A Foreigner with the Seven Checkmarks

As I scroll—half-distracted as usual—through my Instagram feed, I stumble upon a phrase that catches my attention: ‘allochtoon met de zeven vinkjes’ (foreigner with the seven checkmarks). I’ve never heard of this concept, so curiously, I click on the article. I find an interview in the Volkskrant with Dilan Yurdakul, a Dutch actress, theatre artist, and writer of Turkish origin. In her interview, she shares how the media leans towards stories of individuals who meet the seven criteria. However, the consequence is that this enhances the polarised idea of “the other” really being different. And this is not the narrative she aims to reinforce.

Reading her article, I recall the many times people have tried to fit me into a simple, binary narrative of “the other” versus “one of us.” They often got disappointed when I shared the more nuanced reality of my life. Instead of asking genuine and open questions, they rather attempted to confirm their preconceived notions. I often noticed a sense of disappointment, as if I would make more sense to them if I had simply said, “Yes, my dad wants me to be home every day by eight.”

Through this blog post, I hope to raise awareness about the nuanced identities of bi-cultural individuals like myself. Especially, because I know that often the steering questions don’t come from a bad intention, but rather curiosity and interest. However, they way we ask questions make a significant difference in the quality of information we get. Therefore, by understanding that not everyone fits into neat categories we can foster greater empathy and acceptance in our diverse society.

Foreigner with the Seven Checkmarks

Yurdakul states that the media often gravitates towards sensational stories, frequently inviting foreigners who have dramatic narratives that include going against their families or religion. These stories tend to highlight issues such as oppression, Islam-bashing, racism, criminality, and identity politics. While these topics are important and deserve attention, this selective focus can create a skewed perception of bi-cultural and immigrant communities.

By predominantly showcasing stories of conflict and defiance, the media reinforces negative stereotypes and fails to represent the diversity and complexity of these communities. This can lead to a one-dimensional view that portrays bi-cultural individuals as either victims or rebels, rather than recognising the nuanced realities of their lives. Such portrayals contribute to broader societal biases and misunderstandings, making it crucial for media to strive for more balanced and varied representations.

Fostering Meaningful Conversations

Although each conversation depends on the context and situation, I think there are some universal tips that can be useful to consider to have meaningful conversations:

Keep an Open Mind. Avoid making assumptions based on stereotypes or preconceived notions. Recognise that each person’s background and experiences are unique, even if they share some cultural similarities with others.

Ask Genuine Questions. Instead of making statements disguised as questions, ask open-ended questions that invite the person to share their story. For example, instead of saying, “Your parents probably don’t let you go out much, right?” you could ask, “What was your experience like?”

Let Them Respond Freely. Give the individual the space to respond in their own words without trying to steer the conversation or suggest what their answer should be. Listen actively and attentively, showing that you value their perspective.

Appreciate Nuance. Understand that bi-cultural identities are often complex and layered. Be ready to hear about the ways they blend different cultural influences in their lives. Appreciate the richness that comes with navigating multiple cultural worlds.


By following the steps above, we can foster more meaningful and respectful interactions, allowing everyone to share their true selves without feeling constrained by oversimplified narratives. Embracing the complexity of identities will not only broaden our own perspectives but also contribute to a more inclusive and understanding community.

I was thrilled to learn that Dilan Yurdakul has published a new book, Maskerziel, and I have immediately ordered my copy. I look forward to diving into her latest work and gaining further insights into her experiences and reflections.

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