Terry (23) is born in The Netherlands and grew up in The Netherlands. His parents are Chinese people from Hong Kong. His dad grew up in The Netherlands. Terry identifies himself as a Dutch Chinese. He studies marketing and sales in Amsterdam and work for Suitsupply as a sales professional. He wants to become a filmmaker so that he can contribute to the representation of Asians.
What kind of upbringing did you have? There is also a term: “Tiger parents or Tiger mom”. Did you have a similar upbringing?
I didn’t have the typical tiger parents kind of upbringing, but my parents were strict nevertheless. They always expected me to be home early and on time, to do well at school and to respect my elders!
Are there any taboos or things that you can’t discuss with your parents?
My parents are actually quite open minded. There aren’t really any taboo topics that I can’t discuss with my parents other than sex. But I think that is an awkward topic for everyone to discuss with their parents.
Do you feel close with your Asian roots or not?
I do feel close to my Asian roots as it is a big part of my identity. However, I think I should do more research on my roots so that I can educate others better about my culture.
Did you ever feel ashamed of you being Asian?
I’ve never felt ashamed of being Asian, but I did feel insecure about my Asian looks as I hadn’t seen any Asian males on television who were considered attractive. Other than that, I’ve always felt proud of being Asian.
Did you have a role model when you grew up? Who is your role model now and why?
I think it’s definitely important to have role models who look like you. Having an Asian face on the screen makes you recognize yourself in that person and gives you the feeling of ‘If he/she can do it, then I can do it too.”. Growing up, I enjoyed Jackie Chan’s movies a lot. He was pretty much the only Asian person I’d see on the screen. I think that’s why I like martial arts and comedy films. At the moment, Henry Golding is my role model. His style is always on point, he has great talent for acting and above all, a hard-working and humble person.
What do you think of the Asian representation in The Netherlands?
The representation of Asian people in the West is very poor. Very often, Asian people are portrayed as the character who is a restaurant owner speaking with a funny accent AND who knows Kung Fu. Of course, this doesn’t reflect on what Asians are like in reality. I feel like people consume media like they’re sponges. People soak up all these media (films, television, radio etc.) and hear stories from others. And if Asians always take the stereotypical role in the media, people start to believe that that is the truth. Therefore, I think it’s important to have more and well-rounded roles for Asians in the media in order to broaden people’s horizon on other people’s cultures.
Do you feel like you’re the ‘The Asian Model Minority Myth’?
It’s true that Asians don’t often make it to be featured as criminals newspaper headlines as we tend more to stay on the background and not cause any trouble. Asians are seen as smart, silent, hardworking people, which is part of the model minority myth. I do remember very well that in class I was always expected by classmates to get good grades while I actually didn’t always feel like working my ass off and felt content with barely passing exams.
What made you who you are now?
That is a very big question, but I will name one thing which are the norms and values taught by my parents. I consider myself humble and open minded, which are both traits of my parents.
Have people also made comments about you being Chinese? How did you react to this, what did you feel?
Definitely. When I was younger, I felt uncomfortable when hearing offensive comments and didn’t know how to react so I laughed it away or stayed silent. Now, I tend to open my mouth and try to educate the other about why such comments are offensive.
What are stereotype Asians in your opinion and where does that come from? Do you see other Asians like those stereotypes?
My stereotype of Asian is the geeky Asian guy who tends to stay silent in social environments. I recognize many other Asians who fit within this stereotype, including myself!
Do you know any Chinese stereotype, and do you feel like you’re that stereotype?
There’s this stereotype that if you’re Chinese, you must know Kung Fu. Of course that isn’t true for all Chinese, but yes I do feel like that stereotype because I’ve practiced Kung Fu for almost 10 years haha.
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?
One of the stereotypes that I have heard about my appearance is that all Asians look alike, have slanted eyes and are generally short. I think every person is a unique individual. Generalizing that all Asians look alike is simply a sign of ignorance.
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?
There are many racist remarks to be mentioned like “Poepchinees”, a question whether Asian people eat dog or cat, a random Chinese takeaway dish being shouted at me completely out of context. The latter happened to me when I was minding my own business during a train ride. When entering the train, I was warned by other passengers not to sit over there and I quickly came to know why.
Two young men sitting opposite from me felt like it was funny to call out Chinese takeaway dishes and were clearly targeting me. I showed my intolerance and asked them why they didn’t shout jungle sounds to the black person who was sitting behind us as a comparison. I tried to educate these ignorant kids with words, but failed to. Even though I wanted to use my fists to teach them a lesson, I didn’t because I had too much expensive camera gear on me. What stuck to me the most is the fact that the other passengers didn’t interfere with our discussion and stayed silent. Personally, I don’t feel like the Corona virus has worsened racism against me, but it did against Asians in general. Maybe it’s because I’m not often in public spaces anymore as I’m staying mostly inside.
What is a funny trait or tell something that not everyone knows about you.
I freak out when I’m near slugs and snails. These slimy creatures need to stay away from me as far as possible. Also, I suffer from a massive feeling of guilt when stepping on snails by accident. That cracking sound stays with me for at least an hour or two.
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 think that is a very old fashioned way of thinking. I would make these decisions together with my future spouse as it should be a matter of choice, not what is expected from women by others.
Where do you stand now and what are your plans for the future?
Right now I want to work on my skills as a filmmaker and so that I can contribute to the representation of Asians in the future.
What do you want to give to the readers? What do you hope to achieve?
Be genuinely interested in other people and ask each other questions. It’s always nice to learn something new about people and their cultures.