Growing up, I loved traveling and listening to my families' stories of traveling — and I still distinctly remember my mom and aunt (who are Korean) telling me about the time they went to Italy with friends during their 20s. While there were stories of laughs and romance, they also mentioned how some people treated them weirdly.
By "weirdly," I mean that I was a little kid when they'd told me, and — though I'd already experienced racism myself at school — I didn't have the language to address it, nor did they emphasize it. In fact, I didn't think too much of it until my friend (also East Asian) studied abroad in Italy during college.
"He said, 'I love the way your yellow skin glistens in the sun,'" she'd told me when she'd gotten back, about some guy hitting on her, adding that he was shocked by how aggressively she shut him down. "I think they have that submissive stereotypes of Asians," she'd said, "and didn't expect me to be American, either."
While a couple instances, decades apart, don't necessarily imply a pattern, my friend's story reminded me of my mom and aunt's story. Then, more recently, I began seeingTikToksby AsianAmericanwomen about how their experiences in Europe were actually punctuated with racism — something left out of the glamorization of traveling through Europe by white American culture, naturally, since they don't encounter it.
Anyway, that brings us to this summer, when my little sister and her friends went on a trip to Europe. As she planned, she'd tell me of reviews she'd seen of upscale restaurants or clubs in France denying people of color with flimsy excuses (which was especially apparent to those who'd had reservations).
Fortunately (in a relative, the-bar-is-low kind of way), the most overt experience of racism she experienced while there was when a woman asked where she and another friend were from (no, of course she wasn't satisfied with their nationality). When they told her they're Korean, she then pointed at them and loudly exclaimed to her grandson, "Look, they're from Korea!"
However, not all instances are as harmless. So, in an effort to bring some sense of awareness to this, I want to know from those of you who have traveled abroad, whether in Europe or elsewhere: Did you experience racism? And if so, was it similar to the racism you've experienced in the US, or was it different somehow? How did you react?