Dutch | Surinamese

I identify as mixed-race, half Surinamese half Dutch, and Black. I’m heterosexual and have been raised as a Christian, however I don’t engage much with religion nowadays. I belief in a Christian God, but I have my own interpretation of faith. My Mom is from Surinam and my Dad is Dutch. My Mom migrated from Surinam (a former Dutch colony) to the Netherlands when she was three years old. My parents met in the Netherlands as well.

I don’t think I can pinpoint a certain age that I realised I was mixed-race, however in elementary school I already noticed I was different because of my hair for example. I grew up in a pretty diverse environment, fortunately. However, the majority were of course White and had straight hair. Hair has always been a marker of my difference I guess you could say. For my studies I’ve also been exploring mixed-race which has made me think more about what it means to be mixed-race to me.

I think I am lucky to have grown up in a diverse environment. I have always had a diverse group of friends with all kinds of backgrounds. Some of my closest friends are mixed-race and or have Surinamese heritage as well. I was also fortunate to have my close Surinamese relatives living in the Netherlands. It definitely contributed to me gaining an understanding of Surinamese culture. My parents are also very interested in issues like culture and identity and we speak on them quite often. As a result, I’m very interested in questions about race, culture and identity and I think my background has contributed to me being open-minded as well.

My Dad is (now even more than ever) interested in Surinam, Surinamese culture and Black culture. Like I mentioned before, the fact that my Surinamese relatives reside in the Netherlands helped me, but also my parents connect with both cultures. My Mom also migrated when she was pretty young, so she went to school in the Netherlands and has spent most of her life here, which for sure has also decreased the cultural differences between them.

I feel like I don’t experience challenges in my daily life based on my mixed identity in general. I have sometimes gotten comments about me being ‘so Dutch’ or people questioning whether I speak Sranantongo (Surinamese language), which I don’t. But contrary to some other people with multiple cultural backgrounds, I generally don’t feel like I’m not Dutch or not Surinamese enough. I do know for a fact that I’ll be seen as not Surinamese enough or Dutch when I visit Surinam one day. In the Netherlands, being mixed-race usually makes you ‘interesting’ and perhaps ‘exotic’, which can at the same time also be a bit problematic. I notice that the word ‘half bloedje’ (or ‘halfie’) is used by people (in a positive sense), however it makes me feel exoticized at times. Not all mixed-race people are mixed White and Black, ‘beautiful’ or have been raised with multiple cultures. Colorism (and labelling light skin/dark skin) is also something I can’t stand and I’m aware that I have a lighter skin and a looser curl pattern. I’m proud of my heritage and will gladly tell people about it, however I also feel like some people boast with their ‘mixed-raceness’. Being mixed-race, I identify with others who are mixed-race or have been raised multiculturally. I think diversity is a very important thing and think it’s very important to engage not just with your ‘own people’ but get to know other cultures. I know that a lot of places in the Netherlands are not as diverse as the places I frequent; however I notice that I increasingly feel like it’s weird to see groups of people or things in the media for example without any people of color. However, me being interested in other cultures in general also contributes to me having a diverse group of friends and being open to dating people with different backgrounds. It makes life more interesting!

Food is a very important aspect of Surinamese culture, so being half Surinamese certainly contributed to me enjoying all kinds of spices and flavors and loving food in general. I’ve done a study called Japan Studies and am currently doing a masters called East Asian Studies. Me being interested in Asian culture has made me explore the Asian cuisine and I go out to eat a Japanese and Korean food often. My Father is quite fond of ‘Black’ music like Jazz and Blues for example, but I’ve also been exposed to Surinamese music. I identify with Black culture in general and listen to a lot of Hip hop, R&B, Rap, but also really enjoy Dancehall, Afrobeats, Reggaeton, Korean music and Japanese music among others. So, my music taste is quite broad. I love dancing as well. I’m interested in learning other languages and am quite good a it. I speak Japanese and have started learning Korean a bit. However, I can’t speak Sranantongo. My Grandmother didn’t teach my Mom, she kind of learned it by herself through listening to family and relatives talk to each other. But my Mom hasn’t taught me and my little sister. I would like to learn speaking it though. Funny enough, these days it seems like my Dad can understand it better than I can. I pay attention to the latest trends in general and see a lot of it coming from ‘Black culture’. But I don’t think Surinamese culture per se has shaped the way I connect with fashion. Hair is actually something very important to me and has had a big influence on identity. My upbringing and culture are some of the reasons why I concern myself so much with being natural and the natural hair community. I used to want straight hair when I was younger. In all honesty, I don’t think my Mom completely knew what to do with my hair when I passed a certain age. She herself prefers straight hair too, which didn’t help. At the same time, most people around me had straight hair, straightening tools weren’t as great yet so it never stayed completely straight and classmates and even teachers made comments about my hair. I straightened my hair multiple times a week or sometimes daily until I was about 15/16 years old. I also tried weaves a few times. YouTube hugely influenced me to do a big chop and go natural. Instagram is also a great platform to learn more about your hair, how to treat it and yourself. Accepting my hair and going natural has made me much more confident and really is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I notice that a lot of people still don’t know much about natural (or curly) hair, which is also why I wear mine proudly. After being natural for about 6 years, I’m starting to experiment more. I love switching things up and am loving box braids these days.

People see me as different or ‘exotic’, having a different view of the world as a result of being raised with multiple cultures and I’m able to teach people about other cultures. Abroad, I get to be a kind of representative for Dutch and Surinamese culture. I can adapt to different settings and different people. I get a lot of compliments on my hair too, which is always nice. Because Dutch society is quite diverse and there are a lot of people that look similar, I don’t have a lot of trouble with blending in with society (in the cities). Being mixed-race or multicultural probably has made me more widely interested in fashion and music trends in other places of the world as well. I don’t have a lot of working experience yet; however I think that with me being raised in the Netherlands and having Dutch as my mother language together with the diversity in society, I won’t experience much discrimination. There are, however, always ignorant people, and people can make ignorant comments.

If I were to be born again, I wouldn’t change a thing about myself and want to return as myself. I feel like I am quite confident in who I am. I would like to be able to speak Sranantongo, however I can always start learning.