Emiel (22) was born in Taiwan and he came to The Netherlands in 1998, when he was adopted by Dutch parents. He identifies himself as Dutch. He studies ALO (PE Teacher) at Hanzehogeschool in Groningen.
What kind of upbringing did you have? There is also a term: “Tiger parents or Tiger mom”. Did you have a similar upbringing?
Normal upbringing: as a kid, my parents let me play outside a lot and always gave me the freedom to form my own opinion.
Are there any taboos or things that you can’t discuss with your parents?
There aren’t any taboos.
Do you feel close with your Asian roots or not?
I don’t feel a particularly close connection to my roots, except for the family I have in Taiwan. I feel strongly connected to them. I have been back two times now to get to know them better.
Did you ever feel ashamed of you being Asian?
I never felt ashamed of being Asian.
Did you ever have a role model when you grew up?
I didn’t have a particular role model when I grew up and now I don’t either. there are a lot of different people that make good examples in certain areas, but there isn’t one stand-out role model for me. I don’t think it’s important to have a role model who looks like me. it’s more important to choose what kind of person you want to be and then take examples from people that possess some of those qualities and characteristics.
What do you think of the Asian representation in The Netherlands?
I don’t feel represented in either a negative or a positive way. In my opinion there isn’t a lot of representation at all in the media. In my home country Taiwan, that’s very different of course. So yeah, it’s a hard question to answer if I feel well represented. I don’t think Asians are represented in a bad way, it’s just that there isn’t really a lot representation at all. I don’t feel like the media is responsible for this. To me it makes perfect sense that there are more Dutch people in the media than Asians, since Asians are the minority.
What made you who you are now?
What made me who I am are the people around me. I’m not sure what I can comment on in terms of race-related stuff. I never felt different because I’m Asian and I don’t feel like people around me have treated me differently. I don’t think it would have mattered if I were Dutch, Asian, African or something else.
Have people also made comments about you being Chinese? How did you react to this, what did you feel?
Of course, there are always people that have to say something about me being Asian. In the past, when I was still a kid, I could feel bothered about it, especially since I felt completely Dutch, so I couldn’t always understand how they could see me differently. As I got older I learned how to cope with it.
My friends make a lot of Asian-stereotype related jokes and I’m completely fine with that. I always get back at them with something else and it’s just friendly banter, so in my opinion there is no harm done there. But like I said there are and will always be some people that will try to get on your nerves by throwing insults based on your race. In my opinion that’s just some dumb ass stuff said by some dumb ass people. I don’t really lose sleep over that.
What are stereotype Asians in your opinion and where does that come from?
I know a lot of Asian stereotypes, I’ll just name a few that I hear most frequently: Asians eat dogs, Asians always become doctors, Asians always have to play an instrument, Asian parents beat their kids up if they don’t score straight A’s, Asians are gamers. I think these stereotypes mainly come from how Asians used to be (and sometimes still are) on American television. Since the influence of American television is widely spread throughout the western world, a lot of people know these stereotypes. Of course I see other Asians that embody one of those stereotypes, but I see enough other people that would be an excellent fit to one of those stereotypes too if they were Asian.
What racist remarks and discrimination have you experienced?
I can’t say I have ever experienced discrimination based on me being Asian. In terms of racist remarks, I’ve had my fair share of being called ‘Poepchinees’ (shit-Chinese), nasi, people chanting “Hankie-Pankie Shanghai” (Dutch people’s way of singing happy birthday in ‘Chinese’).
What is a funny trait or what is something that not everyone knows about you?
When I shower and I get water in my eyes, my reaction is very similar to a dog trying to get something out of its eye.
In Asian culture, it is normal as a woman to get married as soon as possible, have children, and become a housewife. Because when you have a husband, you have children, you have “made” it in life. How do you see it?
For me, making it in life means being able to achieve your goals, no matter what they are.
Where do you stand now and what are your plans for the future?
Where do I stand now and how do I see the future: at the moment I’m mainly focused on friends, my study and building a solid relationship with my girlfriend. In the future I’d like to see myself have a job with a good enough income to travel to Taiwan regularly, to visit my family.
What do you want to give to the readers? What do you hope to achieve?
What I want to give the readers: to readers that may experience similar situations as described in this interview (racist remarks, stereotyping etc.) I’d like to say: in my opinion there is nothing wrong with joking about stereotypes a bit. Especially when my friends do it (and they do it A LOT).
I’ll just have a good laugh about it with them. When you feel like someone is insulting you, try to shut them up with a good comeback or don’t pay any attention to them at all. Most importantly: NEVER let those kinds of people make you feel insecure about your race. They are just shitty people. If it isn’t your race, they will try to find something else to be mean about anyway.
Where can we follow you?