Hayoung (24) was born and raised in South Korea and she is proud of her roots. She came in 2018 to The Netherlands to study International Business at Hanzehogeschool in Groningen. Hayoung has lived in several different countries and speaks different languages.
What kind of upbringing did you have? There is also a term: “Tiger parents or Tiger mom”. Did you have a similar upbringing?
My mom was not a tiger mom at all, although I was a tiger mom to myself to be the best at school and in competition. I used to study for 10 hours a day for almost 7 years. My mom was even worried when I did not sleep nor eat to study more. She was always happy with my grades. I was the one who was never happy with them.
Are there any taboos or things that you can’t discuss with your parents?
My parents freaked out when I told them that I’m living with my boyfriend. They were very shocked and could not just accept it. Especially my dad, he still does not even know about my big tattoo on my thigh. Although, my mom is more open-minded than him, so I usually tell her first and then she tells him for me. Eventually my dad also understands me. I mean, what can he do with his stubborn daughter?
Do you feel close with your Asian roots or not?
I do of course, I’ve spent 17 years in my home country and that’s my roots, which will never change. Every bit of me is still Korean, despite how much time I’ve been away from home.
Did you ever feel ashamed of you being Asian? Your identity, appearance, name? In what kind of way, could you explain why, or why not?
I have never felt ashamed of my identity, appearance or name, like, at all. Never ever. Although, sometimes I do feel like that when I actually see with my own eyes other Asians doing the stereotypes such as being loud, taking off their shoes in the public places, or spitting on the ground and so on.
Did you ever have a role model when you grew up?
I did not have such a specific role model; I was more creating myself as a role model to myself. Appearance is not the point of being/having a role model, in my opinion.
What do you think of the Asian representation in The Netherlands?
It’s quite bad, I actually was very surprised how Dutch people are ignorant about racism towards Asians. My dutch friend told me that when he was young, he was singing a song that goes “ching chang chong” at school. AT SCHOOL!!! They just are uneducated, they should learn more, read news or something. They can try to go outside of The Netherlands to have hands-on experience. In Korea, of course we don’t discriminate against Asians, although, we have some sort of reverse racism towards white people, which I hate. This reverse racism means that white people get more chances and get worshiped, just because they have pale skin. Ridiculous.
Do you feel like you’re the ‘The Asian Model Minority Myth’?
I actually have never heard of this, so I really don’t know. But sometimes I do feel like I am the minority model as being a decent person, who follows the rules and regulations well. I figured out this is just a cultural difference coming from power distance. In general, Asian cultures have a very high-power distance that we listen to the superiority, often government, without even asking why. Meanwhile, western cultures have a lower distance, they think their “freedom” is more important than rules.
What made you who you are now?
The time and experience. Traveling and living in different places definitely made me who I am now.
Have people also made comments about you being Chinese?
Of course. Like hundreds of times. I honestly didn’t mind for the first few times, but when it becomes your daily life, it gets extremely annoying. It really depends on my mood. If I’m in a good mood, I kindly explain to them that we are not all Chinese, like not all westerners are Americans. When I’m in a bad mood, I go quite fiercely saying some bad words.
I came to realize that for most of the time they are just trying to be nice (that’s what they say), which is not an excuse to call anyone based on their narrow assumption. I mean, you never pick out a black dude and call him an African, right?
What are stereotype Asians in your opinion and where does that come from? Do you see other Asians like those stereotypes?
I see a lot of Asians ticking most of the boxes of stereotypes. For example, being too polite, being very shy, saying yes to opinions that they actually disagree with, being good at math, being smart and so on. Most of them are considered as “good” stereotypes. But the fact is that nobody likes to be framed, so there is no such thing as a good stereotype. I also see some bad stereotypes like I mentioned before.
Do you know any Korean stereotype, and do you feel like you’re that stereotype?
Korean stereotypes that I know of are having pale skin and being hot headed. I’m definitely hot headed, but no, I have pretty much the darkest skin tone that a Korean can have. I used to hate my skin tone when I was younger and was even bullied, but I love it now. Europeans love tanned skin.
What stereotypes and comments have you heard about your appearance?
“You don’t look like a Korean, Koreans are all pale” is probably what I have heard for the most time. I do agree, I have very tanned skin and am much taller than the average Asian girl. I don’t mind, so I often ask back: “What should a Korean look like?” or “Then what do I look like?”. It’s funny, they always seem to be shocked by my counterattack.
What racist remarks and discrimination have you experienced?
The most common, and I’m pretty sure that most of us Asians have experienced this, is calling out by “Ni Hao” and “Chingchangchong”. It has happened to me everywhere I go, even in Cambodia. It was getting worse due to corona at first but now, since the table has been turned, it got a little better. I used to fight back whenever I experienced these things when I was younger, but nowadays, I try to ignore them and just keep walking. But again, it depends on my mood. Sometimes, I shout some Korean swearing back with combination of English slangs telling them how stupid it is.
What is a funny trait or what is something that not everyone knows about you?
I’m actually a very shy person, but I learned how to pretend not to be. In other words, I look very confident at first but as time goes by people find out I get embarrassed pretty easily.
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?
It is just so stupid. I don’t know so well in other Asian countries, but in Korea this kind of out-dated thoughts have been disappearing for quite some time already. I personally don’t know anyone who got married or has kids in my age. I think it’s changing.
Where do you stand now and what are your plans for the future?
I’m still trying to find what I really love to do in my life, which will probably be a lifetime challenge for me. But I don’t mind. Life is just a timeline of exploring many different things. I like this country and this city, I found nice people around me. I want to stay here as long as I can. Maybe I will get a job, or not. I really don’t know. In fact, nobody knows.
What do you want to give to the readers? What do you hope to achieve?
I hope the readers will learn further concepts of racism toward Asians. Most people know only racism towards the black. But the understanding itself of how big the race pools are is really necessary to solve the problems fundamentally in general.
Where can we follow you?