Lani (24), adopted from Taipei Taiwan, grew up in Enschede, the Netherlands. A dancer and camera-operator graduate, she currently works in IT, Human Resources and Facility Management with the municipality of Enschede. “I struggle with my identity as I have always viewed myself as Dutch. Yet, Dutch people see my appearance and make it frequently apparent I am not a ‘real’ Dutch person. This is why I often think about my identity.”
What kind of upbringing did you have? There is also a term: “Tiger parents or Tiger mom”. Did you have a similar upbringing?
My parents are sweet, and we are very close. However, they may never be able to fully understand me, because, as ‘white people’, they have different experiences. I have the freedom to explore and discover myself, my biological roots and the culture I am not yet familiar with.
Are there any taboos or things that you can’t discuss with your parents?
Luckily, we can discuss everything, I am very outspoken. However, my parents won’t understand everything because they can’t fully put themselves in my position. It sometimes prevents me from saying or asking something.
Do you feel close with your Asian roots or not?
Did you ever feel ashamed of you being Asian?
Yes, previously, I did not want to be associated with ´Asians´. I start to feel more comfortable in my own body and in social situations. Nonetheless, due to my appearance, I still experience swearing, cat calling, discimination, festishism.
Did you ever have a role model when you grew up?
I never really had an idol. I was more embarrassed by ‘the one Chinese character in a movie’. But now I notice more Asian representation in the media to which I can relate and identify myself with.
What do you think of the Asian representation in The Netherlands?
I think bringing in more diversity in the media (in films and series, and in media outlets like YouTube and Netflix) is definitely a good start. It is the biggest source of information for many people. Personally as well, I am increasingly recognizing the beautiful aspects of diversity, instead of stereotypical footage I saw on TV.
Do you feel like you’re the ‘The Asian Model Minority Myth’?
Yep. If I succeed in something by working hard, it will be attributed to my origin. If I am not so great in something, like math, people will be surprised. People may also consider me too loud or too outspoken when they view me as a humble and compliant Asian woman, and their image of me doesn’t fit with my personality.
What made you who you are now?
Everything I have been through is a part of my character, my way of thinking and how I view the world around me. And it helped me to comprehend certain aspects with regards to sexism, racism, discrimation, inclusivity and other important matters.
Have people also made comments about you being Chinese? How did you react to this, what did you feel?
Very frequently. This is very uncomfortable, as I am being reminded that people view me as an Asian, irrespective of the extent I feel Dutch. You are just forced to think about it. And then you have the adoption part on top of that. It’s why I sometimes do not feel at home in the Netherlands. At the same time, I don’t feel at home in the Taiwan culture. I don’t know much about it yet, I am just starting to learn more.
What are stereotypical Asians in your opinion and where does that come from? Do you see other Asians like those stereotypes?
There was a Chinese girl who was quiet and shy, watched anime, and was great at studying. That was my image for a long time too, and this prevented me from hanging out with other East Asian students. Working hard / My hard work is part of my race and I never told anybody that I am not good at mental arithmetic as I would get ashamed ( it would stimulate pressure and negative perfectionism). And in the dating-world too, you are often a festish and an object…
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 have a different body type than how Asian female bodies are most often portrayed in the media, so I often feel uncomfortable [which is why / and / …] I wear modest clothes due to 1) sexualisation of women, and 2) sexualisation of Asian women.
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?
It has gotten worse due to Covid. But the experiences that stick with me the most are the children’s songs ‘hanky panky’, sung by everybody at school, and the yelling at me when riding my bicycle. Even now, I am 25 years old, I may get anxious when I cycle by a group of children and I am scared they will call me names. The other day I was asked by a person to not stand ‘so close’ and also whether I hold a Dutch passport, all the while we just spoke Dutch. I also experience that others do not always respond to me, but to the white person in the group, even when I was the one asking a question.
What is a funny trait or tell something that not everyone knows about you
I get cramps in my fingers when I eat with chopsticks.
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 don’t think I live up to the ideal. I work full time (currently I work more hours than my boyfriend and I am earning more). We have no plans to marry, but we live together. We do the same amount of housework, and expect the same things from each other in our relationship. †
Where do you stand now and what are your plans for the future?
I think that if I’d had the time, money and energy, I would want to travel to Taiwan. Perhaps I want to visit my biological mother/family, though I’m not sure yet. I am very curious about my roots, and I hope to learn more about the culture and the country. As for my plans in the Netherlands, I would love to counteract any stigma, which I do by speaking out in daily life and through social media. I lost many followers and acquaintances, but I know that I have the support in my direct environment.
What do you want to give to the readers?
I hope that our feelings and experiences will be taken seriously, instead of being dismissed as feelings from ”a new generation that is too easily offended”. I hope that people really hear us and listen to our stories. Hopefully this contributes to a better understanding of what diversity really entails and greater happiness overall.
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