Dutch | Chinese
I’m Chinese and I am Eurasian. My mom is from Shanghai (China) and my Dad is from Venhuizen (The Netherlands). When my mom was offered to study abroad, she immediately thought of the US but ended up in The Netherlands. That is where they met. My Dad was offered a job in Shanghai, which was perfect. So, they moved and that’s where my sisters and I were born. In Shanghai we lived together with my Chinese grandparents, who raised us. We moved to the Netherlands when I was 8 but we visit our family in Shanghai every summer.
I recognized I was mixed-race during primary school in Shanghai. At my school we really celebrated diversity. On international day we would dress up in traditional clothing and I would wear Dutch clothes. But for the Chinese festivals I would wear traditional Chinese clothes. I think that helped me realize I was kind of both.
I don’t think my parents actively tried to combine the different cultures. We were mainly raised by our Chinese grandparents (in Shanghai) so that’s the culture we had most contact with. Also, by living in Shanghai and having a close relationship with my family there, we were indulged with Chinese culture. We did go to Dutch school on Saturdays and we would celebrate Sinterklaas, but I never believed in it because my mom (yes my Asian mom) would be dressed up as Santa Claus a few weeks later.
When I was young, I would struggle with the fact that I wasn’t really part of any culture. Especially when we moved to The Netherlands. The way I viewed myself completely changed due to the difference in the way foreigners were viewed. In Shanghai people always acted so positive about me being mixed-race and I never had the feeling I didn’t belong. In The Netherlands, however, there was such a big difference in the way people treated me as a mixed-race. I felt like a foreigner and I didn’t feel like being mixed-race was something favourable anymore. This was really confusing for me because I was so used to it being something positive. But as I grew older, I stopped struggling with it. I’m very clear about who I am and where I am from. Now my biggest challenge is forever feeling homesick and split.
Being mixed-race definitely has an effect on my personal life, I tend to gravitate towards people with whom I have a connection. This is often based on similar experiences or cultural values.
In China, a stereotype towards mixed-race people is that we are very pretty and very smart. In the West, a stereotype of for example Eurasian people is that the father is often White, and the mother is East Asian. I have also often heard that people think the fathers are often not considered desirable by White women. Whether I like it or not, these stereotypes influence me.
I am very grateful to be able to speak in my native languages. This is such an important way for me to connect.
I feel most connected with the Chinese culture because it’s the one I grew up with and it’s the culture from the part of my family I am most close with. I also have the privilege to pick my favourite one. Because I like the Chinese culture more I would reach out to it more and therefore also feel more connected.
It’s funny because I know a lot of mixed people do not like the question ‘where are you from?’, but I really love answering it. It is something I am very interested about myself and I love talking about it. For me it’s so easy to answer: I’m from China simply because I was born there and it’s where my family and other loved ones are from. I really miss my hometown and I grab any opportunity to tell people about it. It’s also probably because I don’t associate this question with as many negative feelings (anymore) as others. In China when people would ask me where I am from, it would be out of curiosity and interest. I know them, and I know they don’t mean any harm with it. However, of course it depends on who is asking and with which intent. I would be less friendly if the person who asks immediately asks whether I eat dogs or whatever. Though, I have become quite think-skinned and am not so bothered anymore. I think that is something most Chinese can relate to. There is a lot of negative attitudes and misunderstanding about China, especially now the country is challenging the western dominance. I used to try and hide but I got over that and now I couldn’t be more proud to tell I am from China.
A negative experience would be when a person would talk badly about Chinese because they assume I am something else. On the one side I am happy I am able to find out what people truly think but it’s never nice to hear someone talk bad about a group your family and other people you love belong to. Also, after I tell them I am half Chinese I always feel like they hope I step over to the Dutch side so they don’t have to feel as bad.
A positive experience has been my trip to Xinjiang past summer. It was really cool to get to speak to people who look like my sisters, me, and other East Asian/White mixes. Many Han Chinese in China would say we look like people from Xinjiang, but it was so nice to see with our own eyes how much we resemble each other; even the locals could not tell us apart. I became really interested in their history and it actually makes a lot of sense we look like each other if you read into the way people migrated there and the contact they had with other ‘races’.
Being mixed-race in today’s society is realizing you are part of a phenomenon which is increasing very quickly due to globalization. But also realizing being mixed is not something new. So, it is very remarkable for our time but at the same time it has also been happening ever since people started to move around. People tend to think being mixed-race is really something from today’s society due to globalization, but you can find mixed-race people at any place people have connected in the past.
I’m very happy with the mix I am but I can easily pick many others I would like to be just for fun. My little sister and I would also joke about wanting to be half Chinese and half French just because it seems so chic. For some reason we really like the idea of a mix between French and Chinese culture. But I would prefer another mix because I feel like Eurasian is very overrated; there are so many other beautiful mixes. I saw a video about Cuban Chinese food and there was a Chinese Cuban guy who looks entirely Chinese but spoke in a very strong Cuban accent. I just love things like that, so I wouldn’t mind being a mix of that. I’m going to limit myself to a last one but I’m going to cheat by picking a category. It would be cool to be a mix of two former colonies. I feel like mixes other than ones with a former colonizers and former colonies are very underrepresented.