ATHIT

“Hi I'm from Thailand and I moved to Germany when I was 8 years old. I grew up in a small village in NRW and my family was the only Asian family in my village. I was also the first Asian in my school and we actually had 1300 students. It was a really hard time, that is why I never really had Asian friends before until I moved to Berlin.


I decided to move to Berlin to continue my studies and I thought Berlin would be the perfect place if I wanted to have some kind of a change; something new. My brother passed away before, I dropped out my first studies in Design Engineering, nothing made me want to stay in that village. I moved to Berlin with my ex-boyfriend and I had to struggle looking for a new place and a new school only in one week. But yeah somehow I managed to do. It was really hard but now I'm still here. Now I work at Uniqlo and I made a lot of good new friends there - mostly Asians, hahaha. But that’s actually how I finally got connected to more Asian people and culture here in Germany.


I never felt unsafe here in Berlin, never had any strange situation actually. I really like Berlin, but after 6 years now.. it’s definitely not impossible to just lose yourself. This city is really big, so much happening - something happening everyday. I live in Friedrichshain so I only stay there, or Mitte just because of my work and that’s all. I dont like other districts in Berlin so I don’t go to there at all unless I really have to; once to twice a year perhaps? I just feel like there is way too many people and most people in certain districts are very loud.


Maybe if I visit other districts more often, I would definitely experience some serious street harassments. Because I look at the mirror and observe myself.. I'm Asian, I am dark-skinned, I have long hair, I'm gay, the way I dress up - I look different. So whenever people come up to me and say “Ching Chang Chong” - I don’t really care, I don’t take it as some kind of serious street harassment.


In general, I feel like I don’t get harassed that much or often in Berlin, but maybe also because I tend to just ignore it. I know that I want to live my life and I'm the only one who has control to my life. I will never let others ruin my life. I used to be a very shy person but now I have learned to be a much more confident person. If you show them that they can ruin you, they will keep doing it. I also don’t really think about it. Because if I do, I’ll be scared to go out, then I have to stay at home.. doing nothing, no social life. That’s really bad, right?


Actually I used to not be proud about being Asian.. at all. I was so sad because I was here alone. I cried about my face, skin, hair colour.. actually everything - I wanted to be white like everyone else in Germany. So I had a talk with my mom about this, then she cried. She said “Sorry for that.. but that’s life. You can’t choose it, but you can build your own life.”


It took a while for me to finally accept myself for who I really am. I had to be proud of who I am and just make the best out of it. I just realised how stupid it was; it didn’t make any sense me to compare myself to Caucasians - because we are different! Well apparently the most important part is to accept yourself and embrace all the difference and uniqueness.


The first thing to do in Berlin if you want to understand more about my Thai culture is by visiting the Thai Park! Hahaha! I feel like food can really bring all these differences and people together, because food does bring people together. People are always interested in food and it’s really fun to simply share some food and talk about it.


I also know a lot of people living in Berlin have been talking about the culture and the food at Thai Park and they are actually enjoying it - it makes me really happy and proud at the same time. You know what, with all those colourful umbrellas and a variety of street food, it does look like in Thailand! Sometimes when I miss Thailand, I just go there because I see how all the Thai women just talking and screaming to each other. Really authentic, just like back home.


About this whole street harassment thing.. it really depends on the person itself, or the family - how open they are, how they were brought up. You can see really see how people behave, it really depends on how their parents raised them. It is all coming from home.


But to travel is also very important. In Germany it’s very often that after you graduate from high school, you don’t know what to do, so you end up travelling for 1 year. They ended up seeing a lot of different stuff, culture and people which makes them more open to seeing and accepting new things and people. Just do it! Go for it! You get to see more beautiful places, along with its locals and exotic culture. I think this will really change the way people think and how they see the world.”


BIANCA

“I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia and as a kid we just flew back and forth from Indonesia to Austria or Germany. My dad is originally from Austria and my mom is Indonesian. We finally moved to Germany for good when I turned 7. I moved to Berlin 5 years ago right after I finished my studies in Sociology in Frankfurt. I guess I wanted to do something more related to communications, so I applied to a university in Berlin and I got accpeted here. At that moment I thought it was the best option for me.


You know what, I actually hate living in berlin. Because even if you dress normally, you still get stared at and harassed all the time. Although mostly just verbal harassment, but still. There was this one time where I had people following me. That night, the street was empty so I realised that I was being followed. I tried to test them by standing still for a while, then the person slowed down and eventually also stopped, tried to approach me but then I just left. Another time a person tried to follow me right to the door. Good thing I was actually going to my boyfriend’s place. I have no idea what would happen if it was my place. So in general I have to say that I don’t like living in Berlin and thinking about moving sometime soon now. I don’t know where exactly, but maybe Spain? I liked it there. I went to Barcelona and no one stared at you even if you look different or stand out.


I actually feel like people don’t really notice that I’m a Eurasian because Berlin itself is a very multicultural and international city. Although sometimes I experience people shouting “Ching Chang Chong” at me which doesn’t mean anything in any language. They just try to make up some fake words that would sound like an East Asian language.


This kind of harassment doesn’t only happen on the streets of Berlin, but also online; I posted a picture on Instagram when I was on holiday. It was a picture of a dish, like this yellow rice and I edited a picture of myself on it just for fun, but then this stranger that I don’t know wrote me and sent me a message saying “You are so yellow; as yellow as the rice.” like.. What? These whole racist remarks and harassment things made me feel horrible. Definitely.


To be honest, I’m often scared about these people who does this kind of horrible thing to me. All I want to do whenever this happens is just to get away from them, walk away as fast as I could so that I won’t have any more toubles with them. Sure, this kind of reaction might make them feel more superior than us, but sometimes if I act as if I don’t hear it, they might just stop and probably think oh this girl is not Asian or this girl doesn’t speak any East Asian language or any other fake language they just came up with. So if you actually ignore them, it might also be another type of communication; ignoring the ignorants. Sure, some people are probably just curious. Even if they are, they should not greet you based on your race I guess. Why can’t they just say “Hi. How are you doing?” in German or English in a much more polite and respectful manner.


This kind of behavior is clearly to annoy people; trying to be mean and put people down. I believe it’s because of how the media portrays asians; always get lower roles and often more vulnerable, just like the geeks who are beaten up in schools like they are only good in Mathematics. I believe that nowadays pop culture has a lot of influence. This is definitely one of many ways to raise the awareness of Southeast Asian or racist harassment in general. Maybe they need to use more Southeast Asians as protagonists in films or TV series, so that people would get more used to it and not just give them the roles of weird geeky friend or a cameo.


It seems like many people think that Asians have lower positions in life; like there’s this weird hierarchy of white, yellow, brown and black - it’s so horrible! I feel like people should actually ignore this kind of idea. You know.. People are just people by the end of the day and everybody is a decent human being and deserves to be treated equally.


I actually feel proud to be part of Southeast Asian. I always feel like there’s so much myths around Indonesia; for a year I grew up near the jungle and it felt so majestic in a very spritiual way and it felt really deep especially when I learned more about the kingdoms and how it was before the Dutch colonised us. I don’t know, there’s just so much history behind everything, along with so much sadness that not enough people knows about it. Most of the time it has always been European’s history or American’s history. We learned about their history but they never learned about ours.”

BRIANNA

“I'm Brianna and I am originally from the US. I grew up in California but my family - both my parents - are from the Philippines, so I guess I'm like the second generation immigrant. I’ve been living here in Berlin on and off since 2011, but this time since 2016. I grew up in California where the people in my highschool was like 90% Asian - so it was more weird not being Asian actually hahaha.


The first time I came to Berlin in 2011 I was an exchange student so I was living with a host family and they lived really far from the city center on the other side of Wannsee. It was basically a village; everyone knew each other and I felt weird to be the only Asian among all these tall Caucasians, but no one treated me like I was different. Then when I came back in 2015 I was doing an internship at the US embassy in Berlin and there I started to notice a couple of microaggressions.


I had a talk with my former boss, who is American and high-ranking diplomat. We gave some kind of seminar to some high school students about multiculturalism in America and all these things, then my boss, who was well-educated of course, in her early 40s, said to the students “Yeah I don’t think that there is such race problems in America. I don’t see race, I don’t see colours.” and I was like.. that’s the absolute wrong thing to say?! I mean, unless you are really blind then you can’t see that. But at that time it didn’t feel like I could correct her or say anything because she was so far above me and we were in the middle of giving this talk to the students, so I felt like I couldn’t really engage with her and be like “What you said is totally… not correct.”, because it sounded almost racist actually I’d say.


In 2016 I noticed there were more aggressions actually and more ignorance of course. I think in Berlin everyone is from somewhere else because I can actually count with my fingers of how many real Berliners I have met here. So when they ask you “Where are you from?” then I guess it would be okay. But afterwards there would be some other additional questions like “No, where are you REALLY from?” - which really annoys me. When I tell people that I'm from the US, they would definitely ask again where I am really from due to my physical appearance. Then I told them that I'm from California - because that is where I was born and grew up - but my parents are originally from the Philippines.


Right now I'm working at a tourism company, like this cruise tour that goes along the Baltic. The owner of the company asked me where I am from, then I went on explaining things again where I was born, grew up and where my parents are originally from. Of course another interesting question came up, “Do you speak Chinese?”, I was like “Ah.. no. No we don’t speak Chinese. We speak Tagalog, the official language.”. Sometimes I also find it very annoying, like we have a lot of Asian customers and whenever they speak in their own Asian language, my co-workers would try to imitate the accent and make fun of it afterwards. I mean, come on.. tt’s not cool, we are not in kindergarten or primary school anymore.


I really love Berlin, I feel like I could really be myself here. But actually in the past 6 months or so I’ve experienced more racial aggression and harassments which has made me feel more nervous about living in this city. Honestly, I have been looking at other jobs and thinking about going back to the US. For example, I was getting lunch with a co-worker in Prenzlauer Berg and there was a woman who came up to me saying “You Chinese, go out!” then I responded to her in my perfect German “Yeah but I’m not a Chinese.”, but she was still persistent with her statement. My co-worker was totally shocked and at the same time I couldn’t even believe that of all districts in Berlin, it really happened in Prenzlauer Berg.


Another time I was in the U-bahn on my way to work, a woman pushed me out of the U-bahn when we got to the station. She really touched me while saying “Ah! You foreigners! Taking up so much space in my U-bahn.”. When I got to the office, I just started crying because I couldn’t believe that it really happened to me and it was physical, you know? Now I feel better but before whenever people start staring at me in the public tranposrtation or on the street, I would get really scared, because for me it was quite a traumatic experience. I tried to explain this kind of situation to other German friends before and they were like “Oh, I don’t see it so it can’t be real.” or “Oh maybe before you critisize, you need to be a better guest in this country.” - I just couldn’t believe it. I studied German, I understand German literature, culture and politics. Well, perhaps Germans need to learn to be a better host. I think there is this certain mentality like “If I don’t personally experience it, it can’t exist.”


I wish I could just tell these ignorants to fuck off. I mean come on, I work here, I pay taxes, I'm probably gonna pay for your pension at some point. I always think like what possessed someone to do those things? I mean it’s one thing to come out of a place of ignorance and those kind of microaggressions that they just don’t understand. But when I start thinking about it again, it takes a lot of energy to get yourself angry, to do that to someone; to yell at strangers.”

CHERINE

“Hey I am Cherine, a student at the Freie Universität and I have been living here for about 6 years. I was basically born, raised and spoiled in Jakarta, Indonesia, then I moved to Berlin when I was 18.


In general I feel safe in Berlin and I really like the city; very diverse and multi-cultural with so many young people. It feels really young to be here with all the spirit, vibe and energy. However, we still need to be careful and take are of ourselves in some districts. Honestly, I feel very safe and comfortable in where I live, which is Charlottenburg, because there are more senior German citizens. Nearby my place, along Kantstrasse, there is this one street that is full of Asian restaurants and people actually refer to it as the Chinatown - not a legit one, though - of Berlin.


In the beginning I felt a little bit weird living here as an Asian because I definitely look different from the others, of course. But when I started studying in the Studienkolleg (College preparation for foreigners) in TU Berlin, there were many other foreigners like South Americans and Vietnamese, so I didn’t really feel different there and everyone was basically speaking broken German while trying to understand each other, hahaha.


Something interesting happened to me one time. There is this very dark parking lot that I have to walk through if I want to go home and it was around 11 pm. I really thought there was no one there, but turned out, there were 4 people in a car and all of them greeted me with “Ni hao” which means “Hello” in Chinese Mandarin. I normally don’t react to this kind of remarks but I don’t know why I just wanted to say something, so I said “Excuse me, but I'm not Chinese.”, then they tried again to greet me with “Sawadeekap!” which is “Hello” in Thai - but I'm also not Thai, so it was kind of awkward. To me it was kind of funny because they were trying so hard to bother me but I didn’t feel bothered at all, so I was just trying to challenge them to greet me in another language in order to make them feel awkward hahaha. I believe that these people who want to try to harass me are simply uneducated and ignorants. I actually feel better because I'm the educated one, so I just reply their ignorance by ignoring them.


Once in 2014 I moved to a new neighborhood, also in Charlottenburg. I was waiting for a bus then there came a hobo who looked quite old already. He was babbling in a quite thick accent and that time my German was not as good as today, so I couldn’t really understand what she was saying. After around 5 minutes I realised that he was actually talking to me and he thought that I was a Vietnamese. He talked about how many Vietnamese came to Berlin after or during the war, how they are here living off of Germans’ taxes. I know, just a typical verbal harassment, but I didnt get bothered at all because well, I am indonesian so it didn’t matter that much to me.


There are of course both positive and negative stereotypes. You know how people have this certain stereotype towards Asians; they are so smart, especially in Mathematics. Honestly, it feels like a very positive stereotype to me hahaha. They expect you to be better than them, academically, which is something I'm willing to work on. I think being Asian in the Western society has more advantages actually.


Of course I did experience physical and sexual harassment several times in the street of Berlin, although I think it was not because I am Asian, but because I am a woman. As an Asian woman I just want other non-Asians to know that we are not what so-called easy.”

DEA

“Hey I'm Dea, I was born in the US but I grew up in the philippines so I come from a Filipino ethnic background. I have been living in Berlin for 2 years and I moved here with my then-boyfriend. I fell in love with the city so I decided to stay, because actually I found a lot of growth in this city.


Now I work as an English teacher in a kindergarten and this was my first job when I got here, so I've been doing it since then. I moved to Germany not knowing what I would be doing actually, but I do have a passion for helping others. Since I can speak the language well, I thought working in a kindergarten as an English teacher would be something that could do something. I wanted to interact with people and maybe shed some light in different ways. Also children are great, they are always open to learning and show lots of love hahaha!


Berlin is totally different from where I'm from, Manila, which has more of a Spanish background because you know, we were colonised by them for 300 years. That is why Manila is a very conservative place and Berlin is the complete opposite; open-minded, everybody has their own space, you can be whoever you want to be without feeling judged. It’s good that it’s some kind of a melting pot of all cultures, but I also think that people are not as aware and Asians are still put into boxes of certain kind of stereotypes. I believe that people should put more awareness and information into that.


Sure, I have experienced a couple of verbal harassments in the street of Berlin, but mostly just some situations in which I got confronted or stereotyped in a public space. One time I was at Media Markt, asking the salesman for some help then he asked where I was from. Without giving me the actual chance to answer him, he was already guessing where I was from. So he was like “China? Thailand? Korea? Japan?” - what? All those are even complete different countries, even the people from those countries dont look the same or similar at all. I was just so frustrated listening to him, because he already put me in a box without even giving me the opportunity to answer and explain where I am really from. The thing is they don’t know how we look like. To them we all look the same and that’s a shame, because we really don’t. If you put us next to each other, you’ll actually realise.


Coming from the Philippines, it’s quite hard to find fellow Filipinos in Berlin. There was one time that I was craving to be around Filipinos, so I looked for a Filipino church. I mean I'm not really connected to it but I just felt like wanted to be around Filipinos for a bit. I went there and already got put into boxes. I came with my Caucasian partner and they were already identifying me as the person who is married to a Caucasian man where he brought me to Germany and this is the only reason why I'm in Germany. But that’s not the truth, you know. I brought myself here, I worked hard to be here. It’s just funny that it happens among my fellow Filipinos. I think it’s important to ask and understand first before you drop into conclusions.


I don’t feel afraid of this kind of harassment nor the harasser, but more like bothered and upset that I'm always seen as a certain person, like I'm not identified as “Dea”, but always this Asian woman. It bothers me that they are very ignorant about it but I can also understand that maybe they have not been exposed to this kind of culture, people, which makes them know no difference. Again, this is where questioning and understanding play a big role. I do stand up for myself and tell them no, that’s not how it is, but most of the time there’s a lot of like.. I don’t know they are still very egocentric about it and instead of accepting their lack of knowledge, they still try to push that it’s the same or that I am this kind of person and they are just being stubborn about it. I really want to get them to sit down and teach them about all the differences, to educate them and make them understand that we are not all the same. I guess that’s just my nature of being a teacher.


If this happens to other people, I would definitely stand up for the victim of street harassment. I know that most of the times we seem kind of helpless in a way; soft-spoken, submissive and naive. I don’t know why we have this kind of impression - why do we have this kind of image?


I actually feel super proud to be Asian. I used to not put so much focus that I'm Asian while living in the Philippines, because there was so much focus on the Western culture. I think just being able to live in a different country and continent, while trying to understand the differences, I learn to really appreciate the Filipino culture. We are very warm and we have such strong resilience for everything just becasue we have been through so much and we always manage to stand up and shed light in any dark situation - I think that’s a good trait. Especially since I have experienced a trauma growing up in a third-world country, I appreciate and understand life more; coming from a quite strong Filipino background, trying to apply the values here while trying to adapt and be well-integrated with the society here - it is tough.


I also feel like Berlin is such a temporary place and people who come here are aware of that idea, that’s why they don’t want to really settle in this city. It’s very difficult to find a proper career that might give you a progressive path, or relationships that would stay, because here people are very into casual datings and open relationships. I mean I don’t find myself settling down nor building a family here. Sometimes it feels like the city is sort of holding you back from finding your true self or the best potential you’ve got. At the moment, at this age, it feels good to just have fun here in Berlin and see where life takes you; you have to be really strong to not fall into the traps.


I want people to know that even countries in Southeast Asia are not the same; Indonesia is completely different from the Philippines. We all don’t have the same stories - we build ourselves differently. I believe that we need to be seen pass through our ethnicity, just try to get to know us without putting us into boxes or labeling us. It is too harsh. To raise this kind of awareness you just need to interact with more people. If you know the stories of other people coming from differet background, then it has a bigger impact because it is a genuine experience, just like this project of yours.”

DHIAZ

“So yeah I was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia. I chose to move to Berlin and study here because I know how cool the city is, filled with so many young people coming from different parts of the world. I think the vibe of the city is really suitable to my creative personality.


In general I do feel safe living in berlin, but of course I am aware that I look completely different from most people here. Sometimes I feel like just me being different is not accepted enough in this society. I’m small and thin, I’ve got long hair and relatively dark skin, so I always get this weird stare whenever I’m on the street or in public transportations. Although at the same time I also feel cool to be part of this Asian community in Berlin. I think if you go to Mitte like around Weinmeisterstrasse area you can see how most of the Asian people walking around there have this rather weird, unique and eccentric style which I really like.


Yeah it’s so often that people think that I am from Japan. They would start shouting “Konnichiwa” to me while making gestures with their eyes: pulling them to the sides so that their eyes look as small or slanted as my eyes. I think that’s very annoying and racist. Most of the time I don’t really care about this kind of stuff. But the thing is, I have been living here for 6 years already, I speak the langague, I know the culture, but I still often feel like I’m not accepted in the society.


Oh, I used to go to this Studienkolleg (college preparation) in Köthen, a small city in East Germany, with a lot of Neo-Nazis. Almost everyday, whenever I was outside, the young people would start shouting “You foreigner need to leave this city!” or something like that. One time I was on my bike, it was quite late because I just finished doing assignment at a friend’s place, then there were these two guys with a huge dog, running towards me as if they wanted to get me. My gut feeling said something bad so I speed up - I was right. They were really running after me while shouting “Asian OUT!!” repetitively. The dog also kept barking. Thankfully I managed to really speed up and just disappear from them.


The good thing is, since I experienced something that intense already, I feel like the kind of harassment in Berlin is nothing compared to that one.


I must say that I feel really proud to be a Southeast Asian. But I want people to know that we are not only about the good food, warm weather or the beaches, but we do have a variety of strong cultures that are all different due to history.


Also, this is for fellow Southeast Asian people or Asians in general, please do speak up more! If you are in a class or something, do join the discussion, ask your friends or professor if you don’t understand about something, make yourself heard, let people know that you do exist and as a foreigner whose mother-tongue is not German, you do have so much to offer. It’s not going to make any difference if you just stay quiet and keep talking to people who come from the same country as you or whose mother-tongue is the same as yours. I mean, if I were the Germans I would feel.. not annoyed but more like confused. Why would they keep talking to the same people with the same language while they are here. 

What I’m trying to say is, if you want to be well-accepted by the society, then you also need to let yourself be integrated with the people and the culture.


Of course there is nothing wrong with sticking to your own culture, hanging out with the same people, but a good balance is important. Why would you live and study here, far away from home, when you don’t want to be engaged in conversations with people coming from different backgrounds? It’s best to keep yourself open-minded and also open to other people so that you can develop as a person. Just appreciate and respect other people the way you want to be treated.”

FAUZAN

“I was born and raised in Bogor, 60 km south from Jakarta the capital city of Indonesia. I grew up my entire 17 years there so that was quite a unicultural childhood I had, until I decided to move to Germany for studies, which took roughly 2 years of preparations including language school and college preparation.


After living in Berlin for a month, I landed in this small town called Lübeck, with around 200 thousand people to pursue my degree in medicine.Even though I am not based in Berlin at the moment, I have lived here for a 3-month internship and also quite often here because some of my good friends live here.


I do have people coming up to me all of a sudden quite often, asking where I'm from, without even giving me the chance to answer them. They would just go on guessing whether I'm from Thailand, Vietnam or the Philippines sometimes. I personally don’t think that Germany in general is a racist country, but there are just some people who are less-educated who dont really know that not all of Asians are from East Asia. I tend to just these people anyway, like I don’t really care anymore and I feel numb about it - which is pretty sad if you think about it, because it should affect me somehow and it is still not okay to just go on somebody like that.


Most of the times people some strangers walking down the street would go pass me and just shout “You Asian!” to me in a very rude manner - out of nowhere! Or there was this one time at the airport. A complete stranger, middle-aged man, randomly came up to me asked “Wow.. you are so dark! Did you just go on vacation?” - I mean he kind of had a point, I just arrived in Berlin after my vacation in indonesia, but you are not supposed say it out loud to a stranger I guess? I mean I'm also pretty dark-skinned without having any vacation in the first place. It was kind of funny which made me think - should I be offended? or should I be flattered? Hahaha it was just too random! Probably Caucasians really like seeing tanned skin because it’s different to theirs and it looks exotic to them.


When I'm at parties with my German friends, I like how strangers think that I'm not not from Germany because they treat me the same. A couple of times it occured that they asked me where I am from. Then when I answered that I'm from Indonesia, they were surprised because they thought that I was born and raised in Germany. Maybe it was also because my pretty good German skills and I don’t have any thick Indonesian accent when I speak the language.


I have a German friend who grew up in China and Thailand and he really likes to eat with chopsticks. Sometimes he would tease me “Oh yeah you can eat dogs right tomorrow?” - but to me it sounded excusable because he did grow up in Asia and probably understands about the culture deep enough. Some other friends of ours would get really shocked hearing this coming from him saying that it’s very rude and racist of him, but I'm actually okay with it.


Also when I just started studying medicine properly, there were a couple of attacks and bombings happened all over Europe that were claimed by a certain group. I was like.. oh God, I don’t want to be associated with this group or people to misjudge me, so I kind of hid the identity that I am a moslem, that I was born and raised as a moslem and I only explicitly told a couple of my friends. Yeah, just because of a couple of misrepresentations in the media, I needed to sacrifice this part of my culture and identity.


However, some other friends of mine found out - apparently people talk to other people about other people’s stuff hahaha - so the subject that I am a person of a certain religion came up and I realised it when we had this christmas party. We were playing this game where one person will be blindfolded and others would serve them 5 different kinds of food in a spoon and this person had to eat it in one swallow and guess what those 5 food were. Then one of them explicilty told me, loudly so everyone could hear, “It’s okay, for Fauzan we’re doing a completely vegetarian food tasting” - I really appreciated it actually, although I never told him.


So yeah. I completely understand if people are curious about my physical appearance and genuinely want to know about where I'm really from and the culture there. I would really appreciate it if they had came up to me with full of respect and I’d be glad to share a couple of things with them. But when they only shout at strangers saying that Asians shouldn’t be living in Germany.. it’s not really cool.”

FIAMETA

“Hi I’m originally from Indonesia, been living in Berlin since 2011 and at the moment I’m studying Communication Design at the Design Akademie Berlin.


Berlin is a very multi-cultural city and very inspiring. I mean, compared to Indonesia which is a rather conservative country, Berlin is very liberal and open-minded. Although Berlin might seem a bit boring, mellow, gloomy, but if you go to certain districts or neighbourhoods you’d realise how diverse and colourful the city is. You get to learn other people coming from different backgrounds and culture and somehow I feel like if you lack of something, somehow you get the opportunity to embrace it.


Honestly, I feel alright and safe living as Asian in Berlin. However, things would change if I go out in a group full of Asian girls only. We are never not harassed or disturbed by people on the street. Well, sometimes it also happens whenever I’m walking home quite late at night, or at certain districts. Of course I’m bothered by it, quite frustrating. Somehow I really want to just get angry and confront them back directly, but at the same time I feel like I don’t have enough courage. The harassers are mostly a group of guys. So I feel like I should not do anything because I don’t want something bad to happen to me afterwards.


The worst experience I think was at a swimming pool in Landsberger Allee. You know that they offer a proper swimming pool, right? I mean it’s not like Badeschiff or Haubentaucher where people jut hang out there and sit by the pool to enjoy the sun or something like that. It is a proper pool and I just wanted to swim with a friend there. We used to go there quite often actually. Anyway, I had a strange feeling because there was a huge group of guys just sitting by the pool who just kept watching girls swimming. It made us feel uncomfortable, so we decided to stop swimming and sit by the pool but on the other side. All of a sudden, one of them approached us, started flirting and stuff but we just ignored him. I think he was pissed so he started throwing water at us from the pool. That was utter rude. We reported this incident to the security there; we asked for help because we just wanted to swim but we felt uncomfortable and very much disturbed. You know what, the security didn’t do anything and told us this instead: “Then why don’t you girls just go to a different swimming pool?” like.. what?


My dog, Shiro, is a white huge dog of Japanese race called Akita. I think it’s quite rare here in Berlin, so people always get attracted and interested whenever they see him. One time I was just waiting for a friend on the street, then people stopped by and asked me where Shiro is from. They directly assumed that I am from Japan since my dog is of Japanese race. I mean, I don’t have any problem with it - it’s just funny I guess, because you don’t need to be a German to have a German shepherd right? Hahaha.


Another time I was at this Street Food event and there was an old guy approaching me - he was very nice and polite. We just talked about dogs and the food there. I know he was not trying to be offensive or whatever, but I think he didn’t realise that it could be quite annoying; he tried to make sure that I was not going to eat Shiro, my dog. I was like… wow. Did I really give the impression that I was about to eat him or is this stereotype of Asian eating dogs is that common?


I used to be a working-student at a company. There the secretary of my boss asked me in a very general and large context, “Why do most Asian women seem like they are interested in old Caucasian guys? Or married to them? Like let’s say.. 20-30 years older than they are.” - I mean, I didn’t have the answer to this because I don’t feel like I belong to this ‘category’. But it really made me think, it’s really sad that we are really judged in certain ways that is actually not applicable to everyone.


Of course I have experienced the whole racist remarks on the street just because they thought I am from an East Asian country. I mean, I also cannot differentiate Germans; whether they are from Berlin, or Hamburg, Munich or wherever. But I don’t just go to them and shout “Servus!” or “Moin moin”, hahaha.


One thing that I’m grateful for is, I have a couple of non-Asian friends who keep complimenting my skin colour and smooth hair, like how they admire Asian’s dark, smooth and glowing hair. I don’t feel offended at all - it makes me happy instead! Because usually you don’t notice what you really have and you tend to compare yourselves to other people. But now I feel really thankful and grateful for my unique appearances.”

HONG

“So, my parents lived in the refugee camp in Lower Saxony where I was born, along with other Vietnamese people. Later on we moved to Berlin for a short period of time when I was a baby, then later later on when I was 3 to 8, I grew up in a small village in Lower Saxony, close to the concentration camp. We were the only Vietnamese family there actually and there were only 200 people in that village. I grew up with a German step dad, my Vietnamese mom and my German step grandparents. We moved to Munich when I was 8, then there we had more Asian friends. I used to speak Vietnamese when I was still very young, but I was struggling and often too shy to speak German at the same time. I can remember I would just do gestures to ask people to play with me. Then later on I started speaking more German, but also losing my ability to speak Vietnamese.


At some point I moved to somewhere else in Bavaria and later on to Berlin when I was 21. I moved to Berlin for an internship before my studies in Fashion Design started. I lived in Sweden before for a year then I moved straight to Berlin. The Swedish people are actually very open-minded - I couldn’t imagine going back to Bavaria to be honest, that’s why I decided that Berlin would be better for me. There’s not so much diversity there in Bavaria and people are always pointing out immediately - which is kind of nice if you are running around by yourself looking for something, then they would offer to help you because they think you are a tourist, not somebody who lives or even born and raised there. When I was still working at a restaurant, people would start asking me “Oh how come you speak German so well?”. Or sometimes the old people would start talking to their children or grandchildren like “Oh she’s really pretty. Asians are either super ugly or they are really beautiful.” and I would wonder, why would you say something like that about a group of people? As if they were saying either it’s a good breed or bad breed hahaha.


I am really happy to live here in Berlin; I feel comfortable, I like how big the Vietnamese community is along with the Asian supermarkets. Back then wherever I was, I never had that many Asian friends. Before I moved here, I was not that interested in the Asian culture. But now due to many Asian friends, restaurants and supermarkets, I can relate to the culture better and I have developed much bigger interest than before - I appreciate the culture more because I get more exposed to it which made me feel more proud to be a Vietnamese. Before, I always wanted to just be like other people and kept a distance between myself and the Vietnamese culture. When I was still a kid, other kids would ask me if I ate dogs or something, so I decided to distance myself from the Vietnamese or Asian culture becuase I didn’t want people to have this certain perception of me, something that I'm actually not, which is sad. Because you can’t really change your physical appearance. I can understand why most people feel safe just being around people from the same country and culture, because probably their views are more or less the same; definitely same kind of food, like they won’t make fun of you if you eat chicken feet, hahaha.


I wish I would have learned the language, like reading and writing way much earlier. Now it’s hard. I actually went to a Vietnamese language course when I was 20 with other Germans who had Vietnamese partners or something. I did that becuase I wanted to visit Vietnam and be able to speak a little bit while I was there - I only went to Vietnam for the very first time when I was 20 actually.


Actually in Berlin I experience less street harassment than anywhere else I would say. For example, I was once asked by a guy if Asian women’s vaginas are as small as their eyes, and stuff like that. I was only 14 back then so I was really traumatised. Even though it’s less but it still happens quite often. They don’t really get physical, but they get agressive. Somehow it’s always guys who do this kind of thing to me. Never ever once a woman did this. I feel like in general these guys just want to flirt to get your attention. It’s like catcalling, but plus the racist remarks.


Even in Berghain once, there was this guy, somebody I knew, who is a half-Filipino, approached two asian girls who were sitting on a couch, like “Ni Hao” - hey you’re half Asian, why would you do that? It’s kind of inappropriate I must say. Afterwards he told me that he was just being nice but he couldn’t understand why those two girls were looking at him in such a bitchy way and looked away, wondering what was wrong with those girls. That was super rude and I told him that I would hate him if he did that to me as well. Of all places, this kind of thing also happened in a place that is supposed to be super liberal and open filled with open-minded people.


Only once it happened to me that made me really scared - in Kreuzberg. It was already late, really quiet and no one else was there. There was this dude who was drunk, started walking towards me. I just walked faster to avoid him but then he started shouting “Small eyes!” to me and get angry. I started running and I felt really scared and unsafe. It bothers me all the time but I feel like these people are just stupid. So why should I bother further, right? That’s like my mantra to stay calm: “People are stupid” repeatedly, hahaha! The thing is, when you point out stuff when you want to correct them, people often take it so personally and they would defend themselves by saying “Oh I'm not a racist!” and they would argue in a very defensive way, telling me that I am the one who is being too sensitive about it.


The best way to raise this kind of awareness is perhaps to create exhibitions about it, or talking to your friends about it, because people are not aware of this problem if they are not exposed to it. Sometimes they would not even believe you that it really happened. So yeah, if you don’t really talk about it, they don’t know that it’s really happening. I believe that you need to make your friends more sensitive to it so they can sympathise more. I would also like to have my friends standing up for me if this kind of thing happens. Of course, we are not all the same; we all have different culture and history. Just go travel more then you’ll notice that people are all different.”

JUNE

“Hey so I'm June, my parents are origianlly from Vietnam, I was born and rasied in Hannover so I consider myself more as a German because I grew up here. I moved to Berlin 5 years ago in order to study. I love Berlin so far - love it too much I'm still not done with my studies hahaha. There are just so many distractions but this city is amazing.


Comparing Berlin to Hannover.. I have the impression that here in Berlin you’re not as exotic as in any other cities, because here you have so many tourists, exchange students, people who are moving from abroad and so on, so I think you’re recognised as a non-local but most people just don’t really care about it - it’s just so common here. I certainly have experienced street harassment but not as often as any other Asian friends, since I’m quite tall which could.. intimidate others, you know? Hahaha.


Since I grew up in germany and in schools I was always the only Asian one, or one of the few of non-German ones, so I'm just like whatever - I don’t react to this kind of harassment anymore. Back then it made me so upset, but now I'm just tired and exhausted by it. I don’t feel any strong emotion towards it anymore because I'm just so used to it - it’s so common! I usually don’t feel attacked by it because it is done by people who are super young and they just don’t know it better and I don’t feel that threatening. People sometimes treat me as if I'm not German - but I actually am! I have German passport, I went to German schools, I go to German university, I was born and raised in Germany. If they only see someone through their appearances then it’s totally fucked up.


If I get confronted inside the subway and the person sits next to me for a quite long period, then I would start a conversation like, “Do you think it’s funny? Do you think you are creative?” I mean, if I do that in perfect German, they would feel uncomfortable already. So what I’d try to do in that situation is, to make them aware what kind of bullshit they were talking about and I would definitely try to make them feel very uncomfortable for their stupid actions, witnessed by other passengers in the subway. But if it happens on the street with children, I’d try to be really careful, because I'm very well aware that I am in a more powerful position than they are and I don’t want to abuse my powers. Even though they are harassing me, I don’t want to harass them back just for the sake of it. It’s also a different story if this happens when I'm with friends who don’t have the same privilege as I do; non-German speakers, not as tall and confident as I am - then I'm freaking out. I’d definitely insult and harass them back. I mean not children, just grown-ups.


There also seems to be a certain hierarchy in term of aesthetics among Asian community itself. Sometimes it goes like “Oh my God! I didn’t assume that you’re a Vietnamese because you look so Korean!” - is it supposed to be a compliment? I don’t think so. I mean, thank you? But this is kind.. of.. wrong? Why should Korean people be considered prettier than.. I don’t know, for instance, Vietnamese people? It is so weird, and it happens quite a lot among the Vietnamese community itself.

For example, in terms of representation of a certain culture in a certain media, do you realise how popular Korean Pop music is? Also international cosmetic brands usually have Korean or Japanese models as representatives for the Western market. Like Kenzo, it’s an internationally established brand and it’s Japanese, so that’s why you’re more familiar with Japanese models. So I guess this kind of representation is sort of promoting a certain kind of aesthetic that is accepted by the Western society. The question is.. are these chosen models really fitting the aesthetics? Or is it a culturual appropriation already?


I'm definitely proud of my culture, my parents and what they have been through, which is pretty common for the first-generation Vietnamese people here in Germany. I wouldn’t say that it’s the Asian part that I'm proud of, but there is also nothing that I should be ashamed of. No matter what background you have, you should be proud of your roots and culture. I'm super proud that my mom is an amazing cook, and that Vietnamese cuisine is one of the best cuisines ever, so there wouldn’t be any situation in which I should be denying my own identity. Even though I'm more familiar with the German culture since I grew up here, the Vietnamese culture is definitely part of my identity. Until I turned 21 or so, I wasn’t dealing that much with this fluid nationality - it was hard. I was just some other full German girl with a bit of a Vietnamese twist. However, I told myself to do more research on the history, the Vietnam war, Vietnamese Buddhism and stuff like that so I became more aware of how it influenced me as a person and how I developed my character.


I do speak Vietnamese - not as fluent as I want to because I lack on practice and I live in an English-speaking environment. I heard from some of my Vietnamese friends that back then when they were still in schools, their parents decided not to teach them Vietnamese because they wanted them to focus on German; to be well-integrated, to have the needed skills to apply for jobs later as well as the bureaucracy. So in the end, they had to sacrifice a part of their culture, which is actually very important for your own identity. I mean, there are theories about how languages influence your identity and stuff. It’s a lot of issue for them to leave the country, leave their jobs, leave their friends behind, made this crazy journey to come to Germany, then they wanted their children to at least have an easy start here in Germany.


Just please, do inform yourself. We live in a digital era that you can just google everything on your smart phones. Don’t treat us as an exotic piece or trophy that you’ve been seeing on the street. I think another best way to raise this kind of awareness is to speak it up; make it public! I know that some people don’t feel comfortable talking about it or letting other people know that what they are doing is not okay. If you say nothing about it, it could mean that you’re approving this kind of behaviour - which is not acceptable by tolerating it and you should never tolerate this kind of behaviour. I think making a statement would be a very good start so people know that it’s really happening and it’s not okay at all. The next step would be to educate people by having open discussions; inviting people to a dialogue or writing about it on social media platforms, having discussions with non-Asian friend circles. Yeah, I think you just need to point the problems out and talk about it.”

LIH

“I was born and raised in Australia, grew up there, got some jobs overseas, traveled 10 years around Europe and South America for work. I'm a musician and composer, so I work a lot with circus and dance theater productions - that kind of work means that I had to travel a lot. My mother is originally from Singapore and my father is from Malaysia. They were immigrants, moved there just short before I was born. My older brother was born in Singapore, so I was the first in my family who was born in Australia. I moved to Berlin 3 years ago after 10 years of tour. At first I got a contract here for 6 months, then I decided to just stop moving.. and I did!


I feel really safe and comfortable here in Berlin - that is the main reason why I decided to just settle down here; walking around I feel safe, as a mother I also feel safe for my child. One of the reasons why I decided to stay here is also because I found some Asian friends. After being on tour for so long, I met mainly Caucasian people from all around the world. At some point, I was really missed having Asian friends and food. So yeah, that’s one of the things that I love about Berlin; I can get Asian food, Asian grocery right around the corner of my house and Asian friends. But actually.. in the end there is not so many of us.


For me I'm more of a Chinese background and I meet a lot of Vietnamese people here and they are all like “Where are you from? Where are you really from? Where are your parents from?” - it’s hard to explain where you are really from - I’m not directly from an Asian country, but I'm from a country with a huge Asian community.


Of course I experienced a couple of street harassments here, mostly was more like out of ignorance; people shouting “Konnichiwa”, “Ching Chang Chong” and so on, but there was one time that really bothered my mind. I was just walking my daughter to the kindergarten and there were some people shouting “Ching Chang Chong” to me at first. I turned around and said “What are you talking about?”, then they would just deny it. I started speaking to them in German and the funny thing is I was actually talking to my daughter in English - we were not even speaking Chinese. They ended up saying that I am a crazy lady and so on. I wanted to ignore it but it just really bothered me, so I confronted them “You’re a racist! You should apologise to me, because this is my neighborhood, I'm walking my daughter to school and I dare you to speak to me like that in front of my daughter. What is it that you want to achieve from this situation?” and again, he was just confronting me for being sensitive and acting crazy about it - but no, I was not at all; it was very legitimate what I was saying. I just wanted him to apologise for being racist, but he could not understand me. Probably he thought that he was just being funny. There are just people who think they could start a conversation with you by starting this kind of attitude, trying to be friendly or pick you up, but it’s just not the way to do it!


I had an interesting conversation with my daughter where I had to explain to her why I was so angry that time I walked her to the kindergarten. It was very sweet actually, because of course in her age, she doesn’t understand what racism is.. at all. Children don’t get that - not yet! Now she says things to me like.. “Oh! I'm half Chinese!” - which is really cute, because I dont think she acuallty understands what Chinese is - maybe physical features, but there’s so much more to it. Sometimes my family calls me a banana; yellow on the outside and white on the inside, hahaha!


I traveled a lot within the last 10 years, so it’s not a new thing to me and I don’t feel afraid of them. Actually asking people why they confront people in a very racist way is something new to me, because sometimes it just makes me so frustrated and I would jut start walking around and hate myself or not saying anything to the harasser. So, yeah, in the last couple of years I just kind of start asking them.. why? why would they say that? I think it’s the same like when people whistle at you or catcalling. If you ask them why they are doing it, they won’t actually expect that you’ll be directing that kind of question to them.


Most of the time before I just ignored it because it happened so often, especially when you travel. I don’t know like in Middle Eastern country for example; I was in Morocco and I had so much harassment there because it was so obvious that I am different. Actually in South America people are very sweet, probably because I had my daughter and she is a mixed race and people just seemed to love her so there was not much racism going on. Even in Asia, people still ask me where I am from and when I tell them that I'm from Australia and they would go “No. You don’t look like you’re from Australia!” hahaha! But why is it even an issue regarding where I'm from? how about “How are you? How was your day?”.


It’s funny that in this kind of situation, you’re never going to change their minds - what else can you do? I guess putting a person behind a certain image is a way to get it through to them, like you know.. I'm a person and not just an Asian face, but at the same time I also think about why should I bother to put effort and waste my energy on this? We live in a day and age where especially in Germany you have access to the newspaper, the internet, to speak with people, look it up on smart phones - immigration is not a new thing at all. Come on, I'm not the first nor the last Asian you’re going to see.


The best way to raise this kind of awareness is probably by having and attending more cultural festivals - just something that is easy to access. I think food is a very good way; it’s very communal, something that everybody can enjoy and easy to open up a dialogue with. Also music, regional film nights.. and travel of course! I have my own ignorances of course. For instance, I can’t tell the difference between Syrian and Turkish, or between Syrian and Lebanese cuisine - I would like to know of course, it’s not like I don’t want to know, but I guess I just haven’t had the cultural access to it.


I feel proud to have this heritage; there is so much understanding that my parents have passed on to me - it’s just very interesing. My daughter is actually a complete gypsy. She was born in Canada, but the longest she has lived in a city is here in Berlin and she is half Asian - so what I passed on to her is going to be very interesting as well. But then for her the kind of question “Where are you from?” is not that important due to her friends coming from all over the world. She is 5, her friends are from everywhere, they come and go and half of them doesn’t even have a home - they live most of their lives on tour. For her this kind of question is not even a question. Most of the times it’s more like “Oh where were you? Where have you been? What did you see?” - I think this is very wonderful and she will never have this culture normality that she has to stick to.


It’s hard to think about what you want other people to know about the culture of your heritage, because you simply need to go there to experience the whole thing; you’re not going to experience through me - I’m the third generation. My parents’ great grandparents moved from China and Singapore and Malaysia are just full of immigrants - they are not one race; Chinese, Malay, Indian. It’s mainly those 3 races. You can’t really say that I’m this or that. Am I a Singaporean? Am I a Malaysian? What comes down to me? Is it my blood? If yes then it’s actually Chinese. So yeah by the end of the day.. how do you explain that to people? Am I made of my blood or my experiences?”

PAOLO

“Yeah, I was born and raised in the US, but both of my parents are originally from the Philippines.

I’m here in Berlin studying Biology, in German, at the Freie Universität and it’s a semester exchange program. It’s my first time moving abroad, living somewhere all by myself - it’s a huge jump for me. I really enjoy Berlin and this is actually the first time I saw real snow that is not in the mountain or somewhere in the nature actually. I feel like I have really seen the transition from winter to spring, as well as spring to summer now - I have only been here for 3 months but I have experienced 3 seasons already, hahaha.


In general I do feel safe in Germany. Occassionally, I see a couple of dodgy people at night but otherwise if I exercise my “street common sense” then I feel like I’ll be able to manage to get by, as long as I don't do something stupid of course. Usually street harassment happens in instances like when I'm on the bus or subway. The people who harass me tend to be more or less drunk or intoxicated, but it’s only in those instances that I feel kind of trapped in the situation because I need to stay in the train until I arrive in my destination. You can’t really argue with a drunk person right? Just ignore it. Although sometimes it’s quite nice because when this happens, other people would come up to me like 5 minutes after, making sure if I was okay and saying how brave and strong I was, wishing they could do something but again, you can’t really argue with drunk people. I'm pretty sure these drunk people also annoy other people, not only the people they are harassing.


I have had a professor in my university that thought that I was from China.. twice. I said no. She felt really bad about it, though, but.. twice? It was kind of weird hahaha. I have had other professors also asking me where I'm from and I ended up telling them my whole background story like what I did in the beginning of this interview. But even back home I got confused for being Chinese as well. Actually another time in the supermarket here in Germany - but in Cologne not Berlin - the cashier started talking to me in Chinese and I was confused. I mean like.. people think that since you look foreign or Asian then they would just directly assume that you’re from China or any other East Asian countries even if you aren’t, just because they haven’t been exposed to any other Asian culture - just out of ignorance and lack of information. I don't think it’s out of any hatred or anything.


I want other people to know that Southeast Asia is full of diversity; linguistic diversity, ethnic diversity, religious diversity - just look at the history! For example, my father’s mother-tongue is not the same as my mother’s even though they are both Filipinos. There are around 100 different languages in the Philippines that are used in a very widespread basis. I think Southeast asia is one region in the world where I can’t really pick a person out of a pool and say that this person comes from a certain country. That is impossible.


Well, at least coming from the US, there is sometimes a movement like there are more Asians in the media spotlight. I think Instagram and other social media platforms are one of the easiest ways to gain access about this kind of information - that would really help to raise awareness, like hey we Southeast Asian people are here too you know. We are often forgotton because the media only portrays East Asian people.


What I really find interesting here in Germany is that when I say that I’m from the US, usually they won’t ask me where I'm really from; which is a very common thing to ask in the US - most people see me as an American. I think part of my goal of being here now is to show that hey just because I'm a third-culture kid, it doesn’t mean that my identity is just limited to being somebody who is from the US.”

PATRICIA

“Hi, I'm from Indonesia, but my family is Chinese-Indonesian. I originally studied in Dresden, then I thought I’d find a job in Berlin just because it’s a bigger city that has more opportunities. I was working as an account manager for an online advertising start-up, but I just quit my job and now I'm looking for a new job.


I like Berlin. I think I moved to Germany when I was 18 and got the chance to live in Aachen, Leipzig, Dresden and now Berlin - so far it’s my favorite city. All for all, I feel quite safe in Berlin, like when I walk home at night. Sure, sometimes it happens that some guys would cat-call or give me some remarks in East Asian language - a language they probably don’t understand. But I guess it happens everywhere, not only in Berlin.


Harassing people is complete unnecessary and I don’t know how you could profit from it.


Like why would you cat-call someone? You call somebody hot or sexy when she was just walking and you know that they won’t just stop and start talking to you and give you their numbers. well, probably most of them are uneducated and doing it for fun. When someone harasses me, it makes me feel -as a woman in general- like you are being served with this certain image and that we women are objectified. So most of the time I feel like I'm just an object and not a person - they only see my physical appearance which feels very degrading most of the time. For example, of course white women also get harassed as well as cat-called, but no one would throw some kind of insults in ‘fake words’ - they are just going to do it in German or English, in a language most people in Berlin would understand. But you don’t randomly shout something in… let’s say Polish, when a white woman walk passes by.


Meanwhile Asian women.. I don’t know where to start. People just often generalise and think that you’re East Asian, even though Asia is a huge continent. It’s kind of difficult to be generalised to just one particular country that you are not even from - it’s not like I don’t like the country or anything, but first, I just don't like people objectifying me and second, assuming that I am from a certain specific country. How do they even know that I'm from that country? And what makes it okay to make up some fake language when you’re not even sure what you’re saying?


I think it’s not only street harassment. I’ve had several situations at parties for example, in which someone came up to me and tried to talk nicely to me. They would definitely start asking this whole “Where are you from?” question. I feel like people always want to know where you’re from if you look Asian… or different at least. It’s like they have their own guessing game in their heads for the sake of self-satisfaction. People often think that Asian women are different and exotic then you get fetishized; this whole yellow-fever kind of thing - it’s very problematic. This kind of thing doesn’t only happen on the street, but also in normal conversations.


I don't feel that afraid of these kind of people - I mean it’s just annoying, not life-threatening, especially at night it could feel really scary, especially if it’s jut an empty street in a middle of nowhere, nobody there and you’re going home from a party, already intoxicated - you’re not in your best state. You try to be sober, but you also need to take care of yourself and physically you are probably weaker than the other person. So yeah, sometimes I get afraid but most of it also the feeling of discomfort and not being safe outside. I think it’s really Important. I think men and women should have the same opportunity to feel safe out there.


I once spoke up when two guys shouted some East Asian language at me. In the end they appeared to be scared when I tried to confront them. They are most likely uneducated and don't know themselves what they’re doing. But the thing is I don't have all the energy to explain to all the guys who cat-called or harassed me about the history of feminism and the fact that I deserve the same treatment. You don't want to put yourself in any harm and you certainly don't want to spend all your energy educating all these ignorants - it’s also not your job. People should know their position in life and basically just respect each other - also women, we’re humans too.


The media somehow portrays Asian women being submissive, weak, always listen to what the men have to say and I'm not really fond of all those stereotypes about Asian women in particular. I always see myself as a much stronger person and sometimes it’s hard because of all these stereotypes and prejudices. It doesn’t matter how strong I think I am, a lot of people just could not see it pass through me - I work so hard for what I do, but they will always see me as an Asian woman. So.. I don't know if I'm proud to be Asian. I mean, of course I'm proud of who I am, but it is difficult to be publicly proud that I'm Asian.


What I also don't like is when people give me compliments then they would add extra remarks like “that’s because you’re Asian!” - I really don't like that because I want people to see me pass my ethnicity or nationality. Once somebody told me “Wow you’re so pretty.. you’re the prettiest Asian I know!” or like “Oh your skin is so soft.. I think it’s because you’re Asian.. all Asians have smooth skin right?” - if you think I look attractive, just say it without adding “Asian” to everything. That’s why it’s so hard for me to claim that I'm proud of being Asian.


I think, based on personal experience and what I gather from the media, it’s quite true that East Asian people usually look down to Southeast Asians. Probably because economically, Southeast Asia is not as developed as East Asia; Japan is very advanced, South korea is also getting there with their K-pop and K-drama culture of course, China is huge - it’s difficult. Somehow it’s not always based on socioeconomical state, but also the beauty standards. I think East Asian people still holds the beauty standard in Southeast Asia - even though we don't look anything similar, but they are the standards so it’s very confusing. All these products like whitening lotion - why would you buy those? In Southeast Asia the weather is just generally warmer, so your skin is more exposed to the sun and you’re just tanned. Why would you want to be as pale as East Asian?


I’d say it’s quite annoying to have all these stereotypes in this kind of world that we live in. I mean as a woman itself, life is already difficult - adding that you’re an Asian woman, a Southeast Asian, living in the western society.. even more difficult. I really hope that this project would add at least a little bit of an impact.”

QUYNH

“Hi I’m Quynh and I was born in Hanoi where my parents are from too. My dad left Vietnam in 1989 to move to the the former GDR as an immigrant worker. My mom, my older sister and I followed him in 1998 and my younger brother was born two years after that, so my siblings and I were raised in Germany. We just stayed in the same place my dad already had been living in for a decade which is in Rostock. I just moved out last year in order to move to Berlin to pursue my studies.


So far I have learned to love but also hate this city; so many things are happening every day, sometimes it can get too much. There are times where I absolutely feel grateful to live in such a safe country and there are other times where I start to believe my mom when she told me that I shouldn't be out late. Most of the time, I do feel comfortable though.


I feel like in Berlin it really doesn't matter where you're from or how you look because you see all kinds of ethnicity everywhere. It was very different back in Rostock, especially when I grew up. I was "that Asian girl” - someone in my school even referred to me as "the Asian quota". Strangers on the street said all kinds of things when they saw me, so that I even unlearned my mother-tongue and started to refuse everything that had to do with the Vietnamese culture. Maybe it's because I'm coming from a city that is known for their lack of tolerance towards foreigners. But Berlin's diversity is really refreshing - I don't feel like being Asian is an "obstacle" here.


Actually I just experienced something last weekend. I was on my way home at around 2 AM and I always need a bit longer to get home because I live quite far away from the city center and everywhere I usually go to - sometimes it can take two hours for me, then I would miss my night bus. So instead of waiting half an hour for the next one, I decided to walk. I had to walk this long road where two guys on bicycles drove on too but instead of just continuing their way, they slowed down and started to shout something at me that I didn't understand because I had headphones in. I ignored them and they took some break in the middle of the road. I got kind of scared since I was the only one there; it was dark and it looked like they were waiting for something and I didn't want to turn back. I called a friend and talked to him, so I wouldn't be alone. I walked past them talking on the phone and I just noticed from the side that they were staring at me and it made me really uncomfortable. Luckily, there was a subway station just shortly after that, where I went into. I think there are a lot of creepy strangers getting too close to you here in Berlin at night.


I just “re-learned" to be proud to have Asian roots since I moved to Berlin. I think I'm really lucky to be raised with two cultures and languages because you get so much from it. You learn to see things from different perspectives and with different backgrounds - it’s never just one side of something. You're constantly reminded that there is more than the life you're experiencing now and I often find myself wondering what my life would be if my dad had returned to Vietnam after the German reunification. It sounds cliché but it puts a lot of things in perspective.


We, Southeast Asian people have different traditions, languages, food and so on - just like how different every Europeans are. There is not only one Asia that has one culture or one language or one look, I swear - look it up! I genuinely think that we're currently going towards good path with allowing more different cultures in our lives and getting to know them more, but generally it's always a good thing to ask questions and be curious - be ready to learn new things. Also projects like this one is contributing to it too. We just have to continue to try being vocal by raising our voices.”


RACHEL

“I was born in the Philippines and grew up in Laguna - a province near Manila. At the moment I’m studying Medieninformatik at the HTW and I’ve been living in Berlin for 4 years now. I started as an au-pair for a year in Hamburg, lived with a German family, taking care of the children, didn’t know what to do afterwards, but wanted to stay longer because I started to like living here in Germany.


For me it’s a bit hard to go back again to the Philippines after living here. I feel lost there because things already changed in a year - it’s quite a long time I think. After 3 years of living here then coming back to the Philippines I had this strange feeling; a bit of foreigner in my own country, because a lot changed - also my friends. It’s totally different.. like two sides of the world. When you start getting used to the culture here, the tiniest change in your home country feels like a huge difference already and you start comparing the whole time.


Berlin is great, it’s the most multi-cultural city in Germany I think. There are also lots of things to do here, a lot of events, always something happening - I think I like it more than I hate it although I have a love-hate relationship with the city. So far I feel safe living in Berlin, although there are some sketchy areas of course, but I still feel that it’s much safer than my own country. But of course in the evening I start to feel scared, especially after reading the news like someone pushed another person to the train - then it freaked me out! I don’t want anything bad to happen to me because I’m all alone here, far from my family. I just feel like I have to really take care of myself and probably not go out really late in the evening although okay once or twice, but not every time. I also try to always contact people just to let them know where I am, what I am doing and stuff just to be safe.


One time in Alexanderplatz, I was there eating at a fast food restaurant, then a guy approached tried to talk to me, looking at me in the eyes, babbling in some words I don’t even understand - probably trying to make it sound like an East Asian language. Then he talked to his friends in a complete different language. I ignored him, but I actually really wanted to punch him in the face or something because it was very annoying, like he was trying to make fun of me but it was not funny at all. I felt frozen, so I jut ignored and walked away. At that moment I felt like it was not worth the time to do something about it. So yeah, most of the time I just ignore it. But all this annoyed feeling just keep building up. Probably the next time somebody does that to me I’ll just talk to them and tell them that I’m from the Philippines and the language I speak is called Tagalog.


There was also a time I was talking to someone and he was like “Are you here because you want to marry a German or another European for the Visa?” I was so surprised, because I’m here on my own to study. That really offended me. That was very rude and disrespectful. This kind of thing used to happen a lot during my first year in Germany, but now it’s much less - probably because I’m not around the busy area so often anymore. I just want people to know that not all Asian people are from East Asia and there are also other Asian countries with different culture, language and history.


But most people already have this mindset and stereotypes in mind, as well as putting people in boxes, especially when these people don’t really like immigrants or foreigners. Even if you try to educate them, they won’t do anything about it because they are simply ignorants. I can’t really tell what they want to achieve from this.. probably they just enjoy making fun of people. There are such people who don’t really care about how you feel, where you are from, what you are going through - they just say whatever they want to say and think what is fun for them. It’s so annoying!


If this happens to someone else on the street.. I’d definitely try to do something. I’d approach the victim and try to talk to him or her, because the harasser usually just walks away; they don’t stay and say anything more - they walk away. I know for a fact that they are just going to leave and go. But if there were police around I would just go to them directly, although I heard that some police don’t really do anything about it, unless you went through something very physical abuse - but this is clearly an emotional abuse. I mean in the Philippines when wee see foreigners like Caucasians and we could not tell where they are really from, we would just call them Caucasians without confronting or giving them bad remarks on the street.


I feel proud being a Southeast Asian. I love my skin colour. I mean people here are trying so hard to have some fake tan and stuff - something that I don’t need to do, hahaha! Although, it’s actually the other way around with girls in the Philippines; they want to have lighter skin just like Caucasians. I think if we go way back to the past, it’s because of the colonisation; Spanish and Americans have fair skin colour of course, then there was this hierarchy before, meaning you’re more superior and stuf - that’s probably the reason why. For me there is nothing to be ashamed of; where you were born, where you were raised, what your skin colour is.


I think the best way to raise the awareness of this kind of topic is to just confront the harassers, but it also depends on the situation. If you think that they are harmful or you don’t feel safe, you should probably go to someone - like in the U-bahn, just look for the security. Or maybe try join Facebook groups for Berliners, share your story and ask for opinions from other people what to do in such situations. It’s actually also nice to tell people about what you went through because then you get support and you won’t feel that alone anymore, because I know how unsafe you can feel - it could make you feel anxious.”

THANH

“I was born in Berlin, my parents are from Vietnam. At the moment I am studying Communication in Social and Economics Context in the UDK. I spent 2 years in Vietnam when I was still little, then moved back to Germany to go to kindergarten, then I grew up here my whole life so I’d definitely consider myself as a Berliner.


I feel safe in Berlin because it’s my hometown and I am familiar with most of the people and the neighborhoods. But on the other hand, there is a lot of time that doesn’t make me feel safe and secured at all. There were incidents in the past that made me feel uneasy, so I have been much much more cautious than before. Although, I think it could be worse if you were in another country, or simply another city in Germany. So I’m actually very happy to be in Berlin.


Berlin has changed a lot and I think I am allowed to say that because I’ve been living in this city for 26 years now and I noticed all the changes. Especially for me - I’m German but I don’t look German. During the time I was in primary school, I was the only one who was an immigrant, so people would really let me know that I look different from most of the people here, by giving me “Ching Chang Chong” remarks or whatever on the street.


For example, people will see and recognise that you are not from Germany or of a German descent - you are not blonde and don’t have blue eyes. Of course people are curious so they will ask you - which is totally fine. But there are some people who are just not as curious and friendly, so they start making assumptions - which are not necessarily bad, but they start being very pushy because you ignore them and they don’t realise that you feel uncomfortable, so they just keep being pushy and asking.


I have experienced a lot of street harassment in Berlin, I feel like it happens almost every week or more. I have too many stories now I am confused which to tell, hahaha. One time I was at a bar with a group of friends and all of a sudden two guys came to our table, asking “Hey! Where are you guys from?”, in a very rude manner. I ended up saying “I’m sorry, but you’re disturbing us right now. We don’t want to talk to you, we don’t want to answer this kind of question.”, then he didn’t leave, he just “OK, I guess you are.. No, wait. You’re not Japanese because Japanese people would be nice.”, they were acting very rude and just kept standing there, giving us bad vibes, being all grumpy. It was a horrible experience.


Another moment in Hamburg, in the center of the city. I was filming the landscape and there were like two kids between 3-6 years old who were doing this “Ching Chang Chong” to me. Then I turned my head just wanted to see who they were, but apparently… the parents were actually standing right beside them, looking at me straight into my eyes with their hands and arms crossed, no reaction at all while their kids tried to make fun of me. I was like.. What? Are you not even ashamed of it? I think most parents would be ashamed if their kids start pointing fingers to other people, but they were doing this racist remarks to a stranger yet the parents did nothing. I was so speechless.. I grew up here, I’m used to it. I know. But at that moment I was just speechless. It was really crazy. I mean of course kids are not aware of it, they don’t understand which is right or wrong yet, they don’t know what being racist means and so on.


Also, my boyfriend is a French. When we started dating in the beginning of the relationship, he was not aware of it at all. So hanging around with me he was super shocked like he could not believe it that in the middle of Berlin people really do this racist remarks to me. There were also a couple of times that he could not protect me because sometimes he didn’t even hear it when I received these remarks even though he was standing or walking next to me. I guess if you are not really aware or exposed to the problem, you won’t really notice or pay attention to it and it would slip away.


So a lot of times I just got angry and much angrier. Then I realised that most people actually don’t mean it in a bad way - they don’t have bad intention. Perhaps they are just not educated enough. One time there was a group of guys confronting me again with this whole “Ching Chang Chong”, “Ni Hao”, “Konnichiwa” whatever, then I stopped them. I talked to them. “Hey, you are all nice guys right? And you don’t want to hurt me right?” Then they were agreeing to all I said apparently. “Then let me tell you what, next time if you see any Asian woman, just say hello if you’re not sure whether she speaks German or not. And please, don’t say those racist remarks because it’s annoying, it doesn’t have any meaning and it kind of hurts because I was born here and I don’t want to hear all the time that I don’t belong here in this city, in this country, in this culture. So, yeah just don’t treat people differently just because their physical appearance looks different to most people in this city. Promise me, never again do this to any Asian women next time?” - then they told me that I was right and say yes yes yes. I think those moments really show that these people don’t have bad intentions, but they don’t know how bad it would or could affect us.


When I ignore these things, it’s mostly because I don’t want to make a fuss of it, because it really stresses me out. But most of the times I also feel like that I need to say something. If I don’t make these people aware that they are wrong for doing such thing, then when would they learn? They would just keep doing the same thing to other Asian people on the street. But of course, I don’t always have the energy to do it nor doing it all by myself, but in that moment after I talked to them.. I felt really good! Hahaha. First of all, I felt like even if it was just a person or a small group, I could change something or someone… in a good way. I mean I dont’ know whether they have changed or not but at least I did try. It’s not something everyone would do I guess.


There were some situations that I was afraid, like at a bus stop, already quite late, somewhere in the East of Berlin probably. There were like 2 people walking pass through me and started yelling at me “Chinapfanne! Schlitzauge!” and they kept doing it like for the next 200 metres and you could just hear it because it was very empty. It made me feel totally uncomfortable and unsafe. No one was around.


The Vietnamese community in Berlin is very big. I know a lot of people who don’t want to be part of this Vietnamese culture and community - they hate it. I kind of used to be like this as well actually, avoiding the community. Because in this group they are just staying in the same bubble so they are not so open-minded, even though they are in Germany. Of course it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but they are just with the same group of people everyday, closing themselves, creating a wall between them and the German people - I could not really identify myself as part of the group. Or perhaps they feel very comfortable with each other because then they don’t need to explain to their friends why they do and like certain things that are not so common in Germany. It’s a comfort zone for them.


When I was in high school, I would eat these small apples but they are very sour, it’s the kind of fruit that Vietnamese people really enjoy eating and would eat it with salt. My friends were like what the fuck are you doing? They were grossed out somehow. But come on, it was not a dog food or something, it was just an apple with salt. Hahaha! So yeah sometimes I also enjoy being around Vietnamese people where I don’t have to explain this kind of thing, like why it’s good… because it’s good!


I don’t know if I could say I feel proud to be Asian. I mean isn’t it the same for anyone? In which family or culture you are born to, you would just feel something about it. Of course I feel proud and grateful for being able to learn about two different cultures. I feel like I do have two worlds which makes me more tolerant and open-minded than other people which is a huge advantage. I don’t identify myself as part of one group of culture, but I can choose the best of each of them.”

THAO

“I was born in Berlin, but my parents came from Vietnam after the war, before the Berlin wall fell, like around 20 years or something. I definitely consider myself more of a German than a Vietnamese. At the moment I’m still in school and I’m considering about doing a teacher-studies for art and english, because I'm pretty passionate about art and photography.


It’s hard to tell whether you feel safe or not in Berlin, I think it really depends on where you are. For instance in my district, there is not a lot of stuff going on so I feel pretty safe there. But I know that there are other distrcits or areas in Berlin that are more dodgy and there are people who give me the kind of vibes that don't make me feel safe around the area.


I am well aware there is a huge Asian community in Berlin, which is not only Vietnamese by the way. I also have some friends who are Asians, but I'm not only always with them - I think I have more German than Vietnamese friends here in Berlin. The thing is I don’t really consider myself as a Vietnamese, so I don’t really feel Asian.. I don’t know? I don’t feel related to the culture. I know that I should be proud of it for having two different cultures and I can explore so much more, but at the moment I'm not sure. I mean I can speak fluent Vietnamese, though, because my parents always speak Vietnamese to me - they forced me to do Vietnamese lessons before to learn to read and write.


Many times in Berlin I experienced street harassment, just based on my looks, because I definitely look Asian to other people. I'm often mistaken for being East Asian, I don’t get it. Probably every Asian looks the same to all Europeans. When I was a child.. eh, I'm still a child now hahaha. Anyway, when I was younger than I am right now, I tried to ignore them but I couldn’t because it really hurt me to be harassed that way. Now I tend to ignore them more and I just don’t need to listen to this kind of thing anymore. I just don’t care about it basically. I used to be afraid of these people who used to harass me, like the neo-nazis when I was still 5 or 6. They told us something in a very agressive German way, and I didn’t really understand, like “Asians go out!” or something like that. Or stuff in the demonstration when they started shouting some very racist stuff. People judge too much just based on your physical appearance.


I think the reason they are doing this because they don't have enough connection to Asian people or culture. If they knew these people better, then they would see Asian people just as.. people, who are actually not really different from themselves. So yeah, they are probably just scared of us because we do look different. I believe that there is no reason to believe in a certain prejudice and streotypes about people coming from some other background or culture. That’s what I want other people to know about Southeast Asia or being a German who has Southeast Asian roots.


I think if you want to raise this kind of awareness, Germans or other Caucasians need to interact more with Asian people, talk to them, become friends with them. Because I have German friends and they only start learning something about Asia once they start hanging out with me. Once I invited them to eat Asian food and they really love it now! So social interaction.. like having food, is the most important part that could play a big role in this kind of situation.”

T.N.

“My parents are from Vietnam but my mom came here alone to the DDR as a guest worker where she worked as a sewer, then she met my father who was a refugee from Vietnam. Now I live with my mom, her german boyfriend and my brother from her first relationship who is a German-Vietnamese and I am a German with Vietnamese roots. I was born in Karl-Marx-City, Chemnitz, but I grew up here in Berlin since I was 4. At the moment I just came back from a road trip around Asia, so now I have no money, living off “Hotel Mama” and going to continue my studies in Culture and Techniques in October.


I would say for myself, since the refugee debate in 2015, everything has turned into very complicated here. I mean sure this city is nice and friendly to everybody. But then after the debate, everything got separated in my environment; my friends got separated into the very white German or Caucasian, then the people of colour and there is also the Asian group - they were also very splitted just because they had different opinions, due to different privileges.


Just among Asian people ourselves, we have different groups; rich Asians and working class Asians, who work their assess off. There’s diversity in ethnicity and social classe and these classes are fighting each other. Because whenever I say that there’s racism here and there, the privileged Asians started denying it by saying “Oh it’s not so bad, I have my German friends here and they are very nice.”, yeah sure very nice while ignoring the problems. Just because they don’t really face the problem, doesn’t mean that others don’t.


I just came back from this meditation retreat which was very peaceful and happy, like Buddhism hahaha, then I realised that I needed to go to register myself again to live in Berlin. I was there and I was being very nice and polite to the people in the office, just letting them know that I’m back but now under the address of my mom. Then they were like “Oh, you’re just some kind of shitter at your mom’s place, you just want money, people like you talking this way. All of you just want money, taking the money from government..”, then I was like come on, I just came back and living in my mom’s place for a while while applying for tons of jobs, going to study again in soon, so I just had to do the typical registration thing that everybody has to do - this whole bureaucracy stuff. They didn’t even bother to ask me where I'm from nor what I'm doing right now - no! They just created their own assumptions and confronted me rightaway. So yeah, I'm back here but I feel like a criminal and it’s exhausting.


I just realised that when I made a research about the Asian fetish, it’s so true! I was just sitting somewhere in the park, reading my book, then all of a sudden a white drunk guy came and sat next to me, saying “Hello cutie, you look really nice and sweet today.”. I think here’s a difference between when people are interested in you because you look nice, pretty and interesting to them, or just like I can see it on their face how they have this certain Asian fantasy and I started to not trust anyone who is approaching me. I mean come on, they haven’t talked to me, they don’t know me and to be honest I haven’t even used any makeup since I'm back, or doing anything special. My mom even thinks I look like a homeless person with my outfit lately. I just don’t do anything about my physical appearance to show like “Hey I'm pretty please come talk to me” or whatever. I just don’t do anything, yet there is still someone approaching me and it makes me feel very confused and uncomfortable.


It’s also frustrating how sometimes you just want to tell your experience of being harassed to other people but most of them don’t believe you just because they don’t witness or experience it themselves. I told my half-German brother that I was riding my bike with a cousind the walking path just for a second, then we just wanted to turn to the street but it was so small and crowded, so a lot of people also used this lane, not only me, but there was a German guy who was shouting at us “This is not a bicycle way!” in a very loud and agressive manner, but he only did it to us, not the others. My brother thought I was just making it up, because he was not there to witness the harassment. It’s just too stressful that this kind of stuff is not taken seriously by other people.


To be honest, I don’t really get to learn much about the Vietnamese culture. I don’t know about it at all because my mom is not telling me stuff - she has never taught me anything about it. For me, Vietnamese culture doesn’t really exist. I feel like Vietnamese people are also splitted up, then they go to Germany, another splitted up country. So where do they get their identity from? I don’t know. They just took it from experiences I guess. That’s why I cannot really relate to the Vietnamese culture, otherwise I would be able to understand my mom better. but everything she says, and all her values, I really dont get it. I have been to 20 Asian countries, lived with the local families, I learned a lot about their culture and I know how to behave, but in my own home and family, I don’t know how to behave. She still has this very conservative mind where she feels since she is older than me so I need to say yes to whatever she has to say. Including this whole history thing. Apparently a lot of Vietnamese-German don’t really talk about the past, culture and history. I asked something to my mom about the history and the DDR but again, I gained nothing.


People keep saying that Asians look all the same, just because of the skin color. But no! we are not all twins! If you look deep enough into their eyes, even facial features, it’s all different. So please, either don’t make assumptions and directly confront strangers, or do your research first and try to engage with us in a better and more polite manner.”


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