John. Born in Hong Kong. At the age of 4 he went to the Netherlands with his parents and sister for economic prosperity, but also to avoid political unrest. He is a technical project consultant in Hilversum.
What kind of upbringing did you have? There is also a term: “Tiger parents or Tiger mom”. Did you have a similar upbringing?
A quite laissez faire upbringing as opposed to the more generic Tiger parents stereotype.
Are there any taboos or things that you can’t discuss with your parents?
Definitely: relationships, money, sexuality. This is due to both the cultural gap ánd the language barrier.
Do you feel close with your Asian roots or not?
No, not really. I have had a phase where I rejected it consciously, and I’ve had a phase when I could not help but notice the mostly white social and professional environment I am in.
Did you ever feel ashamed of you being Asian?
Yeah sure. However, I feel like it’s like cheese or whiskey: it gets better over time.
Did you ever had a role model when you grew up?
Nope, this is what I feel like missing most of the time. It didn’t come naturally, and only came about when I was much older and when I tried very hard: my self-found godparents (Dutch), non-asian role models (such as Neelie Kroes) and Wong fu productions (role models from abroad). .
What do you think of the Asian representation in The Netherlands?
It’s coming up. Seeing Pete Wu do its magic and PAC starting a community, I feel blessed. However, it is still lacking behind the USA.The Dutch Hollywood (Hilversum) is just not there yet, let alone the political representation in The Hague.
Do you feel like you’re the ‘The Asian Model Minority Myth’? x
I’m not aware of the myth. However, I do feel like the “model minority”. I feel like we conform and assimilate “quite easily” and “successfully”.
What made you who you are now?
My small role in “Voorbij ChinaTown” documentary at Omroep West, my USA traineeship, my time in TU Delft, my time at the Erasmus Rotterdam, Ruben Terlou, my time with the Dutch Chinese business club, the “Dragons Businessclub”.
Have people also made comments about you being Chinese? How did you react to this, what did you feel?
Yes. For example, I should really learn the Chinese language more. It made me feel insecure and inadequate.
What are stereotype Asians in your opinion and where does that come from? Do you see other Asians like those stereotypes?
Stereotypes revolve around being good at math, shy, non-muscular, nerdy, bad at driving, and the list goes on. It probably comes from TV, but also the overrepresented PhD expats in the Netherlands.
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?
I don’t think I am being commented on a lot about my appearances. I see myself as an individual, and some might indeed see me as a nerdy guy. I would feel insecure, however that was way back in my middle school times. Now, I feel like such comments would be shallow, and my reaction would be indifference toward such people. I could imagine that such comments might even make me feel humorous and jolly sometimes, because sometimes I would assume that such comments would come from a person trying to be humorous, silly and harmless.
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?
No nothing out of the ordinary in Corona times. Racist remarks that I remember came from my elementary school years and middle school years. I got bullied severely one time, and even got chased and cornered. I can still point out the exact location, as I can still remember the event quite vividly.
What is a funny trait or tell something that not everyone knows about you
That I have the secret ambition to become the first Chinese mayor in the Netherlands.
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 have a more equalité worldview. The way I see it is that such belief is something from the 50s till the 70s. The average household now does not have the need to have one dedicated person to do the housework. I see it as a shared / outsourced task among the household members. I think both men and women would have “made” it in life, when they can give back comfortably to the family and friends and people that helped them grow and become the person that they are today. Finding happiness is one component of it, if not one of the main requirements for having “made” it in life. If you are not happy yourself, how can you spread happiness among others?
Where do you stand now and what are your plans for the future?
Developing myself as a professional in my own way, but also to develop an alter ego: an inbetweener, a Chinese guy that likes Dutch bureaucracy, enjoys sailing, likes identifying with the banana generation, and even more labels if possible. This way, I can show people that indeed, we don’t fit into one narrow category. I want to create a story, a message similar to how Jan Modaal and Henk en Ingrid or any other unidimensional characters: That they do not fit the major majority, let alone represent the whole (Dutch) population. And that that story is not only totally OK, but kind of desired and appealing.
What do you want to give to the readers?
I hope that the readers would feel more openness and compassion for one another. In situations like these, people should be working together. Nothing of value can be gained by bringing people down. Don’t forget to have compassion for yourself as well. Know thyself and sometimes forgive yourself (and at times others too). This reminds me of what Sun Tzu in Art of War said (non verbatim): the best wars are won without fighting.
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