Yim (19) was born in China and raised in The Netherlands, he was adopted by Dutch parents and came to The Netherlands in 2002. He studies Japanese at Leiden University. He finds it ironic because he was born in China. Yim works at Albert Heijn as a side job, and identifies himself as Dutch.
What kind of upbringing did you have? There is also a term: “Tiger parents or Tiger mom”. Did you have a similar upbringing?
I was raised in a Dutch way. But what is a Dutch way of raising a child you may ask. That is hard to tell, but let’s say that I was raised with the national Dutch holidays such as King’s day and ‘Sinterklaas’. My parents were not strict at all. If I wanted to wear boots in my bed, my mom would accept, knowing that I would get bored anyway. Moreover, they accept me for who I am and support all my choices I made in life such as my school career.
Are there any taboos or things that you can’t discuss with your parents?
I can discuss everything with my mother. She is very broad-minded. I am happy that I can talk about everything with my family. Some of these topics are so normal that they almost always come up during dinner time. However, I cannot discuss everything with my father, but that is just because he is not a talkative person.
Do you feel close with your Asian roots or not?
I do not feel Asian at all. It is just that my appearance is Asian-like. I never really had any interests in doing any research. I think it is because we were not treated as Asians, but like the ‘rest’. I did get some insults like ‘poepchinees’ (shit Chinese), but that did not happen often. I think that those insults played a role as well , as to why I did not and still do not feel Asian. That is because I did not want to be Asian. I wanted to be Dutch just like everyone else.
Have you ever felt ashamed of yourself, being Asian?
As I said earlier, I did get insulted sometimes. This urged me even more to ignore my Chinese roots.
Did you have a role model when you grew up?
I did not know many other Asian people in my neighborhood. So I did not have an Asian role model. Even though I still do not have an Asian role model, I think it is important to have one. It would help people to know that it is normal to be Asian (or whatever/whomever you are).
What do you think of the Asian representation in The Netherlands?
I think that there is not sufficient Asian representation in the West. In the past there was barely any Asian representation in the Netherlands and if there was, then it would entail many stereotypes such as: Asians are nerdy, do not speak the language properly and Asian parents are very strict. I, myself, grew up in a place where there were only white people for the most part. So if there was an Asian person within my vision, I would be astonished, as if it was not normal to meet Asian people. Luckily, I do think that the Netherlands is working on this problem. It is not a very speedy change, but I think that there will be a different mindset here within some years, especially with the aid of your project.
What do you think of the ‘The Asian Model Minority Myth’? Do you identify with that?
I am not really like the model. I need advice from time to time, I am bad at math. The only thing that would be similar is the fact that I am ‘assimilated’, but that is because I have Dutch parents.
What made you who you are now?
That is a quite unclear question. However, If I have to mention something, I would say: 50% thanks to my upbringing, 50% thanks to my genes.
Have people also made comments about you being Chinese?
People did make comments about me being Chinese. It did not happen often, but if it happened, they were insults. I did not like it of course. This would make me feel ashamed for being Chinese.
What are stereotype Asians in your opinion and where does that come from?
Asian stereotypes would be: Asians are nerdy, strict and small. They also eat dogs. I have no clue where some of these stereotypes come from, though the one about eating dogs is partly true. Some people in the east eat dogs. But let’s be honest, why is it weird to eat a dog, but not a cow, chickens, pigs, etc.?
What stereotypes and comments have you heard about your appearance?
People say that I have ‘spleetogen’ (small eyes), but that is it basically. To be honest, My eyes are not that small in comparison to other Chinese people. Apparently, for a Chinese person I look very western-like. I do not have problems with that. It is not an insult in my opinion.
What racist remarks and discrimination have you experienced?
I do not really get discriminated against, although I sometimes get those insults like ‘honkie ponkie’ occasionally. I think that it has gotten worse with the virus. I did not experience any racist remarks, but my sister did. It is weird that people generalize the idea that every Chinese person (basically all Chinese looking people) has the virus. It does not really anger me. I am rather disappointed and tired of the fact that people still do this, even in this century. It is quite pathetic.
Do you know any Chinese and Dutch stereotypes, and do you feel like you’re that stereotype?
There are so many stereotypes. Chinese ones are for instance: they are nerdy, small and eat dogs. Dutch ones are: they are tall (which is true actually), greedy and they have blond hair and blue eyes. I can only see myself in the stereotype of being greedy, to be honest. But not every Dutch person is like that of course.
What is a funny trait or what is something that not everyone knows about you?
Is blinking really fast with my eyes a funny trait? Moreover, I cannot speak Mandarin at all, but I am learning Japanese. People would not expect that, I think.
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?
This is not only an Asian cultural thing. Even in the west, there are folks who believe it. I believe that there are many paths of ‘making it in life’ as there are many roads that lead to Rome.
Where do you stand now and what are your plans for the future?
Currently I study at Leiden university. I am in my second year of the programme ‘Japanese studies’.
Honestly, I don’t know what my future plans are anymore, because they have been made unclear due to the virus. But I am okay with it. I’ll just make new plans for the future.
What do you want to give to the readers? What do you hope to achieve?
Normally, people would say in this case that they are proud of themselves for being Asian. I do not see it that way. I would be happy when the time arrives that being Asian (or whatever/whomever you are) is considered ‘de gewoonste zaak van de wereld’ (something we say in Dutch. It means: the most normal thing in the world, natural) and that people do not have to stress about the fact that they are Asian. I hope people can relate to my story. It is nice to hear that you are not different from the others, even if it were about one aspect of you. Being unique is nice, but being unique together is nicer.
Where can we follow you?