If you've been on TikTok since the end of April, chances are you've seen scores of British people going through their Chinese takeout orders, as well as scores of Americans expressing horror and disgust at the sauce-heavy, fry-featuring, carb-loaded containers the English get when they decide to "get a Chinese." Here's everything you need to know about TikTok's latest culinary controversy.
What's Up With "Getting A Chinese?"
While Brits had been sharing their Chinese takeout orders for months prior to this recent surge of controversy, it appears an April 23rd TikTok by @charlyannec kicked off the discourse.
@charlyannec Dish up my chinese with me 😍🍽 #eatwithcharly #whatcharlyeatsinaday ♬ original sound – Charly Anne C
The video kicks off with Charly asking "Did anyone order a Chinese?" before going through her bags of Chinese takeaway. That phrasing became a staple of discussion over the following weeks.
"Getting a Chinese" is a staple of similar TikToks from Brits reviewing their Chinese takeout orders, and the phrasing sounds off to many American English speakers. To Americans, the phrase "getting a Chinese" sounds like the act of acquiring a Chinese person, and thus sounds like it has a racist connotation. However, "getting a Chinese" is simply common slang in Britain for "getting a Chinese takeaway order," and is used with cuisines of other nationalities (i.e. "getting a Greek" or "getting a Mexican"). The American English parallel would be "Getting some Chinese," short for "Getting some Chinese food."
What Are The Differences Between British And American Chinese Food?
While many Americans understand that "getting a Chinese" is an odd language quirk, they were less forgiving when it came to the food itself. British Chinese takeaway, at least as it appears in many viral TikToks, can include "chips" (which Americans know as "fries"), curry sauce and strange spherical chicken items, all of which are foreign to American Chinese takeout consumers.
To some American viewers, the resulting dishes looked like carb-heavy gloop, and many expressed their distaste for the dishes they were being shown on their For You pages. In a video by xo_pennypink, they expressed that while the food they had in the states isn't exactly "authentic" Chinese food, the food they were seeing on British TikTok looked like British people had simply made up what they thought Chinese food was supposed to be. One particularly popular response video came from user @soogia1, who expressed shock at the phrase "getting a Chinese" as well as Brits getting "chips" and curry sauce with their meals.
@soogia1 The Al Gore Rhythm can be so funny sometimes. #achinese #chinesefood #britishchinesefood #americanchinesefood #interestingcombination #currysauce #chickenballs #chips #greenscreenvideo ♬ Little Things – Tiqta
How Did The British Respond To The Meme?
As British Chinese food became a central talking point on TikTok, British media stepped in to defend their nation's take on Chinese cuisine. The Independent claimed British Chinese food deserves "respect," saying the food was a product of Chinese diaspora living in Britain adapting to British tastes. British TikToker @ziondavidson defended her countrymen, saying she was well aware the food was not "authentic" but pointed out Americans have no claim to authenticity, as well as some linguistic quirks of their own.
@ziondavidson Dearest ‘Merica: #chinesetakeaway ♬ original sound – Zion Davidson
For more information, check out the Ex Bride entry for British Chinese food TikToks.