Sirinapha (25) was born in Thailand and grew up in Singapore. Her parents are Thai with Chinese ancestry. Sirinapha identifies herself as Singaporean-Thai. She studies Spatial Planning at RUG in Groningen.
What kind of upbringing did you have? There is also a term: “Tiger parents or Tiger mom”. Did you have a similar upbringing?
Yes, to some extent. I think my parents put in a lot of effort to carve out my path in life. They determined that I go to Singapore to study. I am thankful for their intervention in my life. It would have turned out so much more differently if they did not take it upon themselves to give me the best education they could afford. However, they do not force me into a certain study but let me choose my own study that interests me. So, I think they are not tiger parents.
Are there any taboos or things that you can’t discuss with your parents?
I would never talk to my parents about sex, alcohol and my relationship with men.
Do you feel close with your Asian roots or not?
I don’t feel close to my Asian roots. I cook Asian food because I miss it. I don’t actively search for it. I’m influenced by European culture and their way of life. When I moved to Singapore as a young child, I had to learn to fit in there too. So, I am often interested in learning about the history of the place that I am currently living in.
Did you ever feel ashamed of you being Asian? Your identity, appearance, name? In what kind of way, could you explain why, or why not?
Yes, sometimes I feel ashamed. We don’t have big eyes, thick eyelashes or a prominent nose bridge which is often the standard of beauty I am exposed to. Sometimes, it could make one look like a plain Jane or just another Asian in others opinion. I think that makes me want to differentiate myself from others. It’s not always that I feel ashamed. Often, I feel proud that I am looking differently from others around here. It’s this “exoticness” aspect, without even trying.
Did you ever have a role model when you grew up? Who is your role model now and why?
My role models are my parents, my friends and teachers. I often learn and pick up good habits from them. Also, they let me know of the things I could improve and that has helped shape the way I am.
What do you think of the Asian representation in The Netherlands?
I think the media don’t represent the Asian people much here. It could be that not many of them took that career path or there are very few of us here. I watched the Dutch news on numerous occasions and never an Asian is interviewed or is a reporter, talking about issues in the Netherlands.
Most Asian-Dutch I met here fit in really well and they don’t seem Asian. With their Dutch accent and their way of life, hanging out with their Dutch buddies. I think they also don’t like to be identified as one of the Asian. I think it could be positive as they feel very integrated here. But at the same time, racism probably happens to them as well so that could be hard on their identity.
I think I have seen one Asian-Dutch Youtuber. I think it’s good that he portrays the image of being “the cool Asian”. Asians in the Dutch mindset, from what I have heard, are hard-working, bad at cycling and you could easily bully them because they don’t retaliate. So, it’s nice to have a positive representation of Asians in the media.
Do you feel like you’re the ‘The Asian Model Minority Myth’?
I think that the model probably emerged because people look at the rows of businesses owned by Asian-American and think that they are so successful already, why should we help them? I think that wealth is very visible but poverty is not as visible. I think there are also struggling Asians and they should not be denied help with integration if they need it. It is naïve to assume that all Asians are successful and doing well. It is never the case with mankind. Also, there is no biological explanation of our ‘dominance’.
What made you who you are now?
The people I have met and are there for me. They have taught me a lot. Things that are priceless and we grew to be who we are together.
Have people also made comments about you being Chinese?
Yes, they think that Chinese language has a funny sound, like “Ching Chong”, and sometimes they say it to me. I feel that any language, if it is unfamiliar to you, can be funny as well. That is alright but that doesn’t give you the permission to be disrespectful. Those comments hurt me and made me afraid of being on my own and walking about as I am afraid that these remarks will be hurled at me. But I try to push it aside and take it off my mind and not let it hurt me. It’s still hard but I will improve with time.
What are stereotype Asians in your opinion and where does that come from? Do you see other Asians like those stereotypes?
Having a thin slit for an eye. That probably comes from movies or cartoon representation of Asians. It could be the xenophobic behavior of the Dutch. They think that we are taking away the opportunity that should be theirs. I know that some Asian or even me, have smaller eyes than the Dutch.
Well, we still can see and we are beautiful in our own ways. It should not bother anyone that one has smaller eyes. It’s not like a disease that could be infected. But with COVID-19, there is also a stereotype that we brought it to Europe and the whole world. And it’s like some big plan to screw up the world. I think it’s all a story someone has to come up with to cope. To blame it all on Asians.
Do you know any Chinese, Thai, Singaporean stereotype, and do you feel like you’re that stereotype?
Perhaps, I always think about functionality. I’m direct and I love to save money when I can like a Singaporean. I can also be gregarious as a partly Thai person.
What stereotypes and comments have you heard about your appearance?
They said I look exotic, or I am pretty for an Asian or that I look very Chinese. Initially, I felt offended because I am not an ‘exotic’ animal and why would anyone describe me in this way? I later felt that they had good intentions and didn’t mean to offend. It is just them reflecting their preconceived notions about Asians. I became more understanding and took things less as it is.
What racist remarks and discrimination have you experienced?
Yes, once a small boy screamed at me in the aisles of a supermarket in Dordrecht. He screamed “you are a freak!”. His parents came and took him away without apologizing. I was very traumatized by the incident even until now 4 years later. I was just minding my business getting groceries, so I did nothing to instigate him. I think he is expressing his hatred based on what he heard at home or picked up in school.
I haven’t been out much in public areas or traveling much. I think that adults should teach children right. This kind of mindset will not be helpful to them. It will limit their future opportunities in some way. However, I also rationalize the incident and as a kid you often say things you don’t mean. I hope it was that case and he grew up to be a decent person.
What is a funny trait or what is something that not everyone knows about you?
I have a distinct laugh and if you get to know me I can be quirky and funny.
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 want to have a family, have kids and have a meaningful relationship. I can’t help but admit that I subscribe to the idea somehow. Although I know that it’s the perfect path and life is not perfect. We have to make do with what we got. Having ‘made it in life’ doesn’t need to be having all those three aspects. I think being a good person and taking care of people around you. That is making it in life.
Where do you stand now and what are your plans for the future?
I am doing my Bachelor’s now. I wish to complete it and my plan for the future is still not certain.
What do you want to give to the readers? What do you hope to achieve?
I hope to portray the sense that as differently as we may seem, we are all human and we do human things too. We love, we laugh and we learn.