5 people 10 heritages


What does it mean to have dual heritage?


I am asking 5 different people that all have one parent coming from Indonesia and the other one from Europe. What they have been experiencing growing up being mixed-race and how they feel about it now you can read in this blog post.



Heritage: Indonesia (Sulawesi) & Suriname 

How did you feel about your dual heritage when growing up?

When I was younger it was hard for me to pick 'one heritage'. Sometimes I felt more with my Suriname roots and other times I felt more with my Indonesian roots. It felt for me like I was cheating on one heritage, because I could relate more with the other one. 

How do you feel about it now? What changed? What stayed the same?

At some point I had an identity crisis, because I didn't know which heritage I could fit in. 

When I saw my friends with mixed cultures identifying themselves, I couldn't. It made me very insecure.


At some point I came to realize that I love and cherish both cultures.  

As long as I remember both cultures were mixed in my family. Things such as food, manners, stories and clothes were always mixed. It was actually my whole life in front of me, but I didn't realized it. So, why pick one heritage if you can have both? That was a game changer for me and now I'm happy to be a melanin woman with Indonesian and Suriname roots.


Being mixed-race for me is: Wonderful




Heritage: Indonesia (Java) & German 

How did you feel about your dual heritage when growing up?

In elementary school I wanted to be white, blue-eyed and with blond hair. Not because I found white skin color particularly beautiful, but because I didn't want to be different. I wanted to belong. 


I'm not complaining, my childhood and adolescence were absolutely great. My cousins and friends are the best, but as far as mixed-raced goes, I was always alone. 


I can personally invalidate prejudices:

I'm 193 cm tall, I didn't like rice for 15 years of my life, I was only moderately gifted in math and I still can't eat spicy food.


How do you feel about it now? What changed? What stayed the same?

Since I couldn't find identification with the country I was living in (Germany), I had to look for other ways of identification. So the beautiful conclusion is identifying myself with myself. 


Still, I'm looking forward to the moment when I will be called German, and stupid terms like German with migration background will not be used anymore. 


When I went to Indonesia in 2015, I realized that while I'm being called "Chinese" in Germany, I'm being called "Japanese" in Indonesia.


What still haven't changed is being addressed in English while everyone else is being addressed in German in airplanes for example. And of course the question "where are you really from?" and slit eyes jokes.




Today I feel self-confidence, because I know who I am. What's important is what I do and not where I or my parents come from. With this self-conception I meet myself and the people around me differently than back in the past when I felt like I had to play the stereotype Asian guy.


Home is where you feel at home, where you feel like you belong. In my case this is my circle of friends in Cologne, on Lombok and to many other places on earth. Not because of the region itself but because of the people who make this region a better place.

I have found people who feel and think the same as I do, and yet look very different, and this is very beautiful. It doesn't matter if your eyes are narrower or wider, your skin color lighter or darker, you can still share a common path. 


No matter where I am or what I do, I rarely have the feeling that my asian/mixed-race appearance doesn't matter. In a positive and a negative way.


Being mixed-race is: something special, but shouldn't be.




Heritage: Indonesian (Java) & German

How did you feel about your dual heritage when growing up?

As a child, I was always quite aware of my roots and I enjoyed our family trips to Indonesia every two years.


My mother (Javanese, from Semarang in Central Java) never pushed my brother and me to “embrace” our Indonesian side too much, though. We didn’t grow up bilingually either.


I think that internalized racism played a big role here - worries that we wouldn’t integrate well into German society if we saw ourselves as too “Indonesian”.


Just when I started to become interested in the culture and language on my own account, my mother died in a traffic accident when I was 14 years old. This loss and long-lasting pain caused some kind of identity crisis, among many, many other things.

Traveling to Asia and Indonesia as often as I could - to feel connected to my mother’s background and to escape reality - was one important way to cope with these feelings.


How do you feel about it now? What changed? What stayed the same?

When I’m not in Indonesia, I always miss it. I miss the ocean, I miss the colours, the fragrances, the sounds, and - super important - the food! My mother was an amazing chef, she definitely taught me how to appreciate good food.

Now, during pandemic times, my cooking skills have improved a lot within a year. My Indonesian is still not great (I understand it well but I’m far away from sounding like a native) and improving my language skills is a never-ending story. I also read a lot of Indonesian books, news; I write and paint related to Indonesia - my dual heritage is part of me every day.


Yet, I do have a love-hate relationship with Indonesia - there are just many difficult emotions and memories involved.

I even graduated in Asian Studies with focus on Indonesia and Political Science but that probably just adds to this feeling. It bothers me when people romanticize Indonesia or see it through an orientalist lens. Still, I can't wait to go back as soon as possible.

Being mixed-race for me is: identity.




Heritage: Indonesian (Java) & German

How did you feel about your dual heritage when growing up?

I only started questioning myself and my identity when being confronted by it from other kids in school. Hearing "sching schang schong" on the courtyard as an imitation of mandarin language still sticks to my memory.


One part of me thought: "Poor kids. How can they be so little educated. Don't they know that Asia is much more than China?! And do they actually think this was Mandarin?"


On the other hand, I felt as the "other" person who is reduced to its appearance. A feeling that comes up from time to time... mostly when I present myself to new people. 


When I was a kid, I looked in the mirror touching my eyes and hair and feeling so disconnected to it. I always told people: "Yes, I am German. I just don't look like it!" I thought: "How can I look like this if deep within I am feeling German?"


This means that I actually adopted this thinking that I was only allowed to feel 100% German if my outer appearance followed the stereotype.


When my girl-friends started dating guys I thought nobody would ever be interested in me. Most of my girl-friends were blond. I had this negative thinking planted in my brain: "How could I possibly have a chance with boys with my dark hair and dark eyes?" I was the one who accompanied my girl-friends to parties, hung out with them + their crushes and listened to their heartbreak stories afterwards. Until my adulthood I never noticed if somebody found me interesting or attractive. 


How do you feel about it now? What changed? What stayed the same?

I definitely feel more proud, special and beautiful than when I was younger.


My boyfriends definitely helped me in accepting myself and be proud of my dual heritage. Also, diversity campaigns, protests, art pieces and people that tell their stories, share their pains, show their beauty and educate society on social media platforms actually have a positive impact on me.


I realize there are other people like me, with their own and very special story. 


Now, I am actually starting to decrease such input. While it gives me an opportunity for identification, it's also heavy for me to hear so many stories, because it digs up so many inner conflicts and open questions.


Needless to say, it's still absolutely necessary to use the space and tell each story to show how rich and diverse our society is and to help people like me find their identity.

In 2013, when I did my first big travel to Bali (where my Dad moved after my parents divorced), I made a difficult experience. Many Indonesians did not consider me as Indonesian. They thought I was Korean, Chinese or Japanese. They saw the German/Indonesian mix and identified my Chinese roots.


It hit me sooo hard that they ask me where I was from. Didn't everybody tell me before that I was Indonesian? Wasn't this supposed to be my "homecoming" trip? To be honest, I felt quite disappointed and lost. I felt like I am neither German nor Indonesian. Who was I?


Nonetheless, this was luckily only one experience during my trip. I also had plenty of beautiful encounters, conversations and experiences.


I felt so much more complete after my trip. That feeling was insane, something I never felt before. I was ready to enter a new phase in life and change the narrative from being "neither nor" to simply being all of the facets of myself.


Aminata Belli was a big inspiration for me when she said in "Germania" that she is both a Black and a White woman. It sounds so easy but identifying myself as being both and really feeling it from deep within is still a long process. It probably takes a whole life.


I am consciously trying to change the narrative from being the other girl that has to catch up on many levels to be considered as German, to being the girl that brings a story to the table that can enrich people's lives by opening their eyes for the beauty of culture and diversity.


And my hope is that people get out of their usual surroundings and actually meet people from other cultures than their own. This would turn ourselves more humble and careful.

Being mixed-race for me is: multifaceted.




Heritage: Indonesian (Java) & Dutch

How did you feel about your dual heritage when growing up?

As a child I used to feel like the odd one out, like I didn’t belong anywhere.


I was the only one that enjoyed spending a lot of time with their family. As a family we share the same values and humor: we never stop laughing together.


I am very grateful towards my grandparents, for moving to Holland for a better future for their (grand)children. I think that made us so close as a family. It was the only place I really fitted in.


And I loved all the ‘Indonesian’ things about us. Like the big family diners, making snacks for everybody, how everyone was always welcome.


I felt more Indonesian than Dutch.


How do you feel about it now? What changed? What stayed the same?

As an adult I have learned even more how different people can be and that it’s okay to not always fit in everywhere.


I’m not sure if it’s an Indonesian thing, but even though my grandparents taught me how to love unconditionally, they never really talked about their feelings. 


They had no choice but to work hard to build a life for themselves and I guess they are also from the generation that was taught to just work without complaining.




I have always been sensitive and as an adult I struggled with my soft feelings a lot.


I have now surrounded myself with people that simply appreciate me for who I am and who share the same values. I’d rather have a small circle of close friends, than a big social life, without feeling accepted as I am.


The thing that has never changed is how much I love my family. My grandparents passed away unfortunately, but luckily my family is still very close and they still mean the world to me.


My grandmother taught me how to sew and I inherited her batik fabrics when she passed away. I started my own business in batik bags and other accessories 7 years ago. Nowadays I have a different day job, but I still make batik masks and more on my days off. It’s one of my favorite ways to express my creativity.


I have visited Indonesia two times and I now know I don’t fit in there as well. And that’s okay, because being mixed-race is what made me me. I am Dutch and Indonesian. And I love it.


Being mixed-race for me is a gift.

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