You Can Rip My Name Off, But You CANNOT Obliterate My Identity: A Chinese Girl Studying in Holland

Many of you may not hear about the drama recently happened in one of the most famous university around the world: ripping off Chinese nametags incident in Columbia University. What do names mean to us? Does Holland have the same version of stories? Does the same thing happen to my friends and me here? Let me tell you my story.

Posted by at Mar 12, 2017 09:55 AM

What happened at Columbia University?

To make students feel like home and also make it easy for students to visit others, in Columbia University, every door in the dormitories hangs the nametag of its student resident. However, just around the Chinese Lunar New year, started from the dormitory Shapiro, all the nametags with Chinese names on them were ripped off.

Just imagine when you come home after a busy day and find out your nametag on the door was ripped off or painted black, together with all your compatriots.

(Photo: nametags(from Panpath)+my friend Alhaj and me)

Of course, the university and all related student associations have begun to investigate and taken actions. However, what do names mean to us? And do the same racism incidents happen here across the Atlantic? Do my fellow schoolmates attack other races in Holland? Let me tell you my stories from the beginning.

What does the name mean to me?

A name is something follows us for our entire lives, so Chinese treat it with great respect. Compare to the majority of Europeans, Chinese parents usually take months to come up with a name for the newly born infant. Every name has a meaning and a story to tell. My name is Zhú(竹) which means exactly the bamboo. In Chinese, it looks like two people standing together, that is because I have a twin sister and together we are two. And “the bamboo” stands for integrity and dignity because it grows straight up towards the sky and never bow to anything. 

(Photo: My twin sister and I in Shenzhen, China)

I was “Candice” instead of “Zhu” when I was abroad before. When I was interning in an American court, the judge asked me: “Why every Chinese has an English name? Do you also call yourself this in China?” I told her because Chinese names were too difficult for foreigners to pronounce, we gave ourselves English names for their convenience. Then she answered me this: “Zhu, please understand it is my duty to read your name in the right way.” Also, when I was in an international organization, my Russian supervisor said: “Please stick to your original name, because it carries information about you and tells others where you come from and who you are.”

(Photo: OPCW in den Haag)

How does Holland treat different identities?

While after I arrived in the Netherlands, I am Zhu and I have different stories. Here I have 34 classmates come from all over the world and some of them have difficult names. I couldn’t remember how many times we had tried to call each other in the right way. Besides the efforts put on pronouncing names, their energy has been putting on “discriminating” against others. 

Some of them are feminists who “discriminate” against sexism but advocate gender equality. Together, we understand the amazing power of female energy which brings generosity, kindness, and tenderness in this masculine world. Some of them are from LGTB group and are not afraid of being authentic to themselves and the world. They give lessons to people who have homophobia. And some of them protect the minority from racism. Because they cherish the beauty of difference and diversity. 

(Photo: We went to the Women’s March in the Hague for “women rights are human rights”)

However, because of my nationality, because of my identity, sometimes the same racism thing happens to me here. People rolled down their car windows on the street to say “Ni Hao” (“hello” in Chinese) to me (not in a respectful way). I received messages from some male students talking about their “fantasy” on Asian girls. I was confused, embarrassed and at the same time angry. But now, what left in me is only pity. For them. 

(Photo: Lange Voorhout in den Haag)

This is what keep me going on...

Racists may exist in every country, however, the inclusiveness and openness of Holland have always surprised me in multiple ways. This is what I have learned in Holland from my university which contains a large number of international students, from the colorful pavements everywhere in this country, from the professors who encourage diversity and creativity, and from my friends who possess different names and identities but not afraid of being who they are: 

Maybe we all reserve something in order to fit in, but identity is something we should never hide. No matter you are yellow, black or white; no matter you believe in Islam or nothing; no matter you like boys or girls (or both); and no matter what your family looks like, this is not something you should feel ashamed about. This is a piece of your identity that makes you special, make you shine through the darkness and make you bring value to this world!

(Photo: Together with my international family enjoying Chinese food)

I wish anyone who is reading this blog will not be afraid to comment down below to tell me your name and where you are from.


Want to read or watch more of my stories? Here you go:


-->Build Cultural Awareness Instead of Cultural Shock --The Struggle of a Chinese Girl Studying in Holland. (study experience)

-->The Netherlands Can be Your Neverland. (let's taste the excitement)

--> Exciting Getaway in Holland--two cities at one weekend: Rotterdam and Leiden. (with a vlog)

--> No.1 DJ in the World--Martin Garrix in Amsterdam Dance Event. (with another vlog!)

-->Welcome to my Thursday!-An international student's day in the Hague. (A normal or not normal day?)

--> Exploring Trip to Utrecht: Finding the Famous Church (Vlog with Chung)


You can also find me here: come and join my life in Holland through my lens!

Instagram: lucky_piggy

Youtube: LuckyPiggy 

Posted by at Mar 12, 2017 09:55 AM