Coronavirus sparks racism against Chinese in the Netherlands

People of Asian appearance in the Netherlands are experiencing a surge of racism as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, according to NOS. A petition has recently been set up to raise discussion and to urge the media to take initiative in order to appeal to politicians. 

Attacks against Chinese have emerged in several ways. For instance, Wageningen, ‘Chinese die’ was scrawled in an elevator within a student complex and a Chinese flag on a student’s door was reportedly torn up, according to

A song that goes too far

More widespread is a satirical song on Radio 10 titled Voorkomen is beter dan Chinezen (translates loosely to ‘Prevention is better than Chinesing’) by artist Toon from Rotterdam.

The song caused public outcry, and for good reason. The song is offensive in several ways – for instance, one of the themes includes not eating ‘Chinese food’ anymore to prevent coronavirus.

So much for a country that prides itself in being open, tolerant and liberal. Increasingly, it appears as if xenophobia and racism are becoming widespread in the Netherlands- this is especially problematic when politicians start to dissipate hateful messages instead of condemning them.

‘Enough is Enough’

The song prompted Vincent Yeers and Hui-Hui Pan to start a petition, we zijn geen virussen, (‘we are not viruses’) in response. ‘Enough is enough.’ they write, questioning why people would connect a serious virus with people of Chinese background and with Chinese culture: ‘would we also laugh if the song was about cancer?’ They wrote. ‘This affects not only those who are Chinese, but also Dutch people with an Asian background.’

So far so good. The petition has been signed over 26,000 times, with over 21,000 signatories in the Netherlands, showing that things that cross the line simply won’t be tolerated.

DJ Lex Gaarthuis, who was responsible for broadcasting the song has apologised, calling it ‘an error in judgement’ although at this point it doesn’t do much.

Have you experienced racism as a foreigner in the Netherlands? Are you (part-) Chinese and have encountered bullshit reactions? We’d love to hear your answer in the comments. 

Image: Beryl_snw/Flickr

Vedika Luthra
Vedika Luthra
Vedika was born in India, raised in Poland and moved to the Netherlands to study. Like her nationality, she’s confused about what she likes most, which is why her bachelor’s degree was in liberal arts and sciences. She enjoys writing about all things food-related but likes to mix it up every now and then.


  1. These are my experience in Netherlands for two years.
    Thank god I’m a guy so I’ve never experienced catcalling, but I heard that It is quite common in Rotterdam from my female friends. Personally I experienced tearing eyes gesture at me, even though my eyes are bigger than them. Their eye holes are deeper than mine, I really do not know why they are proud of their big eyeholes.
    + Asians are riding children’s bicycle.
    + Asians get stolen easily because they are dumb.
    + Asians are so bad at driving.
    + Oh you are from ***? then you are from sushi country! (I’m not from japan)
    + Oh you are from ***? then I’ve traveled to thailand once! (I’m not from thailand and the distance from my country to thailand is like from Netherland to Ukraine.)
    + Oh kungfu?
    + Oh do you still have noodles in your mouth?
    + Oh you are from ***? what do you think about Kim Jongeun? (It is so ignorant to ask but they never know)

    I know that dutch people are enjoying to be brutal to make a joke for fun. It can be fun for once, but if the same joke happens almost every day from different people, then it is not fun anymore. It is also weird to correct them all the time. Honestly, I really do not know where to start to stop racism here. I know that racism is everywhere, but in most countries, at least it is invisible, not like Netherland.

    Still, I like the Netherlands, I just hope that they can be a little bit better at making a funny joke, rather than making an offending joke. : D

  2. I live in Sydney, am of Asian descent and travelled to the Netherlands in Feb 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.

    I visited the Bulldog coffeeshop in Amsterdam and experiened what might be racial discrimination.

    Initially, I was overlooked as the people behind me got served first. Sure, I gave the Ukranian chick with crew cut the benefit of the doubt as maybe they had some kind of priority. I asked to borrow a bong while I was there, she postured behind the counter and said they didn’t have any because they get broken all the time. Fair enough. What made things worse was after she has served a couple more customers, the bong suddenly appeared to some of the patrons of the coffeeshop when they enquired about one.

    While in Haarlem, shopping in Snipes, there was this asshole of a retail staff, blonde with a poser hippie beard who served me initially. I asked him for a pair of size 43 sneakers and he’d brought size 41’s to me.

    I wore it and told him it was really tight, and I received some reply about how the leather will stretch. I’m 36 years old and I’m pretty sure I know my foot size.

    My wife mentioned something about European sizing being weird. I decided to make the purchase, doubting myself.

    I tried on my shoes again shortly after as the whole experience just felt weird to me. Indeed there were they were too tight. I returned to the shop to exchange the pair of shoes… while apologizing profusely for feeling bad.

    I asked for a size 43.

    Retail boy not only smirked, he walked past me and said, “2 sizes bigger, WHOA.” in a very condescending tone.

    I thought I was being sensitive but my wife noticed the mockery immediately.

    There were a few more times where I was either overlooked, disregarded or ignored. My wife, who was with me the entire time didn’t received the same treatments as I did. Unlike me, she isn’t chinese looking.

    Am I being overly sensitive?

    I enjoyed the country, but I cannot help but feel that I was marginalised and discriminated against.

    • Welcome to the Netherlands, my aunt has lived here for over 20 years with 3 children born here. You are not being sensitive, you are just a tourist who is new to the country and abused. I live in Haarlem, better not to support those shops. Netherlands is the country you should not visit again. It is not towards the Chinese, Japanese people have a hard time in the country as well. The Dutch love to pester our countries’ ambassador in the Hague, you are lucky that you were allowed to leave the country freely without subjecting to forced slavery.

  3. As a Brit with a half Chinese Thai wife I have been very disappointed living in Rotterdam this last year. The worst experience was in the market on binnenrotte where someone deliberately bumped into my wife. She said sorry but this ignorant man the pushed her and started shouting at her. She was very upset as she could not understand what he was saying as she does not speak Dutch. She has experienced a number of times where people have ignored her or been unpleasant. She lived with me in the UK for nearly 10 years and never experienced anything like here in Rotterdam. What an unfriendly place! The Dutch need to sort out there politicians! They are not the tolerant nation they like to think they are, the UK is way ahead! We are returning to the UK shortly as my wife has had enough and now does not feel safe on the streets when alone especially with the current Coronavirus situation. I have seen a big change here in the last 30 years of living and working off and on in the Netherlands. Leaving with a sour taste in my mouth after enjoying many years previously.


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