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!
One of the more amusing stereotypes in India is that of a “foreigner”. You must be white and blond with blue eyes to be one. And the same yardstick is used by officials to take entry fees for national monuments. If one is middle-eastern or Latino, they are assumed to be Indians and are charged the “Indian rates”!
It’s funny how I can get by in Delhi. If I wear jeans and t-shirt, people will usually talk to me in English. If I wear a salwar kameez, being the exact same person, some people will approach me in Hindi. I bet it wouldn’t be the same if I was blonde with blue eyes! :P
I am Indian and after slumdog millionaire I was asked multiple times that is India really like what is shown in the movie..
I was in South Africa for a year and when I mentioned this to an American he said that is it true that lions roam in the streets..
I think more that being racist these people are stupid with minimal to zero general knowledge and living in a fantasy world where they think that western countries are bereft of all problems
Ohhh.. Slumdog Millionaire really shaped the way the world thinks about India!
You are right: more than racist, some people are just ignorant!..
This is hilarious. As a Chilean I’ve always got at least the innocent comment “aah you’re Latina? But your English/French is so good!!! Wow!” …or “You don’t look like a Chilean/South American” I can only laugh and ask: Have you’ve been there before? :P
People have NO idea about Chile!
Seriously.. you’ve gotta travel more and school them all! ;)
jajaja esta muy bueno el articulo, pusiste lo que te comente de los “turcos” y los “chinos”, te falto agregar que son personas mayores no toooodos. Un abrazo desde Chile chicos.
Hola Oscar.. que sorpresa!
No, ya se que no son todos en Chile que dicen o piensan lo de los Turcos y Chinos.. pero sigue teniendo bastante gracia!! ;)
Hahaha this post is so hilarious guys! Big bamboo is really good and the silly comments about indiana, I met indians that live in mansons with a bunch of maids lol yep catinga is not cool, some people who want to be nasty with black people will say they smell like catinga :p
Ohh I can’t remember any racist comment directly to me, I’m the typical white skin gal with dark brown hair and eyes, guess this is too normal in the world eyes
The world is a funny, funny place! ;)
Happy travels, Marta!
Really, really bad taste in lifting a photo off the Internet of a young Indian couples on their wedding day – the bride was murdered in her honeymoon for crying out loudloud !http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/shrien-dewani-acquitted-the-timeline-of-the-case-9910668.html
I had no idea about what happened to that Indian couple.. this is a pretty popular meme out there, I didn’t create it! In any case, I have replaced the image.
Oh man where do I begin?
I get racism directed as me because I’m Muslim in Australia (“You’re all terrorists”), because I’m white-skinned in Pakistan (getting treated differently, overcharged, and generally thought of as a person with low morals).
I also hear racism in Pakistan, mostly against India, and in India, against Pakistan. I’m really at my wits end with it all, actually. Then there are all the small things, like when my Indian friend on Australia meets someone who needs to remark “Oh! I made curry last week!!” Best intentions for sure, but I wonder if they would mention to an Australian if they had eaten fish and chips, or a meat pie last week?
The world (well, the Western world, at least) is in a pretty anti-Muslim state of mind these days. The media wants to sell us that all Muslims are the same and, yes, that “they’re all terrorists”. It’s pretty sick! I hope people open their eyes to realize that not everything is black or white.
You have a great responsibility (that perhaps comes with moments of great annoyance too) to make those people understand that there are Muslims everywhere, with all sorts of lifestyles.. When people know someone in person (muslim, black, white, whatever..) it’s harder for them to hate on their “type”. The more we mix, the better things are bound to be! :)
As a Muslim woman in hijab travelling around the world, I’ve got everything from ‘wow you speak English!’ to ‘how come you are here and not being oppressed at home?’ (From a Texan guy on a river boat in China), to evil looks to terrified looks to men moving their women behind them and away from me in elevators and always always being singled out for explosives testing at airports. In Australia they give you a card to read your rights and explaining the check and I recently told the officer thanks but no thanks, I know exactly what it says cause I’ve read it too many times. Yes I’m travelling alone, yes I’m going for an amazing trip to explore a new country, yes I speak English very well… It’s not special.
Hi Tinuviel! It’s great to read that women like you are going around the world and breaking the stereotype that many people have about Muslim women (specially those wearing hijab). Keep it up! :)
My favorite conversation all over latin america:
Other Person: De Donde Eres? (Where are you from?)
Me: De La India.
O: Aaah. De La India? Que Bueno! Tienese Novio? (You have a boyfriend?)
M: No.Yes.Maybe (Depending on the situation)
O: De La India ! No comes vaca no? Estas Vegetariana? (You dont eat cow no?)
M: No not necessarily. Depende.
O: Porque? (Why? Why do you eat cow)
M: Porque..bla bla (Explaining Indian eating habits)
O: Y que casta eres de tu? (Which caste are you?)
M: Umm.. No me importa, no se (I dont know and I dont care)
O: Ah pero en India castas estan muy importante no? (Casts are so important in India no?)
Adorable chats. And I am sure its just guileless ignorance and fascination – not in any way meant to be racist. That’s why I dint mind this same conversation over and over. And responding to some of the comments above; ignorance in these respects cannot be grudged – not everyone gets a chance to travel and witness other cultures first hand. It’s nothing to be mad at.
I bet my backpack, majority people in India know terribly little about the other Indian cultures outside their language group/ caste / societal group. Can’t be mad at a Peruvian or a Japanese not knowing that Indians can eat meat.
Am Indian btw, if you havent figured it out yet.
Well, if people ask about the place where you come from, at least they are showing an interest. It might reveal a little ignorance (or even prejudice), true, but one shall take it as a good opportunity to teach them about where one comes from! Happy travels for you, Shweta! ;)
We found racism (and sexism and homophobia) to be alive and well whilst travelling in Australia. People in their twenties came out with terrible remarks in everyday conversation. The kind of comments you might hear an old person say and excuse it due to their age or generation. It was terrible! In the UK you would never get away with the same sort of stuff.
Racism + sexism + homophobia… WOW, what a deadly combo!! :S
Great post, while traveling we have see so many i cant even type them!
Thanks for reading, David!
I think you’re not really sure about what “racist” means. I find it interesting that you attribute a “white” person’s comment to “buying into white supremacy” but nothing similar to other people AND you felt the need to add “white” to the spanish woman and the the UA woman… why? sounds like someone else is a bit “prejudiced” which is what most of these comments are… not racist.
Hi… Hi There!
We all have prejudices up to a certain degree, that’s a fact! And I am probably no exception.
You are right: many of the stories above are not exactly racist. That’s why in the intro of the post I explained that it’s mostly about silly comments, loaded with prejudice, above anything else.
Enjoyed the read and the MEMES, though I would say that around 1/2 or more shouldn’t be considered racist remarks, but rather stereotypes.
I am a Caucasian American and I lived in mainland China five years. The remark by the Taiwanese girl about Koreans? In China, the “educated” Chinese from central and North China refer to the Southern Chinese (Cantonese and the like) as “little brown monkeys”! No kidding. Shocked me a bit, as I considered the Chinese to be a unified people with a group mentality. And they are, to a point.
Because of the Japanese invasion of China in the late 30s-early 40s, the general idealism toward them by the Chinese is hatred, and it’s understandable. Yet when I was there, many of the young 20-somethings were crazy over Japanese and Korean pop music. If you mentioned anything about Japanese however–”We hate them!”
Great post guys! always enjoy reading your blog and a lot of help.
During my travels I have a lot of experiences, most probably I didn’t even realize I guess. Most standout are: Was joining another group to go on safari in Tanzania, a group of Russians. They all took me for cook, and didn’t want me to sit with them in the back. After the clarification from driver, they let me in and we had a good time. I was mostly laughing my ass off than being offended.
In a recent trip to Morocco, most people including locals took em for local and talk to me in Arabic, which I don’t know a bit. Every time I had to explain, I am from India. In the desert trip though, the group I am with after I had told them I am from India, asked how long have been doing the guiding thing. Absolutely hilarious…. I should have just started charging for the trip :)
I think we all make presumptions based on our appearances, just the world we live in. I mostly felt love for India/Indians around so far.
Happy travels everyone.
Hahaha… Raj, it sounds like you could start cashing in for being Indian!
There seems to be lots of work opportunities everywhere you travel to! :P
Great post, thank you!
I think travel helps diminish our cultural misconceptions, and enriches how we see others. Unfortunately the locals where we visit are not necessarily predisposed and open-minded in this way.
Tinuviel, when I see women in similar circumstances to yours, I make a point to chat them up, or at a minimum offer a friendly smile. Love is a universal language.
Come visit Alaska anytime!
Wow, you really could not cope with this and had to make a whole article about it! Just get over it, don’t take it THAT seriously. It is universal!
Hmmm.. I think you missed the sense of humor in this post!
Thank you for this blogpost…some of the lines can actually be taken with humor but others I find pretty disturbing, especially if you think that people who have these kinds of thoughts are still allowed to vote…I am a European (blonde, blue-eyed) and married to an Indian guy and we´ve also had our experiences while traveling…can´t even count the times people mistook him for my driver, sometimes insisting on it even after he had told them that he owned the car we were traveling in…and on the other hand all my “friends” from Europe who warn me that the person I love and know better than anyone else is actually a disguised rapist/just wants my money/just wants the opportunity to come to Europe/…it´s so funny to see the look on their faces when I explain them that he has no intention moving to Europe as he prefers his home country. Anyway expecially travelers from ohter countries should work to decrease prejudices, e.g. by behaving not like the stereotypes about them say and by talking to locals and people at their homes!
Wow… I’m Peruvian and I’m constantly called Brazilian when I travel to U.S. to do my photoshoots. Just because I am a sex worker that does NOT mean I cannot be respected. i like exposing my body and having sex with strangers but that doesn’t meaan I’m not a normal human being.
I have got the hot latina stereotype a lot. I am from Chile, and apparently just for being southamerican I am supposed to not be able to say no to any sexual approach. Also, as my skin is quite pale and my english sounds quite ok (I have a very good sense with sounds, so actually I love to make different accents, and imitate people in a very accurate way), so a lot of people assume I am european or from the states, and I get a funny look when I say that I am latina
A lot of people think white people don’t get much hate, but we are also victims of racism. I live in a part of the world where white people are almost non existent. When I was 5 years old I went to a martial arts place (without my parents) and the people there were going to kill me for being white, made racial slurs towards me, told me that they don’t allow white people or the indigenous people of this land (who were Asian) to study this art. In the end no one tried to save me and I luckily got out of there with my life.
I’ve found out that most people are good and we all want each other to have good lives, but there are bad apples who always try to spoil the rest.
I am a blonde haired, blue eyed Australian male and have backpacked my way around the world. What galls me is that people equate the word “racism” with comments by Caucasians against other ethic groups. I have been spat on in China, pelted with stones in Islamic countries, had human faeces thrown at me in India and was punched in the face in Brazil – all accompanied by anti white comments. Yes, Australians are racist because we are tired of welcoming other nationalities to our country who refuse to assimilate and obey our laws. Immigrant based crime has rocketed our crime statistics. So before people criticise us, look at it from our perspective! We only want you to join in to our way of life. Please, at least TRY! You will be welcomed if you can.
Zara those findings are so precious I certainly liked them because I hear/see them actually and heck they are terrible, wait till I tell you about some interactions between some people I met:
she told me: “we get racist comments because we don’t belong to this ethnicity”! imagine that? I tried asking her why since most native citizens are a mix cultures, she told me that “this is nothing here you get discriminated for simply coming from a certain family” I couldn’t believe how cruel this was I have never felt bad like this.
However, those little things make humans humans.