Dutch | Thai
I identify as Thai/Dutch, however upon introduction I tend to elaborate on the places in which I have lived, because people tend to put you in a box when you say where you’re from. Whilst, that might be relevant for some people, for me it definitely isn’t. I was born in Saudi Arabia and lived there for 6 years (Dutch and English speaking schools, the first 5 years of my life Dutch was my native language, when I began first grade we transitioned to English, therefore English has become my first language), 7 years in Thailand (attending international school and thus being educated in English, but also learning Thai as a third language), London for 7 years (attending a state school and a cultural melting pot in itself), Scotland for 4 years, 6 months of which were spent in Tokyo (attending University, again an environment where I was influenced by people from all types of backgrounds), and 2 years in the Netherlands (an English Masters related to sustainability at an institution and programme praised for its international environment). To make matters even more confusing, I found out two years ago that my grandparents on my mother’s side (whom I’ve never met), are actually Vietnamese and Laotian. So, at the age of 22 do I start introducing myself as half Dutch, quarter Vietnamese, quarter Laotian? Thus, attempting to eliminate the influence of Thailand on my identity; the food, the language, cultural norms? I can’t identity myself in terms of race (mixed, white/Asian I guess) it is simply too complex. I am a human, and that’s enough for me. I am Agnostic & straight.
My Mother says she comes from Thailand, however as previously mentioned, until two years ago I thought I was half Thai. But in actual fact, I am quarter Vietnamese (Grandfather), quarter Laos (Grandmother). My Father is fully Dutch. My parents met whilst my father was on holiday in Thailand, and through mutual friends they began dating.
I would say summering in the Netherlands most summers during my childhood is when my heritage really began standing out for me. My Dutch Grandparents live in a small village in the Southern region of the Netherlands, a predominantly White middle-class area. Luckily, I spoke ‘enough’ Dutch, came from a ‘nice’ family, and therefore more or less was ‘accepted’ by the community and did not feel the excluded or rejected effects that I may have experienced, had it not been from the factors stated above. Thus, the factors mentioned above meant that whilst I did recognise that I was different, I wasn’t too different, and therefore it did not affect my personal development and confidence.
It’s interesting because even though I identify as being half Thai/half Dutch, I don't consider myself to be very much of the two. I was born in Saudi Arabia, where I lived until the age of 6 and went to a Dutch pre-school and then an International School. I lived a pretty sheltered life and therefore was never influenced by the Muslim culture. I then lived in Thailand for 7 years, where I went to an international school and therefore never really assimilated into my Thai heritage either. At the end of 2007, we moved to London, another cultural melting pot. People could not and still cannot pinpoint my accent either, because initially people think I’m American, but when you listen closer, I use many British idioms. I then moved to Scotland at 19 for 4 years whilst attending university, but again university brings many cultures together through study abroad programmes, and thus Scotland’s cultural influence did not really have any influence on my identity per say. Finally, at the age of 22 I moved to the Netherlands where I began my Masters, but my programme was in English and the nature of the programme meant that we had one of the most diverse and international classes at the University. Therefore, once again not assimilating with my Dutch heritage. Therefore, whilst I say I am half Thai/half Dutch – I really don’t feel that I belong to either. Luckily in this new age of globalisation, you don’t have to be from a certain heritage to feel like you belong.
It was a struggle for my parents to combine their cultures sometimes. They couldn't be more different. My Father is very precise and efficient, and my Mother is the polar opposite. And I often wondered growing up, how? You two are so different, you don't actually have much in common, but yet here you are. It’s a lot of consideration, and understanding, but ultimately, I guess they love each other, and because of that they put the effort into wanting to make it work. The number one challenge would be, explaining to people where I am from. It is a bit of a tasking process, and people always forget, but it’s because I don’t like to say that I am half Thai/Dutch – too much is assumed of me. Therefore, I do explain my lengthy life story. Other than that, no. I’m just not Asian enough to be Asian, and I’m not white enough to be white. You can’t put me in a box, so you can’t really say anything. Having English as my first language has also been advantageous.
I think in high-school there was such a huge thing about ‘fitting in’. I wanted the cool boyfriend and pretty friends, because that’s what popular culture taught you as being important. But in all my life, I was never more miserable with these surface-based relations. I always had a ‘boy’ in my life between the ages of 14-19, and it wasn’t until I made the conscious decision that I wanted to be single for a long time and find out who I really was that my personality really developed. Along that came a process of learning what I, not my environment, deemed to be ‘good’ qualities that I seek in both friendships and partners these days.
Funnily enough, whilst I did live in Thailand, I wasn’t very curious about exploring its cuisine. Instead, I was a huge Italian foodie during that time. However, it was during my high school years when I worked at 3 different Thai restaurants in London, that I really started to appreciate Thai cuisine. And I would have to say that Asian cuisine is now my favourite (Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese...NOT PAN-ASIAN). I have the most eclectic taste in music, everything from Chopin to Drake, nothing to do with my Thai or Dutch culture. I don’t really connect with the Thai or Dutch language. Whilst I can speak and understand both, English is my first language. Which I do find strange. However, because I have a certain level of Thai and Dutch, it is very difficult for me to further progress in both. I have found it at times frustrating, especially now that I am seeking career opportunities in the Netherlands, I wish that I was more fluent in both. I would argue that Thai fashion has no influence on my life whatsoever. However, whilst I cannot generalise that fashion is important in the Netherlands, my Grandmother has always considered clothes to be important to a person’s identity. And therefore, I have ALWAYS loved fashion and clothes, it plays a huge role in my life. I have actually had my hair dyed since the age of 4. I have coloured, bleached, cut, shaved, hair-extensioned and put my hair through everything, but nothing to do with my culture. Simply, because of popular culture and fashion trends.
A positive for me is that I belong nowhere and everywhere. You can never put me in a box, and that’s a pretty liberating feeling. I have grown up in international environments and therefore never felt like I didn’t belong. Also, although I am mixed, I think people have a difficult time pint-pointing where exactly. I have a certain look I want to achieve and whilst I know that this might be narrow-minded, sometimes a look won’t work for me. For example, what might look good on a Caucasian or Asian girl, might not look aesthetically pleasing on me. This is my opinion of myself, I think women should be able to wear whatever they like. However, the way I connect with fashion/makeup/hair is that it has to look aesthetically pleasing to me. I have never experienced any issues or was treated any differently at work. I was luckily always in a meritocratic environment, treated based on my efforts.
It’s actually weird that I’ve thought about reincarnation many times throughout my life. But I often wish I could be born again, as me, but with all knowledge that I’ve accumulated thus far and therefore just be this baby genius.