Jieon (18) was born in China and was adopted by a Dutch family. She came in 2005 to The Netherlands. She studies fashion at Deltion College in Zwolle. Her biggest wish is to meet her biological family.
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 a free upbringing. I can do what I want, but there are rules. What I start, I have to finish. They also stimulate sport.
Are there any taboos or things that you can’t discuss with your parents?
I can talk with them about everything. We are really open to each other. I am more closed up. I find it difficult. Sometimes I don’t want to talk. I find it difficult to open up to people because I’m afraid to get hurt. I don’t let people get close to me. I need my personal space.
Do you feel close with your Asian roots or not?
I feel very close to my Asian roots. I would really love to know more about my background, but in China it’s very difficult. My biggest wish is to meet my biological family. We did go to China and traveled around to learn more about the country and the culture. We also went to my orphanage and where they found me. I even met my caretaker in the orphanage. I really felt at home in China, because people looked like me. They treated me as one of them. In the Netherlands, some people will still look at you as if you are a rare specimen. I will certainly go back to China and I want to learn to speak Chinese to be able to communicate with them.
Did you ever feel ashamed of you being Asian?
I had problems accepting my height. When I was younger I wanted to look like my family. I didn’t like that people looked at me because I’m different. In China, it was the other way around. My parents and brother stood out. It irritates me that people can’t pronounce my name correctly. I have to repeat it many times, even then they say it wrong.
Did you ever have a role model when you grew up? Who is your role model now and why?
The one I really look up to is Lalisa Monabon (better known as Lisa from BLACKPINK). I saw a documentary about her and I thought wow. How she achieved her dream to become what she wanted to be is amazing. I really recommend watching that documentary. I really wished I was as strong as her.
What do you think of the Asian representation in The Netherlands?
About Asian representation, I don’t know much about it, because I don’t meet a lot of Asian people. This is because I don’t go out that much. For example, parties or big cities. I feel more comfortable in my own village. Although I love meeting new people and seeing more of the world. I do this with little steps. For example, going to a bigger school far away from home and alone. In the beginning, I found it very scary, but after a while it became normal.
When I was in China. I felt really at home because the people were just like me. But I would not live there. What I have seen, how people lived there was not nice to see. There is a huge gap between rich and poor. I am really happy that I live in the Netherlands. I am really thankful that I can live like this. I think that we live in luxury if you look at how some people live in China. I think I couldn’t get better than this. I have a lovely family, I can chase my dreams, I’m going to school and I am happy. I think I can’t wish for more. Except for meeting my biological family.
In this time, the media has a lot of impact on the world. I think that the media can play a big role in representing Asians. Actually, I never thought about it before. You need to do something different to change the media representation. In these times, being like everyone else is the safest. But if you are different, people will look like you don’t belong here. Sometimes you need to be different to get known.
Do you feel like you’re the ‘The Asian Model Minority Myth’?
Sad and not right. No, I surely don’t feel like a model minority myth.
What made you who you are now?
My parents, being myself but also my past.
Have people also made comments about you being Chinese?
Yes. I usually ignore it. People like that want you to react and I know that. But inside I feel angry, upset, and sad.
What are stereotype Asians in your opinion and where does that come from?
People who don’t know anything about us and the culture. I think the media plays a big role sometimes, not always.
Do you know any Chinese stereotype, and do you feel like you’re that stereotype?
No… not that I know of.
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?
That we all have tiny eyes and that we all are smart. I really don’t identify myself with this. If people say those comments, I feel sad and my pride gets a punch.
What racist remarks and discrimination have you experienced?
Yes, I have experienced discrimination. When I was on vacation, some girls and boys, I think they were the same age as me. They were in a group and they began to say stuff, like ‘’Look, a Chinese, o wait she can’t speak Dutch”. Then they began to “try” and speak “Chinese” to me, not knowing I could understand them. They were Dutch. I did find this very irritating. I mean as if they have never seen a Chinese person in their life.
Due to the Coronavirus time I got some comment’s like “Look, a Chinese, 1.5 m distance ha ha ha”. I ignored it. Of course, I felt upset. The more you go to the big city’s, the more you get comments. In my village, I almost never get mean comments. Everyone knows each other and we respect each other. I love that about my village. Sometimes, there are very young people, who say these things about me, but that’s okay. I know they don’t know much about other cultures. The only reason that they say comments is because they feel high of themselves and they want to see if I react to them, well.. they won’t get it from me.
What is a funny trait or what is something that not everyone knows about you?
When you meet me I will be shy. But if you get to know me very well… Well, then I am a completely different person. Not because I act like I am someone else. I am shy because I don’t feel comfortable right after I meet people. I need time to get to know people before I can be myself. Which is weird, because when I was little, I was not shy at all. I was very social and a free spirited person. This changed when I went to Secondary education. Age can be a reason, but I think that’s not the whole reason.
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 understand that parents want the best for their children, but I think you can’t force your children. It’s their life. You can’t control their life, but you can help them and try to give the best you can.
Where do you stand now and what are your plans for the future?
Right now I have no idea what I want to do in the future, but I know for sure that I want to have a family. This is because I want to care for my children. I would love to have little me’s around me, who look like me. My biological parents couldn’t take care of me for some reason, but I don’t want this to happen to my children. I want to see them grow up and have the best life they can get.
What do you want to give to the readers? What do you hope to achieve?
Be yourself, live your life, and never give up. What I hope to achieve is to have a family and a great job that I like and earn well, so I can give the best to my children.
Where can we follow you?