HomeHigher EducationStudy AbroadIs Europe Racist…hmmmm?

Is Europe Racist…hmmmm?

I’m a black woman, so that’s two major identifiers that I have to research when I travel, I Google questions like ‘Is it safe for women to travel in {insert country name}’ or search TikTok for hashtags such as  ‘Black in {insert country name}’.  It’s necessary housekeeping that I’ve learnt to do because every once in a while, I scroll on social media and see black female travel influencers, their videos with captions like ‘Countries I Felt the Safest In as a Black Solo Traveler’ or ‘Places I Felt the Most Unsafe Traveling Alone’. There would be a number of European countries with experiences of racism or acceptance being shared, and being agreed or disagreed on, so it did kind of put me on the edge going to new European countries. I specifically remember an influencer or two, in viral videos, sharing their experience of racism in Spain, how they would get stares or people would often not sit beside them on public transport, so trust me when I said my expectations were low, and my guard was up. 

I’ve been in Spain for close to two months, and I have to say that it’s been good for me. No one’s been disrespectful to me, the people smile and help me when I’m in need even with my poor Spanish, they attend to me like they do everybody else, sometimes I say even nicer, and people sit beside me most of the time. Generally, I haven’t been discriminated against, so I’m guessing what I saw on the internet about racism in Europe was a sham? Absolutely not. 

When I went to Spain, I didn’t expect to be looked at funny or experience micro-aggressions, because it’s a Western tourist country with a heterogeneous population. I knew that there were going to be people from different places, different walks of life, the locals are diverse because Spain is a melting pot of various cultures, and I have not been disappointed so far seeing as it’s quite similar to what I imagined. I don’t stick out like a sore thumb, and very few people would because diversity like I said, but that doesn’t mean I cannot be subject to discrimination randomly or someday. The intel I got online was from other individuals, people who are not me, and though we may share some characteristics, it’s not very often that two people’s experiences would be exactly the same. We don’t all look similar, we may or may not speak the same language, etc., so we should expect that our experiences will be varied.

One thing I’ve learnt is to take each day as it comes, good or bad, and just try to work with what you have in positive ways. I personally have some tips for how I’ve managed to navigate some cultural differences and shocks I’ve encountered while abroad:

  • Learn polite words like ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ in the local language, and use them generously
  • Don’t be greedy with smiles and niceties, especially if the person you’re interacting with seems like a nice human
  • If you see a behavior that seems common among the locals that you don’t understand, try Googling/researching it or observing the locals and maybe imitating if it’s good behavior.
  • If you’re going to be going to a social setting like a club, research it ahead and read reviews, and if there’s an overwhelming amount of reviews claiming they experienced discrimination, use your discretion when deciding to visit it
  • If people are giving off a dismissive or rude vibe for no apparent reason, don’t stay around them
  • Respect the culture of the locals, don’t be ignorant or dismissive of the people’s ways of doing things, cause after all you are in their territory 

Rizwan Ahmed
Rizwan Ahmed
AuditStudent.com, founded by Rizwan Ahmed, is an educational platform dedicated to empowering students and professionals in the all fields of life. Discover comprehensive resources and expert guidance to excel in the dynamic education industry.


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