Encountering racism abroad — or why I sometimes wish I was white

There are two phrases I absolutely detest hearing when I meet new people:

“Where are you from? [America.] No…where are you really from?”

and

Wow, your English is really good!

I always respond the same way: “I’m from America. Really, America.” and, “Well it should be. I’m American.”

I was born in Ohio. I grew up in Pennsylvania. I smile that classic wide American smile, I say “awesome” way too much, I measure in feet; I consider myself 100% American — and in my head, that label doesn’t come with any associations of color.

Yet when I go abroad, hearing these two questions constantly reminds me that I’m different; and that all people can see is my Asian face. And it can be incredibly frustrating for the Asian-American traveler when people cannot separate ethnicity from nationality.

In the East

In China, I encounter a great deal of hostility because I don’t speak fluent Chinese. Cabbies or waitresses or shop owners will start a conversation, and I can see each step of their thought process as they realize something’s not right about me. Wait…you don’t speak Chinese? Wait…aren’t you Chinese? No, no, stop saying you’re American. You look Chinese, you are Chinese. So…why don’t you speak Chinese? 

In comparison, any Caucasian who can muster out a ni hao or xie xie gets a big smile and an enthusiastic, “Wow, your Chinese is so good!”

The racism I encounter in China is a sort of self-racism. Chinese adore Western culture, and often think anything foreign is better. The market is flooded with skin-whitening products* and streets are filled with Audis and Mercs. Caucasians are constantly sought out for gigs where all they have to do is speak a few lines of English in a commercial, or just sit with a product for an afternoon and look white.

In short, Caucasians get preferential treatment in China.

I’m almost never on the receiving end of these perks, simply because I don’t look like a stereotypical American.

When I would sub in for classes at English schools, parents would look visibly concerned when they saw that someone who looked like them was teaching their children English; then they’d start looking around as if they thought I’d simply hidden the regular white teacher in a nearby closet.

I once had a voice-over job offer rescinded because when the director saw me in person, she suddenly claimed my speech had a Chinese accentdespite having heard my tape and claiming my American voice was exactly what she needed only a few minutes earlier.  

My Caucasian friends in China constantly complain about being stared at, singled out, and overcharged; they wish they could blend in like I do. It’s a classic grass-is-greener argument. Maybe it’s just my ego speaking, but I’d prefer being put on a pedestal than being looked down upon.

Slightly unrelated, but you know what else? It’s heartbreaking to blend in. When I look in the mirror, I honestly do not see myself as Chinese (probably a psychological effect of growing up in a very Caucasian town and attending an even more Caucasian college). So to move to China and suddenly become invisible; to feel everyone’s eyes just go straight through you, because you look the same as 1.3 billion other people – it’s soul-crushing.

In the West

On my first trip to Ireland, and by association Europe, I was incredibly disappointed to find that locals were constantly complimenting me on my English and then pressuring me to reveal my “real” country of origin. I hoped things would be better in Paris, as it’s a much more diverse and cosmopolitan city. But things only got more insulting.

If in China I was treated unkindly for looking Asian when people wanted me to fulfill their white American stereotype, at least I would still gain a few points for having grown up in America and being fluent in English. In Paris, I’m assumed to be Asian — and looked down upon simply for that fact.

I’ve had a lady come up to me on the subway, mutter “Chinois” at me sharply like it was a dirty word, then walk away. Then there was the jerk who delighted in scaring the crap out of me during a Chinese New Year parade.

I’m constantly getting drive-by shoutings: “Ni hao! NI HAO!” When I inform the shouter that I’m American, I never get a response even close to resembling an admission of error. Instead, the other party will usually mock the way I’ve said “I’m American”, as if to say, “Of course you are. Hey everyone, look at this Asian — she thinks she’s American.” The ‘greetings’ always seem to have malicious intonations; it’s not like Asia where people will say Hello just to genuinely be nice and attempt to speak your language.

I’m getting the impression that Westerners have a superiority complex to Asians. I don’t know if it’s because of how Sino-European history has gone down in the last couple centuries, or if it’s because of the stereotypes of Asians being smaller and weaker. Or maybe it’s just a “we’re taller and we can process alcohol and cheese better than you” thing. It doesn’t help that millions of Chinese travel to Paris to do their luxury shopping; on the Champs Élysées you’ll see mobs of Chinese tour groups all carrying bags upon bags of Louis and Chanel and I’m sure the already tourist-weary Parisians haven’t taken to the crowds too kindly.

It’s not just Europe, either. In Australia, I had a drive-by shouting where a man on a bike started spouting off a rant in the middle of a crowded shopping area because he thought my (white) friend and I were a couple. He nastily spewed out insults like, “Oh so you can’t get an Aussie girl, mate?” and the always classic, “Go back to where you came from!” I was furious and shouted in front of all the families enjoying their Sunday brunches, “I’m AMERICAN!” — to which he simply sneered as he rode away, “Wasn’t talkin’ to you.” I don’t know if he even heard what I’d said.

And of course, no matter where we are, when Mike and I travel together we’re constantly being judged. People assume he’s the colonial overlord who’s gone and picked himself up a little Asian trophy and/or I’m a gold digger just trying to get a green card.

Trust me, we’re legit.

I’m tired of the judging, the assumptions, the condescension, the racism. Days like today, where three Belgian teenage girls wouldn’t stop yelling konnichiwa at me until I acknowledged them; after which they continued to mock me for saying I was American, make me want to quit Europe and go home.

It’s funny: I’ve spent these past few years traveling around the world, trying to stay away from America — yet it’s the only place where I feel truly accepted and like I belong.

Any other travelers (Asian or not) have similar stories, or am I being overly sensitive? I’d love to hear other perspectives.

———

For more on Asian-Asian racism, Korean traveler Runaway Juno wrote about her experiences in China here:  Why Chinese People Hate Me

For more on what it’s like to grow up Asian in America (the title says it all, and is so true): The Asian-American Awakening: That Moment When You Realize You’re Not White

For more on Asian female/white male relationships, Shanghai Shiok wrote a series of intelligent and reflective posts that can be found here.

* To clarify, the desire for pale skin has been around for centuries and isn’t because it’s western; however, the fact that white girls are much paler doesn’t help but to increase the western adoration.

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Comments

  1. Nicolle says:

    I’m sorry to say that your experiences aren’t ones that ever go away, because there will always be ignorant people who like to have stereotypes fulfilled and make fools of themselves trying to make it so. I know some people who have had similar experiences to yours within the U.S. as Asian Americans. You would think that by now people would accept the fact that anyone can be from anywhere no matter what they look like.

    Personally, my mixed heritage (German-Panamanian) has people guessing I’m from all over the world. I’ve gotten: Italian, Turkish, Persian, Puerto Rican, and some others I can’t remember, but it’s never really bothered me.

    The thing that did bother me about growing up in Germany (moved there from England when I was 12; I was born in the U.S. though) and going to a German school is that everyone always expected me to explain why Americans did the things they do, as if I could actually explain that. So if any politician did something particularly stupid, they’d ask me why and I always felt like saying: Well, I haven’t talked to them recently so I couldn’t really say.

    • Edna says:

      That’s interesting; certainly not the first time I’ve heard that happening, especially in Europe. Unfortunately with those kinds of people, they’ve always got another way to try to bring you down. It’s like you can’t win, no matter where you’re from!

      • TravelNoob says:

        Hey there!

        This was a beautifully written and refreshingly honest read :) Also very impressive that you manage to find a kind of dark humor despite the hardships of having to deal with unjust abuse. Really made my night and was very uplifting. :) Thank you for that.

        As a fellow yellow myself, growing up in Australia, I have heard of many racial abuse stories but have never dealt with any face-to-face. I have however once gotten severe online abuse on a facebook page where I accidentally wrote ‘congratulations’ on what I thought was a long lost friends’ event page, but it turned out it was a prank spoof page (which was infamous at the time but I wasn’t very savvy at facebook and didn’t know about it till after the racist rampage that ensued). I immediately got up to 8 racist comments from all around Australia calling me a dumb f***iing asian or to go back to cooking fried rice etc. That made me realise how a huge part of the world is still extremely color-conscious (and stupid in) that sense. Honestly, why should color be such a big deal right? Isn’t it just pigments that refract the light to your eyes in various ways etc after all..:s

        What I’m worried about now is my upcoming travels to China, including Beijing, some rural areas and Shanghai. I will be travelling with my boyfriend who is white. Any advise or experience in travelling with Mike in these areas? I am anxious because it’s my first time travelling and I hope to avoid abuse because I’m the one who will be doing all the leading and talking on this trip because I’m the only one who knows a bit of mandarin. If I’m going to get abused then it might make the trip harder for us..

        Thanks again for a great write :)

  2. Pretty painful to read all that, Edna. Maybe there’s some consolation in knowing that once all those people’s actions are captured in words, they really do seem like giant idiots.

    • Edna says:

      Thanks Frank. It does help a bit to write the incidents down; seeing just how ridiculous they sound helps me take it less to heart.

  3. Krista C. says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your horrible experience abroad, Edna. I hate that people are being so rude to you. One would think Paris would be better as well, it’s quite multicultural compared to the rest of Europe. I’m glad to hear that America is a good place for you though. The U.S. has advantages that I didn’t really consider until I was an adult. I’m the stereotypical tall blond American, so once someone hears me talk it’s clear where I’m from.
    When I was growing up in Illinois however, being tan was considered the most desirable and attractive. Everyone tanned, the girls with the darker skin were prettier. I’m fair with a lot of pink tones in my skin and that was considered unattractive. I was made fun of quite often. I’m still made fun of at work for how pink my face can be. I don’t understand why all looks are not appreciated. Tan is beautiful, fair is beautiful. Diversity is beautiful!
    If you haven’t read The Road Forks, a travel narrative blog, you should. Akila wrote really well about her experiences in Asia as an American with parents from India.

    • Edna says:

      It’s funny, I have tan skin naturally so at home girls compliment me on my ‘permanent tan’, while in China people ask me, “Why are you so DARK?” When it comes to beauty especially, you just can’t please everyone. Thanks for the recommendation — I read TRF occasionally but haven’t read about Akila’s experience yet, will look it up!

  4. Katie says:

    I’ve witnessed the “where are you really from” line of questioning directed at my white African friends a lot. It usually goes something like:

    “You have a lovely accent. Where are you from?”
    -Zimbabwe
    Blank stare followed by, “but where are you really from?”
    -I was born and raised in Zimbabwe
    “But where are your parents from?”
    -Zimbabwe
    “But where is your family from?”
    -Zimbabwe

    Another time in Schopol airport once I was standing in line behind a Puerto Rican couple. The agent who was answering questions about connecting flights was practically screaming at them because they had American passports and couldn’t speak English.

    • Edna says:

      Haha yep, I know that conversation all too well. I’ve met white Africans, but never thought about how Puerto Ricans having American passports might be confusing as well. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Hi Edna,

    Great post. Wrote a draft about this, but have not fully worked it out yet.

    I hear you about feeling truly at home in America because even though I look Chinese, I feel more at home in NYC than anywhere else. Not that I do not get racist comments there, but over the years I have gotten immune to it.

    It’s funny how in Hong Kong when I tell people that I am a housewife who does not work or have kids, they automatically assume my husband is Caucasian! Have not figured out if I should be offended yet. =P

    In Mainland China Caucasians are treated better. In Hong Kong, I do not notice Caucasians getting better treatment over Asians. Rather those who look rich get better treatment thant those who look poor. This has caused me to make sure that I leave the house looking my best and carrying a luxury bag that is at least a Louis Vuitton or equivalent. But after nine months of living here, I am fed up with that and luxury bags in general. I will not buy anymore simply because they are expensive and too heavy for me to carry.

    Regarding skin whitening treatment: Chinese people have prized pale skin ever since the beginning of time. That was the difference between the rich who do not have to work in the fields and the poor who do.

    -Kelly

    • Edna says:

      Thanks Kelly! I’d love to read your post and thoughts on it. I did like that in Hong Kong people didn’t seem as impressed by Caucasians, though the obsession with wealth is disappointing (as it’s still a judgment based on appearance).

    • Ricky says:

      In my opinion, in spite of china’s tremendous economic growth over the last few decades. China mainland people mentality and attitude are not yet the mentality of developed countries people. In singapore, caucasians don’t get better treatment, but in indonesia they get way better treatment. These are the pattern that I see in most developing countries.

  6. Louise says:

    I think this just broke my heart! I have an English friend here at home who’s ‘really Chinese’ like you are too and she has exactly the same problem! Great post though :) x

    • Edna says:

      Thanks Louise. I’ve also seen it with Scottish-Chinese, Swedish-Chinese, and French-Japanese! Frustrating for Asians the world over.

  7. Crystal says:

    Really powerful, and painful to read.

    My friend M, who is Korean American and an expat here in Singapore has talked about a lot of the same thing. Because she looks like she “could” be from here (until she starts to talk) she feels like she gets a lot of pressure to be more Singaporean than I do because I’m white and she’s Asian. Even once people know she’s American, she gets a lot more pressure–to put her son in pre-school and activities the way locals do, and such that I don’t get (in part because E *is* in school–but I get complimented for putting E in a local school where M wouldn’t–so there’s still inequity)

    • Edna says:

      Thanks Crystal. Regarding pressure, I kind of understood why locals did that to me as they were trying to get me ‘back to my roots’, but it must be even harder for her since as a Korean she’s not even of one of those ‘rooted’ nationalities of Singapore! Thanks for sharing.

  8. gregorylent says:

    the world is not global yet .. it will get there

  9. Naomi says:

    Props to you for writing this post, Edna – I think a lot of travel bloggers tend to shy from writing about some of the biggest downsides of travel, particularly encountering racism or ignorance abroad!

    When I was in Malaysia, a group of travellers and I somehow got on the topic of immigration with some of the local workers at our hotel. One of them asked me if we had immigrants in America. This was pretty funny at the time for me, seeing as America IS an immigrant country, but then I thought about the image that our pop-culture conveys – all the movies and TV-shows
    we export featuring largely (if not exclusively) white casts, etc. We started talking about how you can meet Americans who look Asian, African, Middle-Eastern, even Malay. It was a really good discussion to have, I think.

    That hollering that you’ve been getting in Europe and Australia is completely ridiculous. It’s not even just ignorance, it’s plain f-ing rude!! And the WORST is what you wrote about the assumptions of you & your boyfriend – that one of you is using the other for sex or a green-card. Over here in Korea, it’s not that extreme but still bad – my Korean friends have told me that if they see a local with a foreigner, some people usually assume that one is using the other for English practice. There have been occasions when I’ve been out with a Korean man and noticed the looks people give us – not exactly flattering.

    However, there might be a silver lining to this – just the fact that you’re abroad, that you love to travel and live to be an expat, means that you have the opportunity to meet people that otherwise wouldn’t encounter an Asian-American. Hopefully that can broaden some horizons??

    • Edna says:

      Thanks Naomi, appreciate it. I agree, there’s definitely a race dominance in Hollywood; but that’s so great that you could have that talk with them! That’s exactly what travel’s about isn’t it, broadening your own horizons and others’ as well? I can only hope I’m broadening some…and yes China was the same way; AF/WM couples were never taken seriously. The worst story I heard was when the mom took her kids out for a walk and was mistaken for the nanny!

  10. sinostand says:

    I always feel for you guys (I’m a white guy in China). I can’t stand the cat calls and the condescending “Haaaalllllo”s that show I’m nothing but a talking monkey to many people, but at least I can console myself in the virtual lottery winnings I get for having a white face. You get the worst in both worlds. The best thing you can do is refuse to acknowledge those heckling jackasses. They’re just baiting you and anything you say is a victory for them. And for the conversations, I’d just say something like “I’m an international citizen” when they ask where you’re from. I’ve been trying that lately in China, and if they press the issue, I say “my country of birth isn’t important, but feel free to judge me on my character.” If they can’t accept that, it’s not worth continuing the conversation.

    • Edna says:

      Thanks Eric, that’s a great way to look at it. The hardest thing for me to do is bite my tongue when I get heckled — I know I’m falling for the bait, but in my mind I’m making them think twice before heckling another Asian, because some of us aren’t too intimidated or scared to respond, and in perfect English at that.

  11. I appreciate your posts because, well, with some people, they travel all over the world, but never leave their own head.Your observations are appreciated and enjoyed.
    Take heart, it happens to us all. If you were in Northern Ireland, you would would see one side of the community could tell the other just by looking at them. Ladies lie on the beach (I have even seen sun cream with bronzer added) on the Costas to become as brown as possible, while ladies in Madrid do every thing they can to stay as white as possible.
    We judge by first impressions. To be fair, we know this and use it to our advantage, sometimes without knowing it. Anyone with a misstep in their lives will face it commented on. An english accent in Ireland and vice versa, working on radio and always being told they sound taller, Moroccans in Spain. It is everywhere. It is not right, but is part of the universal human condition.
    It is well that some people can overcome it and learn to see some truth in strangers, while others have to become friends to see through their own assumptions.

    • Edna says:

      Thanks, I really appreciate that. And thanks for the other examples — you’re right that judging on first impressions is part of being human. But hopefully how people choose to act on those first impressions will change for the better.

  12. Dude, I am so sorry that that is what you experience! I enjoy feeling invisible when I’m holiday, but as I’m white, this has really only happened in North America and London (where I lived for two years). This is mostly because well, I don’t dress to the nines and that singles me out more than anything else. I tend to get stopped and have people ask me for directions just about everywhere, so I figure I blend in well enough.

    I hate the “where are you really from?” question. I’m white, and I’m Canadian. My family has been in Canada since before the first consensus… and we have no family members anywhere outside of Ontario. At university in Toronto I was consistently asked where my family was from, and no one seemed to just accept that my family only identifies as Canadian. I suppose I could go “Well we’re a mix of British, Irish, Scottish, and for all I know Welsh, but I don’t know how much of any of that, but I’m assuming that’s where we’re from.” But it’s not part of my identity (as much as I’d actually like it to be, I’d love to get an ancestry visa for the UK!) and it irritates me when people question for more.

    • Edna says:

      That’s so interesting to see the opposite end of the spectrum! I guess in countries like Canada and the US, where almost everyone was an immigrant at one time or another, you expect people to have more identities and not “just” be Canadian or American. I’ve watched American friends get asked that too and they’re just as frustrated with the constant delving for more.

      • Jordan says:

        Whoever says that they are just canadian or american is just unknowledgeable of their own ancestry or they simply only indentify with being from that country. But seriously, if for example, buddy from ontario, simply only identifies with being canadian, then hes got a very anglicized background, and that answer of my family is from ontario for many generations shows that any ethnic heritage is completely diluted. I dont understand why this is frustrating to be asked. Its such an easy opportunity to talk/learn about each other. If you just assume that white people ask only people who look/sound foreign this question, then i get it, but its simply not true.
        The fact is, intersectionality means that your gender, race, ethnicity, religion, life experiences, family etc. all influence who you become as a person. You cant say, that person is black therefore X. But if you know that someone is an educated black female who is christian, you may not be able to accurately generalize, but it does become increasingly easier to understand how that person may or may not function.
        Really, when you shut down this question, youre just confusing the person asking it. They dont mean to hurt or frustrate you. If theyve asked this question theyve probably assumed you wont care or failed to even consider that it could bother you, Unless they secretly harbour some sort of agenda to trick you into admitting to being something they hate, youre just going to end up killing small talk. People ALWAYS start with more superficial and proceed to less superficial. You NEED stereotypes (schemas) to function. theyre just trying to put you in a box and if they cant do it with your ancestry theyll do it with your religion, your gender, your educational level, your level of wealth, your accent, even your desire not to talk about ancestry. I mean, if you dont want to talk about that, you must be touchy and sensitive right? step 2 is getting to know who you really are. If there is no starting point, its really freaking hard to get to know you.
        I think whats important to take away from what im saying is that stereotypes are a normal part of being a person. When i say bird, do you think penguin and ostrich?
        When i say building do you think igloo or barn?
        When i say african do you think do you think of the mediteranean light brown variety?
        When i say educated do you think of aboriginal studies?

        Stereotypes help us place people. Theyre a starting place, not an ending place.
        if you take away the start, youre just making it harder to reach the end.
        and if you fail to analyze past the start, youre ignoring that people are unique.

        Dont get mad at people for stereotyping you. Get mad at them for being unable to think beyond the stereotype.

        Ps im white. You probably already thought that though.

        • Franco says:

          No, Jordan.

          You DO NOT NEED stereotyping. Stereotypes generates more divisions, which will devolve into classes making the ignorants thinking which one is better than other. Also, stereotypes lead to more ignorance and therefore… racism.

  13. Jessica says:

    Great post – I’m sorry people are so unpleasant. But I can’t say I’m surprised. I’m white, and people in Spain are often rude to me for being obviously foreign based on appearance. I wonder how terribly they must treat people who really do look very different to them (as opposed to just having a different hair color).

    At the same time, because I’m white they feel ‘safe’ to some pretty awful comments to me about people of other races. It’s astonishing how ignorant some people can be. I don’t think you’re being overly sensitive at all.

    In the U.S. this definitely exists too, but it doesn’t seem as pronounced. People don’t see somebody non-white and automatically think “Oh, they must not be from here.” It’s much more diverse than other places.

    I don’t think it really hit me how non-diverse Spain is until I worked at an English school. Almost all the adults were white. Out of 500 or so kids, there was one black kid, two or three Asian kids, and a handful of Latinos. Other than this, the only non-white people these kids see growing up are the poor street vendors from Africa and the Middle East, or the Asians who run convenience stores. These people are very recent immigrants, and they’re NOT integrated into the community at all. So the kids may never see somebody non-white as who has equal social status, much less consider them Spanish.

    Then they assume ALL countries are like this. There was a teacher at the school who was English and racially Asian, which the kids found impossible to comprehend. They called her ‘la china’ if they forgot her name. I told them there were no Chinese teachers at the school. But they insisted, “Yes there are, the one with eyes like this” and stretched their eyes out sideways.

    This is in Barcelona, which is probably the most diverse city in Spain. Paris sounds like it might have the same thing going on.

    Like Naomi said above, maybe you are helping broaden horizons. But some days it really sucks to be forced into being the example. Again, great post (and sorry for the mini-essay!).

    • Edna says:

      No thanks for the mini-essay, you brought up some great points! I didn’t realize Spain was like that as well, and I think you’re onto something with the recent immigrant status. I think in the US we’re more used to second, third, fourth-generation Asian-Americans (or any other non-Caucasian Americans), so we don’t question someone non-white and just assume they’re American and equal to us. But in France and other countries I think it’s a little less common to have such established immigrant families, so anyone of a minority background is assumed to be struggling/not well-to-do, and therefore not equal. And therefore, an easy target to pick on.

      And good lord I don’t know that I would’ve been able to take it if I’d been your coworker. I’ve got pretty thin skin and dealing with that, especially from children, would’ve probably made me dead inside.

    • Adán says:

      You dont look that different from a Spanish blonde, and i never met any Caucasian foreigner who experienced rudeness just because being a foreigner in Madrid. The only exception maybe are the Brits that came here to live but dont want to learn Spanish.

      Perhaps they are rude to you in Barcelona because associating Catalonia to Spain?

  14. Jills says:

    One of the more eye-opening experiences I’ve ever had was when you and I tried to sign up for Internet in Singapore. Do you remember this? I didn’t have my residency card yet, but you did, so we submitted you paperwork. It was your ID card, your name, your account — and yet the SingTel (or wherever we were; I forget) employee kept asking me questions and looking at me, as if it was my account. I think at one point she even as me a question about how long you had been in Singapore … with you standing right there.

    I’m so grateful to you for being brave enough to correct ignorant assumptions about what Americans look like. You’re a perfect example of what an American looks like, and so am I, and so is our president, and I feel sorry for people who can’t understand that very simple fact.

    • Edna says:

      Thanks Jill, I agree (go us, and Obama!). And I do remember that incident…it happens to me often, and I hate being mistaken for the translator or HR rep or what have you (especially when I’m with Mike)! It’s so frustrating.

  15. Tom says:

    People will always have biases based on how you look, how you dress, who you are with, etc. and etc.. That will never change. Anyway, did they assume you are good at math? Wait, only guys are supposed to be good at math. :D

  16. sanjuro says:

    It seems you’ve had bad luck. Maybe it’s not only about race but about gender too. And you’re petite; all these very courageous people are more likely to act aggressively towards you than if you were, say, a big bald Asian man. I’m not too surprised about the Paris one (I’m French myself), especially the jerk, I can picture this kind of people very well, laughing at their own jokes, full of themselves, no regard for others whatsoever, cockroach larvae who see themselves as fierce lions.

    But then again, spend enough time outside and you’re bound to run into the wrong kind of people, be it only by chance (and I’d say the odds are high in France; I have a number of personal anecdotes on the subject). The difference may be also that in the United States, at home, you know the locations well, you may choose, perhaps even by instinct, to hang out in certain places and avoid others because of the people who visit them. Abroad, you don’t have this perception at first, you haven’t built a mental safe map yet.

    For the record, I live abroad too, in a cozy city, and even though I’m a reasonable white guy, I’ve had my share of unpleasant encounters. I’m not big and bald either, so that’s maybe where my problem comes from.

    • Edna says:

      You’re right, gender probably does play into it; people think they can intimidate me more as a female. But I don’t think I have a ‘mental safe map’ of the US — it’s not just at home that I feel the most accepted, but everywhere in the US. No matter if it’s home or a new city, if I go to a restaurant or shop or mechanic, no one does a double-take when they hear me speak English or asks me where I’m from. I like that in the US, the general assumption is that you’re American unless proven otherwise; not the other way around.

  17. Michi says:

    Agh, Edna. You’re not alone in being treated in this way. As much as I love Spain, one of the main reasons I’ve considered leaving is due to the consistent racism I encounter. To make it worse, I sometimes do think (and am made to feel) that I am overly sensitive to the issue. But then I tell myself, well, who wouldn’t want to be treated decently as a human being? Who wouldn’t want to have a nice stroll without having the occasional racial slur thrown at them?
    Anyway, in Spain they have a “superiority complex” over Latin Americans (because of the colonization era and whatnot). When I tell Spaniards that I’m American, they think I’m lying and insist on knowing where I’m “really” from. Students will consistently ask me if a phrase or word is “real” English or not. Sometimes it feels like it’s never ending, and I can’t help but sadly wonder if it’s just the price we pay for not being Caucasian and living abroad…

    • Edna says:

      Oh I hate the double guessing from students! It’s like, I probably know more about grammar and vocab than the other teacher, but just because he’s white(/male) and I’m not, they assume he’s the source of all knowledge and I’m questionable.

    • Punch! says:

      I get that all the time too, people tell me I am too sensitive and I should brush it off. I will tell you what, NO ONE should tell someone else how sensitive he or she should be/feel. If you are hurt you are hurt. If you are offended you are offended. So many people try to justify out_right in your face racism into us being too sensitive, I find it ridicullous. The best is to be rude to them back and let them feel hurt themselves, and tell them not to be ‘too sensitive.’ ha!

  18. Michi says:

    P.S. On a brighter note, you will also occasionally meet some of the kindest people out there, and it helps a ton to have that nice bit to balance out the negative aspects. ; )

    • Edna says:

      Very true. Like all things, expat life has its ups and downs; for example I’m pretty grateful that after a negative day I can write about it and get such great support from my readers and the expat/travel/blogging community!

  19. Erica says:

    I think you’d enjoy a comment I got this weekend while staying at a hostel in Nikko (Japan). Also keep in mind that I was brushing my teeth the whole time and my mouth is full of spit.

    Japanese girl (in English with judgmental tone): Are you Chinese?
    Me (in Japanese): I’m American
    Japanese girl (in Japanese, obviously surprised): Oh you speak Japanese?
    Me (in Japanese): Yes
    Japanese girl (in Japanese): Well, well you look Japanese but your English is so good.
    I shoot her a quizzical look
    girl slinks away

    oh! and don’t forget my favorite:
    Do you prefer Japanese guys or American guys?
    (my answer: I prefer people who don’t base their opinions on race)

    I think all the questions bothered me more before than it does now. (Though being a victim of yellow fever, the urban dictionary definition, not the webster definition, is still one of my #1 fears.) And maybe it’s just my situation in Tokyo, but I feel like telling people my background widens their horizons as they see that you don’t have to “look” your nationality and I try to give them the benefit of the doubt before unleashing my wrath.

    My personal protocol for these moments is usually as follows:
    Politely correct people and then move on.
    Smile and stare at them until they change the subject.
    Ask the same questions back, until they realize how ridiculous their questions sound, or it changes the path of the conversation.

    • Edna says:

      Yeah, guys with yellow fever are bad news. Been there. I agree — I think I always feel the need to correct people because at least I’m possibly widening their horizons, even though I know most of the time I’m just falling for the bait. Oh well, if we reach at least just one person, it’s worth it!

  20. chusandy says:

    Thank you for this post. I totally feel you. I live in Shanghai and boy does this sort of thing get old when it happens. It happened a lot in the States to me as well though. It’s really frustrating, I’ve tried to explain to some of my white friends who just don’t get it and they shrug it off like I’m some crazed minority crying victim. I especially dislike when a friend introduces me to someone (this usually only happens in Shanghai) who on seeing me makes a thinly veiled racist comment or they say something snide like I’m not as good as them in the first sentence they say to me!

    • Edna says:

      I hate that! I would get that in Shanghai as well; I think quite a few of the younger foreigners there have a superiority complex about ‘doing China’ so they’re condescending to anyone they think isn’t foreign and special like them. It made it just a little satisfying to watch their expressions change from smug to embarrassed when they realized I was American.

  21. roamingtheworld says:

    Edna, great and powerful post. Living abroad in Spain has made me realize how diverse parts (bigger cities) of the states really are- I appreciate this aspect and miss it living abroad in Spain. Where I live, it’s very clear who the immigrants are and I sense/assume they are treated differently by the Spanish.

    Though I’ve been on the receiving end of being “white”, despite having a Chilean father, I became very annoyed while traveling in Africa where I was always asked “Where are you from?” They were curious (and often thought of me as a potential visa), but after months and days of the same ole question, sometimes I threw it back at them by saying, “I don’t know” or “I’m from the Earth,” or “Why does it matter?” responses to try to get them to Shut Up. Often, they’d be quiet or be frustrated with my answer. Truth is, Does it matter where we’re from? No. I know i’m a curious person but when curiosity is only to put someone down, it’s not acceptable. I don’t know if this a tactic that would help or at least, humor the situation.

    My dad could pass for “white” except when he spoke. Often people would ask him “Where he was from?” and if he didn’t feel like answering (or on reflection tired of the damn question), he’d humor them and say, a place he clearly couldn’t be from, such as “Korea” or “Russia,” People would look at him confused, trying to figure it all out.

    I know it’s definitely not easy- whether you “blend in” but can’t speak the language or always standing out but maybe trying to spin it a different way can help.

    • Edna says:

      That’s a great idea! Adds a bit of humor as well to diffuse what can sometimes be a tense situation. Maybe I’ll start pretending I’m Estonian…

  22. I’ve heard the horror stories from American Chinese and would never trade my experience for that–the creepiness of the stares wasn’t nearly as bad. I did hear a lot of ridiculous comments about being Jewish in China. Nothing really offensive though. Definitely encountered some crazy nationalists who hated all foreigners.

    And I know I shouldn’t, but I laughed a little at the drive-by ni hao. My friends and I joked about it in China.

  23. Suzy says:

    I can’t imagine having to deal with such ignorant people constantly when you travel. I know I complain about standing out in Europe mostly for the red hair and pale skin, I can see why you would rather have the stares than the way you are treated. Any assumptions about you based merely on how you appear are so hurtful, especially while traveling.

  24. Sorry to hear about your experience. We’ve traveled the last 5 months around Central and South America, and we’ve felt that kind of ignorance from locals and fellow backpackers. We are Filipino Americans, and we’ve confused the hell out of everyone we run into. My wife has Chinese features, and with my bushy beard, people don’t know what to make of me. What we do is educate folks and make fun of folks who try to be stupid/ignorant. Then the “ugly American” comes out and we assert who we are. Life is too short too feel bad about the world’s ignorance and shortcomings :) We understand sistah!!!

    • Edna says:

      Thanks guys! Of course I know I’m not the only one who encounters these things, but it helps to actually hear from others who do. We’ll just keep educating the world, one Asian-American at a time!

  25. Hmm…my (Korean) bf came with me to the UK for one month in December/January and didn’t experience any racism whatsoever. However, I was a little surprised that nobody said “ni hao” to him – but maybe it’s because he was with me most of the time, so nobody dared say anything like that to him whilst he was with an obvious local.

    However, Korean people often assume he’s Korean-American as he’s talking to a white person (me). They’ll talk to him about me, right in front of me, without acknowledging that I exist or that I’m even there. Being a white guy in Asia has advantages, but it isn’t all sunshine.

    Either way, I’ve never experienced what I would call blatant racism to the extent that you describe in your post. As part of an inter-racial couple, people sometimes think the same thing about me and Gil Dong; that I couldn’t find a white bf in the UK, so I moved to Asia and that he’s obviously after a British passport, because we couldn’t possibly have lots in common and want to be together for legitimate reasons. Sigh.

    Don’t let the haters get you down; for every one hater, you have ten people that love you, and another ten that don’t give a crap about your race or nationality – and I mean that in a good way.

    • Edna says:

      That’s interesting about your bf in the UK — maybe it’s different with Asian guys because people find it easier to pick on the (perceived to be) ‘weaker’ females? And I think the comments about interracial relationships hurt the most — because then they’re not just attacking you as a person, but they’re making assumptions about a personal relationship between two people they know nothing about. Sigh. Thanks for the comment, Tom — can’t wait until everyone falls into the “don’t give a crap about race” category!

  26. Cleo says:

    I would always say I was Chinese. American is a citizenship not a family tree and obviously, that IS what is being asked.

    I don’t expect special gifts or treatment that Caucasian Americans receive in China because I understand that the Chinese need to make a connection to people who are different and I am not that – I’m someone who is in some ways more fortunate than they are – like having a lottery winner in the family. It probably hurts to look at me.

    • Edna says:

      I do understand that point of view as well. I know I’m lucky my parents immigrated to the US and I could easily have been born with a Chinese passport. However I was raised in the American system, and grew up immersed in the American culture and way of life. So while it’s result of circumstance, I will always say I’m American. Looks shouldn’t factor into it — the same could be said of Irish-Americans, African-Americans, etc.

  27. What a horrible experience! It’s so sad that this happens. Honestly, I’ve never thought about racism from your perspective – where people expect you to be something you aren’t.

    Recently I tackled the issue of racism from a sports perspective. Probably no where else in the world are people more integrated and connected than in sports. Yet racism still exists there. I thought being a more globally connected culture would heal our differences and help us to look past them. Maybe it only makes the stereotypes we have come out a little more.

    I guess that’s true even if you look Asian.

    • Edna says:

      I’m glad I could enlighten — to be honest, I never realized this kind of racism would be new to so many people. It’s always been in my life so I thought everyone knew about it! I would love to hear more about your work on racism in sports — it’s the field I’m currently trying to break into, and I would have thought that people would become more connected, not divided, through sport?

  28. I can definitely empathize. I don’t mind people being curious about my ancestry but it does get annoying when people say “but where are you REALLY from?” as if I have a dark secret.

    A white South African girl once asked me. “If you are from New Zealand, why aren’t you white?”
    To that I replied “If you are from South Africa, why aren’t you black?”

  29. andiperullo says:

    I’m so sorry the you have to deal with racism constantly. I can’t imagine that. :(

  30. Zara Quiroga says:

    I lived for about 4 years in Dubai and although I knew the United Arab Emirates are a country full of racism (by locals and expats) it was when I started dating my boyfriend (who is Indian) that I started feeling how far things can really go. Arabs and rich expats tend to assume that Indians are “just” laborers and somehow that makes them have less rights than other expats. ‘Cause laborers are called “inmigrants” but white people are called “expats”. Distinction starts here itself…
    The majority of the population in Dubai is made of Indians and Filipinos. Filipinos dominate the hospitality industry and suffer a great share of crap themselves, from rude people thinking that, just because they pay, they can be jerks and boss around waiters and staff. But that’s when things suffer a funny twist: because Asian workers get so much shit from the Arabs and Westerners, they “release” their frustrations on the Indians, treating them as inferior too. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve gone to restaurants with my boyfriend and other Indian friends and got the waiters pampering me (I am white, Portuguese) and COMPLETELY ignoring the rest of the people. Sometimes even only talking to me or telling me “come again” when it wasn’t even me paying the bill.
    Check any job ads classifieds from Dubai and you will come across posts like “Indians abstain”, “Only Lebanese please”, “Western educated”, “Arabic only”, “Maid wanted, Filipino only”. This shit should be forbidden! It’s sickening…

    • Edna says:

      Wow, thanks for sharing — I had no idea the situation was like that in Dubai. I’d seen some of it in Singapore, but nothing to that extent. You would think the Asians would be more sympathetic; it’s terrible that they’re only turning around and doing it to another minority group.

  31. Edna, as an Asian American myself, Filipina to be more specific, it saddens and makes me sick to my stomach when I read your post. It’s so heartfelt, I seriously felt every emotion you were going through. I’ve never specifically encountered disgusting racism while traveling, partly because a lot of people think I’m South American, but growing up in the Bronx, people always just called me “Cheena”. When I’d correct them and tell them I’m from the Philippines, these ignorant little kids used to give me blank stares, while others would ask “Where’s that? In China?” It’s a sad reality that there will always be ignorant, racist bastards in this world. It’s going to hurt, but they’ll never change their views or their ways so it’s up to you to change how you react given said situation. You can let it get to you, or you can walk away and brush your shoulders off. You are more aware and you are way better than they will ever be.

    • Edna says:

      Thank you for the comment, Antoinette. After 20 years I’m getting better at shaking it off, though it still is tough sometimes to just walk away when the urge is to correct them.

      Funny sidenote, your story reminded me of the time my flatmate tried to tell her bank she had moved to Singapore — the BoA rep couldn’t figure out how to unblock the card, and finally asked, “Singapore — now what part of China is that again?”

  32. glad to have stumbled upon this post. i’m outraged by the ignorant racism you experienced from people. at this day and age? really? people can be stupid at times. i’m a long-term traveler as well, born and raised in the Philippines. i recently wrote about traveling in Asia as an Asian. my experience was never negative in that i was never discriminated against. my being able to blend in never really caused me any real problems. like all other things, it has ups and downs. but never anything as serious as any of your experiences. though i’ve heard fellow filipinos applying for ESL jobs do not even get an interview. employer takes one look at them and turns them down immediately. those that do get hired get half the pay and twice the work. now that is infuriating.

    • Edna says:

      I’m glad you haven’t experienced anything too negative in your travels. The job thing is quite infuriating — I’d like to possibly teach in Korea someday to save money, but from previous experience I think I’ll have a hard time convincing a Korean school to hire me.

  33. mariflies says:

    Edna, is it ok if I share this with my students?? They’ve been hearing (far too often) that racism is an American thing. I have tried to explain that racism is a world issue but your blog and the wonderful responses do a much better job than I can alone. On the issue itself, it really sucks being a non-racist white person because nobody believes it. I must be racist, I’m white. My philosophy with racism is that it is a swinging pendulum that can only be stopped if it is stopped, not just swung the other direction. I really hope that one day we can all just see people, and not race.

    • Edna says:

      Absolutely! I wrote this post to educate others, and I would love if that extends into the classroom. I had no idea there are people who think racism is just an American thing, either. I hope your students find this post and its responses enlightening.

  34. Rashaad says:

    It was fascinating to read your article and see all the responses (Normally, I hate to read the replies to online articles, but everyone was so thoughtful).

    I’m African American, and I remember when several students asked me (I was working as an assistant English teacher in France at the time) what my ethnic background is. I wasn’t offended, and I answered my father is from Pennsylvania and my mother is from Panama. When another student repeated the same question, I provided the same answer. Then it dawned on me that they were stunned I didn’t exactly know what country my parents had “come from” A lot of the students in that class were black or of North African descent, and most of those students had an immigrant background. I felt a bit uncomfortable about the students being shocked that I didn’t know my exact ethnic background.

    • Edna says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read the comments, Rashaad, and thanks for sharing your experience. Very interesting how different cultures view the importance or non-importance of knowing the details of your ethnic background.

    • Punch! says:

      Part of the reason why the French are so ignorent about racism is because immagraton or minorites, are all very new foreign concepts to them. Mist Sub saharian Africans in France just came her e to France, or maybe their parents just did; they have a family tree to trace back from. I think its so funny that they dont understand there have been black people in the United States for more than 400 years and the situation is totally different!

      Oh the french….so ignorant…

  35. Edna, This is by far the best blog post I’ve ever read. It’s the first one which has spearheaded an issue that is all-too-often overlooked. Thank you for sharing it, as it can’t have been easy. And thank you for inviting people to contribute, as many of your commenters (?) have been a pleasure to read as well.

    I’m half Chinese, half American, but look completely white. Growing up – and now at nearly 40 – the person closest to me is my Shanghainese grandmother (now dead, still the closest person I have). Fluent in 5 dialects of Chinese, raised to speak English at school and with her parents (who were both educated in America despite being Chinks), she was nothing short of international. Before she died at 93 she (and we, as I took a month off of work to stay with her) was at hospital for 2 months and the racism I battled for her was nearly as heart-wrenching as watching her die. I’d have these horrid squabbles with these piss-ant doctors, nurses and hospital aids, and every time she was conscious of it she’d laugh at me and tell me I was stupid to care. That anyone who thought – let alone voiced – their racism was so below us that there was no need to respond. Let them think what they wanted, we knew what was right – it’s what’s inside not out, etcetcetc all the cliches.

    Despite Didi being my shining light, I still don’t know whether I agree. And if we were in the same situation I’d probably respond to their venal racism. But I know down deep that her wisdom is solid. I have plenty of stories of racism against me (my last name is Chinese which has always confused hotel/ customs / airline people when I’ve been in China and SE Asia), but none of them were as poignant as the racism against a dying 70 pound woman, frequently unconscious to the horrid comments the aids made.

    Anyway, thank you very much for sharing and getting this dialogue going.

    • Edna says:

      C, thank you so much for sharing your story. I know we’ve spoken about our families before but I had absolutely no idea about your grandmother — that is so, so sad to hear. I can’t believe how terrible people can be, especially to an elderly dying woman — but at least she had the wisdom to ignore them and focus on enjoying time with her granddaughter. Would love to talk about this more next time we meet up.

  36. Rashaad says:

    And another thing, I find it interesting that you noted any Caucasian who can muster out a ni hao or xie xie gets a big smile and an enthusiastic, “Wow, your Chinese is so good!”

    I’ve spent a decent amount of time in Japan and if I said something in Japanese grammatically correct, I would always hear, “日本語が上手です” (Your Japanese is very good).

    Which got annoying after awhile because I’m – at best – a mediocre Japanese speaker.

    • Edna says:

      Good for you for not letting it go to your head! What’s worst is when some foreigners actually take the compliments to heart and think they don’t need to study the language harder.

    • jayan says:

      Raashad

      They just trying to be nice you. The Japs have matured (like the Germans) and are bending over backwards to be unracist. They have arrived as human beings- only thing they are dwindling in population. So just be gracious, and in your mediocre Japanese say with a laugh and wave that you are mediocre.
      On the other hand, in a comparative sort of way, they might be saying for a foreigner your Japowapo is pretty good.
      Either way they seem to be nice people.

  37. jessiechen says:

    Oh I remember about 4 years ago, when my ex and I was walking on a street, a Chinese guy on his bike, shouted out that I’m a prostitute.

    • Edna says:

      Sorry to hear about that Jessie. Besides, I know your ex — he doesn’t look like the type who can afford a pro ;)

  38. The most comments I ever got while traveling abroad was in Amsterdam. I was there for all of three days and got “konnichiwa” hollered at me on the street a couple times, a guy come up to me at a club and compliment my “Oriental” features and someone even called me a “peanut.” Apparently “peanut” is their term for Indonesians (and therefore Asians in general).

    The funniest thing was that my blonde friend was actually getting jealous of all the attention, like it was a GOOD thing to be singled out because of your race and be called various epithets all day.

    Okay, that was the second funniest thing. The funniest thing was her friend, who was genuinely surprised that Chinese people eat bread.

    The U.K. has been a lot better about being like “Oh, but what’s your ethnicity” rather than “where are you from, REALLY?” but I think they’ve had a lot more experience trying to do the whole melting pot thing. Lots of Pakistani and Indians already speak with thick Leeds accents, Also, it helps that the BNP is pretty weak. France has got frickin’ Marine Le Pen and all her party’s uber-racism. Those jerks.

    • Edna says:

      Holy crap Elaine, you eat bread?!

      Yeah, don’t even get me started on the Brits and the BNP. The things I’ve heard come out of some people’s mouths…

  39. Interesting to read about your experiences around the world – There are so many different issues raised in your post. I don’t think many people have the opportunity to travel and compare cultures enough to get the East/West perspective that you have, so thanks very much for sharing! Keep standing up for yourself when people have ignorant attitudes!

  40. Jayan says:

    Another Chinese lady with white boyfriend. becoming a cliche
    You Chinese people are a really funny people. You say you are a great race and then in almost the same breath look down on yourself.
    Chinese women queue up for plastic surgery and head for that white guy.
    Chinese men left on the shelf and are angry all the time.
    And oh yes there are condo’s in China which only house Whites. Even Foreign Chinese cant get in.
    White people ( even the scruffiest) are Gods of course.
    A conflicted and angst ridden people. And oh yes you guys a lot of the
    times Chinese ( and East Asians generally) look down on people just to feel good about themselves. (Racial Snobbery).
    Chinese would rather serve a white man than their own kind.
    And now you complain when in all probability, you would hve exhibited the sme kind of behviour you complain about.
    nothe

    • Edna says:

      Thanks for proving my point. Did you even read the post? If so, you would have seen that I identify as American, not Chinese. Race has absolutely NEVER been a factor in who I choose to date. I could be purple and my fiancé could be green and it still wouldn’t matter. There are so many reasons I love him and that we’re together, that the color of his skin (or mine) comes nowhere near close to even mattering.

      Thank you for taking the time to voice your opinion, I hope you learn that in this increasingly multi-cultural world, more and more interracial couples are going to get together — and for no reason other than love.

      • jayan says:

        But doesnt your title belie your mindset? “Sometimes I wish I was white”
        How often is sometimes?
        haha

        • Edna says:

          No, because 1. It is just a title. I will openly admit it is meant to provoke a bit.

          2. If I ever wished I was white, it would just be to avoid the “drive-by shoutings” and rude treatments I get in public. I hate being the victim of these small hate crimes just because of the color of my skin. Me saying I’d like to be white is just so I can blend in in these unnecessarily racist situations (because I already see myself as white, again if you’d actually read the post you’d know that), not, I repeat NOT because I want to be more Western (because I already am incredibly Western — born and raised in the USA!) or am victim to some “white is better” Asian mindset. It has NOTHING to do with dating, or wanting to be more pale, or Western. In fact, I’m actually quite proud of how I look — a year-round tan and genetics that’ll make me look 30 when I’m 50? No complaints here.

  41. Jack Huang says:

    When by myself, I’ve never really been on the business end of racist asshattery from passersby, though introducing myself to Chinese people who hear me speak very American English is almost always the same experience:
    - I introduce myself to them in Chinese, and they hear me speak English either before or after this.
    - “Where’s your laojia?”
    - “[a city name]”
    - “Wow, your English is REALLY good! Where’d you learn it?”
    - “I grew up in the US. I’ve lived there since I was 2.”
    - “Ohhh… Your Mandarin is REALLY good!”
    It’s amusing to see them navigate multiple innocuous stereotypes in real time.

    In my experience, it’s true that Americans (or perhaps only coastal Americans) are generally much less aggressively stereotyping in their first impressions than, say, western Europeans. When I answer the “where are you from?” question with “New York,” I only get the “but where are you from, originally?” followup about 20% of the time in the US, and never when I’m out with my Caucasian girlfriend. In contrast, every Londoner I’ve met who gets to the “where are you from?” stage invariably follows up with an “originally” modifier, which is more amusing than awkward since I was actually born in China. I lucked out on avoiding that sort of frustration.

    That said, when I’m with my family in the US, and speaking only Mandarin, there’ve been a few times when passersby have made racist comments, thinking that we couldn’t understand them. Retorting casually in English usually shocks them into silence. I’ve generally found that throwing people’s racism back at them (e.g. “How ya doin’?” in response to mocking “Ni hao! Ni hao!” shouts) is more effective than explaining the error of their ways, though I admit that I keep my mouth shut when the occasional airport customs agent does this.

    As for blending in among the 1.3-billion-strong masses, I’ve never found invisibility in China, though I suppose a bit of that is a subconscious projection of my own feeling of foreignness. Everything from my very American big smile to the way my gait apparently exudes American confidence singles me out as a foreigner, even before I can be called out on my mildly foreign-accented Chinese.

    • Edna says:

      Haha I’ve gotten the stereotyping runarounds too. “Oh your English — your Mandarin — arghhhhh!” I’m not looking forward to going to London — at least with the French I can pretend I don’t understand the question. I love what you do in response, I think I might start throwing back a “G’day mate” or “What’s the craic?” to really throw them for a loop.

  42. Punch! says:

    Hey Edna!
    Thanks for the amazing blog. I have been living in the South of France and I encounter racial attack/slurs/assults averaging about twice a week. I am also an asian, female, born and raised in the United States. I dont really care about telling people I am an American or justifying where I am from, for me I would just really appreciate being treated ‘normally’ like how everybody else should be/ is treated. Your experience in Australia was jaw dropping. I feel really bad for you and situations like the ones we encounter but at the same time I really dont know how to deal with them either.

    I get a lot of ‘Ching Chang Chong’s and the slanty eyes gesture in France, it is a bit too frequent for me to take and I have been thinking about moving back to the Us and just quitting my job here.

    I do have to clarify that I have traveled a lot and pretty much all over Europe and I have never experienced the racism and the extent of racism I encounter in France. I have traveled to Belgium and Australia too in the past and nothing abnormal happened. I was lucky I guess. I have been stoned in France in the past and had people telling me to ‘go back to China’ in English with an imitated Chinese accent (I actually have no Chinese in me at all.) and that sure felt very unpleasent.

    What I hate about France is how racism only applies to Africans/Blacks. They would do horrible things to Asians and Arabs and not consider it racist while they wont dare to do that to an African. I found this principle of racism ridiculous. Ironically enough I get my fair share of racial treatment in France from all types of people here; let them be Europeans, Arabs, or sub Saharan Africans. I also get it from both male and female, and from all age groups.

    I think brushing it off or keeping yourself silent are the worst ways to go. True, the first few times I was shocked with no words to say but after a while I alm kinda mentally prepared for racism going out every day.So I usually snap back(in English) and let them have a little taste of their own medicine. The only way to deal with this is NOT to brush it off or cry to others (they would just tell you there is racism everywhere and you are too ‘sensitive.’—while they actually dont experience any of thiese BS!)
    It happened again today, just this afternoon and I have beenv ery unhappy about it. I am ready to punch someone next time if it happens again!

    • Edna says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. What you’ve encountered in France is terrible and unbelievable, especially since it’s so frequent and gotten to the point where you’re thinking of quitting your job and leaving. I agree that there does seem to be a double or unequal standard, though I’ve noticed the same in the US — people make an effort to be PC around Africans/Blacks, but when it’s an Asian they feel free to be as inappropriate and openly racist as they like, instead of just treating everyone as equals and with respect. I wonder if that’s because they assume most Asians don’t speak English and wouldn’t be able to understand their insults?

      I hope the rest of your time in France goes more smoothly and you enjoy as much of it as you can!

  43. Punch! says:

    I have dated both white (American) and european males in the past and no one has ever looked at me weird or judged us.Except for when I was with this one guy, people kept looking at us! But I thought people were more looking at us because we were both very good looking? They didnt seem unfriendly they were just curious to see a hot couple like us I guess.But yeah no one gives a shit in both the western part of United States and northern France.
    On the other hand I have also dated a Black American and people actually look at us more when I was with him. But I wasnt sure it was because he was 6’6 and I was 5’3 or it was just a rare mix? Not sure.

    Just my two cents!

    • Edna says:

      Perhaps it’s more frequent in Asia then, because there are women who date white guys solely for status and money — and it’s more obvious there than it is in Europe or America. So people are exposed to that image much more frequently and assume every Asian female/non-Asian male pairing has to be that way.

  44. This post really resonated with me. I’m so glad that you wrote it and put this out there because I really think that not enough people are sensitive to this. I can’t tell you how many times I have people ask me what I am. I have answered human, American, and New Yorker, but none of these satisfy because they are looking for my ethnic identity, which is kind of on the bottom of the list of things I think about when I think about who I am.

    Now, I just answer, “Why does it matter what I am? Does it really matter that much to you?!” That usually shuts them up.

    Or once I told someone I was a foundling and I didn’t know because I was adopted by the people who found me. That was pretty hilarious.

    Speaking of yellow fever, when I first started my blog, I got all these creepy white male weirdos following my blog! When I checked theirs out, they all had one or more of the following: an Asian gf/wife, an ex-Asian gf or wife, an interest in martial arts, and they were all studying Chinese. Creepy!!!!

    And once they figured out I never blogged about anything Asian, they unsubscribed. Good riddance!

    Sometimes I think it was easier to identify them in the early nineties when all those guys looked like Steven Segal or Jean-Claude Van Damme :-/

    Anyway, great post.

    • Edna says:

      A foundling! I love that. Going to add that to my list of nonsensical retorts to throw people off. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for chiming in and sharing your experience. I totally know what you mean about the guys who only follow because I’m Asian, too — haven’t had any of it with this blog, but back in the days of myspace (oh creepy myspace) the same would happen to me. And I was like, 17. Eesh.

  45. Darlene says:

    I’m so tired of the inevitable follow-up question that I always get over here when I say that I’m Canadian: “Mais de quelle origine ?” I’ve come to expect it and I know it’s meant out of curiosity and not malicious, but sometimes I feel like pointing out that my Irish Canadian friends, for example, who also had parents that immigrated to Toronto but grew up in Canada–just like I did–never get asked about *their* origins.

    The worst though was when I visited Morocco with my sister. We couldn’t walk two feet without having “Ni hao!” or “Konichiwa!” hollered at us in the street. And we’re neither Chinese nor Japanese.

    As for travelling in Asia, well, an Asian friend of mine once pointed out that nobody is more racist against Asians than… other Asians! Since Filipinos are considered the “lowest” on the scale of Asians (in Hong Kong, a large portion of the maid/bargirl/nanny population is Filipina), when I travel in Asia, it’s not just a matter of not being put on a pedestal, I’m actually looked down upon!

    • Edna says:

      “My Irish Canadian friends never get asked about their origins” — I agree. I don’t mind getting asked if you’re asking everyone around you, but don’t single ME out just because I don’t have blonde hair and blue eyes.

      That’s the second time this week I haven’t heard great things about Morocco — apparently it’s not great for Asians OR solo female travelers. So that’s probably out of my travel plans for a while.

      I’ve heard about the Asian hierarchy as well, and saw a bit of it in Hong Kong and when I lived in Singapore (in the latter it’s the Indonesians) — it’s frustrating to me that humans feel this need to always have someone below them to look down upon.

    • Esti says:

      “… an Asian friend of mine once pointed out that nobody is more racist against Asians than… other Asians! ”

      I couldn’t agree more to this statement, especially for me being Indonesian, which probably is one of the the biggest country on earth that nobody ever heard of.

      When I was traveling solo in Barcelona, I stayed in a 6-bedded dorm room. And it turned out the other 5 of my roommates were kiwis (which were “really” Korean) When we met for the first time and doing some standard hostel conversation, upon knowing that I’m Indonesian, one of them said to me, “Wow, but your English is really good!” with the “you’re-Asian-so-you-shouldn’t-be-able-to-even-speak-a-word-in-English” tone.

  46. Michael Jones says:

    Can you explain what you mean when you say you already consider yourself to be white?

  47. arbie says:

    I FEEL YOU! Happens to me ALL the TIME!

  48. Latty says:

    Hi Edna, I enjoyed your post…thanks for being so open and honest.
    I was born in Jamaica West Indies (Caribbean), people always assume it is Jamaica Queens NY so I have to either spell it out or give a long comment :).
    Well my experiences are similar it goes likes this. I open my mouth an a accent comes out:

    Oh wow your accent is so pretty? You are not from here (USA) are you?
    Where are you from? Jamaica West Indies
    Oh I thought you were from the south since most ” Americans have so many accents”
    I didn’t know about this…oh yeah they speak so much different from you,,,your speaking English
    Your English is great well yes that is the language of Jamaica
    Why did you come here, Jamaica is so beautiful.

    And the questions goes on and on and the famous “go back where you came from is often heard. I swear most of my friends are only friends with me because of my profession. It is so sad that in the 21st century people are still behaving this way.

  49. Kieu says:

    I know EXACTLY how you feel, Edna. I never experienced it more than than I have recently during out 6 months in Asia. The whole, “Really?! But you don’t look American” bit got under my skin. But rather than wanting to say, what do American’s look like to you, we just say, “well, our parents are from Vietnam.” (shrug) Simply to dodge more stupid questions. I got cho American back girl. :)

  50. Oh yeah. You know as an Asian-American I totally feel ya. In Ibiza last year, there were Euro guys who would keep on coming up to me asking if I was Bruce Lee. I would of course say no. Then they would say, “No? Hmm… Jackie Chan???” Pretty hilarious. But it did get annoying after awhile especially after they do the chinky eye thing. Blah. Luckily in Vietnam they don’t look down on me if I can’t speak the native language fluently.

  51. Leif says:

    Damn, it’s hard out there for a Chinese American. I kinda know how you feel when I’m in africa but there I do get perks. My family is japanese american, so I kind of know what they go through as well. It’s pretty crappy how judgmental/racist we americans and just about everyone actually is. We like to pretend we’re not but we too often pass judgment on looks alone at first. Really eye opening article. Thanks for sharing it with me.

  52. Aggy says:

    Oh wow, reading this is mindblowing, so sorry you had to experience all that.
    I do think that it’s not only in China where you mentioned in your article about adoring the Western culture, in Indonesia where I’m from it’s the same.

    It’s funny how people generalize all Asians, I’ve travelled in Europe and had people shouting “ni hao ni hao” all the time just because I look Asian and it’s kinda annoying.
    I hope somehow these kind of situations will get better, so thank you for posting this :)

  53. Lisetta says:

    Hi, I have just found your blog today and love it!
    Ihad a Thai boyfriend (I am caucasian) for seven years, and we met while we were both living in Vietnam. We travelled around Asia a fair bit, and we used to get some strange looks occasionally as it used to be rare to see a caucasian female/asian male combo, but generally we didn’t experience any kind of racism. That was until we went to Thailand and were down south in an area less frequented by tourists and a Thai man started yelling at my boyfriend…my Thai is fairly basic and my boyfriend was hesitant to translate but basically he was on about me as a prostitute and wasn’t he good enough to get a Thai girl etc. Thankfully most of it was lost on me but it did upset my boyfriend. Thankfully it was the only time we’d experienced that overt display of racism (other than me being charged foreigner prices in the markets, but i expect that).

  54. Denise says:

    Sometimes I have photos of my nieces and nephews as wallpaper on my work PC. There have been some interesting questions, like “Do you know these people?” (well, why would I have them on my PC?), and “Are you sponsoring this family?”. The reason is that I am white, and the children are mixed Asian/white, but people only see the brown skin, not the family resemblance.

  55. Tess says:

    I feel your pain…really I do. I am a black American (6th generation) who moved to New Zealand a few years ago and am constantly questioned about where I am from. Many times people say ” Where in Africa are you from?”
    They do not believe me when I tell them I am from California. They say ‘Oh, so where are you ORIGINALLY from? When did you move there? Where in Africa are your parents from?’ They keep hammering me for the answer they want to hear. When I tell them, ” I was born there, my parents are from New Jersey, and I am the sixth generation”, they pause and continue to talk about Africa. Then they say that I must admire American culture and that my accent does not sound, (take your pick) New York, Southern, Twangy, or some stereotypical “hood speak”. I sigh, and let them know that AGAIN that I’m from California. These are not just New Zealanders, they are from people who have moved from all over the world. They see us on TV, in Films, in the news, in magazines…but we (Black Americans) are not real to them. It’s so frustrating that I sometimes go to the American Consulate just to feel AT HOME and UNDERSTOOD. Oh, and when I meet Africans here they are upset that I do not follow their culture/s. A lost soul. They totally dismiss that I have my own culture and it is relavant and worthy of respect as much as their own.

    • Hello! says:

      Yeah. I love it when I’m introduced to random Africans (that Spanish people know but I don’t) and am asked if I know them. Why no I don’t and why would I? I’d been there for scarcely two weeks. Plus they speak French and I hardly spoke Spanish. Its been a little while since my family has seen Africa. Or being introduced to random Africans and them saying at least you’re the same color (thus you should be friends etc). But confuse a Basque and Madrileno or an Andalucia and Catalan and you’ll start a civil war.

  56. George says:

    My experience in China is that they usually follow an Indian-Chinese couple shouting Sinchaporen or Singaporean. Some even call you Malaysian. As far as the where are you really from question it happens even here in America, where white people are generally unhappy if you just tell them America. Twenty years ago, you had to give them your ethnicity. These days a simple Honolulu, Hawaii or California will do. However, if you say Nevada or any other state or town in the US, they wont give up.

  57. JoAnna says:

    “No…where are you really from?”
    This has to be the most irritating line I encounter on my travels/expat sojourns and what is most frustrating is when the person asking the question gets all riled up when I respond with “No, really: CANADA” and they roll their eyes and sigh deeply and shoot me a look of contempt that – if it could speak – would say something along the lines of “why are you being so difficult? I need to be able to put you in a box, so just help me out here will you and tell me where you’re really from, because you clearly can not be Canadian.”

    It’s frustrating not necessarily because of the question, but the intention behind it. I wish people would understand that there’s a distinction between “where are you from?” and “WHAT ARE YOUR ROOTS?” If people asked me the latter more often, I would get far less pissy about the whole thing.

    These types of situations – as in your case – are often intensified when I rock up to meet my partner (as white as the day is long) somewhere and get introduced to people who allow their confusion and shock to register clearly on their face. Within the first few minutes we enter into the whole “where are you REALLY from” fiasco,which to me says: we didn’t expect someone like him to go slumming/refugee hunting/set up shop on the other side of the tracks/insert other derogatory thought or comment in here. This, of course, doesn’t take into account the fully discriminatory and (sometimes) hate-filled verbiage I’ve heard from complete strangers.

    The thing is, it’s no better on the other end of the spectrum. If I find myself in a country or amongst an urban subset where there are plenty of people who look like me there’s bound to be someone who insists on claiming me as “one of their own” and someone else who proclaims I’m not “authentic” enough for them. I’m too Western or whitewashed or watered down or whatever.

    The rub? There’s far more people out there like this than the average person would like to admit. To stay sane I roll my eyes on the inside, remind myself that it boils down to a lack of education or mis-education or ignorance and continue to reply through my wonderfully perfected for-the-ignorants smile: “No, really. CANADA.”

  58. Joy says:

    Wow. I know other Asian Americans living in China but I had no idea life was like this for them around the world. Where do people yell ‘nihao’ at you?? That’s just like how people say ‘helllooo’ when they see me in China but that shouldn’t annoy me nearly as much as it does after reading this. You’re not being oversensitive but I suppose it is something you need to accept. I’ve sure even if you could change the way you look you wouldn’t. So, accepting what is and letting the ignorant comments go right through you is the most important skill you can develop. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  59. 周爱苗 says:

    Well I’m a white girl living in Asia and I certainly don’t feel like we’re put on a pedestal. Quite the opposite. The staring is atrocious, the constant shouting of waiguoren is infuriating. And when I do speak Chinese most times I will get ‘ting bu dong’ in reply as they turn to my Taiwanese friends to translate for them. They’ll say exactly what I have said and chat away. It makes daily life really difficult. Also in Western cultures, everyone is entitled to have their own opinion. We don’t all agree but we have a right to mould our minds how we wish. Not here. Everyone should think the same and never question why things are done the way they are. (It causes huge arguments…learnt that the hard way). But at the end of the day, I chose to came here. Each country will have it’s pros and cons. Unfortunately I can’t pick and choose the best bits of cultures to make a new super culture. If we could we would have done it already! But along with all the rubbish days are fun days, that make these experiences worthwhile and bearable.
    Paris or New Zealand are next place on my list to go and live I think!

  60. Hello! says:

    Wow. I’m an african-american living in Spain and I had no idea that so many people have had so many similar experiences. I feel like I love Spain the country and its beauty and the hospitality of its people but I could never live here forever just because I feel like I never belong. From the constant staring to the lack of PC. I agree with the former comments; I have heard and seen many outwardly racist assertions while being here especially towards Asians. I have been extremely surprised as some of these statements have been by really intelligent people. I tie it to the recent development of immigration; they haven’t had a chance to associate with diversity thus they have never had the opportunity to see the effect their words have on people. For example when a teacher described a korean person to students by pulling back her eyes and when the student said like a un chino, she replied yeah same thing. I was extremely upset as I couldnt help but think of all of my friends who are Korean and what a distinct culture they have. And how hurt my friends would be. As far as racism in Spain towards blacks, the issue is very complex. I being an african-american woman am treated completely different then african men who come to work. My Americanness has NEVER been questioned surprisingly. People will ask me where I’m from, but they never seem even the slightest bit surprised when I say American (this is def due to Obama as many even comment that I look like Michelle Obama. I don’t). I even was asked once if I could tone down my American accent for English classes. I feel like racism is Spain is steeped in class. People assume I’m rich because I’m American. Even when I try to explain it they are unwilling to hear me out and sometimes I’ve been treated badly for that reason as if I’m privileged. Yes I went to a great university blah blah, but hey my great great grandfather was a slave (literally); I wasnt exactly born into privilege. Even in what they call me I’ve noticed a difference. The Africans selling on the street are called negritos; openly in front of me while I’m addressed as morena. Im used to Latin American countries and being called negra so I was very confused being called morena (also used to address tan or simply dark-haired people). Even in stores people have tried to charge me more. But then Ive also had the time when an old lady sneered negra at me or when my friends came to visit a man started shouting a bob marley song at us from across the street (wha?) Ive also found it strange Spains preoccupation with how we as Americans view them as Spaniards and if we associate them with Latin America. I obviously have noticed they are on two separate continents but I hate to tell’em if I had found a job in ANY part of L. Amer. first I so would have been there first choice.

    Anyway. Im glad you were brave enough to post this. I feel like my I’m not so alone now in how I feel. BTW Ive always like being different so I try to find solace in this and be excited that Im completely different speak a different language, have an (subtle) accent when I speak Spanish and am from a different continent. Its interesting at least!

  61. Vidyadhar Navale says:

    I am an Indian immigrant living in the UK for 10 years. Although in the UK there is some amount of racism fortunately for me its an occasional occurrence. But I am looked as an Asian and probably most second generation asians are considered British asians too, despite being born here and speak more like the local white population. When I was flying to India I had a stop over in Ceylon. One of the guys who is British white who was working in the same Hospital and I knew earlier happened to be on the flight and we got taking to kill the time. When we landed in Srilanka and went to the airport resturant or spoke to the airport staff it was quite revealing how much different they would treat a white guy (with respect and admiration) versus an Indian man (with contempt). Even my friend was surprised and a bit embrassed esp as in the UK it so happens that he does shall we say a unskilled job and I do a senior more responsible job. I do realise that there are a few nutters in the UK who are racist but most of them are fine.

  62. George says:

    Unfortunately JoAnna’s experience is all too familiar. It is always the white person who is rich. A white guy married to the daughter of a Hong Kong billionaire who has contributed to various universities in the US was asked whether his wife is a mail order bride and whether he rescued her from poverty. They even tried to be patronizing to her explaining to her the modern comforts of American life. Then there was a Japanese auto executive who was dating a volleyball coach down south. Many asked the Volleyball coach whether he is trying to get a green card. They did not approve of him dating a white woman and some people managed to get in touch with Honda to transfer him back to Japan, thus breaking up the relationship. A dark-skinned South Indian woman is frequently mistaken for African American and frequently asked why she dates Indian men instead of black men…and the list goes on.

  63. Worldtraveler20 says:

    I am an Indian, male mid 30s…I am quite surprised by your article. I have lived in New York for more than 10 years, London for 4 years and Paris since the past 2 years. Me experience has been somewhat different than yours. I faced the most racism in New York and in London however there was a difference. UK is a dangerously racist country and there are high levels of institutional racism, i was questioned by police and immigration in UK very badly on more than ten occasions and even badly abused by a British person several times….in fact one of them sent me a very racist email and I had him arrested over it. In my opinion British are the most hateful dirty people in the world and this is the only reason I quit Uk to move to France. As for the US …they were not so institutionally racist but socially in white american society there is no acceptance for non white foreigners….americans are also obsessed with background….its funny though because I look very non indian and more mediterranean having blue eyes and light skin…americans were often confused about my ethnicity and friendly towards me until they found out i was Indian.

    Ive travelled extensively in western and eastern europe and perhaps because of my looks I am more accepted in these countries…I am very well dressed and know how to carry myself…and for this I get a lot of respect in france as well as rest of continental europe…I think the reason u faced racism in continental europe is not because u are asian but perhaps because u dress in and american way as an asian. Europeans like smart well dressed people…and when u look like that they all admire u….they hate casually dressed people especially Americans who walk around in sneakers and shorts ….or loose baggy clothing. France in my opinion is way more tolerant and accepting of foreigners….its hard to get jobs in france as a foreigner but socially they are very accepting people. I never faced even one single bad racist incident in france…again as i said it may be because i carry myself in a certain way…..try it sometime….dress up like a million bucks and go out in Paris and u will be surprised at how man frenchmen hit up on u!!!

  64. Rizan Aziman says:

    Hi Edna,

    As a fellow Asian American traveler, I feel your pain. I get tired of people asking me where I’m from and mocking my accent. I left America to teach English in Malaysia for a year and I get the same treatment from my own kind because the way I look didn’t go with the way I act. Sometimes I wish I was Asian-Asian so I didn’t have to put up with idiots (home and abroad). I also blamed my parents for having me being born and raised in a Western society where they lack respect for Asian males. I tell people I’m American and they just look at me funny. It drove me crazy to the point that I developed social anxiety disorder and I lost all my confidence in my identity. I left my job immediately and came back home to Los Angeles and I have never been the same since my time abroad. Whenever I meet an asian straight out of Asia I just wanna start something hostile. It ruined me as a person and created bitterness and resentment towards people of all races, especially my own. I can handle racism from non asians, but when I hear it from my own, it really bruised my sense of self worth. It’s hard enough that I’m also a muslim in America. I didn’t want to take crap from my own kind. How do you stay positive in a world full of ignorance?

  65. George says:

    “UK is a dangerously racist country and there are high levels of institutional racism, i was questioned by police and immigration in UK very badly on more than ten occasions and even badly abused by a British person several times….in fact one of them sent me a very racist email and I had him arrested over it. In my opinion British are the most hateful dirty people in the world and this is the only reason I quit Uk to move to France. ”

    White Brits (English) have one standard for themselves and another standard for others. They want the right to live and work in countries such as Singapore, but dont like the idea of Singaporeans working in their country…even the ones who work in Singapore.

    “in white american society there is no acceptance for non white foreigners….americans are also obsessed with background….its funny though because I look very non indian and more mediterranean having blue eyes and light skin…americans were often confused about my ethnicity and friendly towards me until they found out i was Indian. ”

    Yep. You cannot be light skinned and Indian. You cannot look East Asian and be Indian as well. One of the bosses in my organization was sent to training after he basically accused a young lady from Nagaland who was interviewing for a job of lying when she said that her nationality is Indian. Also try walking with a very dark skinned Tamil or Kerala woman down the street of Atlanta, Dallas or Miami, you will face a lot of hostility and outright hate at least until they find out that both of you are Indian.

    “I left America to teach English in Malaysia for a year and I get the same treatment from my own kind because the way I look didn’t go with the way I act.”

    They are looking for white people to teach English. Any white person will do…even a Russian.

  66. DocDave says:

    First off, you are not oversensitive. I’ve experienced what you did in my travels and definitely can validate what you are saying. The truth of the matter is that the world is still very much a racist place. I’m sorry but that is just the truth. There is simply no way to go from 500 years of global white colonialism to color blind egalitarian utopia in the span of only 50 years.

    let me repeat. the world is a racist place.

    how you experience it will be shaped by the color of your skin. Not all the time, not by everyone. But just enough to get under your skin from time to time.

    speaking from personal experience, the stress of having to be constantly vigilant can be overbearing sometimes. checking out a cafe in paris, not knowing if you can relax or if the waiter will ignore you. being on the beach in the caribbean, not knowing you can let go and soak in the sun or if someone is going to hurl a racial slur at you to amuse themselves (at your expense). getting that upgrade to first class, not knowing if you can exquisitly enjoy a glass of champagne or if a band of roving mid western teeangers are going to wonder loudly about mongolian spots, or monkeys in first class.

    our very culture is racist, valuing european foods, culture and traditions over all else.

    these things are a given. yet it is hard for a white person to understand. even a well-meaning one like my wife.

    you are not oversensitive.

    the things ARE happening to you. the question is what is the way you will respond?

    I can guarantee you that a biracial boy who grew up into a proud black man experienced a lot of this. He somehow got through it. Today, he is the President of the United States of America.

  67. George says:

    “The truth of the matter is that the world is still very much a racist place.”

    Agreed. The bigger problem is even the non-whites have so much white bias that they give a dark-skinned woman’s role to a white woman….

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2190925/How-Amy-Jackson-plucked-obscurity-hottest-new-star-Bollywood.html

    Increasingly even fair skinned Indian women are being displaced by white western women in Bollywood and the Indian clowns pay a lot of money to see them.

    “here is simply no way to go from 500 years of global white colonialism to color blind egalitarian utopia in the span of only 50 years.”

    However, it will very much help if the Indians dont take actions to uphold white supremacy.

    “how you experience it will be shaped by the color of your skin. Not all the time, not by everyone. But just enough to get under your skin from time to time.”

    Yes. Where are you really from?

    “being on the beach in the caribbean, not knowing you can let go and soak in the sun or if someone is going to hurl a racial slur at you to amuse themselves (at your expense). ”

    The Caribbean is mostly black..one can hope the powers that be dont allow white people to throw racial slurs at the locals…but then again, I do not know.

    “getting that upgrade to first class, not knowing if you can exquisitly enjoy a glass of champagne or if a band of roving mid western teeangers are going to wonder loudly about mongolian spots, or monkeys in first class.”

    Only in the western carriers…and usually it is the southern white teenagers and white sorority girls.

    “our very culture is racist, valuing european foods, culture and traditions over all else.”

    May be culture and traditions, but the whites I know prefer Asian foods…Indian and Thai restaurants are full of white people. Not to say they are not racists. There are many whites who love Asian food but deeply dislike the Asians or folks of Asian origin. Then there are the white Brits and the white Aussies. They work in the Middle East and Asia on fat expat salaries but many of them loath the locals and dont want to reciprocate..ie., dont want Asians living or working in their country.

    “these things are a given. yet it is hard for a white person to understand. even a well-meaning one like my wife.”

    Except that they are afraid of demographic changes and are worried that non-whites will do to them what the whites did to the non-whites. However, based on how Asians behave, I dont think it is going to happen.

  68. Anna says:

    I utterly agree with what you have experienced, I’ve seen friends go through the same BS. But here’s the rub, the other side you covet to experience is not as awesome as you think.

    You get harassed at restaurants for not speaking Chinese well enough, when I sit down people will not even consider that I might be able to speak, they will talk to me in baby talk, talk rudely about me, the size of my boobs, ass, call me a hooker etc. assuming that I do not understand a word they’re saying. They will pretend not to understand me when I am talking to them, even though people on the phone have no issues. I’ve been in a cab, talking to a friend in Chinese, and after 10 minutes the cabby turned around, asking my friend if I could speak Chinese.

    You can blend in in the street. Do people point and stare at you? You will not get spit on, called names or have people target you for not looking like the rest. No one will touch you, your hair especially, without permission.

    How many times have you entered a clothing store and gotten told they do not have your size, since all foreigners are assumed fat. And then gotten handed a size 12 and told that will fit when you are a 4?

    How often do you get ‘complimented’ on your chopstick skills?

    You want the teaching jobs that I get randomly offered, you can have them, I am not a teacher, but people keep on insisting, even after getting told that no, I do not teach, I have a job, thanks.

    How many times have you been propositions by taxi drivers, thinking you are a hooker? And no I do not dress like one.

    How often has a taxi not taken you, only stopped to take a look at you and then driven off, cussing about foreigners?

  69. George says:

    “How many times have you been propositions by taxi drivers, thinking you are a hooker? And no I do not dress like one. ”

    Try walking through the streets of Delhi, India, if you are a woman, woman of any race, but particularly white or East Asian woman.

  70. Anderson says:

    I currently reside in Dubai. Been here for almost 2 years now. And to tell you the truth, not a day goes by that I regret coming here. The level of racism here is through the roof. I am originally from Pakistan. This restricts me to the lower side of the Expat class. More than half of the decent jobs go to the WHITE expats. And ninety-nine percent of those have probably never had a decent job in the West. The expat Arabs come second followed by the Asians (Filipinos and Chinese etc). Then Indians, Pakistanis and the Bengalis. Pay-scale largely depends on the skin of your colour and sometimes upon your gender (read “attractive white females”). It is believed here that if you are white you immediately have superior intellect and excellent English language skills (doesn’t matter if you are some High School dropout from Poland and have hardly spoken English before). Therefore you deserve stature of a god/goddess.
    I have seen hardship in my life despite my young age (24 now). Saw poverty in childhood. But things got much better with time, financially. Then right after I got admission in Engineering College on scholarship I was diagnosed with Leukemia. Struggled for my life as I finished the degree. But then the real hell begun as I came to Dubai. I have never felt bad about my complexion (which is fair for my own people) but after the time in Dubai, I honestly wish I were white. If you aren’t white, you don’t deserve to live.

  71. George says:

    Anderson:

    I hear that there are segregated white clubs in Dubai and the whites especially Brits get drunk and yell racial slurs at the non-whites, including anti-moslem tirades!

  72. ahmed says:

    If you come to Dubai you would face the same experience. Here too Caucasian westerners do think they are better than others. In fact in Dubai legally a positive discrimination can be done to a westerner by paying him a higher salary than that to a similarly qualified non-westerner.
    I would say Dubai is far more worse than China in any way…

  73. Pawel says:

    I feel your pain. Your note just reminded me all the bad racist experiences in China. Well, I’m kind of Asian looking Eurasian, born to a white European woman and raised by her and my white relatives, but everyone in China thought I was Chinese. While all my white friends were getting complements on how good their Chinese was after saying “ni hao” in bad tones I was just looked down at cause I don’t speak Chinese fluently (my father isn’t even Chinese!) and don’t “act Asian”. Every time when I was telling people where I’m from they just didn’t believe that I’m not Asian. Some would even laugh behind my back saying stuff “Lol! He thinks he’s white”, but all I was saying is just “Eurasian” not “white”. Or they just looked down on my cause I’m not pure blooded… what a strange kind of racism! They treat white people like gods, but at the same time they look down at you cause you are half white…That’s so annoying and frustrating >.< Growing up in racist and xenophobic Central Europe I always thought I would feel better in Asia, but honestly I didn't. What i can see from my experiences is that Asians (born and raised in Asia) are actually far more racist than Westerners…

  74. L says:

    I just came across your blog.
    Firstly, I’d like to congratulate you for a wonderful and inspiring blog.
    Secondly, I’d like to thank you for your honest and painful account. I am sorry that there are so many ignorant people in the world. As a Eurasian who has travelled in Europe and Asia, I have seen many of the scenarios you describe. All I can say is that you are not alone!

  75. Vanessa says:

    Hi Edna,

    first,I wanted to tell you that I really like your blog, the inspirations and photos you’re providing your readers with and your open-mindedness.I am a global mind myself with an international background,therefore I can somehow relate to what you’re writing and I find much pleasure in reading your posts.

    I am quite shocked to read about your experiences with racism in China,Europe and Australia and I find it awful that you have to go trough this.Although I am European with Serbo-Croatian roots (being pale and blending in perfectly) having grown up in Germany,some of my family members and even me were confronted with some kind of xenophobia in Western Europe and especially in Germany.Here and also in many other Western European countries people from Eastern Europe are constantly confronted with xenophobic comments and attitudes and it is more than obvious that they feel superior to people coming from countries in these European region. Some female Russian friends of mine have had really bad and awkward experiences in Italy and France,especially if they had an Italian or French partner.They were confronted with hostile comments from the women over there and more or less accused of “stealing” their men and being gold-diggers…I have quite a few French and Italian friends myself and they have a completely different attitude and they are very tolerant.But actually it scares me that you can conclude that those hostile people do actually feel superior to Eastern European folks,and specifically to the women…My Russian friends also had a hard time finding female friends in Paris and told me that French women avoided and ignored them constantly.In the end they found friends in the Parisian expat community or they sticked with other Russian or Ukrainian women.

    Well,this was another point of view and has less to do with racism.But I just thought I share my experiences with xenophobia and intolerance abroad.The point is:Stay strong and ignore those rude people.They are basically afraid of everything that is foreign and different,they are afraid of otherness and they’ve never learned the meaning of tolerance and open-mindedness.Stay the way you are!

    Bon lundi!

  76. Jean says:

    Reading some of this stuff just reminds one who is non-white just how much more complicated things could be to living exclusively a whole life outside of North America.

    It’s less staring when cycling in rural areas of Canada –Maritime provinces 18 yrs. ago compared to now. I think. I’m Canadian-born and have never lived anywhere else outside of Canada, but have lived in southern Ontario, major cities across 3 provinces.

    Sorry to hear the hassling still goes on that’s similar to when I travelled in Europe 25 years ago and most recently in Germany, Denmark, etc. 2 yrs. ago. When one is a cyclist, one really stands out and no, I can’t afford to drag extra weight of expensive looking clothes on bike just to be treated better in stores. C’est la vie!

  77. ACE says:

    YES U HAVE TO ACCEPT IT COS OF THE BAD BEHAVIOURS OF MOST ALL THE CHINESE TOURISTS EVERYWHERE THEY GO.ONLY NATURAL FOR WHITES TO LOOK DOWN ON CHINESE..NO MATTER IF UR FROM AMERICA,AUSTRALIA,EUROPE,SINGAPORE OR MALAYSIA.ALL THE CHINESE FROM ALL THESE COUNTRIES WILL ALWAYS BE TAUGHT OF AS FROM CHINA.PLEASE UNDERSTAND THIS.

  78. Jimmy] says:

    It’s really a sad world that we are living in, isn’t it? I’m Asian myself, and even though i have never been to Europe, America, or the Oceania countries , I completely understand what you are trying to say. Because where I live, the local people also ‘look up’ to the caucasians and consider them to be more ‘superior.’ This is not always the case, of course, but usually it is. I try not to be one of those people, but in the end I still have this feeling of ‘inferiority’ simply because I’m Asian. It’s really embarrassing to admit, but whenever I talk to a white person there’s always this feeling in my subconscious that makes me feel more inferior than the white person that I’m talking to simply because I’m Asian, and also because i’m short (170cm) which is, like you said, a typical Asian stereotype. Maybe I also have Napoleon Complex? I think I do. :S
    Also, I have been trying so hard to convince myself that everybody in the society is equal, and it shouldn’t matter if you’re white/black/Asian/Latino etc.., if you are rich/poor, if you are straight/gay/transgender etc… (and the list goes on and on). And I truly and strongly believe that everybody should be equal. But yet, this inferiority complex always creeps up on me, all the time! I just wish that these labels did not exist.
    Well, we are living in a world full of ignorant people after all. I mean, if I even feel that I’m ‘inferior’ simply because I’m Asian, why wouldn’t an ignorant white person feel that way towards me as well?

  79. menteng says:

    the debate of Asians looking down on their own kind is not new. Even though China had been sparsely colonized, the white man syndrome is like a fever across the continent. Edna experiences hostility in China due to her ”white washing ” attitude in the eyes of the locals and not speaking Chinese claiming to be an All American girl. Both side have there reason the be just like that and I do not condemn you.But the main part is that you claim to travel a lot , how come you are not open to this kind of thinking .We can’t expect that even Parisiens or Irish country people think the same way you do, let alone Chinese people who are spitting in front of you not knowing the ever present English language. There fore you deserve to be getting the treatment!!. Learn and adapt a bit to the local culture(language, blend in) before claiming being a globetrotter !!

  80. Ceri says:

    This is heartbreaking, Edna.

    There’s a lot of racism in Mexico too but it’s mostly towards their own citizens! My boyfriend’s Mexican and he happens to live in one of the poorer areas of the city (where a lot of indigenous people live). Whenever we walk around together, people are constantly staring because, as a “white girl”, I shouldn’t be “lowering myself” to dating a poor Mexican guy.

    My landlord (who’s Mexican) is also incredibly horrible to him – Saying I can “do better” than that “type” of person.

    It breaks my heart. And hearing about the things that are thrown your way too absolutely kills me. Especially because I’m going back to the UK for the summer and have seen firsthand how much the “Go back to where you came from” attitude is rife there. :(

    You’re right about the US though. I know there’s racism still in that country but I’ve never seen a place of such kind, warmhearted, open people before. And the multiculturalism there is incredible.

  81. Hi Edna,

    I know it’s been a while since you’ve written this post, but I still felt compelled to leave a comment, just because it makes me so incredibly sad (and kind of mad) that this kind of racism still exists in our world. I’m happy enough that I haven’t been singled out in any way for my race yet, but I suppose it’s because I’m kind of a special case.

    I’m half-Caucasian and half-Asian (my mother’s Chinese, my father’s German), so I neither really look white nor Asian – I’d almost say I fall under the radar because my appearance doesn’t clearly show where I’m from. This can be both a curse and a blessing, though growing up in Germany has shielded me from that in part. I think that because of its past, Germany is very, very sensitive to racism, however it still exists, though it’s more subtle. That doesn’t make it better in any way, but different.

    I think that some of the biggest problems with racism don’t come from actual threats, but the little prejudices in the heads of people who don’t even have bad intentions, but just don’t realize their harmful thoughts. It breaks my heart that mixed-race couples still have to face so many obstacles – you’d think that people would have gotten used to it by now… Growing up, my parents’ relationship was the most normal thing in the world and to this day it still is.

    I hope you’ll make some better memories in the future and will one day find a place – apart from the US – where you’ll feel completely accepted! :)

    xx
    Melanie

  82. Jeslie says:

    Hi Edna,

    I’ve been living in United Arab Emirates for the past 8 years and in a relationship with an English man and I can relate to what you are saying, I am from the Philippines and I am a Filipino, I have travelled few places too but all I can say is that this world is quite harsh when you are Asian regardless where you go. I will always get that look as if I am a gold digger though I am working a decent office work job in here. I was once called “Chinese are better and cheaper than you” implying that all Asian are hookers over here. I normally walk straight and don’t look at people but sometimes it will break my heart to feel little only because of where I came from. And true, no matter how good my english and conversation skills, at the end of the day they will still consider me as someone who came from third world which is a bit pathetic and sad.

  83. Erum says:

    I did study abroad in Spain. On my very first day when our director picked us up from the airport, she asked me where I was from. I proudly told her I went to the most diverse high school in America, to which she responded: “immigration is a huge problem here too.” That comment set the tone for a lot of the political incorrectness I observed there. Granted, it wasn’t something I thought about very much since I look latina, but it did kind of bother me to see the heads of muslims/moors in the Church of Santiago de Compostella (guy who got Spain back from the Moors).

    I also visited Isreal a few years ago, while I had a lovely time in the country, the borders were horrendous. As some one of muslim origin, I spent hours at these checkpoints – and found that seeing the dead sea, jerusalem, the judean dessert was not worth it because of the blatant discrimination I faced in the airport. After I was done crying when they meticulously searched my dirty underwear IN PUBLIC, a guard told me comfortingly, “I can’t imagine what you’re feeling right now ma’am.” I could only smile internally at the irony of her statement through tears. I’m sure her ancestors could imagine exactly how I felt.

    I’m very sorry that you’ve faced this kind of discrimination, and can only hope that American imperialism also exports our politically correctness along with McDonalds and Dominoes. On a brighter note, some of the friendliest people countries I’ve visited are Italy, Turkey, and Mexico. God I love Mexico, visit those!

    Despite the unpleasant experiences that I have had, would I ever stop traveling? No. A little adversity can be good for the soul. In fact I’m getting ready for my next big trip – to China and Southeast Asia! I’m sure that my nondescript ethnic features, my Somalian American friend, and my incredibly light skinned Arab American friend will confuse the hell out of everyone we meet!

  84. viet says:

    Hello

    I know it has been a while you’ ve posted this article but a friend just posted on her FB page and I wanted to share my experience.

    I am sorry you ve been through all this and I know the pain and anger it provokes.

    Let me introduce myself quickly: I am 30, my parents are born in Viet Nam, I am born in Paris and lived in 7 different countries, but I feel french more than anything. I ve spent a third of my life in the US between NY (BS at NYU) and CA (MS at Stanford) I have 3 nationalities: French, American and Qatari (worked here for 3hrs now.) I have travelled in over 60 countries maybe even 80, I have lost track.

    I think it is quite ironic from an American to writte such article as an American from the US. I have encounted the most racists in the USA than anywhere else in the world. At school students would make fun of me and repeatedly talk funny and immitate chinese language or just laugh in my face. That was mostly in NY. I have never been so self conscious about being asian in the USA. Anywhere they ask your ethnicity as they absolutely want you to feel that way and constantly remind you, you are asian, never forget that. I grew up in a white neighborhood and never had asian friends or girlfriends. In the USA, I was so self conscious I d never ask a white girl to date me. In France, it is so easy, I ve dated, black, arabic, blondes, redhead… In the US I was limited to asian and maybe I could have an opening with latinas. When i ve dated a french carabbean, we d hold hand in NYC and people would stare at us.

    I am also surprised you associate Ireland as Europe. Do you realize how many countried there are here and how we are all so different from each other? I don t see you associate China with Asia? Are Chinese similar to Afghans, Philippinos or Brunei?

    Revolution has to start from you (said Ghandi)

    I love americans from the US but I think the system and the politics do everything to encourage communautarism and to divide ehticities. Why? The more you divide and categorize the more and better you control.

    In europe it is forbidden to make stats about ethnicities. In the USA we call races. There is only one race: human being.

    I ve talked to many of my US friends and we agree on this: US Americans are pathological racists.
    Sometimes you d read an article about a black man killed by a bunch of racists. In France, if you had such thing happening, there d be riots.

    So all in all I am surprised that you are.. surprised because at home it is about the same but people are maybe more subtle, civilized about it.

  85. Andrew says:

    Hi Edna,

    I’m sorry for all the racism you have experienced in the West but let me assure it is not easy being a white guy in China either. I studied there for one semester last year in Beijing and faced a lot of racial abuse from the locals. Here are just some examples that stand out:

    1. I was with a group of friends from Canada, all Asian-Canadians except me, when we tried to enter a popular nightclub. The tough wannabe guys at the door told my friends in Mandarin that this club was for locals only and since I was clearly not Chinese, I could not come in. We argued but to no avail. First time I have ever been discriminated due to my race.

    2. Another incident at a nightclub, I was attacked by a group of spoiled fuerdai because they thought my Chinese female friend was my girlfriend and they told me in English (in a North American accent!?) that I should stick to my own women. Security at the club did nothing and even sided with the locals. What really angers me is how my Korean/Japanese/Singaporean friends never faced this sort of discrimination because they could pass as a local.

    3. There was an incident of a foreigner raping a local girl that was caught on video and spread on Chinese media. For the next few days, my classmates would ask me if I was that guy in the video or that I looked like him (not sure if it was a joke or not but I was totally uncalled for).

    There were so many other minor incidents, like the hostile stares and the casual racial slurs, but I never let those negative experiences bother me. Racist people should be pitied for being so ignorant, don’t feed the troll!

    • Ricky says:

      Andrew, I’m sorry to hear the racism you went through in the east. Being a person of chinese decent living in a western country, I encountered racism a couple of times, mostly done by white people. I don’t hate white people, but I hate racism. Unless you’ve ever been on the receiving of racism, you simply have no idea how hurtful it feels, therefore I always try to treat others with respect, and be more cognizant.

  86. George says:

    @Andrew..Edna faced racism BOTH in Asia and in western countries.

    • Andrew says:

      George, that’s an interesting fact you pointed out. However, I believe the racism she faces is more due to her Westernized mentality than anything else. People in China hate Asians who try to “act white.” They are called bananas in China for being yellow on the outside but white inside. Just look at the current American ambassador who is a third generation Chinese American. Some in the media have referred to him as “hanjian” for taking actions that go against the interests of China even though he is the AMERICAN ambassador and represents all Americans. Chinese people just do not understand multiculturalism. If I had to come up with a social hierarchy in China, it would go as follows:

      Rich Chinese (or other light-skinned Asians who can pass as Chinese)
      White
      Non-white foreigners
      Poor Chinese

      As you can see, the way you are treated in China if you look like a local is completely dependant on how rich you appear. Whites usually get treated well because we are assumed to be all well-off compared to the average local. Africans get treated badly because they are assumed to be poor. It has everything to do with money. As China gets richer and loses their inferiority complex, I believe their treatment of foreigners will worsen. My own experiences have shown that a tiny minority of them have already adoped this arrogant mentality. I hope China will not become like Japan or South Korea were the locals tend to be really xenophobic and look down on ALL foreigners. Anyways, just my thoughts!

  87. George says:

    Good thing Edna has not been to South Africa yet. If she went there with her white fiance the stink of racism she will get from the white Afrikaans women will make her throw up…not make her want to throw up..but actually throw up.

  88. Majida says:

    No, you are not over-sensitive and I call this sort of an “racism turned around”- the question is turned around to what ore which way? I intend to write on this topic on my not yet started, but already parked blog later on. We are also a n Asianorigin-grown up in Europe/Austrain couple and have not only had our issues with pple in the authorities, the streets- in Turkey, I was told by bypassers to behave like a decent Muslim wife (!!) , in Europe I get my share of looks, when we are together, they cane be even dirtier and if I speak back in German, the jaws drop to the ground and if I read a newspaper, they think, I just look at he pictures! In my Asian country of origin , my husband – the European Gora- was the one, by whose virtue, I got the more preferential treatment – be it at the airport, at the shopping (where I tried to make him go away, b/c as soon as he was around the prices tripled!) , but when they realized, I speak the native language – they can get disappointed!, personal, offensive, judgemental….We don’t fit anywhere, except in being our own twosome. I think, in this short comment, I just scratched on the very superficial aspect…, but thanx to my genetic origin, my upbringing in the west, my attitude in life (independence in decision making and persecuting it) voicing my thought and not accepting bigotry and prejudice, at the end of the day, I am happy with myself! Yes, I also hate that, where you come from originally! question, and the second one is usually: and didn’t your family object to your marriage?

  89. Just was blogging about my experience in Europe and ran into your post. LOVED IT. Thanks for the honest post. Could relate to it even though I’m Korean and not American. But I grew up going to an international school and lived in U.S. for a few years. Having a Korean passport doesn’t help, of course :S. http://summerinsea.com/2013/04/20/encountering-racism/

  90. Mr.Lactose says:

    I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and I am of Chinese heritage. Toronto is a very ethnically diverse city, and I have unquestioningly always felt that I am accepted and welcome here. I’ve travelled to other parts of Canada and the United States (Orlando, New York, Las Vegas, Chicago). But I had never traveled to Europe. So you can imagine how excited I was when I went to England for a whole month last summer. I was staying in central London with my friends, so I did not anticipate any sort of racism. After all, London is a bustling, multicultural city like Toronto, right? Well, as time passed, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t really welcome there. A lot of it was very subtle. A shift in social cues and dynamics that was so nuanced that I thought I wasn’t sure at first if I was just imagining it. People avoiding eye contact, shopkeepers losing their smiles as soon as I walked up, mocking stares by teenagers. I was travelling with my friend, who is Caucasian, and I noticed that even if I was in a restaurant or shop with him, the servers would only address him or, in some cases, maintain eye contact with him even when I was the one doing the talking. Even he started to notice the way people were reacting to me and commented on it. I was relieved, because it meant I wasn’t going crazy, but disappointed in the reality of it. The trip was also punctuated by three incidents in which people came up to me and sang variations of ‘Ching Chong’ or ‘Chop Suey!’. I have NEVER encountered this sort of overt racism in my home city. That said, there were a few examples of strangers who were very kind and welcoming to me. And I appreciated that very much. But it really made me realize how much I took for granted the thousands of ways in which the people in Toronto make me feel welcome everytime I walk outside the door. Little things really do add up.

    • Ricky says:

      Wow…I’m stunned by the many racist incidents I read on this comments column encountered by people of asian decent in europe. I’m of chinese decent, born in indonesia and migrated to new zealand. Europe is my next holiday destination, but after reading all these racist incidents encountered by people of chinese incidents in some european countries. I’m not that excited anymore, It’s the worst feeling when you go on a trip abroad and not welcomed.

  91. George says:

    @Mr. Lacoste…it could have been worse if you were walking around the UK with a white girlfriend. London is today where Toronto was in the 1970s and Vancouver in the 1980s. I always thought Winnipeg and St. John’s Newfoundland were the best cities in North America and outside Singapore, perhaps the best cities in the world for tolerance.

  92. Luz Blancar says:

    Sorry to hear about your experiences. I have to say that being of Anglo-Saxon descent and being female has been a lethal combination in my time living in Asia (China, Korea and Indonesia) and in Latin America (Nicaragua, Colombia, Peru and Costa Rica). The stereotype is that you must be: rich, easy, stupid and out to party and, of course, you couldn’t possibly be fluent in any other language but English. Even if you are. They just want to use you for free English lessons, economic security and free party. And the men! Wow, the chauvinism is extreme. If you don’t mind being talked to like you are a stupid idiot just because you are female and that femaleness that makes you so stupid is compounded by the fact that you are Anglo Saxon in their eyes. The ignorance about this also exists all of the U.S. wherever you find large pockets of latinos living together. And, unfortunately since I come from a poorer family, I had to live in these neighborhoods. Which wouldn’t have been bad except for the constant racial and sexual harassment. I guess you aren’t allowed to be from the lower class, be Anglo Saxon (you aren’t allowed to call yourself white in Latin America. And you aren’t allowed to call yourself American either!), and female because they just want to pin the spoiled rich bitch from a privileged ethnic group stereotype to you. And they do it with impunity.

  93. George says:

    “The stereotype is that you must be: rich, easy, stupid and out to party and, of course, you couldn’t possibly be fluent in any other language but English.”

    Strange…you left out the part that many white women in Asia are stereotyped as racist…and some white women reinforce that racist stereotype by saying things on the blog…

  94. Georgia says:

    When I was 15, I went on vacation with my friend Amy, her Mom (Singaporean) and her Dad (French-Canadian.) At one point her Dad was taking us around the city and had his arm around his kid’s shoulder, and a passerby sneered “disgusting!” as he walked by.

    I didn’t understand then what could possibly be wrong with a Dad walking around arm in arm with his daughter. 10 years later, I still don’t get it, to be perfectly honest

  95. Mary Foc says:

    Wow. That’s all I can say. Your story is very touching and incredibly candid. I caught myself wondering if I had ever inadvertently offended someone because of a thoughtless question. I’m sure I have..we all have, but it just goes to show how racism is such a complicated problem. Some people are overtly racist while others are completely ignorant to the fact that they are being offensive. Thanks for sharing this post!

  96. SN says:

    Great article, and it sums up many of my experiences too.

  97. Grace says:

    I just came across your post and couldn’t even believe how insanely similar our experiences have been. I am Taiwanese-American and have been living in London for about 5 and a half years now (HOW HAVE I SURVIVED). The amount of utter mouth garbage that has been and continues being flung at me is unbelievable. And the most infuriating thing is when you DO yell something sassy back and they have no idea what you said. Who invented what languaged now, what? Keep trucking girl, one day the masses will believe us when tell them what actually happens to us in other parts of the world. At least we can say that we’ve learned to appreciate the US (or at least California, for me) so so so much more. Keep in touch if you’d like to have a chat.

  98. Belinda says:

    I just recently found your blog/this post, and your post sums up the past 4 months I spent studying in Granada, Spain. I’m Thai-American and have lived in the US my entire life. Don’t get me wrong, I fell head-over-heels in love with Spain…but there were a lot of times I actually missed the US because of the comments I received from the Spaniards. When I wasn’t getting “hola china” or “ni hao!” I had guys come up to me and just start singing/dancing Gangnam Style (this happened….a LOT). Or, they would just try convince me that I’m NOT from the US and that I’m really Korean…or Japanese…or Chinese (once this guy asked me where I was from and I told him the US; his response? “No…but you look Asian…”).

    Also, my best friend who was studying abroad with me at the time looked Spanish (she’s actually half Cuban), so whenever we were out at restaurants or stores, people would completely ignore me and go straight to her. Because of this, she did a lot of the talking whenever we were out, which made me disappointed because I was there to practice Spanish. Obviously I did try to push myself into conversations, but it was difficult.

    I’m not going to lie. It bothered me a lot at first, especially since I’m so used to having a diverse group of friends back at home. It was also my first time abroad for an extended amount of time and my goal was to make Spain my home. But it was hard to do that with people constantly reminding me that I’m different…that I don’t belong there. In the end I just sucked it up and tried to not let it get to me. I always wondered whether or not I was overreacting or being too sensitive, but seeing your post made me feel better to know that I’m not the only one!

    Question: how do you deal with it now, a year later? Do you still say something to them or do you just let it slide?

    On a more positive note, I’m in love with your blog and everything you’re doing is just inspiration for what I want to do once I graduate college. Thanks for sharing your experiences. :)

  99. George says:

    I was recently visiting Asia. In Delhi, India, the landlords will not rent expensive homes or condos to even Indians. They will only rent to whites. As a result one company is keeping a lot of non-white folks in Singapore.

  100. whiteboy says:

    Shut up and stop feeling sorry for yourself. You should be happy that you traveled to all these places. In fact, you should be happy all the time. Who cares what people say. In the end you choose to feel happy or sad. Happiness isnt a state you arrive at, but a state of traveling. If you dont control your attitude, it will control you.

    A tiger doesnt loose sleep over the opinion of a sheep

  101. Jane says:

    Hi, I’m a normal who lives in South Korea. (Oh- and I’m not studying abroad here. I was born here- Technically I am a Korean)
    But my nationality is Canada. (My parents are Korean but I’ve lived in Canada for a half my life but I consider myself to be more Korean than Canadian- so please be generous about any grammatical errors I make:-))
    I’m so sorry to hear about all those terrible experiences you went through and it makes me feel awful to imagine those things might happen to me,- if they did I have no idea how I would respond.
    I’m planning on studying abroad in America when I graduate highschool but I have this kind of fear about racism because there has been a little when I used to live in Canada(although they were nothing like what you went through)
    So I was looking up on the internet to see if their were any stories about racism when you study in America and I happened to read your story.
    Your story made me think that maybe Asians were more awful when it came to racism. They (we) have so many prejudices about being an ‘American’. And I apologize to you on behalf of any Korean that might’ve been rude to you too:-(.
    But it still scares me to think that those things might happen to me in America when I get to study abroad and I’ve heard some bad stories too, so my imagination gets worse.
    So I’m awfully worried even before going to America… Should I keep being worried?

  102. Jenna says:

    Ugh. I’m sorry Edna. This was really hard to read, it gave me ALL the feelings. :(

    I think the biggest problem in huge cities with tourist-weary locals is that when someone a certain group acts like an ass in some kind of way, they automatically lump EVERYONE that either looks or talks like (or is perceived as such) this tourist to be that way as well. Even THEN, sometimes the behaviour itself is more a cultural difference versus the tourist being purposely malicious. This is coming from someone like me, a white blonde woman who’s sitting on top a mountain of white privilege; honestly, I don’t really experience racism directed at me. I see it done to my friends, and I hear idiotic questions/comments from other white people. The problem is that there’s so many subtle but DEEPLY ingrained racist ideas that are planted into our heads – both in America and Europe – about non-white people that no one realises is complete nonsense until they’re an adult, or take a few anthropology classes, or immerse themselves in a different culture. I still struggle to iron out some ideas spouted off by my lesser-travelled relatives, but the best I can do is make sure to check myself before I say something stupid.

    Furthermore, living in the U.K., and York especially (I THINK it’s second-biggest tourist city in England?), I’m a local until I open my mouth. I have to carry a utility bill with me everywhere JUST IN CASE someone doesn’t believe me that I live there. Granted, there’s tons of expats here, but you’ll still run into the random local who’s just sick of tourists. Keep your head up, Edna, you’re doing great things and you’ll continue to be successful. You don’t have to explain yourself to anybody.

  103. bigWOWO says:

    Hey Edna,

    Just saw your comment on my site. Thanks for being brave, courageous, honest, and for speaking your mind. We need more voices like yours.

    All the best,
    B.

  104. Haruo Chikamori says:

    Edna, just wait until you two (Mike and you) are married. It’s not so great at home in Canada (or in your case, America) either. I’ve had people cut in between myself and my Caucasian wife until I snappishly say “Excuse me…we’re together. Get behind me!” then they usually end up snarking off. “Well, how’d you expect me to know that?” Use your brains. You see my wife with two half/half kids and I’m standing beside her, what the hell do you think? I’ve also been grocery shopping and my wife steps out of a grocery aisle and someone decides to cut in between my wife and myself and I have to speak up and say “Excuse me, would you mind not cutting in front of me while I’m trying to stick together with my wife.”

    The “Where you from” part annoys me too. “I was born in Edmonton, Alberta and no you don’t need to know where my parents come from, it’s none of your ~insert expletive of your own choice~ business.” Some people need to rein in their curiosity. You wouldn’t think of asking your Caucasian friend where “he/she comes from.” Why do it to us?

    As far as I’m concerned, we’re too quiet, trying to fit in, taking some of the crap that normal people wouldn’t take. It is about time that people started speaking up.

    I would love to go to Japan and visit relatives, but I’m wondering just how well our children would be received, considering their mixed heritage.

    • George says:

      Usually the Japanese are ok with mixed race children as long as they are half white and half Japanese (Asian). Second, there is a big difference between how society perceives AW-WM interracial couples and the reverse. And this comes down to white privilege. White males from the southern US will go to Asia and try to get an Asian gf but if an Asian guy tries to do the reverse in Georgia, he will be lynched. Long time ago, in the 1950s two Japanese women disappeared in Humboldt County, CA after they came in as war brides. Until recently no one really knew what happened to them. A dying man claimed that white men and women came into their homes and took them while the husbands were away at work. Their legs and hands were tied and they were thrown alive into the Pacific Ocean…so he claimed. Nearly thirty years ago in Central Indiana, I visited a home of my colleague whose sister in law was visiting from Texas. She received a call and began to sob uncontrollably and became violently ill. Ten years later I found out the problem..her son had announced his engagement to a third generation Japanese-American woman from Hawaii. But, those atttitudes towards AW-WM couples seem to be dying down here in the US except in the rural deep south or in some in mormon communty. But not the racist attitudes towards AM-WW couples except probably in Hawaii or in the west coast. To stop arguing with whites, my Asian-American colleagues usually tell them that they are from Honolulu, Hawaii…that pretty much shuts them up. So, on the whole your experience is going to be different from Edna’s. Of course if she goes to the UK to live it may be a different story…then again the way the things are going, she may not get a visa to live in the UK even with a British husband. Know a lot of people in Singapore and Malaysia who are married to Asian women and they have been waiting for a visa for nearly three years.

  105. Charles says:

    I knew by reading your title, that you desired to be white. However, after reading your article, it’s obvious that you are a sellout to your race. You are Chinese! From your comments and your picture of your “western” man, it’s obvious that you love anything Caucasian, just as much as the people of China. You think bring with your Caucasian man makes you better than your fellow Chinese people. You are sad. Chinese are a very proud people. One of the few ancient cultures that has actually refused to become westernized. Maybe it’s good you grew up in America! Sellout Chinese is not anything new. It’s just sad that you wrote this article. You are so full of contradictions. You are the one that love everything western/Caucasian!

    • George says:

      Racist drivel.

    • Sanne says:

      LMAO @ Charles…

      I did not want to flip the switch and discuss Chinese stereotypes against other races (b/c that wasn’t the topic of discussion) but your comment just perpetuated the stereotype!!!

      Let’s not be confused, but Chinese racism against other races is extremely prevalent. I can say this because I have seen and experienced it directly. Majority of them ( not all) protect their ” own”.

      As mentioned earlier, I am genetically Filipino, but physically I can pass for Chinese, so I have the fortunate opportunity to see and analyze both sides.

      I was going into a dim sum restaurant in SF. My cousin and aging grandmother were ahead of me and entered the restaurant first. They can pass for the physical Filipino stereotype.

      The Chinese waiter made a beeline for me and told me to follow him so I can be seated. I leered at him, and replied that “We’re all together!” He was shocked., and just replied, ” oh you are?!”

      This azzwipe wanted to sit ME before my 90 year old grandmother who could barely stand.

      Disgusting. Some chinese are no different.

  106. Charles says:

    All of you that are complaining and happened to be married to a Caucasian, are some confused idiots. You are feeding the stereotype that white is better and superior. Fools!

  107. I came across this post via the bigWOWO blog. I have to say that I find your racial experiences extremely disturbing – especially in Europe. I grew up in the UK and can tell you that demeaning attitudes towards east Asians were common and casual there. Sad that not much seems to have changed in Europe since my childhood.

    I am surprised, though, that you haven’t encountered this kind of attitude in the US – my sense is that the US leads the way in the propagation and creation of demeaning stereotypes about Asians – and most of it is big, bold, and only disingenuously apologetic after complaints.

    Oh, and kudos on having the balls to live as an ex-pat!

    • George says:

      “I grew up in the UK and can tell you that demeaning attitudes towards east Asians were common and casual there. Sad that not much seems to have changed in Europe since my childhood.”

      Yes. One British guy took his Asian American gf to his family and his mother asked her whether they had TV or even electricity where she came from.

      “I am surprised, though, that you haven’t encountered this kind of attitude in the US – my sense is that the US leads the way in the propagation and creation of demeaning stereotypes about Asians – and most of it is big, bold, and only disingenuously apologetic after complaints.”

      Actually not towards AW-WM couples. But, with regards to AM-WW couples it is a different story.

      • Sanne says:

        George – it varies widely.

        If you head to the urbanized, metropolitan areas like SF or NYC, people are more accepting of differences…..but if you head more to the midwest, deep south, you’ll definitely experience more racism….

        Small towns = Small minds

  108. Arvid Shen says:

    Yeah, you’re not alone on the experiences, I’ve gotten almost the exact responses except vice versa. I’m half Chinese half German-American but spent nearly my entire childhood in China so I speak Chinese more fluently than English and my English has a slight German accent. When I moved to America people asked me where I came from assuming I was European because of my light complexion and no physical signs of being East Asian as well as my German accent. When I said I was Chinese they just looked at me funny and asked if was kidding, but no, I am Chinese through and through.

  109. SJ says:

    This is a really thoughtfully written piece. I am a 1.5 generation male Canadian of Chinese origin who grew up in a white town in Canada. I speak perfectly unaccented Canadian English.

    Race is not something anyone can brush off easily because it’s built into one’s appearance. It’s the foremost marker of identity. I try to look past it – most people are quite ignorant, but innocently so. They have (by choice or not) only limited information while growing up so of course they will judge you based on your appearance. Most are just curious. A small number are genuinely condescending, which is wrong but there’s not much we can do.

    I do sympathize with your frustrations. In Paris people constantly shouted “konichiwa” to me, on the subway a black man came up to myself and an Asian-Canadian friend and muttered “Chinois” under his breath and would not leave us alone; at that moment a Spanish girl came to our ‘rescue’ telling us not to mind him, and then started interrogating us about “how on earth could you be Canadian when you look Asian?”

    When I went on exchange in Europe, I started off telling people I was “Canadian”, but then when too many follow-up questions came, I simply told people that I was “Chinese-Canadian”, which seemed to bridge this gap in understanding. Luckily I was in Holland which was a comparatively open and liberal society (and also less racist). But I found the more south I went in Europe the more I got asked about my Asian-ness – that is, I generally have an easier time in Britain and Germany than I do in Italy and Spain. Oh the irony of my (white) Finnish friend asking *me* to ask for information from locals in Germany and Italy because I “spoke English natively” and he was too shy about his English skills.

    Surprisingly, in places such as Mexico and Cuba, people do not question my Canadian-ness. My friends attribute this to the fact that the “New World” in the Americas is full of settlers of diverse (if mostly European) origins. Peru, for example, had an ethnically Japanese President. European and many Asian states (particularly Asian countries such as Korea) are used to the idea of a ‘nation-state’ where an ethnic identity is strongly attached to a nationality, and as such experience a sort of ‘cognitive dissonance’ when they see the two mismatch.

    But your race follows you everywhere. In Ohio, a car dealer looked at me negotiating the terms of financing for my parents, and could not contain his amusement that I spoke with a Canadian accent – and had to point out the fact I was Asian. I brushed it off – no ill intentions. Even in Canada itself, I encounter people who act surprised when I tell them I’m “from” the (vastly white) Canadian prairies. Sometimes I play along and ask why they’re surprised, only to see embarrassment in the face of what is obvious their subconscious racism.

    I feel at home in Canada, and much of the United States. I can’t say I’d ever ‘fit in’ in China again due to vast cultural differences, social context, and so forth, despite the fact that I do speak the language (Mandarin) fluently.

    What I also wanted to touch upon is the vastly different stereotypes given to Asian-man, white-woman relationships. I travelled with my (white) girlfriend to China and Southeast Asia and I have never been met with condescension or felt judged negatively – quite the opposite. The reactions were from mixed to very positive – with some men walking up to us on the street saying something along the lines of “Chinese men are very short, and your girlfriend is so tall! Good on you brother” and “oh where did you find her? Can you get me one?”. People stared at my girlfriend all the time… which she did not like, but I’m not aware that *she* felt judged negatively either. Some reactions were more ambivalent – such as, “you’re Chinese, why would you marry a white girl?” In some places people would regard me as her “guide”, they would never speak to her directly. But this impression quickly dissipates when we hold hands. What’s perhaps most hilarious is that once on the Beijing subway a group of black men from Ghana asked *her* if she was “Chinese” during conversation in an attempt to avoid racism! What a group of enlightened folks.

    There is rampant sexism with interracial relationships – which is where White privilege and male privilege coincide. Men are just judged less harshly in general. I have heard from many black female friends that they feel judged when they date a white man – particularly by black men. It’s as though an “ethnic” woman is property that ‘belongs’ to that ethnic group – and it’s been this way for centuries.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing. Incredibly thought provoking!

  110. M Mah says:

    This article is very interesting to me as a Canadian woman who is genetically 97% Chinese. Sometimes I expect to get racism like this, but I never seem to get aggressive racism. I’m usually insulted for my gender or youthful looks. Part of this might be due to my infrequent travelling outside of North America.

    Usually if someone’s questioning me rudely, I just smile and am a little obtuse. I usually have fun by answering truthfully about my Canadian and Trinidadian culture. Nice people ask more questions. Tired or prejudiced people usually don’t. The ruder/disbelieving people have tended to be Chinese-Canadians who strongly identify as Chinese.

    However, I didn’t enjoy Turkey – though the shopkeepers seemed to be equally aggressive towards all tourists. I was impressed that one shopkeeper guessed Canadian after a passing “No, thanks”.

  111. George says:
  112. YellowWhore says:

    As though you chinese aren’t racist yourself. No wonder YOUR kind is hated all over the world, from Italy to Australia to Malaysia.

  113. softy says:

    hi there,

    i never usually comment on random internet articles, but i just had to for this one, because i relate so well. i love paris, i love traveling through europe, but i don’t know if i will ever go back just because i encountered SO much racism during the time i lived there. it was really difficult to get used to. at the end of the day, i resigned myself to it, but i don’t know if it’s something i’ll willingly and openly subject myself to again. it got to the point where i considered pepper spraying all the random strangers who thought it was hilarious to come up to me and say/shout “nihao!” in my face as i was walking down the street. the worst incident was when a friend and i were walking home from a movie in london, and car drove by, the people screamed “nihao!” and threw water at us. they didn’t have the courage to do it to my face and stand their ground. instead, they did it in a situation where they knew we wouldn’t be able to retaliate. cowards.

    now i know two wrongs don’t make a right, but this is why i don’t give 2 craps about caucasians complaining about racism in asia. because even if they are treated unfairly, it is nowhere near the extent to what asians have to put up with.

    it has made me appreciate america so much more. although of course racism still exists here, people would never dream of shouting racial epithets at me in los angeles while i’m minding my own business. when i vacation, i happily spend my money in hong kong and have an amazing time. i know you said you encountered racism in china, but hong kong is different. i don’t speak chinese well, if at all, and it’s never stopped anyone from being kind.

    • Sanne says:

      Just came back from Spain…and yup googling asian experience in Europe brought me here….

      I can remember five distinct experiences that happened to me. I am Filipino American but pass for East Asian constantly (Japanese/Chinese)

      1. An indian vendor yelling “Konichiwawa” at me walking down Las Ramblas. I yelled “I’m Filipino!” Which I think confused him.

      2. Two young guys muttering something offensive, while I was seated near their table. (Also at las ramblas)

      3. A young guy muttering “chinese speech” at me while I was listening to a guide. (Salamanca)

      4. An older lady muttering ‘so many japonesas here’…..lit did she know she was walking by a university with tons of foreigners. (Sal)

      5. Finally, a young guy (as a joke to his friends) stopped close to me, and ‘asked me how much (i was).’

      In all of these experiences, (except for the first), i wished I had said something, but when i think back i realized that after it was said, i was surprised that they were talking about me…..being from California, these things consistently surprise and befuddle me that I just reacted too slowly.

      But I have to say, the few experiences where the spainards did welcome me, (when I was sitting alone at a park in Salamanca, and the mayores sincerely offered to help me with my Spanish) canceled out all these negative experiences.

      I try to recall this quote when I encounter these negative experiences:

      Some people are like big children, harming others without even seeing it. Staying angry with these fools is like being mad at fire because it burns. -Bodhicharyavatara 6.39.

      There’s no point at getting angry at little kids. They are still little “kids.” And there is still alot of growing up for them to do.

      • Adán says:

        You talk like if confusing you with an Asian was done with harmful intentions.

        Should i get angry because of being regarded as American in China?

        I do think most of you are a bit over-sensitive.

  114. fred says:

    I’m Chinese american and I have to say that all of your experiences are to be expected, the fact is that you are asian, you are not the typical westerner, no matter how much you want to be, youd never be seen as one. Ive always thought of myself as chinese, who happens to also be american, and thus, I haven’t had the culture shock you’ve had.

  115. maria s says:

    I glanced at your sight because my favorite paris food blogger talked about your post… and I had to read this insight because after moving to France I’m trying to figure out how mad I am at the constant questions, “vous etes de quelle origine?” I’m from Berkeley so you can imagine how much my eyes roll around at the constant exoticization or innuendos base on race and gender. Funnily, I am not so pissed off at “you speak English well” because I’m taking it as a wierd compliment that I must be speaking well enough French to be considered a “local”… and as many times as someone has said it to me in the US, the wierdest was when I was living in the PHilippines with Filipinos (like me) asking me whether I was Korean or Indonesian because my English was “too good”. (I’m trying to figure out why I’m the only one who does not know about these stereotypes). I also figure I’m a bit older and kinder in my ways, all that edginess being singed away by years of drinking and sleeplessness. I traveled throughout Asia with a white boyfriend, apparantly the same years that I was saved from my own ethnic inferiority, and that was rough. People still say stuff (now that I married the white night), but your sadness about people’s small-mindedness will diminish, promise. Now, I like being invisible because it means that I can get access to places that others can’t, people invite me to things, women on the bus take me to the safe place to pee, waiters have my back when someone gets frisky w/ me, i walk down scary roads and know that I am not the easiest target on the block. I begin to really stare at people, too. If I walk really slowly, I am not hounded by tourist touts. Life gets better on the road.

  116. Ced says:

    Hi Edna, you have written such an interesting article and I would like to share my experience with you too. I was born in Hong Kong, but my family moved to Canada when I was relatively young. Yes, I can see your boyfriend is Caucasian and people judge both of you based on the skin color. I also have a white boyfriend and I am gay. My journey hasn’t been an easy one although it is getting slightly better.

    In the gay world, asian men is at the bottom of this list – the least desirable. White is at the top, then middle east men, blacks, and very lastly – Asian.

    “No fat, No ugly, No asians” It is not uncommon seeing such comment on any gay dating site. I used to get loads of replies saying “No, sorry I am only into white guys.” It is also not unusual seeing a young asian boy (probably in his 20s) dating a 50+ white men. gold diggers? I am not so sure and I don’t want to judge other people anyway. Gay Asian men are assumed to be more feminine, smooth bodies, and generally more passive in bed. The sad thing is the majority of oversea asian guys don’t even want to date other asians. It’s the reverse racism that frustrates me. Guess what? You might think I am a hyprocrite because my boyfriend is white. The truth is I wanted to date an Asian man when I was much younger and but all these Asian men were exclusively chasing after/worshiping white jocks. From my very own perspective, I feel that these Asian men have “white” fetish.

    Being gay is not easy simply because “It is disgusting” for certain people. Being a gay Asian man who is living in europe/america is absolutely horrendous – you suffer discrimination from both straight AND gay people! Why? like you said – “White is better” that’s the misconception that a lottttttt of ignorant asian people have in their mind.

    Whenever we go to Asia, my boyfriend always get the preferential treatments simply because he looks American. Yes, in China, even Hong Kong or Macau, as long as you have blue eyes, brown hair and white skin, you are assumed to be an American. You are assumed to be higher class and possibly filthy rich. I always tell my boyfriend that “If we are living in Hong Kong, you are either jobless or you are working as a director for a large multinational company.” I have never seen a white guy working in a Mcdonald’s in Hong Kong.

    I went to Shanghai with my boyfriend. When we were about to clear through the custom, we had to line up on the foreigner line – We both have our Canadian passports. My boyfriend showed his passport to the custom officer. Without a question, the officer put a stamp and let go of him. Despite the fact that I spoke English to the custom officer, he replied me in Mandarin. “You were born in Hong Kong?” asked in a very condescending tone. He gave me a dirty look for not being able to speak Mandarin.

    We were walking on “The bund – by the river” in shanghai at night, many beggars came after my boyfriend asking for money. He was also targeted by a lot of people trying to sell him fake Rolex.
    Right…This also reminds me about my experience when I was on a bus in Central London at night. Someone was drunk and he asked me aggressively “Chink, Do you sell DVDs??”

    OK, it is MY choice to live outside of China/Hong Kong. Fine, I am expecting someone will be racially abusive against me because I am in the minority group. However, nothing gets me MORE UPSET than people who are discriminating at their own race for whatever reasons.

    Where was I born? What language do I speak? What skin color am I? To me, these are no longer relevant questions. I have accepted the fact that no matter where I go, I will encounter racism issues. Would you dare to say none of the Americans are racist? Surely, some of them can be racist but in a more subtle way.

    I think I am an incomplete person because my English is not completely fluent – I have a Chinese accent. On the other hand, my Chinese writing skill isn’t great because I left Hong Kong when I was young. I have to use my English-Chinese dictionary when I am writing in Chinese. My moral values are mixed in between Chinese and White. When I visit any small European cities, the local custom would usually pick on me. When I am in Hong Kong, people think I am a “banana”
    Anyway, none of these matters to me anymore. “Chinese”, “Indian”, “American”, “Canadian”, “Italian” etc etc or “Gay” , “Straight”, “Bi”, “Shemale” blah blah blah. These are all labels. People love using labels and they will keep categorizing things to fit their purposes.

    For god’s sake, I am not bottle and I don’t need any bloody label sticking on me. Furthermore, I don’t need any approval from anyone for anything.

    I am just “myself”. In a sense that If I don’t like you , then I will say so.
    but then, I don’t expect everyone to love me either.

    This is not a perfect world, then again – nothing is ever going to be perfect.

    • Elton says:

      Spot on. This is a very sensitive subject. In western countries, it seems that most gay asians reject their own kind and pursuit caucasian men only, leaving self-respecting gay asians without options within their own ethnic/racial group. Considering that, I have to say that asians who like other asians (that is, their own kind) are in the worst of the worst possible position, as far as dating, love and affection are concerned, because they are rejected by all races and, especially, by their own kind. That’s really crazy, but I think it’s better to live and die alone with dignity than to accept this preposterous lack of self respect and just plain subordination.

  117. Chloe says:

    I’m a female Asian American and proud New Yorker. Whenever I go to China or Taiwan to visit, I get the exact same responses and feelings – so you are definitely not alone.

    I was once traveling with my (caucasian female) friend in Shanghai and as we were shopping, I’ve had owners give me their card and tell me to bring more “friends” to their stores. Everywhere I went, they thought I was a tour guide, a translator, when all I was doing was having a vacation. When we told them we were just friends, the common response was a patronizing, “yes, yes, we are all good friends” and a cheeky grin. After the first day out, the sense of fun was already gone and it really felt like I was working, because everyone was treating me like I was at work. They even went as far as trying to asking me to convince my white friend to buy an overpriced item and give me a cut afterwards… seriously?!

    I know that white people get “racism” in China, but being a “double agent”, I can tell you, it’s not really racism. They revere the Western culture, idolize it, because foreigners are seen as wealthy. So when a chinese person declares “foreigner!”, they’re really just pointing out that …you are foreign. The sentiment is sort of a parallel to when someone sees a celebrity in the street – there’s no bad connotation – the sight is just a novelty. And yes, chinese people will overcharge white people, but this is a misconception: they overcharge ALL foreigners, even their own people if they look like they have the money to spend. When I go out shopping in China, the moment they sense I’m a foreigner – whether they think I’m from America, Taiwan, or Singapore – the price tags go up.

    Chinese people do not discriminate based on color, they discriminate based on wealth. (Actually, pretty much the world discriminates on this variable, the Chinese are just far more blunt about it).
    Vendors and associates will ALWAYS size anyone that walks through the door, it happens in every country.

    My experience in France:
    I have an affinity for language and I can speak French without an accent; I’m not gloating, just setting a background. In my first year of college, I studied in Paris because I thought it would be a good opportunity. When I went out with my (white) friends, the French would talk to them and humour their poor French skills; 2/3s of the time, I was just completely written off . As for the rest of the 1/3, I took it upon myself to fade myself in the background because I had given up on trying to literally, speak their language. I did have one pleasant conversation with a Frenchman at the Champs Elysee, until we started talking about our origins. After I told him I was an American, he shook his head and stroked his face to indicate my yellow skin and asked again with emphasis, “Where are you from?”.

    Now whenever I get that question repeated at me, I give this final firm reply, “I’m American, if you can’t understand that answer, you’re either stupid or ignorant”.

    I get really frustrated when someone can’t accept the fact that I’m American. I grew up in this country. I love America, it’s my identity, it’s my home; my memories are here, my life is here – my heart is here. So by not accepting my answer of, “I’m American”, it is both accusing me of lying and suggesting that I’m not part of my home. It’s simply offensive and hurtful.

    I also get extremely frustrated when someone says, “well you can be American, but you’re still Asian”. This touches upon a comment made before, where Fred said he’s always identified himself as both Chinese and American so there was never a culture shock. I accept I am ethnically Taiwanese, but I identify myself as an American. I didn’t grow up in a heavily asian populated area like Chinatown where Asians INTEGRATED themselves in America – my family ASSIMILATED. At home the only thing traditional was the preservation of the language; the other asian cultural (read: stereotype) things like, having respect for elders, getting good grades, and being disciplined – well, that’s just good parenting. So yeah, I have an Asian face and I can speak the language – that doesn’t make me Taiwanese. The only things I know about Taiwan is that Taipei is the capital, my parents and grandparents are from there, people are really polite, Taipei 101 is pretty cool building, and the mangos are crazy awesome (no really, they’re mad good). Shoutout to Taiwan! It’s a nice place, but it’s not the home that shaped the person I am today. This does not mean I have renounced all things Taiwanese and declared myself independent from my ancestry – I have a deep respect for that country because it’s where my family comes from.

    Whenever I have met international citizens like myself, we always manage to talk about the multiple identities we’re labeled with, and we were always just a little confused ourselves. So now whenever the topic arises, I ask, “if there was a world war tomorrow, politics aside, which country would you want to protect the most?”. (Keyword: PROTECT. If politics were included the question would read as, “which country would you want to WIN?”)

    So no matter where I travel to, once the novelty of the new environment is gone, I’m homesick for New York. I’m not saying that NYC doesn’t have it’s own sense of racism, but at least in NYC it’s really about what you can do, how well you can do it, and who you know. People here are a lot more ruthless working up the ladder and they could care less what “color” you are as long as you’re useful (read: an asset). It’s a harsh environment, but at least brutally honest. Most racism here is mainly concentrated amongst the poorly educated.

    • Mr. S. Lim says:

      As an American born Korean who just traveled to China and Singapore for work with caucasian coworkers, I can totally relate to the whole tour guide thing. Worst part is I look very Chinese but don’t speak an ounce of it. So every local went from thinking “tour guide w/ ‘friends’” to “uneducated Chinese american”.

      Also, caucasian people definitely get preferential treatment and it’s hard not to feel a little jealous. Sure, I didn’t have people harassing me at markets, but I would gladly that for better service in hotels, airports, and restaurants.

  118. david says:

    Yeah, but then you would also get to enjoy the (at minimum) 20% markup on the price of everything that I get charged as a white living and working in Asia. Granted, I think whites get the easy end of just about everything, but when you are paid local wages and everyone assumes you are getting money from back home…it simply can be unfordable.

  119. none says:

    If you are one of those ABC (American born Chinese or Asians), then it is your fault not knowing your own ancestral Asian language. I have relatives like that, just speak American (no, you don’t speak English) , really pxssing me off, especially when they say they are Americans . Your thinking is already white , westernised, that’s why you think all the whinnings that you mentioned are racism; also, the photo does not say racism, what’s wrong with saying “foreigners goto counter 16″? You ARE a foreigner. Why is that racism?? When a white guy is speaking Chinese even with an accent, of course , they are impressed because they don’t even expect a white guy know a single Chinese word; but when someone who is Chinese (in blood), they do expect he/she to be fluent in their ancestral language. It is the same among other Asian cultures.

    Honestly , Asians don’t care about racism which is a term defined by the west and in particular , the loud mouth Americans . When Asians don’t like something , they don’t like something , period; you can call it what you want , racism or other names, Americans don’t dictate what and how others think.

    How old are you? Your thinking is white and childish!

  120. Jo says:

    Thank you for writing this post! You are most definitely not being overly sensitive. I know exactly how you feel since this happens to me all the time when I travel abroad. There was a bouncer in Argentina who let all my white friends into the club and then denied me entrance. Everywhere I go in South America and Europe, everyone and their mothers are shouting “konnichiwa!” and “ni hao!” when I pass by them on the streets. And no one seems to understand why I get offended when they ask about my ethnicity. They say they’re just being friendly and are curious to know about my origins. Except none of them would question the ethnicity of my white friends who say they’re American.

    And that look on people’s faces when I travel in Asia, and the locals realize I’m not from there. When I was living abroad in Taiwan for a few years, I learned just enough Japanese to be able to fake being Japanese when people asked why my Mandarin wasn’t perfect. Because somehow it was excusable (and even admirable) for a Japanese girl to be able to speak some Mandarin with a foreign accent, but not acceptable for an American of Chinese descent, who they viewed as a “traitor” to her “own culture” (so “my culture” is tied to my skin color and not to where I actually grew up?). It always irked me when my relatives would call me a banana (yellow on the outside, white on the inside), as if being American is synonymous with being white. I would tell them, “I’m not white on the inside. I’m American inside and out.”

    As much as the world likes to call Americans ignorant, the US is the one country in the world that I’ve experienced the least racism. At least most Americans recognize that the term “Asian American” is not an oxymoron, and do not see those two words as being mutually exclusive. For the most part, Americans treat me like any other American (although I still sometimes get singled out for my race from time to time). It’s only when I travel that I truly experience racism. Europeans like to think they’re so progressive, but they still seem pretty backwards when it comes to race.

    I’m really glad to know that someone else shares these experiences and feels just as frustrated as I do. Thanks for the great post!

  121. Liz says:

    Hi Edna,

    I definitely do not think you are being over sensitive about what has happened/is happening to you! Thank you for writing this blog, it’s such an honest and fresh account and I can really relate to it as a British born Chinese-Mauritian living and working in France. On both sides of the channel, I have to face racism on a frequent basis. The other day, I was in the bank with my parents in London during the Christmas holidays. There was a big queue and we had been waiting about 25 minutes when we finally reached the counter. Both my parents are elderly now and going to the bank was a big deal to them – we only go once a year. Suddenly, I heard a white English guy behind us, saying aloud ” Look at these Chinese, a few years ago they were shelling peas and now look at them. They are making us stand in a bloody line for them.” I literally saw red. I spun around and said icily in front of about 15 people ” We have been waiting here for a long time and we only come here once a year so I hardly think we are having an impact on the queue. I was born in this country and trained here as a primary school teacher. I also worked for schools in London. My mother worked for the NHS (our national health service) for 45 years as a nurse so I find your comments highly offensive.” The guy actually muttered an apology or at least something that sounded like “sorry”. I thanked the bank clerk and walked out as quickly as I could. Both my parents were mortified especially as they are quiet, hardworking people and they kept saying to me “Be quiet, we don’t want any trouble. Let them say what they want, just ignore them.” I have to say Edna, sometimes you HAVE to stand up for yourself and it is through calm but intelligent discussion, we will as Gandhi said “Be the change that you want to see in this world.”
    As you grow older, you can kind of assess when you feel safe enough to defend yourself or not in an unjust situation i.e. group of yobs shouting at you in the street is probably not the best time to stick up for yourself ,if you are all alone. It’s interesting that the racism I encounter in the UK is not the same as in France. I too have heard the word “sale Chinoise” whispered in my ear in broad daylight, as well as frequently having groups of young North African third generations come up to me and spurt out nonsense – usually kung fu noises – with slanted eyes or worse refuse to let me go past them and shout boo in my face to scare the monkeys out of me (which they did successfully). The North African butchers round the corner asked me if I was “asiatique” to which when I replied yes, he began a rant and rave about “les asiatiques sont des hypocrites, ils te sourient devant ton visage et puis derriere ils sont malhonnetes”, my favourite part of his monologue was ” mais je ne suis pas raciste hein, j’ai une copine Cambodgienne.” (Sorry no accents on my English keyboard.)
    I’m sorry for rambling but I felt I hat to share my story as I really empathised with your experiences, having pretty much gone through everything you have experienced, from feeling as if your partner of 7 years is your pimp in the eyes of all Asians across Asia, to the inferiority complex of being an Asian British born living in Europe or South America. I’ll never forget my 6 months in Chile as an exchange student in Santiago. Despite living there for a while and going to the same video rental store each weekend with my white English housemate, the store owner refused to talk to me even though I would talk to him. He even asked my friend if I was her maid. The worst experience,however, has derived in the form of ignorance from children… being a primary school teacher is hard work when you are trying to give an enthusiastic lesson on geometry and you have two kids slanting their eyes at you or children making open comments on your yellow skin, size of your nose, eyes shape and so forth in a negative manner.
    But in spite of all these down trodden stories, there is hope that the world is changing, albeit slowly. The mere fact that our generation have all gone to university, are travelling the world, sipping fabulous wines and devouring cheeses, is living proof that we’ve come a hell of a long way from the time of our folks. I also find taking a step back from it all helps to restore faith in humanity and to put everything into perspective. Plus life is too short, so have fun and just keep your head high, shoulders up and move forwards. Keep the positive and uplifting comments in your heart and chuck out the rest – negativity is only detrimental to the soul.
    Enjoy travelling!
    Liz
    One joy dispels a hundred cares. Confucius (I had to quote that old chestnut!)

  122. A Sailor says:

    Having travelled throughout the Med, the Black Sea, the Horn of Africa, The Arabian Gulf, and the Western Pacific with a varied group of Americans from all races I have to say early 2000s Ukraine was the worst. On a long port visit to Odessa we had a Punjab and a Hmong sailor out shopping in an outdoor market together were “shook down” for all their cash by the police there just because of their races. Luckily they didn’t get “arrested”. After getting back to the ship, our captain contacted our embassy about it. The next day the mayor was on board giving a personal apology and returning their money.

    Myself, I’m pretty lucky. Of mixed Caucasian and black heritage, I pretty much blend in with any southern Med or Hispanic people. All over the world I’ve had plenty of Filipinos start talking Tagaloc to me and they got a confused look back until I start talking. Heck, someone in Dubai thought I was a tour guide when I was with a group of sailors.

    One of the good things about pulling into a port with 300+ sailors is that it’s usually pretty well known by our host nation, so for the most part in smaller cities they treat us all like Americans first. Only when pulling into larger cities (Singapore/Dubai/Odessa/ Tokyo) is were the locals usual racial biases noticed.

  123. Israel Martorell says:

    Hi Edna and everyone,

    Today I met my best friends at a pub in Mexico, we gathered to welcome a friend that spent a year in France as an exchange student, he brought her French blonde girlfriend and told us how nice was France and that. He made a lot of friends and had a lot of cool stories to tell. Why I got this uneasy feeling? why I’m thinking I wish I was white? Because I used to live in France too, I lived there for not one but two years, and I just didn’t make as many friends as he did, and didn’t date any cute French girl, even though everyone says I’m very cool…
    The point is that I think that my friend’s caucasian appearence was the difference, while he is tall, white, green eyes… I’m more the average mexican guy. Whites really get it easier everywhere. In Mexico just 15% of people is caucasian, and yet their faces are on magazines and tv shows, clothing models, everything. If a Mexican white guy moves to Europe, they assume he’s European, thus he is treated as a local, the story is very different if you’re not caucasian. I also have avoided moving to the US because I’m afraid they will think I’m a gardner or the cleaning guy.

    So yes, sometimes I wish I was white.

  124. Ricky says:

    I’m sorry to hear the terrible experiences you went through Edna, for me it’s a different story, I’m the second generation of chinese indonesian, I grew up in indonesia but migrated to new zealand. I can understand how you feel when people compliment on how perfect your english is, since you were born in the states, and grew up speaking english and probably never feel that english is a foreign language. For me, people often think that I’m asian american, when they hear my english, and I take that as a compliment because I didn’t grow up speaking english, in spite of my chinese heritage, I don’t speak chinese, even though I speak english well, it’s still my second language. But I hate when people say that I speak english to act like a white american or caucasian, thankfully this never happens to me in new zealand but in singapore as I used to work in singapore for a few years. If you learned a foreign language, wouldn’t you want to speak that language as fluent as the native speaker of that language? I think racism not only happens to asian people who live in western countries but also to westerners living in eastern countries to some extent. Wait, perhaps racism is not a perfect word for this case, it’s more like sense of belonging crisis. I know some westeners who were born and grew up in singapore, despite growing up in singapore and speaking mandarin. Local people never see them as locals, he will always be a foreigner even though he calls singapore home.

  125. Sarina says:

    What a great read! I’m a frequent traveler myself and was so intrigued (and disgusted) by the treatment you received. The gall…

    As a “white” American (Armenian & Estonian), I have never encountered this before. I’m really glad you got this out there for people like me to see. I recently started dating a Chinese-American man who spent a few years living in China and was just shocked by some of the racist beliefs he holds that he never even considered racist until I remarked on them. The pendulum certainly swings both ways, it just breaks my heart that these stereotypes and all of this blatant racism is so rarely addressed in a daily setting. I try my very best to always induce discussion upon hearing something that bothers me, and it seems like you might do the same. Kudos for putting a fresh take on a timeless problem.

  126. I’m sorry what you went through. :( That’s horrible.

    For being in a intercultural relationship with my husband, we have been denied to be served in a restaurant. They straight up refused to seat us. We had to seat ourselves. The waitress totally ignored us and didn’t want to take our order. People around us kept looking at us as if we were disgusting. We simply left.

    In Taiwan, an American asked me where I was from. I told him that I am also an American and he didn’t believe me. xD He gave me that, “I don’t believe you,” look. I guess my accent is rather thick?

    In Shanghai, I do miss job opportunities. I’ve encountered “No Jews” attitude when it comes to jobs. An ad went as far as saying, “German is better.” While the locals do not give me a hard time, let’s just say that foreigners take advantage of “lack of human rights” when it comes to jobs. You will see job classifieds that say: female only, male only, ages between 20-27 and such. Many foreigners thought, why not go a step further and say no Jews?

    In Shanghai, I’ve been asked to teach French. I told them I am not French. I also usually get people yell after me, “Hola! Hola!” xD Well, Spanish is a part of heritage, I suppose.

  127. Diana says:

    Great blog! I think you should just brush it off. People who have negative stereotypes are people who don’t travel and if we are citizens of the WORLD we should travel and see that our country is not the only exiting ‘right’ place on earth.
    I am American and Peruvian. I get asked if I am Indian, Philippine, Turkish.
    Taiwanese… Etc they guess everything except Latino. I think it’s okay to have small talk like one of the responses I read. There are stereotypes in this world, I think it’s okay to accept them as a fact and not insult the people that do it… More often they are narrow minded, uneducated, and have not travel. The truth is that I am stereotyping them as I write this, trying to put them in a box: narrow minded, uneducated, and have not travel. Lol
    I think we can’t escape that…is part of an understanding process…to continue on to the next step.
    I have travelled a lot. I feel that in Peru people have expectations of me. My Spanish sucks, and I get a weird look from the locals. I also dress how I feel…I am flamboyant when I feel like I want to be…and people also look at me weird.
    I have also traveled to Hong Kong and I love that city! I love it so much I want to live there :-) I found it to be multicultural and the people there are so friendly. I have not experience anything negative… Maybe because I didn’t understand Chinese and didn’t know if they spoke nonsense of me. Regarding social stays there, it’s true, but I think it’s like a “Beverly hills” attitude. The name brands, the car, and all the accessories. I like feeling girly but somedays I just wore my $hkd50 Indian elephant pants to explore the city and people looked at me like some sort fashionista.
    In mainland china, people thought I was from Taiwan. I spoke English… And they just started confused…and treated me with a lot of respect. I am very tall too… When the girls were near me they asked if I played basketball. I’m like 5’6 but the people I met were short. If I wore heels forget it I would look like a giraffe, I have long legs and I am slim.
    The girls at the mall would look at me and talk in Chinese… I Didn’t understand them but I knew numbers and negotiated well. They tried to sell me so much clothing but none of them fitted, they looked at me from top to bottom guessing my size, I would put the clothing on and it wouldn’t go passed my chest. They were surprised to see I had big boobs. I am tall,slim, with a D cup btw. We all giggled and they treated me really good. I then noticed how the other girls from other stores left and came in to where I was to help and literally try to sell me dresses but they wouldn’t fit because of my boobs. They looked puzzled. Lol
    I then bought 1 dress and thank them. Then I notice that for them slim is fashion and beauty. The tops didn’t fit me all of them designed for petite girls. People get curious. Especially when they don’t see a foreigner everyday. They try to interact and I think one should give them a chance to ask questions. I also noticed that everywhere I went I saw skin lighteners and girls with umbrellas protecting themselves. I taught it was bizarre…(they might think is coo coo of me) but I just walked embracing my tan. But since I stayed there for a long time I kinda wanted to fit in and dress like them… I even bought my cute floral umbrella that I love! I think everything should be done with moderation.
    I also travelled to Uruguay, and I speak English…people expected me to speak Spanish since I am Peruvian. Lol

    Well, Edna, I just wanted to contribute my experience in your blog. Your article was very well written and incredibly interesting. Have a great day! :-)
    Sending hugs! God is good!

  128. Sen says:

    Hey Edna,
    I suppose it says a lot about how much our experiences are shared that your site was the first hit to my search ‘how to deal with racism in China’.
    As an ethnically Chinese, raised in Canada woman who now works in China teaching English, I have encountered pervasively this bewildering refusal amongst Chinese people to believe that I could be as good of an English teacher as a white foreigner. I have been told to my face that I cannot be paid the same rate as a white person who does not have my qualifications. I do not receive call backs from jobs because of my Chinese sounding name and the picture on my CV. China in this respect can be so backwards. How do you deal with it? How do you fight for your right to equal pay and opportunity?

    • George says:

      Yes they even prefer Russians, blonde Turks, white looking Lebanese and Tunisians among others over any third generation Chinese from an English speaking country. Actually I know a Russian who is paid more to teach English (with his broken accent) than a fifth generation Chinese from California whose mother tongue is English

  129. Linh says:

    Wow I never expected that you have soooooo many racist encounters! But its true that “konnichiwa” or “nihao” are an insult in Europe or at least Germany – their way “to make fun” of s/o. Its just so stupid.

    America is really the only country where I wasnt insulted for looking asian! Though I know there IS racisim against Asians in America as well, but I myself havent encountered it in the one year I’ve lived there.
    Since I dont speak my mothertongue fluently, somehow I feel, I dont belong. In Germany a foreigner
    and also in my parents country a foreigner..

  130. George says:

    “It’s not just Europe, either. In Australia, I had a drive-by shouting where a man on a bike started spouting off a rant in the middle of a crowded shopping area because he thought my (white) friend and I were a couple. He nastily spewed out insults like, “Oh so you can’t get an Aussie girl, mate?” and the always classic, “Go back to where you came from!” ”

    Absolutely believable. It happened a few days ago again….

    http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/womans-racist-rant-against-asian-woman-filmed-on-train-from-central-coast-to-sydney/story-fni0cx12-1226976118971?nk=c1ce46ad5c9fddb56f32d9d4818724d8

    “Ms Wilkins was filmed turning to a passenger of Asian heritage and referring to her as a “gook” while she took to a nearby male passenger who was unrelated to the woman.

    “Who is this little jerk off he can only get a gook, he can’t even get a regular girlfriend — it is so sad,” she said.”

    Regular meaning real…meaning the Asian woman is not a human.

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