It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining down on the city after a long period of grey skies. I was bouncing along the street listening to The Black Keys on my headphones. I’m a very inoffensive-looking broad. I’m of average height, a bit on the skinny side and one might even go so far as to say I’m pretty. I was wearing a wool coat and a light pink scarf. I can’t figure out why this guy sprayed his spit all over my face.
The guy was really big and wearing a bunch of biker leather. I was in such a state of shock that I kept walking and it took me a good 20 seconds before I even realized what had actually happened. I turned into the first side street that I saw and stopped to just think for a moment. I told myself to buck up and keep going because I was in search of a pair of discounted Converse shoes. But then I started crying and had to run home like a sissy. I dislike this city for numerous reasons, and this didn’t help much.
I have always been angry when other Americans have told me, “France? I hear they spit on people there”, or “the French are really rude,” but the longer I am here, the more the racism, sexism and chauvinism rears its ugly head. This isn’t the only situation in which a French person has lived up to his/her cultural stereotype before my eyes (I am referring to moments when French people have made blatantly racist or sexist comments in front of me).
It’s important to remember that this guy was a jackass because he is a jackass, not because he is French. I mentioned the fact that I am American because Americans have a specific stereotype concerning the French and spitting on people, which is obviously a horrible generalization to make about a large population of people. It simply came as a surprise to me to watch this cultural stereotype unfold into an assault aimed at me, just some innocent lady walking down the sunny side of the street.
I was walking home along the Falls Road (N. Ireland) and I saw a guy lying in the middle of the road shouting/slurring “I fell off t’ wagon! I fell off t’ wagon!” over and over.
At first I thought maybe he was speaking metaphorically and was in AA.
That’s when I saw the wagon and horse tied up next to the bar.
Gotta love Ireland.
Oh, also I just remembered while I was in New York, I was walking back to my friend’s apartment through the Upper East Side and this woman on her cellphone slammed the door of her taxi open into my face and knocked me flat on my ass.
Did she apologise? No. She rolled her eyes and kept talking on her phone. “No. No, I just hit a person. Oh, it’s OK, she’s not dead.”
And off she went.
It was an incredible contrast to when I was lost in Spanish Harlem (long, LONG story) and a very friendly young man with a teardrop tattoo and a large handgun offered assistance and then politely directed me to the nearest subway.
My Dad was British and my Mom was born in the lower part of Louisiana. My Mom could speak Cajun French fluently. She loved to meet others who spoke French and try to communicate with them. She had a lot of Canadian friends that loved the way my Mom spoke French.
We used to fly to the UK every summer to see my Dad’s side of the family. One summer my Dad’s business was slow so he got these super saver cheap airline tickets that had several layovers in out of the way places. On the way back to the USA from the UK we had a 12 hour layover in Paris. My Dad being a stereotypical English man from the northwest, warned my Mom about the French. My Mom had never been to France. My Mom thought my Dad was being silly until she tried to talk to a woman speaking French. When the French lady heard my Mom’s French accent she called my Mom a bunch of rude words and then her husband walked over and something to the tune of we don’t associate with trash like you. My Mom offended, turned to my Dad and told him what these people said. My Dad in his thick Manchester accent tells the guy that no one talks to his wife like this and shoves the guy to the ground. My Dad is daring the man to stand up and see what happens at this point. My Dad was usually the diplomatic type but when he went to some countries he got really nasty with people. Being nasty abroad is a stereotype of the British. My Dad got into a huge argument with the police that day. He was telling people that he’s English and doesn’t have to take this from a bunch of frogs. He was doing football chants and trying to pick fights with French guys the rest of the day. I watched my Dad turn from a cool headed father in his mid 30’s to a 16 year old meat head soccer hooligan.
I’m Chinese-American, but all the British see is Chinese. I’m always commented on how excellent my English is.
I was visiting New York and some acquaintances there were asking me if I’d be okay walking around the city alone since I was from the Midwest. They thought I’d be stupid, young, and impressionable believing everybody and getting mugged or something.
I just responded: “Muther fucker, I’m from DETROIT.”
To which they backed up a few steps in fear and responded, “Well, yeah, I guess that prepares you for anything.”
From the Philippines. Lived in Oxford for three weeks when I was 16 as part of a “study tour” type thing.
On my third night there, my roommate and I sat down to dinner, and my host mom brought out a bowlful of fried rice and two pairs of chopsticks and proudly said, “I made this for you so you wouldn’t miss your everyday food.”
Don’t get me wrong, she took care of us and we loved her, but yep, she was definitely one of those Caucasians who think that all Asians are Chinese.
A friend of mine and I met a gypsy (who just happened to be a used car dealer) in South America. Cool guy.
After a few minutes of chatting he begins talking about his frustration with Gypsy stereotypes. He says “Everyone thinks Gypsies are a bunch of liars and thieves,” and as if on cue my friend realizes his umbrella is missing from his backpack. Turns out the eight year old son of the guy we were talking to swiped it while we were talking to his father.
Angry and embarrassed, he shouted something at his son in Romani. The umbrella flew from behind one of the used cars and landed at our feet. My friend retrieved his umbrella, we said our awkward goodbyes, and held in our laughter for about half a block.
Jamaican coke dealer told me he doesn’t let his kids play GTA:SA because it promotes negative black stereotypes. Shortly before robbing me.
I’ve been spat at by men who were assuming I was American, while in Central America (I’m Canadian). Not that it makes much of a difference who I am, it still crushes your spirit for awhile that another human did that to you with no cause. Hugs from a fellow spit-survivor-sister.
I was in Guatemala. I don’t judge the country on that experience though, 95% of my time there was really excellent. To those who didn’t understand why I didn’t retaliate, I didn’t feel safe in the area I was, and was just trying to leave. Also, I knew why they were doing it because one said “Americano”, pointed at me, and then they both spat at me.
I live in India and I am a woman, so I have total empathy in terms of sexism and a lot of breaking of personal space. I’ve been leered at, groped numerous times, and most recently a guy tried to throw a brick at my friends and I (a mixed group of locals and foreigners) because we refused to be cheated on a rickshaw price. And yes, it is scary and upsetting and running home to cry is a natural reaction. Just realize that no matter where you go (France, India, America…) there will be total fucking bastards…and there will be wonderful people too. Unfortunately, the bastards can color an entire trip, especially if there’s a lot of them and their actions taint every day, but try to make the best of what you have.
12. The Bible Belt
When I moved to the American Southeast, people were very friendly, but they keep asking me where I go to church.
I was living in Seoul. I was walking home from work on a busy street, and feeling tired and distracted. A little girl, maybe 5, is running down the street. She’s headed right for me so I stop to let her go around. Instead of that, she sticks out her arms, and with locked elbows slams into my testicles.
Her mother, walking behind and otherwise uninterested, stifles a huge laugh with her hand, avoids eye contact, and keeps walking.
I’m standing there with my hands on my balls in pain and this woman just laughs and walks on. It’s definitely par for the course with a lot of Korean people to shove and elbow, but that was some cold-hearted shit.
So, I’d heard that Spaniards are a bit on the lecherous side. But it wasn’t even something I considered considering as an issue while I was on holiday in Spain (I was far more worried about theft!).
So, it’s a bright, lovely day. I had spent the morning at a museum, and was now walking through a hilly, tree filled park that featured some Gaudi architecture. I had stayed up late at the hostel, so was jonesing for a nap.
I walked off the path a bit. It was still in plain sight through the trees, but it gave me a bit of privacy, and I was able to find a nice tree to lay under. I like to carry a sarong while I travel (just as useful as a towel) so I laid that out to lay on.
So, I’m laying there on my side, dozing and enjoying the sun, when behind me I hear a noise in the woods. I turn around to look. There’s a man. We make eye contact. It’s awkward. I turn back towards the path, and go back to my nap.
A bit later, I hear footsteps slooowly coming towards me. Must be that guy, right? He was probably taking a wizz in the woods, and is walking up the hill towards the park path. No problem. The sun is toward him, so I’ll just watch for shadows. If I see his shadow, it means he’s close. Works out, right?
I know he’s close not when I see his shadow, but when I feel him starting to stick his hand down my shirt. I immediately sit up, and he backs out of punching range. As I cuss at him I get my second surprise. As one hand was going down my shirt, the other was stroking his exposed, erect penis. I cuss at him some more. I stop cussing. He says, “Suck, please?” I shout, “No!” and chase him off a bit, but then go back to my stuff because everyone in Spain is a thief.
So, I’m sitting with my stuff. He’s standing in the woods. I rummage around in my purse. He looks hopeful, as if he’s thinking, “Maybe she can’t resist, maybe she’s getting a flavored condom.” I pull out my two inch pink pocket knife. Open it up, jab it in his direction, and make the most absurdly menacing faces I can. He looks vaguely offended, and wandered away.
Deciding my nap was over, I packed up my sarong, and went off to look at the architecture.
People in Beijing actually have no idea how to drive.
I’ve traveled a lot and found that most stereotypes, while not completely accurate, exist for a reason.
In Hungary, we had dinner with a family that included both the wife and the husband’s mistress.
Also in Hungary, we were also watching the news and right in the middle of a normal boring local news broadcast, they played about 10 seconds of hardcore porn. Apparently, a local girl got famous in Anal Intruders 6 or some such and everyone was very proud.
In China, I was trying to buy an apple from a street vendor and while speaking to me she took out a coffee can, squatted over it (under her dress), and took a dump.
In Thailand, a guy tried to sell me a little girl.
I live in an international dorm and hang out with lots of Germans. Germans in their early 20s. And yet, I’ve seen them do the socks-with-sandals thing no less than four or five times (each time, they vehemently deny that they’re doing it – “But tseez socks are not vite”/”Tzeez ahr tze rong type of zandals”).
Also “Ve vill be meetink vor breakfast at zefen tzerty. Ve vill be eatink breakfast from fife after half zefen until eight. At eight oh fife, ve are beink in ze car and ve are driving.”
My non-punctuality drives them crazy. Also, all but one are blond, all are tall, and all wear glasses. They all like beer, but so do I, so that may be international. More importantly, they like bitching about American beer.
Chinese roommate – studies SO MUCH.