My friends know that I have a thing for racial humor. I mean, I am married to a person of a different race than mine, so that sort of gives me a free pass to make racially and culturally inappropriate jokes, right?! Allow me…
As we travel, not only do I come across more cliches and cultural stereotypes that make it easier to laugh about people. I also know that, traveling as a multicultural couple, we have inspired some racially inclined observations and behaviors in those that interact with us too.
Here is a small compilation of the most racist things we’ve heard while traveling. Very few are offensive, to be honest. Mostly, they are just silly, ignorant and plain funny comments that show how, sometimes, we see each other in a way that feeds on prejudice and preconceived ideas. Funny enough, most people don’t even realize when their comments are racist!
Racist Comments About Indians
Ashray stands up to wash some dishes in a communal kitchen at a hostel in Chile. Canadian lady says:
At least here you don’t have to pump the water!
Even though she had traveled A LOT around India, she was still under the impression that everyone needs to collect water like this:
Riding on the back of a truck in Peru, we met a French girl who said that she wanted to travel to India so bad, but wasn’t sure if she could, because it won’t be easy. I asked her “Why? Because of seeing people living in poverty?” Instead, she answered:
Because people in India live in shit!
Yes, we are not going to deny that India has poverty and a lot of contrasts. But not everyone lives “in shit”!
Talking with a friend about a property in the South of France that his Dad wants to renovate:
You’re Indian… so, you can come and help with the construction!
Quoi?! OK.. this is a friend, so we won’t take offense. Apparently, after we talked so much about Indians working as labourers in Dubai, he thought this was a funny remark.
Life for Indians in Dubai isn’t always easy indeed. When Ashray wanted to open a bank account in the Emirates and the white Western lady asked him how much money was going to come in each month, he said AED 15,000. She couldn’t believe it…
Bank Lady: Fifteen thousand? Oh… you mean fifteen hundred?!
Ashray: No, I mean fifteen thousand…
Bank Lady: Hundred, right?!
Salary discrepancies in Dubai are insane, and you can learn more about that here. But there are still some smart minds (unfortunately too many, both in real life in Dubai and online) who waste their time to defend that:
Western people deserve to get paid more because they have different lifestyle needs!
Of course… rent and food prices are different for all. While my white shiny body wants to pee Moet Chandon and poo caviar every morning… let those poor Asians dump rice in their AC-less homes. Who gives a damn?!
Once, we were innocently hanging out at a karaoke bar in Dubai, when a friend mentioned:
White friend: I need to hit the beach and tan a bit…
Ashray: Yeah, you’re pretty white!
White friend: Well… you are shit brown!
Yes, she said SHIT BROWN! :O Some people say “cafe con leche”, “olive tone”, even “milk chocolate”. But shit?! Shit!.. that IS too much!
These shit brown people aren’t very good at business either, if you ask an INDIAN friend of ours:
Europeans are much better entrepreneurs than Indians!
Seriously? Of course we’re all entitled to have our own opinion. But what was bothersome about this comment is that it was made by an Indian entrepreneur, at a meet-up among Indian entrepreneurs. He simply thought Indians don’t have what it takes. Well, I wholeheartedly disagree!
Crazy woman at a beach bar in Goa:
You are from New Delhi?! Oh… you are a RAPIST!
This was just after the in(famous) gang rape case that happened in New Delhi. It was so mediatic that it got the whole world thinking everyone in Delhi (if not India) was a rapist. But someone within India itself, did surprise us. To paint the whole picture, this lady did seem a bit coo-coo, as she approached us asking for “money to feed the cats”. She didn’t get any sympathy from us (let’s face it, she wasn’t selling it very well either…) so she left pointing at me, the white person, saying “Be careful! They (Ashray + 1 Indian friend) are with you just to take your money!”.
Racist Comments About Asians
An Indian guy living in the Middle-East (where a lot of Filipinos live and work in hospitality) – as we mentioned that a hotel we stayed in New Delhi, India, had extremely good service, he replies:
Of course the hotel staff is good here! That’s because they are not Filipinos!
It’s funny that, even though we have never been to the Philippines, I’ve read nothing but good things about hospitality there. And, even though it is true that we’ve had a couple of bitter racist inclined encounters with Filipino waiters in Dubai (in the UAE, at times, there seems to be some sort of tension between Indian and Filipinos), for the most part service was good. It is very true indeed that hospitality in India takes things to another level (As the Indian saying goes “Guest is God”), but there’s really no need to hate on Filipinos.
And talking about the Filipino – Indian tension in Dubai… Once, Ashray hit a public basketball court in Dubai and some Filipinos were playing. While waiting to join in, a Filipino guy said:
Why don’t you go and play with your own people?
Apparently, Indians play on that other basketball court, 5Km away. And teams are oh-so-pure, that mixing nationalities could spoil the game!
Tour guide of a wild-life safari in Kenya, talking to us about travelers from all sides of the world:
I have problems with Chinese people. Sometimes it’s difficult to show them the animals, because they cannot see the birds!
Do people really think that, in general, Asians see less than non-Asians? Apparently, many people have wondered:
And talking about Asians… a Taiwanese girl in Taipei told us that:
Koreans are fucking ugly!! They look like this:
I swear she made this exact gesture! :O But the most hilarious thing is that she was ethnically Chinese so, as you can imagine, with slanted eyes too. I tell you: his moment was one of the most memorable of our travels in Taiwan. Not that there weren’t many, Taiwan rocks as a place to travel around, but seeing an Asian hating on another Asian for one of the reasons that other races normally pick on them for, was just hilarious. It was just as if an Indian said “I don’t like those Nepalis, they eat too much curry!” or if people from Nigeria said “we don’t like people from Senegal, they are too dark!”.
The same Taiwanese girl came up with another gem that night:
I don’t date Asian guys, they have small dicks!
Because, of course, that’s what love is: the size of a penis! This girl was Asian but, oh boy, you could tell she had bought into the whole white supremacy thing like it was candy. She had an European (white) boyfriend. So, I thought: if the size of the dick is that important to you, go find yourself a black man! ‘Cause you know what they say: once you go black, you can’t go back!
And talking about penises…
Street vendor in Jamaica, hitting on me even after I told him I had a boyfriend:
But why would you want a little stick when you can have a big bamboo?!
Read with real “ya man” type of Jamaican accent for full effect! ;)
Indian lady about food in Thailand:
Chinese people put egg in everything!
There is a tendency for people to refer to other nationalities according to the most well-known country on the side of the world they are talking about. In Chile, for example, brown people (Indian, Middle-Eastern, etc) are known as “Turcos” and Asians with epicanthic fold (yes, that is the correct way of saying “chinky”) are “Chinos”. I don’t claim that we all have to know the whole map, but generalizing often results in silly statements.
Racist Comments About Latin Americans
White Spanish woman, conversing about our travels in Latin America:
People over there tend to be poor because they are quite lazy. Well, you know… the more indigenous they are, the more lazy they tend to be!
Seriously? Let’s rewind a few centuries here, shall we? The Spanish (and Portuguese) arrived to The Americas (arrived, not discovered). They killed people, abused the land and, for the most part, erased the local culture and traditions. Now, because most countries might not be as economically developed as Spain, they are “accused” of being lazy.
We have spent more than 2 years in different countries in Latin America and laziness is not something you come across easily. In general, like in most parts of the world, people work hard to raise their families. Sometimes, in pretty creative ways even. So, just because they like to party and enjoy life, even when their pockets are not full (and, yes, we are generalizing here), that doesn’t mean they are lazy. It just means that they might have different priorities and life-styles. Because, who’s to stay what’s the “correct” way of living?!
Owner of guesthouse in Quito, Ecuador, while watching the evening news on TV – journalist announces that a crime has been committed somewhere in Ecuador and he promptly says to us:
Of course! It had to be the Mexicans!
He was totally ignoring the fact that the journalist was saying that whoever was involved was local. Fast-forward a few minutes, reporting about another drug related story that involved locals, the same man says:
The people from Guayaquil [the other major city in Ecuador] are always doing this kind of thing, it’s so bad!
The second report clearly stated that it was someone from Quito. Sometimes, we refuse to see the bad things that happen right before us, because we care too much to believe that those who are like us could do just things. It would be one thing to close our eyes to such realities.. but it’s another level to go and accuse someone else!
Racist Comments About Black People
We had a German friend in Dubai who had an Ethiopian girlfriend. When they broke up he said:
Man, she was so hot! But I couldn’t take the smell!…
In Portuguese (and I am certainly not proud to mention this here), we even have a word to describe the smell of black people. It is “catinga”… and more than one argument has happened between us and friends, defending that this is NOT a thing. Sometimes people do smell. But that happens whether we’re black, white, brown or anything else. If you’re interested in body odors, cultural perceptions and rather funny remarks, this blog post is for you!
Apparently, black people’s problem isn’t just the smell. In India, just like a friend confidently stated:
Black people are drug dealers!
And this is not what a single person thinks. We had a friend who was advised by her landlord not to bring one of her black friends to the building at night. Other friends might have been OK… but the black friend could potentially scare the neighbors. Unfortunately, there is a lot of racism towards black people in India.
Once of the most disgusting comments I have heard about black people, though, has happened at my work place in Dubai. During the pre-production for a TV campaign, my South-African colleague and I were selecting photos of models we’d later call in for casting. We came across the image of a pretty lady that was readily dismissed:
This one NO! She looks like a maid!
It took me some asking around to understand what that even meant. The model was a mix of black and white, so, mulato. Apparently, to my South African colleague, that was a reminder of maids. Why? Because during the Apartheid in her country, masters used to be white and, maids used to be black. Sometimes, due to rape, the maid would have babies. Of course, these babies would most probably be brown. And, because once you were a certain shade of dark you were automatically not good enough, you’d also end up as a maid. Therefore, mulatos look like maids. Impressed by this logic? I suggest you travel to Dubai and indulge in a lot more!!
Racist Comments About Europeans
Chit-chatting with a taxi driver of Turkish descent in Berlin, Germany:
Ashray: It seems like most people around here speak good English. We just came from Czech Republic and, there, not so much…
Taxi-driver: Arghh! That’s ’cause they’re East Block. That’s bad!!
To the same Taxi driver who kept on telling me “We, here in Germany, are the engine of Europe”, I say: CHILL! We’re all different, and we all count. It’s about time you stop thinking of East vs West. The wall came down more than 25 years ago.. so it’s time mentalities kept up with that.
And, because my jokes had to eventually come and bite me on the behind, I have also come across funny comments about Portuguese people. According to a UK written travel guide for the South of Portugal:
Portuguese people might be darker than expected!
Expected by whom? Ignorant travelers?! I’m sorry we might not be as pasty and pink as expected!