Jun 14, 2021 2 mins, 16 secs

“I’ve tried being American, and it doesn’t seem like that’s going to work out,” KEFF, 30, told NBC Asian America.

But today, many Asian Americans — most of them of East Asian descent — are moving “back” to Asia, citing better job opportunities abroad and the desire to experience life in Asia, as well as anti-Asian racism and other social problems at home.

Compared to Covid-19 concerns and personal factors, “the visibility of the anti-Asian hate and violence came much slower,” Lok Siu, associate professor of Asian American and Asian diaspora studies at the University of California, Berkeley, said.

According to Siu, concern about anti-Asian hate didn’t become mainstream until late last year or the beginning of this year, and many Asian Americans decided to move last summer.

While some feel lucky to escape the pandemic, many also grapple with the privilege that allows them to be in Asia in the first place. .

Until recently, places like Taiwan and Singapore remained largely unaffected by Covid-19, making them desirable locations to escape the pandemic.

While some moved abroad during the pandemic, Siu said only a fraction of the Asian American community is able to do so.

It wasn’t every Asian American who can have access to that kind of mobility,” she said.

“On paper it looks like I’m doing something service-oriented which I do want it to be,” Pan said from her quarantine hotel room

Helen Li, 24, who had been working in Asia before the pandemic, went on a trip to Nepal in February last year

She chose Nepal, where she’s been working remotely ever since, and her time there has changed her perspective on happiness and her Asian American identity. 

“A lot of times I've defined my identity as producing something — like the more of this you do, the better you are,” Li said

After living in Nepal, she’s found joy in slowing down and in activities like making soy milk from scratch — something she used to do with her father but stopped doing because her time was “more valuable in other places.” 

Factors such as one's ability to speak the local language, the economy, and the pandemic all impact the lessons the individuals will take from their time in Asia.  

“I wonder if that's going to make a — hopefully positive — impact for Asian American folks,” said Wen Liu, an assistant research fellow at the InAcademia Sinica institute of Ethnology, Taiwan, who herself moved from New York to Taiwan last year

Given racism and the pressure to assimilate that many grow up with, she hopes that Asian Americans who have spent unexpected time in Asia can find a “different way of relating to Asian culture that's not so static or so — in a way — shameful.”


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