What do Chinese people do in the Bay Area? — 1: The Three Banalities

2 million Asians reside in the SF Bay Area. In the tech industry, more than half workers are Asian. I bet there’s one on your team.

Have you ever been in a Monday 1:1 with an Asian colleague, who — upon your clichéd prompt of “so how was your weekend” — blankly replied “nothing much”? You wonder what kind of sport this “nothing much” is. You hypothesized but dared not to ask, for you didn’t want to come across as racist.

Photo by Akson on Unsplash

As a Chinese software engineer myself (surprise!), I felt qualified to share a few popular activities among my community. Hopefully, this could make our 1:1s less uncomfortable, for both you and me.

For this first installment of this series, let me start with —

“The Three Banalities of Bay Area” (wānqū sān sú)

We love to mock about the lack of activities. There are so few Chinese-friendly options that we made a list of banal recreations:

  • Hiking. ⛰ No. The staircases don’t count.
  • Werewolf / Mafia, or board games in general. 🐺 Often found in the break rooms in your company.

and one of the following seasonal activities:

  • U-picks. 🍒 Cherries, strawberries, …
  • Clamming. 🦀 We are talking about digging geoducks, trapping crabs, and cleaning the sand out from your crocs.
  • Skiiing / snowboarding. 🏂 For some, a trip to Tahoe is the only occasion they travel outside of California.

Hiking

Let’s start with hiking. Mission Peak is everybody’s favorite. But what’s the big deal with climbing that pole?

Photo by Eleonora Patricola on Unsplash

I’m not going to do this. At least not for free. Last time I slid down a pole, I got a $20 tip.

(I can kiss the professionalism of this blog good-bye now.)

Board Games and “Script Kills”

The runner-up are the board games, which needs no further introduction. Instead, I want to talk about an recent trend here: Script Kills (a.k.a., “murder mystery”, “killing scripts”, “jùběn shā”).

How to play? There’s a story, which usually involves murder. Each player gets assigned a character in the story and receives a script booklet. The booklet is chaptered. You aren’t allowed to start reading the next chapter unless the dungeon master (DM) has so instructed. The goal for the good guys is to discover the truth and pick out the murderer(s); the villains, naturally, win by hiding from the law.

Why is it fun? You are supposed to “play the character”. This means you get to forget who you are in reality and experience a whole different path of life. To help with the immersion, there are often costumes that you have to wear.

A typical Script Kill session. It can last for 6 hours.

Where do you play Script Kills? Like escape rooms, there are physical establishments for Script Kills. Since online maps don’t yet have a category for this, let me just list out a few:

I’ve been to all 3, but I don’t endorse any. I’m only providing a list here because they are too difficult to search for online.

U-pick Farms

We Chinese people brag about our agricultural skills: We plant stuff everywhere:

It truly has become a meme that Chinese people are all good farmers, and what could bring more joy of harvesting than a visit to U-pick farms?

Photo by Ish de loyola on Unsplash

Specifically, software engineers love cherry-picking — It aligns well with our world view. Here are some riddles:

  • What lives on a branch and has 6 letters, beginning with “c” and has 2 repeating letters in the middle? A commit.
  • What’s the command for selectively duplicating a commit from a branch to the HEAD? Git cherry-pick.
  • Where do you put your cherries after removing them from the branch? A bucket — BitBucket.

That’s pretty self-explanatory.

In the next post of this series, I plan to talk about some common recreations that didn’t (yet) make it to the Three Banalities list.

This series is all about opening up conversations with your Asian friends from overseas. So, use these topics in your ice-breakers! You’ll be the most popular laowai.

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