Julia (21) was born and raised in Germany. She came in 2018 to The Netherlands to study International Business at Hanzehogeschool in Groningen. Her mother is from the Philippines and her father is from Germany. She feels closer to her Asian roots than to her German roots. She identifies herself as Filipino.
What kind of upbringing did you have? There is also a term: “Tiger parents or Tiger mom”. Did you have a similar upbringing?
Since I grew up in a German/Filipino family I would say that I had a similar upbringing but it was not as strict as, for example, in my cousin’s family from my Filipino side. But still, when I was younger my mom was very strict about studying and I always had to have the best grades and if I didn´t they were being mad at me for having bad grades, telling me that I would never get a real job if I had bad grades.
This actually changed as I grew older and my mom was not that focused on me having the best grades, although she still wanted me to have good grades. When I was in middle school, my parents weren´t being mad at me when I had bad grades, but they showed disappointment whenever I came home with a bad grade, and seeing them disappointed was more of a torture than them being mad at me. I don’t blame my mom/parents for that because it is normal in Asian culture and that is her way of telling me that she cares about me and my future.
But still, I think that having strict parents and them always wanting you to have good grades did have an impact, because I became really competitive with other people, always wanting to have the best grades. In middle school, I even became manipulative in order to be better than the others. My obsession with getting good grades actually stopped when I started studying since I realized that having the best grades is not that important and there are so many other things besides your grades that define you.
Are there any taboos or things that you can’t discuss with your parents?
One thing I cannot talk about with my parents are tattoos because they are against it and think that you ruin your body if you get tattoos and actually I really wanna get a tattoo but I feel like I could not talk about it with them and if I would get that tattoo I would probably not even tell them because they would get upset.
Another topic I cannot talk about with my parents is sex, because I come from a catholic family, since most of the Filipinos are catholic and their religion is a big part of their lives. So I remember when I was 16, my mom told me that you should only have sex after marriage. She still has that opinion, although she knows that I had sex but she just does not want to talk about it. Another thing that I cannot talk with my parents about are feelings, since I feel like my parents try to avoid it every time I want to talk about feelings. I found ways to deal with that, although it was hard for me when I was younger but over time I started talking about these topics with my best friend’s mom, since she is like a second parent to me.
Do you feel close with your Asian roots or not?
I actually feel closer to my Asian roots than to my German roots. My mom comes from the Philippines and I am really close to that part of the family and I am actually closer to my Filipino part of the family than my German part. I also did a lot of research on the Filipino culture, history, etc., because it is really interesting to me and I like doing that but also because it helps me to better understand my family.
The reason why I am so close with my Filipino family is because the Philippines always feels like home to me and it feels like a place where I feel comfortable and where I feel appreciated, accepted and loved, which is really different in comparison to Germany. Although I grew up in Germany, that place never felt like home to me. When I was younger I felt like I didn’t belong there, because people were making racist remarks about me and they were making fun of my appearance, pointing out that I am obviously different from them and making me feel like I don’t belong there.
That happened most of my childhood, but it led to a trauma and the feeling of not belonging there, not being appreciated and liked never disappeared. I could describe my feelings on Germany and the Philippines perfectly with colours. When I think about Germany, I mostly think about the colour grey and I associate it with something sad and unhappy, whether when I think about the Philippines I think about the colour yellow because I associate my feelings and this colour with something bright, happy and warm, like a place where you feel comfortable at.
Did you ever feel ashamed of you being Asian?
I do not feel ashamed of being Asian. Actually, I am really proud of it. But this has not always been the case. Growing up in Germany as an Asian kid was really hard for me and I always wished I would look like all the other kids, being blond and having blue eyes. I was always standing out in a group and when I was younger, I just wanted to fit in and be like them, because people were pointing at me and making jokes about me for looking different.
Did you ever have a role model when you grew up?
I don’t have a role model and I actually do not really like the concept of having a role model, because a lot of people interpret it the wrong way. A lot of people have role models and they desperately want to be like them, look like them and have their lifestyle, but that is actually not what they are supposed to be. A role model should actually be there to inspire you.
What do you think of the Asian representation in The Netherlands?
I still don’t think that the Asian representation in the West is great and people still stick to their stereotypes, thinking that most Asians are the same. But I feel like it is getting better and people are slowly starting to kind of hype Asian and the view on Asians slowly changes, which I think is mostly being impacted by social media.
Also, I feel like people are being more educated or at least here in the Netherlands I feel like they are more educated and whenever I start talking to people they actually always guess it right and ask if I am from the Philippines, and a lot of people are actually really interested about the culture and ask me questions, which I really appreciate. All in one, I would say that the Asian representation in the West isn’t the best, but it is slowly improving.
Do you feel like you’re the ‘The Asian Model Minority Myth’?
This is something I also do not agree with because, once again, they are putting Asian people in one big box based on a stereotype. A lot of Asian Americans actually struggle, mostly when they come there for the first time and not everyone can get by without help and live a successful life. But also, I think that because Asian Americans have it that hard in America, especially when they just immigrate there, this is one of the reasons why they work so hard and also end up successful. It is not because they don’t have problems, but because they work so hard through all their struggles to finally get by.
What made you who you are now?
The way people treated me in the past. The way people see me just because I am Asian. I am the way I am because I always tried to get away from the Asian stereotypes and I always felt like I constantly have and had to prove myself and that I had to prove people that I am actually cool to hangout with. I think that this had a big impact on what made me who I am today, but at some point I also just stopped caring about what other people think about me which impacted the way I am a lot, but then again it actually made me a lot happier.
Have people also made comments about you being Chinese? How did you react to this, what did you feel?
Yes, it actually happened a lot when I was younger. And I remember always being hurt about that and that I told people that I am not Chinese. It also made me really mad, because a lot of people see every Asian person as Chinese, and they don’t even want to differentiate people from different Asian countries. I always felt like a lot of people are putting Asian people in one big box, thinking that every Asian person they meet is Chinese.
What are stereotype Asians in your opinion and where does that come from? Do you see other Asians like those stereotypes?
I think most of the people think that the stereotypical Asian is the boring kid that only wants to have good grades, studies all the time, is smart and is shy and quiet. And I definitely don’t see other Asians like these stereotypes, because I don’t want to define people based on their stereotypes. I think that these stereotypes mostly come from movies and tv shows because the stereotype has been like that since the early 2000´s or even longer because that is how the film industry portrays Asian in almost every single movie or tv show, so of course this has a big impact on people’s minds.
Do you know any Filipino stereotype, and do you feel like you’re that stereotype?
I think two of the most known stereotypes about Filipinos is that they love karaoke and actually, yeah, I really do like karaoke. And the second one is that they are always late, which I am not, but I noticed that a lot of Filipinos actually are but that’s more because of the culture, since it’s similar to the Spanish culture where it’s normal to come half an hour later than you actually planned to meet up.
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?
Some of the comments I got are:
- “Hey, you’re Asian, do you eat dogs or cats? And do you also eat other animals?”
- “I don’t get why you are not good at math, I thought every Asian is good at math.”
- (because I cannot eat with chopsticks) “Why can you not eat with chopsticks? I thought every Asian eats with chopsticks.”
- “Your eyes are so small, can you even see something?”
- “I thought Asian are always quiet and shy, but you are not like that.”
- “Your name does not match to your appearance” (because I have a typical German name)
- “You’re not as boring as I thought you are.”
Even though some of them were just “jokes” made by friends, these comments still hurt me whenever I hear them, because as soon as they say it, they are making uneducated stereotypical comments about me and I feel like they actually disrespect me as a person but also my culture. It doesn’t matter if it’s a friend or a stranger who says this, I don’t like hearing these comments and I think that it is actually really rude and disrespectful.
What racist remarks and discrimination have you experienced?
I already stated some of these remarks in the question above. I experienced a lot of racist comments, mostly when I was young and I have gotten better but it is not like these remarks and comments completely disappeared. For me, these remarks actually haven’t gotten worse since the Coronavirus, but still, whenever I hear these comments I just feel mad and disappointed.
What is a funny trait or what is something that not everyone knows about you?
I don’t really know any funny trait about me and I’m not sure if some of the things about me that not everyone knows about me are appropriate to tell, but let’s just say I am a crazy person and most of the time I do whatever I want, because I don’t care about what other people think about me and I just try to enjoy the moment, making some good memories.
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 do not really like that view and I think that’s a really outdated way of thinking because you can also have success in other ways. Not everyone is happy with having children and getting married as soon as possible and a lot of people are only doing it because they have to or because their culture expects them to.
But I think success can be measured in so many other ways, for example, success in the job, success in your personal life, for example, when you have achieved your personal goals. I personally do not want to have kids and my mom always told me, “you will change your mind when you are older” or “you will be lonely when you’re old, and who will take care of you”. And for a long time I thought maybe I do want to have kids, but that thought was only there because people expect me to have kids and get married before 30 and I want to make my family proud, but the truth is that I actually don’t want to have kids at all.
Where do you stand now and what are your plans for the future?
At the moment, I am a student and in the future I probably want to move to a bigger town within the Netherlands but I don’t know where yet. My biggest dream is to actually move to the Philippines when I’m old (around 60 or something like that).
What do you want to give to the readers? What do you hope to achieve?
I want to achieve that people do not put every Asian person in a box and define them based on a stereotype. And if you ever make a joke about an Asian person and that Asian person laughs about your joke that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are okay with it. I want readers to know that whenever you make racist remarks about an Asian person, that remark can have an impact on that person and may even lead to a trauma, so before you say anything you should always think about it twice because your remark may hurt someone.
Where can we follow you?