Julien (22) was born in France and raised in Taiwan. He came in 2016 to The Netherlands to study product design. He identifies himself as Taiwanese and describes himself as: detailed, kind and honest.
The conversations between my mom and I are also about how to improve our self or future career plan, it isn’t real conversation but until recently we started having a real family talk.
Are there any taboos or things that you can’t discuss with your parents?
Sex and death actually, we never have sex education and death is a subject everyone tries to avoid.
Do you feel close with your Asian roots or not?
I know where we came from and who were there in my family before, and it is good enough for me. It’s not really necessary to figure out the whole roots for me.
Have you ever felt ashamed of being Asian?
Not at all! Well, when living there of course I look differently, behave differently and think differently, but I don’t mind the difference. We are the same race, it doesn’t mean we have to be exactly the same. Of course, sometimes I feel limited by the way people look at me, but it’s more about individual awareness than that it’s a race problem.
Did you ever have a role model when you grew up?
There was a period of my life where my dad is my role model. He is a successful famous artist, but nowadays I am more focused on myself instead of trying to become him.
What do you think of the Asian representation in The Netherlands?
My parents brought me back to Taiwan from Paris where I was born, when I was only three years old, so I don’t have experience about looking Asian when growing up in western country. However, In Taiwan, even though we are warm at heart and we welcome foreigners to visit, lots of long staying western looking people have been treated like tourists, even though they’ve been living in Taiwan for 30 years, and Taiwanese media of course won’t talk about it. In our mind this is an act for friendliness, but they don’t feel the same.
What made you who you are now?
I am really lucky that my family can support me to go to different counties so I can open my creative mind. I am what I experienced from the past 26 years.
Have people also made comments about you being Chinese?
The first year when I arrived here, when people made fun of me for being Asian, I would get mad and start arguing, but after 3 years of traveling, I realize there are different types of people. It is not necessary to get angry and try to make sense of the people that think completely different than me. I disapprove of the fact that they treat me this way, but at the same time the way I see this is, I don’t take it personally.
Do you know any Taiwanese stereotypes, and do you identify with that?
Soft accent actually, Chinese think the Taiwanese accent is too soft, but I like it! The political bifurcation is that Taiwanese consider Taiwan as an independent country but the Chinese government sees Taiwan as a part of their territory. For me personally I see two completely different cultures and behaviors, even though we have the same ancestors, it doesn’t mean we have to be categorized in the same “country”.
What are stereotype Asians in your opinion and where does that come from? Do you see other Asians like those stereotypes?
Asian people don’t do social drinking that often in the bar compared with dutch people. Asian youth spend lots of time on the phone, etc. It is easier to look at and categorize people in groups, but if we look closer, actually individuals are really different in each person.
What racist remarks and discrimination have you experienced?
People spit on me, called me “Chigga”, treated me unfairly and used their own language to make fun of me. I just non take it, not to avoid it, just non taken.
The world will be way nicer if there is no racism problem, but in my opinion in reality it will always exist. What we can do is bring out the awareness of it, sooner or later people will slowly become aware of 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?
It is influenced by family, and the families are influenced by society. In our generation, we started to be aware of these problems and we have the power to stop it. It’s just a matter of time, it will get there eventually.
Where do you stand now and what are your plans for the future?
Right now, I am busy with my graduation project and after that I will stay around a bit more, looking for a job while making the best use of workshops. When my visa expires, then it’s time to move on again!
What do you want to give to the readers? What do you hope to achieve?
In the big picture, we are at a turning point now, so many things are still unjust, but I believe our generation has awareness of those issues and things are getting better. In the small picture, the problem won’t disappear in reality, but we can look at it differently. Sadhguru, an Indian yogi and author. I got lots of inspiration from him. Check it out.
Where can we follow you?