The epic battle between ABCs (American Born Chinese) and FOBs (Fresh Off the Boat) have been going on ever since I can remember. Racism within one's ethnic group somehow always seems to be more widespread than those from people outside the ethnic group (Chris Rock's famous Black People vs. N@&&$$! stand up bit). When Chinese kids in America become teenagers, they are forced to choose a side, either ABC or FOB, each group extremely critical of the other. The bitterness of the rivalries are pretty strong but lessens dramatically with age as people from both groups mature and focus on other things.
ABCs are embarrassed by FOBs and use the term in a very derogatory way. If you do something embarrassingly Chinese, you're a FOB. FOBs make fun of the fact that ABCs can't speak Chinese despite the fact that they are Chinese. They don't understand why ABCs tend to act so "white" or so "black". Their mutual dislike for each other explains why ABCs and FOBs rarely coexist in the same cliques.
The major distinction between ABCs and FOBs is their ability to speak English. If you prefer to speak Chinese during casual conversation and when you do use English it is with an accent, you are almost immediately identified as a FOB even if you have the most Americanized lifestyle or you have been living in the United States for decades. ABCs on the other hand speak English almost exclusively even when someone is speaking to them in Chinese. For those who do understand Chinese, it is very limited and contains almost no Chinese colloquial sayings. They are also pretty ignorant to most Chinese cultural events and holidays.
These days it is easier to recognize ABCs and FOBs by outward appearances. Hair is probably the best way to differentiate between the two groups. FOBs have very funky hairstyles mimicking those of Japanese and Korean teens who mimic the hairstyles of anime and video game characters. Their hair is usually long and requires high maintenance. ABCs usually have more traditional spiky hair, mohawks or Italian style blowouts. Their hair is usually short and clean cut.
Clothes is another good way to tell ABCs and FOBs apart. Most FOBs like to wear Japanese-style funky clothing. Male FOBs sport the Hong Kong Superstar metrosexual look while female FOBs enjoy wearing striped shirts with overalls and other Japanese inspired looks. ABCs tend to dress in more Americanized styles either reflecting the "hip-hop" clothing style, Abercrombie and Fitch style, Performance Gear (North Face and Nike) style or the young professional styles found at Express and Banana Republic. Although clothing and hairstyles are a good way to distinguish between FOBs and ABCs, their ability to speak English is still the most accurate.
There is much peer pressure against ABC-FOB relationships. ABCs will usually never date a FOB no matter how attractive they are because the peer pressure is usually too great. Those that do date, either do so in secret, or isolate themselves from both groups. This is similar to the forbidden love found in Romeo and Juliet without the tragic ending.
Last interesting topic - Crossovers. Crossovers are Chinese young adults that were born or raised at a young age in the USA but love Chinese culture or FOBs that have crossed over to become very Americanized. Crossovers speak perfect English but love Chinese music and are knowledgeable about Chinese traditions and culture (food, holidays, Chinese soup). They can also read and write Chinese and have many FOB like tendencies. To ABCs, crossovers may be considered FOBs although they are always thrown off when they speak English. The only criteria for a successful crossover for FOBs is to get rid of their accents.
This internal division among Chinese Americans will probably persist for ages to come. Which side are you on?