Where are you from or where are you at home?
Jo Kraaijeveld experienced the rise and fall of Chinatown. With her late husband Yuen Wah, she ran a Chinese restaurant on Katendrecht.
“The Chinese were never discriminated at Katendrecht. The Chinese call me Jo Kuw, Aunt Jo. When I walk down the street in Amsterdam, the Chinese come to me. Hey Jo, is that you? I was in a flower shop in Hong Kong, even there I was recognized by a Chinese who had lived in the Netherlands. The Chinese call a Dutchman Hollan kwai, a ghost. I always say that I am a Hollan yang, a human, or a lo feng, a European. We are not a kwai, that is a swear word. I often say that to Chinese children, to educate them a little.”
John Tsang was born on Katendrecht and still lives there.
“At school they name called me and my brother ‘pindapoepchinees’ (peanut poop chinese). But actually the Chinese were hardly discriminated in Katendrecht. I have never been ashamed of my origin. I went to secondary school in Kralingen, where they really looked down on you when you came from Katendrecht. Kralingen was the bad neighborhood. People still react strange when you say you live on Katendrecht”.
The peninsula Katendrecht (The Cape) in Rotterdam today
Source: Algemeen Dagblad, 08-06-2016
Easthope (2010) states that the concept of ‘home’ cannot be clearly described. It can be defined as a place where the everyday routine takes place, a place where you feel safe. But ‘home’ is also the basis for your identity. Ghorashi (2004) has taken ‘home’ as a starting point to gain understanding into migrant people’s identity and their connectedness to society. ‘Home’ in the context of migrants can be interpreted in two ways. First, there is a national approach. ‘Home’ then coincides with the geographical boundary of a migrant’s country of origin. From this point of view culture, identity, country of origin and feeling at home coincide. ‘Home’ is where the migrant comes from. However, the transnational approach states that the feeling of home is not so well connected to a territorial space, but to the space in which people can shape their lives as they wish to. The sense of belonging(s) goes beyond the national border of the home country. For these people, the connection between their national identity and the country of origin is one of the many possible connections, but certainly not the only one. So, home is not so much where you come from, but where you feel at home. This could be even be a variety of places in more than one country.
To answer these questions Selasi identifies three characteristics (3 R’s) of being ‘at home’ or ‘local’.
- Rituals: what everyday activities do you do in that place? Do you go to school, play football, go shopping, go to church or mosque? What do you eat, what do you do at home, for example do you take from shoes off?
- Relationships: with whom do you have regular direct (face to face) contact? Who are important to you?
- Restrictions: are you allowed to be here? Are there any restrictions or places you cannot visit? Do you feel safe or are you excluded in one way or the other? (think of permits, discrimination, violence)
You can feel at home, feel like a local at more than one place. Because you were born in a different place or lived in different places, because you are in a different place regularly or once a year, for example. If we consider the 3 Rs for ourselves, then perhaps a completely different picture will arise of where you come from, where you feel at home and who you are.
Day, M. & Badou, M. (2019). Geboren en getogen. Onderzoek naar de identiteitsbeleving en gevoelens van binding van jongeren met een migratieachtergrond. Utrecht: Kennisplatform Integratie en Samenleving
Easthope, H. (2004). A place called home. Housing, Theory and Society, 21:3, 128-138
Ghorashi, H. (2003). Iraanse vrouwen, transnationaal of nationaal? Een (de)territoriale benadering van `thuis’ in Nederland en de Verenigde Staten. Nijmegen: Radboud Universiteit
Huijink, W. & Andriessen, I (2016) Integratie in zicht? Den Haag: Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau
Selasi, T. (2014) Transcript Tedtalk Don’t ask me where I’m from. Ask me where I’m local. TEDtalk: