Helene (29) Born to 2 Malaysian-Chinese parents and raised in Luxembourg. She came to the Netherlands 2 years ago to be with my partner, who is Dutch.
What kind of upbringing did you have? There is also a term: “Tiger parents or Tiger mom”. Did you have a similar upbringing?
I had the opposite of a tiger mum. She was always open and supportive. My father, however, is quite traditional and believes in the Asian way of raising children. He demanded respect and didn’t show much affection when I was young. He also valued academic performance above everything.
Are there any taboos or things that you can’t discuss with your parents?
There aren’t many things I can’t discuss with my mother, but I would never touch upon personal subjects like sexuality with my father.
Do you feel close with your Asian roots or not?
No, I feel very much like I’m a white European living in the body of an Asian person.
Did you ever feel ashamed of you being Asian?
Not ashamed per se, but I did wish I’d fit in better when I was younger. One moment that stung in particular was when male friends of mine admitted they “just don’t fancy Asian women”.
Did you ever had a role model when you grew up?
What do you think of the Asian representation in The Netherlands?
I think there’s still quite a bit of ignorance, especially in non-urban areas. However, with the rising influence of k-pop and korean culture in general, awareness and understanding is increasing. I do hope it extends beyond just korean culture in the future, though!
Do you feel like you’re the ‘The Asian Model Minority Myth’? x
Yes, I do feel like many people expect me to have a certain type of personality, like being submissive, academic, etc. They’re always surprised when they find out I have 5 tattoos! I’m glad to be able to prove them wrong…
What made you who you are now?
Experiences gained by living in various countries, traveling, and interacting with many people from different ethnic, educational, and financial backgrounds.
Have people also made comments about you being Chinese? How did you react to this, what did you feel?
Not overt comments as much as microaggressions like mistaking me for another Asian person, making assumptions about me based on my ethnicity.
What are stereotype Asians in your opinion and where does that come from? Do you see other Asians like those stereotypes?
Stereotypical asian women in particular are seen as being soft-spoken, shy, and submissive. I have met asian women who fit this stereotype, but on the other hand, I’ve also met plenty of them who didn’t fit it at all. Plus, there are plenty of non-asians who behave that way or are more introverted.
What stereotypes and comments have you heard about your appearance? Do you identify with that too? How do you see yourself compared to how others see you? What do you feel and how do you feel when people make such comments?
The comment I hear the most is how unusual it is for me to have multiple tattoos (some quite big). I’m always happy to break that stereotype and explain that it’s a manner of personal expression for me.
What racist remarks and discrimination have you experienced? Have you experienced it before? Where, when, how? Which experience do you remember most? So has it gotten worse with the Coronavirus? What do you feel and how do you feel when people make such comments?
I haven’t encountered any overt racism in the Netherlands.
What is a funny trait or tell something that not everyone knows about you
I can speak Mandarin Chinese but I can’t read or write it.
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?
I’m lucky that I wasn’t raised with this belief since my mother is quite progressive in her beliefs and values. She always told me that I could make it just fine on my own if I chose to.
Where do you stand now and what are your plans for the future?
I want to raise more awareness within my circle of influence, so starting conversations with friends and family, raising my children with an understanding of their Asian roots, and also through my store.
What do you want to give to the readers?
I would like people in Europe (Asian and non-asian) that there are many facets to being Asian and that you don’t necessarily need to fit into any predefined mold.
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