On Friday morning last week, one of our Dutch neighbor, a College student, rang our doorbell at 10:30am. I have just woken up, still in my pyjamas, hair all toussled up and was doing the dishwashing that time. I went to answer the door with a dish towel in my hand.
The guy looked at me with that shocked expression on his face, looked at the name plate by the side of the door to make sure my husband’s name was there, then looked at me again.
“Armand woont hier?”
And he started talking really fast in Dutch.
“Wooohh, slow down. Can you speak in English?”
And he tried again, this time picking up his every word in English.
He was trying to borrow something that will help him and his friends fix the boiler in their apartment.
Since I had no idea what he was saying as he did not know the exact translation in English, I asked if that something can be found in the boiler or in the “meterkast” so I can ask Armand.
“I don’t know where to find it in this house”, he said.
(Of course you don’t. This is my house you moron) – I thought to myself.
I then asked again:
“What is it that you really need then?”
And he started demonstrating what should be done to the boiler with his hands.
“Ah, you need a wrench?”
“I don’t know how you call that in English.”
Being sure with myself that what he really needed was a wrench, I said:
“Let me just look for it first and I will take it to your apartment.”
To which he replied, “You will take it to my apartment? I live on the other side.”
“I know where you live. You are one of those students who are renting the next door apartment, right?”
“Then let me look for it first and I will take it to your place,” thinking as I have to take a shower first and change as it will be cold outside.
—- fast forward to the evening after taking the wrench to their apartment, – in my “normal” autumn clothing with a pair of brown leather boots —-
“I will tell you something but I think you will not like it,” started my husband inside the car when he and Zoë came to pick me up from work.
“What is it?”, I asked back while playing catch the hand with Zoë at the back seat. I thought I already knew what was coming.
“Mam said that one of the students from next door came to return the wrench. The guy said that he borrowed it from the Asian cleaning lady this morning,” narrated my husband with a straight face.
“What?!!” I retorted back.
“Sweety, the guy said sorry a lot of times when Mam said you are my wife.”
“That git!! I knew it! The look on his face when I opened the door!”
(I was actually smiling while saying this.)
“Yeah. He told Mam that because you were so shy and you don’t speak Dutch.”
***and then there was silence***
“How did you know he was trying to borrow the wrench?,” asked he.
“He showed me with hand gestures.” I said.
“Haha, he also thought you still had to call me to see if he can borrow it and what he has to borrow.”
“Well, his English is really poor then.”
And so, this scene like this is happening to me, and to many of my fellow Asians (and Africans – one of my African colleague has her own share of experiences) every now and then. Some people think that because we are brown, or darker, we are immediately the household help of the house by whose door we opened.
Most of us are here because our partners find us to be really warm and caring and responsible. And that we are so easy to love. Lovable people. (Or so I think, hem hem)
And what is wrong with working as housecleaners? At least, we earn money the most decent way.
And again, another person who took my being modest as being shy. Hate it. (It is always “that cute little Asian girl who prances around in the office with her shy smile..”)
It is getting boring already.
And this is the reason why I slowly turn myself into a vicious monster.
And then I heard this one time at home from my husband:
“That! That reaction was really *insert EU nationality here*! It’s horrible! That is not you! Please don’t do it again..”
So…….. What will I do?
#from this shy and silent filipina (who actually hates cleaning) ☺️