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Identical-Looking Asians

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"I hate when white people say, 'I just can't tell all you Asians apart! Tee-hee-hee!' Um, why is it important for you to tell us apart? Are we going to be separated for some reason? I can't tell us all apart! I was not born with a chip in my head that identifies every Asiatic person I come across: [robotic voice] beep beep beep Filipino..."

A simple way to show someone is culturally insensitive (but acceptably so) is for them to be unable to tell Asian individuals from one another. Almost always played for comedy, though occasionally it is used to show that a character is genuinely racist to the point of being unable or unwilling to tell individuals apart since they just view them as a whole.


This could all be partially explained by the commonality of brown eyes and straight black hair in Asia; blondes and brunettes are generally restricted to the Caucasian part of Asia. However, it's a psychological fact that humans have a harder time distinguishing details in faces from races that are unfamiliar to them. As someone spends more time around Asians, this trope diminishes. This trope is often turned on its head for comedy when Asian people will claim, "All white people look the same!"

Note that this trope applies only to East and Southeast Asian people; while Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hindu Indians, Turks, Persians, and Arabs are all technically "Asian" geographically and/or ancestrally, this trope deals more with the Asian Phenotype Stereotype: almond eyes, "yellow" skin, straight black hair, etc.


Compare Interchangeable Asian Cultures, a subtrope of Mistaken Nationality where entire Asian cultures are confused for one another (by either characters within the fiction or even creators of a work). Also compare Ditto Aliens, which is a similar phenomenon but applied to an alien group, rather than a foreign group. When they really do all look the same, see Only Six Faces.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Exploited in Monster, a young German cop denounces the protagonist Tenma (a Japanese doctor wanted for murder) to his superiors, but after Tenma saves his mother's life he then lies to his superiors by telling them that his suspect was called Dr. Chang and that he mistook him because of his oriental features.
  • Detective Conan discusses and inverts this in the episode introducing James Black. Kidnappers mistake Black for the wealthy American owner of a trained dolphin show. Conan explains to the Detective Boys that, just as All Asians Are Alike to many Westerners, all Caucasians look alike to many Asians. At the same time, this is subverted when Conan is able to differentiate Black from the show-owner because he speaks English with a British rather than Texan accent (at least for the show's purposes. However, he actually speaks it with a "Japanese actor reading phonetically" accent).
  • Kitsune No Yomeiri has a variation of this. When Ousuke traveled to his girlfriend's homeland, a bunch of fox spirits come up to him and he believes Tsunemaru has multiplied. Tsunemaru soon appears and feels insulted that he was mistaken for children, only for Ousuke to think they all look the same.

  • Played straight, but with a twist, by Henry Cho, a son of Korean immigrants who was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee. At home, he never had problems finding his parents in a crowd, but in Korea?
  • Australian comedian Anh Do appeared on family history/talk show Pictures of You and invoked this trope, talking about how his father pulled off a Dressing as the Enemy ploy:
    "So my father, who was a 25-year old Vietnamese kid at the time, he goes and he steals a high-level Communist soldier's uniform and paperwork. He walks right through the front door of the jail and he says, 'I need to take these two with me right now.' And they let my uncles go. My father pulled off a fantastic rescue with another guy's ID, right? It goes to prove even Asians think all Asians look the same."
  • Jim Jeffries has a bit where he complains about people who treat pets as practice kids. He says that they're nothing alike, since if you lose a dog, you just try to find a similar one before you wife comes home. But finding a similar looking kid? Damn near impossible, unless they're Asian or Black. Subverted, however, when he tells the audience (after they finish whooping at the joke) that it's not because they all look alike, but they're just much easier to buy.

    Comic Books 
  • In the first issue of Steelgrip Starkey and the All-Purpose Power Tool, the Jerkass foreman Arty Blasko tries to identify Sharri's ethnicity using a variety of Asian slurs (she's Filipino).
  • Red Ears: There's a gag where a white woman has sex with a short Asian guy in his apartment, then after they're done he says that he's ready to go for another round but has to crawl under the bed first. He emerges on the other end and they have sex again. This repeats about six times until the woman gets curious and checks under the bed, only to find about 10 identical-looking Asian guys sitting there.
  • Inverted in a comic series about King Arthur. The protagonists are on an expedition to the East to find Prester John and are brought before the Khan. Unfortunately the Khan has a grudge against Prester John. On seeing our hero, he says this is unmistakably Prester John and orders him executed. It's then pointed out that the other Westerners look like him, so the Khan orders them all executed, as one of them must surely be Prester John! Fortunately their Native Guide is able to persuade him otherwise.

    Films — Animated 
  • Parodied in Animalympics: During Bruce Kwakimoto's presentation, we see a picture of a Tokyo underground station crowded with absolutely identical-looking puffins. One of them is implied to be Bruce. Better yet: It's stated that he stands out in any crowd.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Quite a few of Chris Tucker's lines throughout the Rush Hour series refer to this, along with every other crude Asian stereotype in the book. During a fight with a gang of Triads in Rush Hour 2 he accidentally punches Jackie's character in the face:
    Lee: Carter!
    Carter: All a y'all look alike!
  • In a DVD commentary for House of Flying Daggers, director Zhang Yimou admitted that he added in a new introduction scene for Andy Lau's character, who was originally supposed to be introduced already on an undercover mission, so that Western audiences wouldn't think he was two different characters. He and costar Zhang Ziyi then stated that they sometimes had trouble telling Western movie stars apart. In a separate commentary, he mentioned that he also had Lau eat peanuts in all his initial scenes in order to help audiences subconsciously identify him in his different roles.
  • Inverted in Help!, where Swami Clang can't tell the Beatles apart: "They look all the same in their similarity and language!"
  • Parodied and inverted in a Deleted Scene from Mimino: the two protagonists, a Tall, Dark, and Handsome Porn Stache-wearing Georgian and a short, plump, barefaced Armenian, ride in an elevator of a Moscow hotel with two Japanese men, who happen to resemble each other like identical twins. One of the Japanese men tells the other: "Those Russians all look the same!"
  • In Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom, when Yu Ming (who doesn't speak English) arrives at his hotel in Dublin, he asks for a bed in perfect Irish. The Australian receptionist has no idea what he's talking about and calls over an East Asian employee to translate, who in a voice full of exasperation informs the receptionist that he's Mongolian, not Chinese.
  • Korean taxi drivers in Marseilles use this to their advantage in Taxi. It seems like they work 24 hours a day when in fact it's always one car and one taxi license for two drivers, one driving the taxi, one sleeping in the trunk. This goes largely unnoticed because nobody in Marseilles can tell two Koreans from one another.
  • Inverted in Harold Lloyd film The Cat's-Paw. Lloyd's character Ezekiel Cobb, raised from childhood in China as the son of a missionary, returns to America to seek out a wife. He remarks that all white women look alike to him.
  • The Double: When it's pointed out that James and Simon look identical, Simon's coworker notes that they're not even Chinese.

  • China is home to at least five dozen ethnicities, but most of these groups have intermarried with each other for so long and to such an extent that, even to themselves, they tend to look homogeneous. Hence such jokes as...
    • A crime occurred in a Chinese village. The police composite was used to make sixty arrests.
    • A contest of doubles has been recently conducted in China. Everyone has won.

  • From Our Dumb World's entry on China: "1999: NATO mistakenly bombs the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia, claiming all the buildings look exactly the same."
  • Demonstrated in Tangerine with the (South) Asian twins Maya and Nita, whose names in the paper following a soccer match are wrong, to Paul's dismay.
  • Inverted in The Death of Achilles: The Caucasian Fandorin, frustrated at Japanese Masa's vague description of a suspect, says "We all l-look alike to him."

    Live-Action TV 
  • M*A*S*H
    • In a season two episode, the Korean liaison officer semi-sarcastically explains the difficulty in finding the father of a half-American baby as, "You all look alike to us." There are also several episodes that deal with or make reference to the difficulty in people being able to tell the difference between Japanese, Chinese and Korean people. An Asian blackmarket salesmen posing as a general even uses the trope to deflect suspicion away from himself, claiming, "We all look the same."
      Frank Burns: The Chinese are an exceptionally tricky people, you know. They don't all look alike by accident!
    • In the finale, Klinger's Korean fiancée (played by Rosalind Chao, Chinese-American) is looking for her family, whom she describes several times as "Short, dark hair?"
  • Parodied in an episode of Sullivan & Son, where Steve's mom (who is Korean) says all white people look alike to her.
  • Parodied in an episode of 30 Rock. Jack Donaghy has a meeting with a group of scientists from India, who accidentally call him "John Donovan" and dismissively remark that all American names sound alike to them. For added humor, a delivery boy who looks exactly like Jack (and who like Jack, is also played by Alec Baldwin) later shows up, and one of the scientists wonders aloud if it's racist to think the two white guys look alike.
  • Inverted in Heroes when Ando and Hiro see a precognitive painting of Matt Parkman. When Hiro asks if they know him, Ando responds that all white people look the same to him. Hiro scolds him for being racist.
  • Inspector Rex: This stereotype is present in the chapter "Ombre cinesi" (Chinese shadows). A bus driver who helped Shu Lin to escape from the villain tells Morini that all Chinese are similar, but the girl [Shu Lin] is beautiful. Fabbri is not content with that stereotype.
  • In the American version of The Office episode "A Benihana Christmas", Michael Scott (after several drinks) was confused as to which of the two Asian waitresses brought back from the episode's eponymous restaurant was with him. They even switch actresses when the waitresses come to the office. Michael goes as far as to mark the arm of the correct waitress with a sharpie.
    Michael: You know how all... waitresses look alike.
  • Get Smart
    • Inverted in an episode when an Asian villain, The Craw (no, not the Craw, the Craw!), and his henchmen try repeatedly to kidnap a visiting Scandinavian princess, but keep getting the wrong woman because all white people look alike.
      The Craw: Actually, the only girl we want is Princess Ingrid.
      Maxwell Smart: Then why did you abduct the others?
      The Craw: Unfortunately, Mr. Smart, all Americans look alike to us. We may be diabolical, but we're not perfect!
    • Played straight in another episode where CONTROL's computer was not able to identify the KAOS agent, who was from a fictional East Asian country, because apparently the computer can't tell the difference between people from there.
  • Chappelle's Show featured a sketch where Dave had an attractive white woman sing all his prejudiced thoughts, one of which was "All Asian people look alike." He then went on to admit that pretty much everyone who isn't black looks alike to him.
  • Inverted in an episode of Life on Mars; Sam is questioning an Asian witness about whether he saw a certain white guy, and the witness (used to racism from police) says deliberately that he doesn't know, because white people all look alike.
  • Parodied on the Mind of Mencia segment "CSI: China" where an attempt was made to find a name that matches the profile of the Asian killer. The results were 1,000,000,000 matches.
  • Inverted in an episode of Barney Miller: when an Asian prostitute has been purse-snatched, she looks through the mugbooks. When she comments to Sgt. Yemana that "they all look alike," he responds, "I know, I'm Japanese too."
  • On Sabrina the Teenage Witch a Chinese restaurant delivery man hears Salem talking and captures him, saying that he can make enough money off of him to move back to Tokyo. Salem sarcastically wonders what a Japanese guy is doing working at a Chinese restaurant.
  • Air Crash Investigation: The captains of Japan Airlines Flight 123 and Korean Air Cargo Flight 8509 are both portrayed by Japanese-Canadian actor Denis Akiyama.
  • In an episode of Dollhouse, Sierra mugs and replaces a Japanese-American NSA agent named Ms. Sato. Somehow, nobody is able to tell them apart despite the two women looking nothing alike (and Sierra's actress being visibly biracial to boot). Though she does infiltrate the building among a large number of employees.
  • The Big Bad of Altered Carbon (ironically also played by Dichen Lachman) sneeringly says this about the Grounder who's holding her at gunpoint. She lives in a world where the poor live on the ground while the megarich like herself live in hoverships and starscrapers.
    Reileen: Oh, it's Elliot. Honestly, all Grounders look alike to me. Must be the film of dirt.
    Elliot: You may wanna reconsider insulting the guy with a bolt gun pointed at your head.
  • Inverted in an episode of Law & Order where a defendant's lawyer tries to argue that a key witness, who is Korean, is incapable of telling non-Asians apart and could therefore not correctly identify the Puerto Rican defendant.
  • In Kim's Convenience, a customer in "Rude Kid" thinks Mr. Kim (a Korean immigrant and owner of titular store) looks Japanese, "like that guy in The Last Samurai".
    Mr. Kim: Tom Cruise?
  • Inspector Morse: Invoked in "The Settling of the Sun", where the Victim of the Week is Japanese, and another Japanese man is used to establish a false time of death. It's later revealed that the victim is Not Quite Dead; overpowering his doppelganger and switching places with him. Apparently none of the conspirators noticed the difference.
  • Rome: Cleopatra does this with Marc Antony as part of their verbal sparring when they meet again in Season 2. Cleopatra claims not to remember him from when he was with Julius Caesar in Egypt. "It's those uniforms you wear. You all look alike."
  • Dad's Army. While guarding an Italian POW camp, the platoon use a Circular Drive to convince an officer that there's a full headcount, by running the same Italians through the same hut. This trope inevitably comes up.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • From 1998 up to 2017, WWE curiously never allowed more than one Asian woman on a television show at a time. A brief sample: Lena Yada was removed from shows as Angela Fong came onto them, Fong was removed for Sonia and both were moved and eventually removed entirely for a returning Gail Kim, whose absence had earlier made room for Hiroko Suzuki. This wasn't lost on Fong, or Malia Hosoka (from earlier in the chain), who in companies lacking this Asian female phobia, made antagonistic remarks about how much Su Yung (Sonia) looked like her (Fong, and despite both being Chinese Yung really doesn't) or was moving in on her "spot" (Hosaka).

  • Inverted in Flower Drum Song. When Wang's son asks him what the man who robbed him looked like, he says, "Don't ask me what he looked like. All white men look alike."

    Web Comics 
  • Educomix: Inverted. Not only do the Asian characters look different from each other, each Asian is a clone of each non-Asian person, so Asia is by necessity as diverse as the rest of the world.

    Web Original 
  • GradeAUnderA made an entire video about this trope, where he issues a series of tests designed to (jokingly) prove to the viewer that they are racist. The first test has him showing the viewer three different Asian women, saying that one of them is from China, one of them is from Japan, and one of them is from Korea. It turns out that none of them were from either China or Korea. Two of them were Japanese, and the other one was a Laotian-American drag queen named Jujubee.
  • Joueur du Grenier:
    • He starts making such a joke while commenting on the Japanese Spider-Man series, but he is cut short by a censoring alarm.
    • In the Rambo videogame adaptations episode, during his review of Rambo: The Video Game (a 2014 rail-shooter based on the original trilogy), during one of the Vietnam levels he tries (tries) to explains the games suffers from You ALL Look Familiar when you fight the Vietnamese mooks, but each time It Comes Out Wrong as him using this trope, to his own annoyance.
  • In "The Top 11 Best Avatar Episodes", The Nostalgia Critic confuses Dante Basco with Dev Patel, and this angers Dante so much that he punches Critic down into the comment section.
  • A lot of people thinks that Mari from Smosh Games and Olivia from the main Smosh channel looks very similar, to the point that Flitz called Olivia a Mari clone.
    Lasercorn: Who else is over there, Olivia and Mari? I can't tell those Asians apart, I'm sorry.

    Western Animation 
  • In Family Guy, Peter says "Oh my God, it's Jackie Chan!" to various Asian people, even his sumo wrestling opponent ("Wow, you've put on a lot of weight, Jackie Chan!"). He only gets it correct by the 3rd or 4th try. Inverted when Jackie Chan himself confuses the Griffins for Ethan Hawke (and in the case of Meg, Frankie Muniz).
    Jackie Chan: Oh my God, it Malcolm in the Middle!
    Meg: I'm not a boy.
    Jackie Chan: Oh yes you are!
  • The Simpsons
    • Played with in an episode where Homer is in a Chinese orphanage, trying to find a specific baby. It might not be that all Asians look the same, but all babies look the same — or more likely, both at once making it extra confusing.
    • Played with again about Southern Asians when Homer is in India trying to find Apu's cousin; his difficulties are mainly due to the vagueness of Apu's description — along the lines of "he has dark hair and eyes'" (Somehow, he manages to find him in about two tries.)
  • South Park
    • In "Conjoined Fetus Lady", all the Chinese kids look alike. One Chinese commentator remarks to the other that he is unable to identify a member of the South Park team, as "all Americans look alike." Also, bizarrely, Kevin Stoley is said to be Chinese-American yet looks totally white.
    • A variant: all Canadians look alike to everyone but other Canadians (and possibly Saddam Hussein), who can recognize Ugly Bob's horrible disfigurement.
  • Inverted in King of the Hill, when the family visits Japan. Hank's Japanese half-brother manages to get them access into a major media event by convincing the security guard that Hank is Tom Brokaw.
    • Played straighter in another episode, where Ted Wassanasong and another man speak in Chinese and Hank asks Kahn (a Laotian) to translate.
      Hank: What are they sayin'?
      Kahn: How should I know? They speaking Chinese. I look Chinese to you?!
    • However, Ted Wassanason is also Laotian. He just happens to speak Chinese as well.
    • Played straight and then averted in the Souphanousinphones' debut episode, where the main four guys ask Kahn if he is Chinese or Japanese... then ask again upon being told that he's Laotian. Then, Cotton of all people is able to correctly identify Kahn as Laotian at first glance, after being told that he was Japanese by Dale. Of course, Cotton would know exactly what Japanese people look like, he killed fiddy of them.
  • In an episode of Drawn Together, Princess Clara wears a helmet that lets her see how Asian people view the world. One test is a picture of two identical Asian men which she now sees as "two guys who look completely different".

    Real Life 
  • The website AllLookSame invokes this trope and challenges you to tell the difference.
  • An Asian cyclist in a bicyclist demonstration was mistaken for an undercover police officer.
  • In this spoken word video by Rachel Rostad, in which she criticizes the Flat Character Cho Chang, more than a few commenters mistake her for Katie Leung, aka Cho's actress in the films.
  • The pictures of 2013's Miss Korea contestants have gone viral and provoked discussions of plastic surgery and how one particular type of face is idealized.
  • People magazine screwed up an article about Google founder Sergei Brin dating an Asian employee by showing a picture of the wrong Asian woman.
  • This Asian mother talks about a time when a summer camp accidentally gave her son to another Asian woman who had come to pick up her daughter.
  • Face Blindness (Prosopagnosia) is a brain disorder that causes people to have difficulty identifying faces. This leads to embarrassing incidents that look like this trope when the person they are having trouble recognizing is Asian, and the person tries to explain that he's not racist, as everyone looks alike to him.
  • In the UK, there have been scandals in which Asians would exploit this trope by hiring other Asians to take driver's tests for them. Keep in mind that in the UK, "Asian" generally refers to South Asians (such as Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans or Bangladeshis) rather than East or Southeast Asians.
  • After the Attack on Pearl Harbor, Magazines like Time and Life all published articles on "How to tell a Chinese Person from a Japanese" to stop overzealous mobs from accidentally attacking Chinese people (who were, after all, on America's side). Similarly, Chinese-Americans took to wearing buttons that say in large letters "CHINESE".
  • Japanese intelligence exploited this trope by having their agents pose as Chinese while spying in Soviet-occupied Mongolia. And an Allied agent of Vietnamese ancestry was able to operate in German-occupied France by pretending to be Japanese.
  • Masi Oka apparently subverts this trope. Despite living in Los Angeles, where 10% of the population is Asian and even more are dark-haired, he's often had fans recognize him from the back, despite the fact that he admits there's the stereotype of Asians all looking alike. He himself is apparently just an incredibly recognizable Asian.
  • In the 2011 remake of The Green Hornet, Kato was played by Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou, but several sources, included IMDB, mistakenly credited John Cho, who is Korean-American and around 10 years older. The confusion might also have had something to do with their similar-sounding names. However, Cho was a good sport about it, saying on Twitter, "I am beginning to suspect that I am not in the Green Hornet movie."
  • Variant, but Marvel C.E.O. Ike Perlmutter allegedly once claimed that nobody would notice Don Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard as War Machine in the MCU, because according to him, all black people look alike.
  • Angela Fong has said that when she and Gail Kim were both on the main roster in WWE, they were often mistaken for each other - as the only two Asian females in the company. Angela is Chinese, and Gail is Korean. They are both Canadian though.
  • Kunal Nayyar discusses in this interview about getting mistaken for other South Asian actors, such as Kumail Nanjiani, Kal Penn, and Aziz Ansari. He is not even the same nationality as any of them, as Nanjiani was born in Pakistan and Penn and Ansari were both born in the US to Indian parents.
  • Likewise, British Asian stand-up comedians Romesh Ranganathan and Nish Kumar both get mileage in their acts or hosting gigs about being mistaken for each other. An example being when they were both on Mock the Week, with Nish saying that his own mother described him as "a poor Man's Romesh".

Alternative Title(s): All Asians Look Alike


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