Tomas (25) was born and raised in China. He identifies himself as “just a normal human being”. He came in 2019 to The Netherlands for his study in philosophy 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?
No, I didn’t. My parents were very concerned with my education but weren’t the most strict type. Besides providing me with the best resources within their capability, they didn’t pressure me too hard with my studies since they weren’t specialized in the field. My parents certainly did not enforce any timetables on my routines, and extracurricular courses in like musical instruments or foreign languages or sports were given upon my request or at least my consent to their suggestion.
Are there any taboos or things that you can’t discuss with your parents?
There aren’t any taboos although some topics appear less in our conversations than others. We mostly talk about daily stuff. And it is I that gets selective sometimes. Even though they usually hearken to my fields of interest, I know they are not very keen on those themes. So it’s usually better to not bug them with deep talks.
Do you feel close with your Asian roots or not?
I’m not sure how close I am to my ”Asian roots, ” but I certainly don’t feel distant from it. I did ask my parents about their upbringing and our ancestry. It’s not something I yearn to uncover at this moment. Maybe I’ll look deeper into it in the future.
Have you ever felt ashamed of yourself for being Asian? Your identity, appearance, name?
No, never. I have rarely been a target of attack in any of those aspects. In general, people around me have been mostly amicable towards me as a person, even when they might have felt a great difference between us. And I’m quite indifferent to most people’s opinion of me.
Did you ever have a role model when you grew up? Who is your role model now and why? Do you think that role models are important? Do you think it’s important to have role models who look like you?
No. I didn’t. I admired certain people with certain traits growing up but rarely made them my role models. Personally, I don’t think it’s important to have role models at all, let alone someone that looks like me.
What do you think of the Asian representation in The Netherlands.
I don’t usually watch Dutch TV or read local newspapers or magazines, but I feel that some media are failing to do Asian people justice. One typical misrepresentation I know of was the racist song “Voorkomen is beter dan Chinezen” aired on Radio10 that outraged Chinese communities in the Netherlands. The fact that contents as such came out in the first place and were well received by some perpetrators committing hate crimes against Asians shows a clear lack of conscience or an earnest mindset in the media that permits seemingly ‘justifiable’ outlets of racism. This is quite frustrating and forces one to question the media’s sincereness or a mere intention in a responsible representation of Asians.
Do you feel like you’re the model minority myth?
No, not at all. I don’t identify with the depiction. Nobody ever imposed such an identity on me. I guess I simply don’t seem like someone who cares to be assimilated.
What made you who you are now?
I have no creative answer, so: The Big Bang or some mad scientist who put me in a vat.
Have people also made comments about you being Chinese?
Not very often. It usually happens when I’m introducing something Chinese in particular to my friends or people who already have some interest in China. I’m happy and proud if I made them slightly more interested in my culture.
What are stereotype Asians in your opinion and where does that come from? Do you see other Asians like those stereotypes?
I personally can’t really think of such a stereotype without embedding at least some social and cultural contexts. It might be easier to picture a stereotype solely by a broad but superficial category, be it geographical, racial, or ethnic etc. And ”Asian” with its innumerable connotations is simply too big a concept for me to have a stereotype of.
Do you know any Chinese stereotype, and do you feel like you’re that stereotype?
I’ve seen some over-generalized impressions of Chinese that deem us hardworking and intelligent people as well as incredible brainwashed dog-eaters. Some of the constituent characteristics of those stereotypes overlap with my personal traits factually, but I find it hard to relate to them since none of those seems particularly ‘Chinese’ to me.
What stereotypes and comments have you heard about your appearance?
Most of the time, people don’t comment on my appearance, at least in front of me. Sometimes people tell me that I look like someone in classic Kung Fu movies or from a distant past because of my hair and outfit. Some assume by first impression that I’m a martial artist, a Daoist monk, or some mystical Oriental stranger. Usually, when asked, I’d explain that I’m none of those. I take those comments mostly as compliments that I can’t accept. I feel flattered and tell people that they are to some extent justified to be ‘misled’ by my resemblance to their impressions but I’m just not what those represent.
What racist remarks and discrimination have you experienced?
I haven’t experienced any strong racism on a personal level until recently. After the pandemic hit Groningen, I started wearing face masks a couple of weeks before the quarantine out of precaution, and some people on the street would shout ‘Corona’ at me or cough in my face. I felt contested and wanted to know their reason for such acts. I never succeed in asking one of those people and couldn’t come up with a ”well-rounded” answer myself. Such incidents made me more sensitive; as very few people wore masks on the street I observed people’s reaction to those, and Asian looking people like myself get more weird looks.
What is a funny trait or what is something that not everyone knows about you?
I don’t want to tell you.
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 disagree (for commonsensical reasons).
Where do you stand now and what are your plans for the future?
I’m currently doing an M.A., and that’s enough for me to concern myself with now.
What do you want to give to the readers?
I hope you enjoy Rui Jun’s project.
What do you hope to achieve?
To know better how to love and to be more self-sufficient.
Where can we follow you?