The ‘Subtle Asian Traits’ phenomenon

Wednesday, February 13, 2019 - 6:58pm

A few months ago, I asked my friend what she had been laughing at for the past half hour straight. Without explanation, she added me to the Facebook group and watched as I scrolled through dozens of memes. I marveled at the fact that I had friends from the U.S., Hong Kong and Australia in it.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Subtle Asian Traits is a Facebook group that took the internet by storm. What started out as a joke for six Australian students erupted into a group with over one million members from all over the world who share memes about life as a first generation Asian immigrant.

In many ways, Subtle Asian Traits is a way for Asian people to unite in the complications they feel navigating school, work, dating and more. Your life can be wildly frustrating, inexplicably hilarious and tremendously confusing at the same time. And Subtle Asian Traits is here for it all.

A lot of people have mixed feelings about the group. On the one hand, it can consume your entire newsfeed and suck you into a vortex of endless memes and notifications. On the other hand, it’s a source of hilarious content that can make you smile on a depressing day or feel like you belong to a community.

But I think one of the most notable aspects of Subtle Asian Traits and its spinoffs (Subtle Curry Traits, Subtle Asian Pets, Subtle Asian Dating, the list goes on and on) is the diverse applications of its platform. It’s whatever you want it to be: A place to poll how many times people rinse their rice, a place to find a future date (or significant other?), a place to share your mutual love for boba, a place to ask for advice on coming out to your parents.

It’s even a place for celebrities like Hasan Minhaj, comedian and former senior correspondent for “The Daily Show,” to remind us that they struggle with similar issues. Minhaj’s ask me anything  on Subtle Asian Traits generated the comment “feels like a huge distance between regular folks and celebrities has been abridged,” speaking to the group’s ability to bring people together through memes, videos and jokes.

And most of all, it’s a group for Asians to voice and reflect on the struggles of growing up with Asian parents and being a minority ethnicity in their home countries. From getting made fun of for mispronouncing a word to sharing how Asian parents express love for their children by cutting fruit for them, Subtle Asian Traits covers just about everything.

While many may feel isolated in their communities, this group is a reminder we’re not alone. Because there’s over a million people out there who can relate to us too.

Also, fun fact: For the longest time I thought that Subtle Curry Traits was about Steph Curry — not content for South Asians and Middle Easterners. Don’t ask why because I truly cannot explain what I was thinking.