Chinatown West

This post is meant for people in San Francisco or who used to live in San Francisco because they’re going to understand it better. The Sunset District has blossomed recently with a huge influx of Asians, mostly Chinese. While that’s more disturbing to many of the few old guard left who originally bought their homes when the companies who built them would only sell to Caucasians, I was surprised to see a bit of a split between the Chinese.

Recently while I were searching Yelp the other day to try and find a good Japanese restaurant out of all the Japanese restaurants around us I started to notice something about the businesses around us that people where complaining about. Chinese complaining about Chinese. WTF?

Then I began thinking about it. In particular I’m going to be referring to Noriega Street because that’s where I saw most of the complaints. Noriega is one of those odd streets in the Sunset like Judah, Irving and Taraval that allow a short run of commercial sections and then housing. The majority of the business on Noriega are Asian owned. What I’ve noticed over the years that there are a number of Chinese that are coming in that are new to the U.S. and either don’t know English, know vary little or know it, but feel more comfortable speaking Chinese [Mandarin or Cantonese take your pick] In a short walk from 33rd and Noriega to 30th and Noriega you’ll be lucky to hear a word of English spoken.

This isn’t a bad thing, per se, but you have to understand the area that you’re dealing with if you go shopping there. There is a dim sum place, Mong Kok [see map below] that I’ve learned you have to understand that you’re walking into a place where English is a second language and that while they expect the occasional non-Chinese speaker to come in they don’t know more than a few words and how to count in English. They know me because I’m the white guy who goes in to pick up some of the cheapest dim sum you’ll find. They always smile and say hello, but I don’t go farther than that because I probably know about as much Cantonese as they do English and with my luck they probably speak Mandarin. People have said they are rude, but I don’t think so. I think it’s more that they are there to get their job done and English isn’t really a part of it.

I think what’s happening is that there are Chinese people who have made the complaints on Yelp haven’t had a need to learn Chinese because they were born here and they get frustrated that their own people don’t understand them. These are Chinese people who know about as much to even less Chinese than I do. You have to realize that the business owners are used to the way things work in China and that’s not exactly what people born and raised here regardless of race come to expect here.

If you need to do some shopping and have to do it in the Sunset District you’ll just have to remember that sometimes it’s like you’re taking a trip to China. I’m not afraid of that. Besides, sometimes you’ll discover something you didn’t expect to find.

[gmap zoom=’16’ lat=’37.7536611′ lon=’-122.4900452′]