On 28 January the start of the Chinese Year of the Rooster was celebrated in festive fashion. Dancing dragons, firecrackers and fortune cookies took over the Kruiskade. So did that mean a party for Chinese EUR students? And does it matter whether you were born or raised in Rotterdam or come from overseas? Erasmus Magazine asked three Pigs and a Rooster.
“So the intention is: on New Year’s day one I clean my room, on day two I cook pork and on day three I make pancakes. Usually I’m too busy studying, but if I remember, I’ll do it. My mother sends me messages from Chengdu to remind me, which is really sweet.
Back in China, when I was little, we lived in a big block of flats with an inner courtyard. At New Year’s all the families would come down to celebrate together. The atmosphere was magical. I miss that part of it a bit here. But Rotterdam knows a thing or two about celebrating too. What a huge party here on Kruisplein, complete with red lanterns! I immediately felt at home.
It took me a while to get used to Dutch student life. Chinese people don’t really go out much, at least not until the early hours with loud music and so much to drink. I immediately felt at home among the Chinese students in Rotterdam, however. We have a very active WeChat group (the Chinese WhatsApp – ed.) with all the overseas bachelor and master students.
All my Chinese friends here also have international friends. So the stereotypical view the Dutch have about the Chinese isn’t really justified. In the United States, where there are lots of Chinese students, they don’t make an effort to get to know other people. But Rotterdam is more diverse. In my own student house, we have a Finnish, a German and a Spanish roommate, so it’s very international.”
“Chinese New Year and all the traditions associated with it are very important to me. Particularly now that I’m not living at home with my parents in Guangzhou, where I was born. In the year of ‘your animal’, you have to wear red underwear as often as possible (for protection against evil spirits – ed.). I do it just to be sure. You never know.
Around New Year’s, married couples give single people red envelopes with money. The figures communicate a message. My parents sent a message via WeChat telling me that they’d transferred 33.80 Yuan. ‘Three’ stands for life and ‘eight’ is for riches. You give your enemies a ‘four’, because that means death. Or to someone who needs extra strength to fight, to challenge the gods.
I love studying in Rotterdam. The Chinese restaurants here are nearly as good as they are in China. And it’s very international here. Lots of Dutch Chinese originate from Hong Kong. My mother is from there too, so I felt an immediate connection with people. But that’s also my character. Unlike most Chinese, I’m fairly open, direct and social. Even more than a Dutch person, I think.”
“Via the WeChat group, I wish my family in Hong Kong a happy New Year. They have a big celebration there and give each other red envelopes with money in them. In the Netherlands I don’t do very much. For me, Chinese New Year is a bit like Christmas. I have a meal with my family and then join friends on Kruisplein.
The fact that 2017 is the year of the rooster, that’s my year, isn’t particularly important to me. That’s because I was born and raised in Rotterdam. At the same time, I feel really Chinese. I’m an active member of the Chinese Student Association and I recognise lots of Chinese characteristics in myself. High ambitions, for example. At school, Chinese students often do very well. And if you’re not very smart, your parents push you extra hard so that you can still go to university. That’s how I’ll bring up my own children too.
My circle of friends is very diverse. I may be more like the Dutch in that way. Different from many other Chinese, because the Chinese community is very close. If Chinese people can choose, they go for their own people first. You see the same thing among students. Particularly among Chinese who were born in China. I’m not seen as one of them either.”
“When my parents were still alive, we did much more for Chinese New Year. They had a restaurant in Zeeland and used to cook huge meals. My father also always made Nian Gao, New Year’s cake. Outside by the front door we’d let off fireworks to frighten away evil spirits.
Now it’s just me and my brother, so we don’t do as much. We do eat together on the day, though. Often that’s with friends, which is always fun. And we go to Kruisplein: walk past all the stands and watch the lion dance. This year I also worked as a hostess at an Asian party in Club Nora and at Holland Casino, where lots of Chinese go. I served spring rolls in one of those traditional sparkly blue dresses and had my photo taken with people. Great fun.
My friends are mixed. Half are Dutch and half are Chinese, but born in the Netherlands. I met them when I was young at the Chinese school, where I used to go on Saturdays, and later at Asian parties. I attach great value to keeping up with my Chinese culture. Also for when I have children. If I marry, it must be to a Chinese man. Then my children will really be Chinese. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it’s still easier with someone from the same background.”
Chinese students on campus
In October 2016, EUR’s student body included a total of 368 Chinese students (in other words, students whose first nationality is Chinese). Over 100 of them are exchange students. Furthermore, another 25 students have Chinese as their second nationality (and also carry a Dutch passport, for instance). 1.5% of the more than 25,000 students enrolled in an EUR programme are Chinese – a percentage only surpassed by EUR students from Germany and Greece. The most popular degree programmes among Chinese students are IBA, IBEB and Economics & Business – with a strong preference for master programmes.