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A Community of Contrast- Cultural Distinctions of Asian American Ethnic Groups

Updated: May 4, 2023


May is AAPI Heritage Month, and this is usually the time when we see Asian American advocate groups pump up the content volume on the history, legacy, and involvement of Asians in America. As someone who is passionate about making the world a more diverse and equitable place, one specific article caught my eye. It’s a blog compilation of stories assembled by Medium, the open publishing platform.


In the opening of the article, it says, “We (Asian Americans) are treated as a monolithic group, despite comprising more than 19 groups speaking over 38 languages.” As an Asian American, I am well aware of the heterogeneity that is being defined by a simple two-word phrase. I recall when I was nine, an Indian girl next to me in language class was surprised to see that I had checked off the same box of race when we looked nothing alike. That’s why in celebration of AAPI Heritage Month, I want to share some interesting facts on the culture of the top eight Asian populations. Hopefully, this will help bring more awareness and appreciation around the distinctive beauties of groups within the Asian American culture.


First, it’s important to know that Asia is the largest continent on Earth, and its diverse cultures and ethnic groups are a testament to its vastness. From East Asia to South Asia, each ethnic group boasts its unique language, cuisine, and customs that set them apart from one another. Let’s take a closer look at the top eight Asian ethnic groups and delve into their languages, cuisines, and cultural differences.


Chinese

The Chinese ethnic group is the largest in the world, with over 1.4 billion people. Mandarin Chinese is the official language of China, and it's spoken by most Chinese people in the world. However, there are also several other dialects, such as Cantonese, Hokkien, and Shanghainese. Chinese cuisine is known for its variety, with dishes like dumplings, noodles, and stir-fries being the most popular. One significant cultural trait is the importance of family and respect for elders in Chinese culture.


Indian

The Indians are the most diverse in Asia, with over 1,300 ethnic groups and more than 1.3 billion people. The official languages of India are Hindi and English, but there are also many other regional languages like Tamil, Telugu, and Marathi. Indian cuisine is known for its use of spices, and dishes like curry, biryani, and dosa are popular. One significant cultural difference is the importance of caste and religion in Indian society.



Japanese

The Japanese ethnic group is known for its unique culture and technological advancements. (Remember the Walkman and CDs from the tech boom in the 80’s?)

Japanese is the official language, and the traditional writing system is a combination of kanji, hiragana, and katakana. Japanese cuisine is known for its delicate flavors and presentation, with dishes like sushi, ramen, and tempura being popular. One significant culture is the importance of politeness and respect in Japanese culture.


Korean

Korea is known for its spicy and flavorful cuisine and pop culture. Korean is the official language, and the writing system is Hangul. Korean cuisine features dishes like kimchi, bibimbap, and bulgogi. One significant cultural characteristic is the importance of organizational hierarchy and respect in Korean culture.


Vietnamese

The Vietnamese are known for their beautiful scenery and vibrant culture. Vietnamese is the official language, and the writing system is based on the Latin alphabet. Vietnamese cuisine is known for its fresh ingredients, herbs, and balance of flavors, with dishes like pho, banh mi, and spring rolls being popular. One significant cultural difference is the importance of hospitality and community in Vietnamese culture.



Filipino

The Filipino ethnic group is known for its vibrant culture and hospitality. The official language is Filipino, which is based on Tagalog. However, English is also commonly spoken. Filipino cuisine is a fusion of different influences, with dishes like adobo, sinigang, and lechon being popular. One significant cultural trait is the importance of family and religion in Filipino culture.


Indonesian

The Indonesian ethnic group is known for its beautiful beaches and diverse culture in Indonesia. The official language is Indonesian, but there are also many regional languages like Javanese and Sundanese. Indonesian cuisine is known for its use of spices and herbs, with dishes like nasi goreng, satay, and rendang being popular. One significant cultural understanding is the importance of community and hospitality, similar to Vietnam, with the two countries being relatively close to each other.



Pakistani

The Pakistani ethnic group is known for its rich history and culture. The official languages are Urdu and English, but there are also over 70 regional languages spoken in Pakistan. Pakistani cuisine is known for its use of spices and flavors, with dishes like biryani, kebab, and naan being popular. One significant cultural difference is the male dominance in society and religious uniformity in Pakistani culture.


Asia is home to a diverse array of ethnic groups, each with its unique language, cuisine, and cultural differences. From the spicy flavors of Korean cuisine to the delicate presentation of Japanese dishes, there's a wealth of cultural heritage to explore in this vast continent. By understanding and appreciating these differences, we can gain a deeper understanding of the richness and complexity of Asian culture. So whether you're trying new dishes or learning a new language, take the time to appreciate the diversity of Asian ethnic groups and the beauty they bring to the world.


Photo credit of the map of America: scotscoop.com


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