so I was assumed to be Japanese. In 2014, most Asian tourists were Chinese.
Well they mostly as if we are Chinese or Japanese… I think it's because China is so big. Chinese from the north and people from Hong Kong don't look the same, and there were different ethnicities before the unification of China… not sure but that's probably where the differences came from. I'm also guessing that Chinese living closer to Vietnam should look more Vietnamese because they might have some vietnamese blood inside then from (crossbreeding) - is that the right term I'm not sure
好吧，他们大多数时候就搞不清楚我们是中国人或者日本人... 我认为这是因为中国太大了。 来自中国北方的中国人和来自香港的中国人看起来不一样，而且在中国统一之前有不同的种族... 我不确定，但这可能就是差异的来源。我还猜想，生活在离越南更近的中国人应该看起来更像越南人，因为他们体内可能有一些越南人的血液(混血)——我不确定这个术语是否正确
Jess S Ong
This is a ignorant and harmless question but can be taken it differently depending on where you are and the manner in which you asked.
Mistake is you NEVER ASSUMED anyone about their race or religion.
Simple questions to avoid all unnecessary misunder standing starting with ‘'WHERE ARE YOU FROM?’. Allowed them to tell you .
Jess S Ong
I witnessed an encounter where a person was mistaken for Chinese. While riding a bus in Los Angeles, an Asian lady had difficulty communicating with the bus driver due to her lack of English skills. She spied an Asian looking lady sitting next to me and asked her if she could speak Mandarin. The Asian looking lady exploded in anger screaming she was not Chinese but one hundred percent a member of the Cherokee Nation.
我亲眼目睹一个人被误认为中国人的情况。 在洛杉矶乘坐公共汽车时，一位亚洲女士由于不懂英语而很难与公共汽车司机交流。 她看到坐在我旁边的一位像亚洲面孔的女士，问她能不能说普通话。这位看起来像亚洲人的女士愤怒了，尖叫着她不是中国人，而是百分之百的切罗基族印第安人。
Misako Fukuda , lived in Japan
I don’t feel bad or angry at all. I just said, “I am Japanese”. I know that they can’t recognise which one is Japanese or Chinese. We are all similar faces. I think they feel Asian is all same. I can’t recognise which one is American or English either
CA Apoorv Bansal , works at The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India
It's similar to how an Indian will react when they're being mistaken as Pakistanis by westerners or east Asians..
most would not like it and downright hate the person
CA Apoorv Bansal 在印度特许会计师协会工作
The same way Chinese people react when they are mistaken as being Japanese by Westerners. You smile and decide for yourself if you want to correct them and then continue the conversation as normal.
Damien Morgan , lives in Dalby, Queeensland, Australia
Probably with bemusement as did I when asked if I was British or American when visiting Shanghai a few years ago (I am Australian). Or, even more bizarrely, when a woman in Oregon asked if I was Scottish - I certainly do not have a brogue.
Damien Morgan 住在达比，昆斯兰，澳大利亚
Baowen Pan , Know a little about China and Japan
To tell you something funny,as a Chinese,I have often been mistaken by my countrymen as being Japanese. My wife once told me that a girl in a department store whispered to her to confirm if she’s married to a Japanese.I would rather say I was surprised than being annoyed.
Baowen Pan 了解一点中国和日本
Chengdong Cai , lives in The United States of America
I don’t think this has anything to do with nationality. Disrespectful people will be angry anyway no matter whether they are Japanese or Chinese. Decent people will always show respect if they are “offended” by others not on purpose.
Chengdong Cai ，生活在美利坚合众国
我认为这和国籍无关。 无论是日本人还是中国人，无礼的人都会让人生气。 正直的人如果不是故意被别人”冒犯” ，他们总是会表示尊重。
Paul Irving , lives in Reading, England
My wife either ignores it, or politely corrects them, depending on context.
Paul Irving ，居住在英格兰的雷丁
Zeng Hongyi , student (2014-present)
maybe it just like asking a white guy where are you from,America or Europe
Zeng Hongyi ，学生(2014年至今)
I guess it’s the similar context when an Asian guy mistaken a British for being American.
Ken Sumi , Born and grew up in Japan
I am always mistaken because Chinese population is much larger in where I live. In most cases, it doesn't matter to them. If they ask, I say I’m from Japan.
Ken Sumi ，出生和成长在日本
As a white person myself, I can tell you that japanese people (or amy other asians) would never assumed as “westerners” (whites). Cuz they dont look like us, white people. But i have a japanese friend, how is always been seen as a chinese person. Amd why? Becouse 80% of the yellow people population is chinese.
作为一个白人，我可以告诉你，日本人(或者其他亚洲人)绝不会认为自己是“西方人”(白人)。 因为他们看起来不像我们白人。 但是我有个日本朋友，老是被看作是中国人。为什么？因为80%的黄种人是中国人。
Summer X.WANG , Lives in Beijing
My personal experiences are the counter example actually. As a Chinese girl I have been treated as Japanese always when I traveled in Europe. Not only Westerners, sometimes even Japanese people also mistook me as Japanese. In most cases, I explained, but sometimes if I thought the person I might never meet again, I was kinda of thinking it was no need to explain