Fresh off the Boat

FOB — Fresh off the Boat

Helene was born and raised in France with her mother and her sister.  Her father currently lives in Toronto, Canada.  She came to America for the first time in 2008 when she was moving into her dorm room at USC in Los Angeles, California.  She is a Civil/ Environmental Engineering student and is diligently working towards her bachelor’s degree.  She is considering going to law school after she graduates in order to ultimately practice environmental law.

Helene told me that she learned this acronym at the same time that she learned the acronym ABC for “American Born Chinese.”  She told me that the “Fresh of the boat” refers to international students who came to America.  It is kind of condescending where it terms them as their own category of foreigners.  She told me she heard this when she was with some of her friends.  One of her classmates was describing herself as an ABC. Confused, Helene asked her to explain.  Her friend explained that often, Chinese people born in America refer to themselves as ABCs in order to easily differentiate between those from America and international individuals who they called “FOBs.”  Helene told me she finds this categorization amusing and silly.

I learned it in high school through other Chinese peers who asked me if I was an ABC. I find the classification silly, but I suppose it is convenient (though rude to call other people) when trying to learn about people when meeting other Chinese people.  This acronym is usually said behind the backs of those it refers to because of its derogative implication.  While many do not find this acronym to be condescending, others find it very derogatory and mean.