Subtle Asian Traits isn’t just a Facebook group– it’s a growing community where Asians from around the world feel like there’s a place for them. Whether you’re Simu Liu, Hasan Minhaj or any other of the group’s nearly 2 million members, here, you'll discover the most niche memes about the little aspects of Asian culture – and the Asian diaspora in particular – that are often overlooked. Like the tradition of removing shoes when entering a house or the experience of always having your name mispronounced at Starbucks. And the reason why the group is so successful? Humor. Lighthearted and fun, the space binds thousands of people together through what is common and funny to them. But that doesn’t come without its challenges. When moderating such a large group, the group’s nine founders – Chinese-Australian students from Melbourne – have run into a few problems. “Why are you only representing Chinese culture?” “You need to speak out about more issues.” “Asians are not a monolith.” Despite issues of representation, co-founders Kathleen and Tony are trying their best to honor all identities. They strive to make sure the members have a good relationship with the group, that it’s a welcoming space for all and somewhere people are not afraid to be who they really are.
12Pell says they’re the Madison Square Garden of barber shops. What they mean is when certain folk come through New York City, they don’t leave without visiting. The barbershop is always packed, and there’s a few reasons why barbers combine Japanese style precise scissor work with the sharp shaves of Dominican barbershop, layered on top of K hair techniques. They are one of a kind, and their audience of nearly 2 million followers on TikTok and 300,000+ on Instagram has made them some of the most sought after barbers of our generation. Customers book months in advance for a slot, with prices starting at $150+ for a trim. But 12Pell is important not just because of the popularity. . During the COVID-19 pandemic when Chinatown became a 'ghost town', the store rarely got any customers. 12Pell translated this downtime into community-driven initiatives, offering free haircuts when customers spent $45 dollars at any Chinatown store, and investing in their TikTok community. Soon, 12Pell had things up and running again for the entire neighborhood, including themselves. The barbershop cares beyond just the business of hair – they show up for the Asian American community by creating a space for young Asian men to feel a sense of belonging.
China’s one child policy led to 30 million more men than women in the past 36 years, which has directly driven up bride trafficking from neighboring countries. Like Lào Cai, on the border of Vietnam: this mountainous rural province is a hotspot for human trafficking. Girls and women are tricked in various ways–from friends inviting them to a birthday party to promises of higher paying jobs–only to end up in forced marriages, unable to escape, subject to the behaviour of their husbands. Compassion House in Lào Cai is a long-term shelter for female trafficking survivors, and since 2010 they have supported nearly 300 women and girls–some as young as 12 years old. Every year, human traffickers earn over 150B USD, third only to drugs and weapon trafficking. According to the UN, only 1% of all victims of human trafficking are rescued globally. Here are some stories from survivors who escaped.
Though Filipino queerness dates back as early as pre-colonial times, the portrayal of drag was limited until shows like Drag Den became mainstream. This acceptance led to Butterboy cafe in #Manila, where brunch includes delicious food and drag. Today, as more people are celebrating drag as an art form, Butterboy has become the place for Saturday drag brunches. Their performers gloat about the caring staff, intimate environment, and incredibly supportive brunch-goers. In fact, they say they feel more appreciated at Butterboy than they do in night light–and are even treated like celebrities. Co-owners of Butterboy, Hildebrand Demeterio and Jayson So originally fantasized about a cafe that would serve as a safe place for queer talent. Today, their dreams have been filled with support, love, and a community that never existed before.
Extreme Tech Challenge is the largest startup competition in the world, and it’s founded by two Asian men. Young Sohn and Bill Tai defied parental and societal expectations to become successful venture capitalists that are now funding the next generation of tech entrepreneurs. Every year, XTC receives nearly 5,000 applications ranging from Silicon Valley and Mumbai to Singapore, Dubai and Berlin. This community is made for people building tech innovations that will impact the world for greater good–and since 2015, there has been over $3.5B in funding raised for finalists. But Young and Bill fought to get here. In fact, Young’s mother raised him to understand that while Asians could be engineers, their bosses would be white men. And when Bill dropped out of Princeton, bypassed Harvard, and drove to California to work for a startup, his father told him he didn’t know what he was doing. These two visionaries care most to show people that innovative ideas can come from anywhere, and there are no boundaries–something they’ve both proven.
In Indonesia, the government-appointed position of 'Spiritual Guardian' tends to Mount Merapi volcano both physically and spiritually. That’s because Mount Merapi is believed to be more than a volcano–it’s a creature of God. Mbah Asih is the Spiritual Guardian of Mount Merapi. The role of the spiritual guardian is to carry forth the traditions of ancestors, especially the culture of treating a volcano as a sacred site. Before him, Asih’s father was the spiritual guardian until he died in the historic 2010 volcano eruption that killed 37 people and left 300,000 displaced. Instead of seeing Merapi’s eruption as a disastrous event, Indonesians believe that it is “tidying up”. It wants things as they ought to be–clean and protected. When society litters and villages damage the natural environment, nature revitalizes. Asih reminds us that mankind is powerless, and able to survive only when we live in harmony with nature—in their context, with their sacred volcano, Merapi.