Minority Travelers' Forum: 2011
Have any guidebooks been particularly helpful? Are there any places in Europe you'd discourage other minorities from visiting? How do you deal with stares or "special" treatment in areas that rarely see a minority or mixed-race couple? Please share your minority-related European travel tips and anecdotes here.
- Please don't post questions here. Use our Travelers Helpline.
Barcelona Trip in the next year
I am a black female in my late 40s and would like to travel to Barcelona in the next year with my two children. However, after reading some of the reviews I am concerned...about the racism.
Stafford, Tx USA Fri 12/23/2011
Black Female Solo Traveler
Hi, read your posting on Greece, am waiting for your return to hear about your return visit this time. As I will be visiting Greece also next month, North Cyprus area very soon. I await your updated response.
Black Female on a Journey
USA Wed 11/16/2011
Just returned from a trip to England. My husband, who is German and English, and I (Asian Indian) are not that much of a rarity to the British. However, this time we went North to Beverly, New Castle, and Leeds. I found that the Brits in the North are a far more down to earth and pleasant people than the average Londoner. It turns out that this is the only really English part of Britain anymore. In Knightsbridge (near Harrods) we only heard one English conversation - OURS!! We got some odd looks in the North, not necessarily racist (I'm five feet and my husband is six feet). We went in October (totally off peak) and I think a few people were just really confused and surprised that we didn't like many of the complaining and pampered American tourists they see in the summer. We don't complain, we tip well (according to American rules - 20%) and we firmly believe that the local people have the right to a bad day as much as we have at home.
I noticed a lot of the other posts hit the nail on the head, other Asians (Indian, Chinese, Japanese) and Arabs have the biggest problems with us. Something we experience even in the U.S.. Coming from a closed culture myself, I can tell you it's not because I'm a traitor. It's because most of the time the white or Europeans I met were more pleasant, less judgmental, and kinder than any Indian I have ever been introduced to. Nothing has changed now that I am married and travel with my husband. I would say to anyone on this site two things: 1) use your head and trust your instinct. If you think something or someone is dangerous avoid it. 2) Most businesses are in it for the money and that comes in a variety colors just the like the people who carry it. If a place doesn't have the good sense to realize you have money to spend, their loss, leave. Business isn't going to be booming for too long if only five people can actually go inside.... (ps. love the site:-)
Phoenix, AZ USA Sun 10/16/2011
Black Female Solo Traveler
I've been to Europe more times in 10 years then I can even remember. Let alone the rest of the world. I am VERY aware of how people are reacting to me because as a woman that often travels alone if I'm not, my safety is at stake. Here's my take on various places.
Bio: 36 year old African-American woman that travels for pleasure whenever she so chooses. Mid-height, Dark Brown, Well Dressed. I'm a mid-range traveler, I look for deals, I don't do hostels or roach motels, but I see no need to pay $500 a night either.
Switzerland: Interesting people. Not overly friendly, but not rude. My sister and I went together two years ago and stayed mainly in Lucerne. We were simply treated like people, though we were keen on staying away from drunk white men in the evening. This is something I'd do anywhere. We did see a sign on a store that said "No skinheads allowed". We visited Basel as well. No issues. In fact we ran into an African festival there.
I was told by a bi-racial guy from there that they are very racist though. There was one unfriendly ticket taker. I looked her up and down and put her in her place. Other than that. Nothing that I can recall
Italy: I've been there alone and with my husband. Nothing negative that I can remember. They'll rip you off in a heartbeat but they'll do that to anyone. Men were friendly not rude, women were women.
Ireland: The warmest people I think I've encountered anywhere. Period. End. Stop. I went alone, drove through the country side alone, stayed in a castle alone, made my way to Dublin alone, and I didn't encounter any trouble, just friendly faces.
Scotland: Not very friendly people, but that's just their way. I went once with another Black woman, and another time with a Puerto Rican friend. When the latter and I were together we weren't served in a bar once, and we both felt that was due to racism. Solemn people in general, not very friendly to most.
France: Didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. I wasn't followed or stared at as there are tons of Black people there, so I didn't stand out in any form or fashion.
England: I encountered a few shop people with attitudes, but all in all, nothing notable.
Greece: I had two kids on a moped yell out the N word while I was in Rhodes, I wasn't sure that I heard it right, but my mother was a little ways behind me and she heard it as well. As it was day time and they didn't stop I didn't react. Other than that, I found most Greeks to be friendly and rather culturally aware. Watch out for Greek men. All that you hear about Italian men applies here. Very, VERY friendly at times. Also handsome, so if you're looking...
That's all that I can think of for now. Again these experiences are over various trips. Most places I've been a few times, or spent time in various areas of the country.
Back to Italy & Greece next month and adding Turkey and Egypt to my roster, I'll post more upon my return!
New York, NY USA Mon 10/10/2011
Before travelling to London the general view of those who had the experience was that Londoners are cold in personality. I therefore expected that to be part of my experience. My experience was completely opposite to what I had heard. We travelled from the airport on the tube to Central London and people on the tube nodded and smile. Then as I moved my suitcase I was asked by strangers if I would like assistance taking my suitcase up the staircase. I politely accepted and also received assistance for my friends. The experience got me wondering if strangers return what the traveller gives off. I am a black woman who naturally smiles.
Port of Spain, Trinid Trinidad and Tobago Sun 09/18/2011
The "Infamous" RSteves Comment on Blacks and Travel Affordability
Hi "Michelle Karman from Winston Salem, NC, NC USA"
Just want to comment on your post of 01/31/2011 about the comment that Rick Steves made on air about "African Americans and not being able to afford to travel." To his defense, he did apologize and clarify what he meant. Rick's a great guy. He (or his representative) responded to my concerns about this comment (and a comment made by an AfrAmerican poster) with concern and sincerity. Don't continue to hold this one comment against him, he has endeavored to be fair and decent, as far as I can tell his reputation is intact with me!
Washington, DC, USA Tue 08/30/2011
I don't use umbrella's to keep my skin "light". I had skin cancer on my face and burn very easily. I think it's awfully judgmental and "racist" to assume otherwise.
Columbus, OH USA Tue 08/16/2011
No Real Problems
I'm of Asian decent (grew up in Canada) and I travelled across Europe this summer. I only went to big cities, such as London, Paris, Munich, etc. and I have encountered no problems with blatant racism. People there are more than used to seeing Asian tourists flocking around. Since tourists from Asia are known to be big spenders, Asians will be treated well in shops, especially for designer items.
The only place where I received questionable treatment was Italy. We lived in a fairly residential neighbourhood in Rome and we received a lot of stares. Only one woman outright insulted me, but the majority were helpful. Since we were all young females, most of the men treated us well in Italy, but to avoid unwanted attention, just don't look anyone in the eyes or smile at them like one would do in Canada. It seems to be an invitation in their culture or something.
On another note, customer service in Munich was extremely bad, workers were outright rude and unhelpful, but according to a white Canadian we met at our hostel, she experienced the same so it's not because of racism. As long as you don't expect to be treated with the same level of politeness as you would in Canada, you should be fine.
CANADA Tue 08/02/2011
I have traveled to Europe for many years without incident, and I'm a middle-aged Black American woman. Folks, not every slight is racially motivated, and the knee-jerk reaction to label such actions as racist is an unjustifiable leap. Just go, and don't be afraid to mingle with the locals or those in your tour group--just enjoy yourself.
DC USA Thu 07/21/2011
tourism to europe
as a Afro male, born in the USA , and a solo traveler, i think i can say for mainly people of color[i.e=African and Afro/African-Americans and Lationos, and even some Asians and Subcons[Indians] ] i would stay aways from mainly Europe, especially Eastern because of the revival of skinheads and such ilk, even in a tour group[safest, because you do not go outside the group and there is some strength in numbers, no matter how useless some people are to help or speak out!] as some situations if you are not careful, can place you in some troubles, and not just the natives, but other racially charged and ignorant tour groups like the Asians, which are the worst. I do not have trouble, because of my build and willingness to fight..but to others, especially women of color, i have seen men try to pick them up and make comments and such that can be distrubing and shocking. travel to London is ok, but watch out for the rest of the UK,as it is as racist as Amerikkka, and anyone that does not see it is in La -La land! I have traveled to mainly Asian and African places and felt many, MANY at home then old xenophobic Europe, to which especially 3rd world Spain and Italy, is comparable Australia and New Zealand. Just check and try some good sites to ask and see what others say to the region you are thinking of going to..and check out as best as you can the political climates. Do not let yourself be bullied[especially the Asian tourists!] or you will always have a hard time and reinforce their racist views to people of darker complexions. This does not apply to China or Central Asia, as you can have a good time and just watch the political climate. Hopes this little bit helps.
wichita, ks USA Wed 07/20/2011
tourism to europe
as a Afro male, born in the USA , and a solo traveler, as i have used many friends and sites that people give i think far better honest feedback and will tell EXACTLY what to know before you get there so as to prepare, i think i can say for mainly people of color[i.e=African and Afro/African-Americans and Lationos, and even some Asians and Subcons(Indians) ] i would stay aways from mainly Europe, especially Eastern because of the revival of skinheads, Anti-Semantic [feelings to Jews and darker people] prejudice, and other such bad people of this ilk.
Even in a tour group is best because of the more planned activities[safest, because you do not go outside the group and there is some strength in numbers, no matter how useless some people are to help or speak out!] as some situations if you are not careful, can place you in some troubles, and not just the natives, but other racially charged and ignorant tour groups like the Asians, which can be and are the worst. I do not have trouble, because of my build and willingness to fight..but to others, especially women of color, i have seen men try to pick them up and make comments, actions and such that can be distrubing and shocking. travel to London is ok, but watch out for the rest of the UK,as it is as racist as Amerikkka, and anyone that does not see it is in La -La land! I have traveled to mainly Asian and African places and felt many, MANY times better then at home, and old xenophobic Europe, to which especially the 3rd world countries like Spain and Italy, is comparable to more Westernized Australia and New Zealand in racial tolerances. Just check and try some good sites to ask and see what others say to the region you are thinking of going to...and check out as best as you can the political climates. I have traveled to some great off the path hotspots and had wonderful times and with little of troubles that some have had. Do not let yourself be bullied[especially the Asian tourists!] or you will always have a hard time and reinforce their racist views to people of darker complexions. This does not apply to China or Central Asia, as in China all the main populance is ignorant and rude and uneducated, and some that are and should know better are the same. Just stand up for yourself and know you are more a curiosity and novice to them, in many Non-European countries, then a threat and upset. You can have a good time and just watch the political climate. Women be extra careful and have back-up plan and contacts that can help you in case of the worse! Never be afraid to walk tall and represent the best and brightest that travel!
Hopes this little bit helps.
wichita, ks USA Wed 07/20/2011
London, Paris and Geneva
Just got back from two weeks in Europe. Other than having a store guard follow me in Paris, I didn;t have problems. I actually stopped and asked him if there were isses. I found that the Asian tourists were extremely rde - always pshing and steppin front of me. Perhaps, that's cultural. But, when I saw all the umbrellas up were they trying to keep their skin as white as possible? I saw racists.
Southfield, MI USA Mon 07/18/2011
Why travel is for everyone
Serves you right if you under-utilize libraries, fail to treat the internet as a holistic resource and let the planned ignorance of much of the west deter you from growth through travel experiences. Ahem.
I assume that I have your attention now; the above diatribe was intended to get the reader to like themselves more through liking me less *grinning*
Lets get down to business shall we ? The over 40 crowd will easily remember Tarzan. Rediculous right. The under 40 crowd is likely to have had interactions with foreign visitors to the USA; they tend to be knowledgeable of the world, fairly proficient in English and happy to be here.
What about the 90% of their fellow citizens back at home who could not get here? They tend to be less prosperous, less educated, less elite and more rich in the culture of their land. They are the real deal and you should go and see them.
As for Rick's comment on Blacks, money and travel -- and his gracious apology, I heard him say it, knew he was a product of a Euro-centric American education systen [google Horace Mann and Thorstein Veblen], had little ongoing contact with Blacks of varying means, and simply poorly chose his words in the midst of a busy broadcasting career. You try 5 minutes of radio and you will be friends with Rick !
Do your homework on the 193 nations of the United Nations, pick your spots -- and discover new favorites along the way. Enough spouting: I am a large and muscular Caribbean American male who learned Spanish to fluency in a good suburban public high school. Travel is easier for me than for most- BUT YOU CAN AND MUST DO IT.
Remember that women and Natives suffered about as much as our Black ancestors -- if you have not read of their suffering don't ask Whites to completely know yours . .
See you in Poland, Prague or Pretoria. Thanks Steve for serving the masses and not only the elite.
New York City, NY USA Fri 07/08/2011
Racism can happen to anyone in Europe. Some are definitely targeted more than others, but my advice is to (when you can) do not take offense to it. Ignorant people will be rude, but it does not reflect on who YOU are personally. You are still beautiful, fabulous, etc.
While I am a white American, I have Italian heritage, and was targeted because of it in Switzerland. The man basically told me I was black because of my olive skin and dark hair. He was quite rude and kept pointing to his Reich Eagle/Swastika tattoo. Although his comments shocked me at first, I now look back at it and just shake my head and laugh at the thought of him. It's not worth it to be offended, it doesn't matter what he said about me.
I also had an experience in Italy where a Middle Eastern man verbally attacked me for being American. He pretty much threatened to rape me. But some locals took me in until my friend arrived and this unfortunate event is not something that overtakes my great memories of Italy.
These two people do not change my view of the countries. I love Italy and Switzerland, I love Europe. Don't let ignorant, rude people stop you from exploring the world!
USA Sat 06/25/2011
Single African American Woman
I am a single African American woman (43 yrs of age) and will be taking my first RS tour in October 2011 to Italy. I have lived abroad before (6 years in Japan) and have traveled through and vacationed in a few different countries. Europe is my favorite!
In my travel and living abroad experiences, I never encountered racism. If it happened, I was happily ignorant to the fact. But then again, I never went looking for any slights or offenses. If I did have unpleasant experiences, it was due to good ole' human nature and conflict. But the unpleasant experiences must not have been too terrible, because I can't recall a single unpleasant moment right now as I write this entry. I've always been treated well enough and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Then again, I love immersing myself into a new place and learning about its people and culture. And when you have that kind of welcoming attitude, you tend to draw more positive experiences. Just the way Rick encourages travelers to do.
I've missed traveling and a RS tour is just the type of vacation I need to get back to my love of travel and history. The RS tour was the perfect choice. I'm a long time viewer of his show and he has inspired me to get back on the road again.
When I travel, especially abroad, the last thing I'm thinking about is my race or skin color. I'm not saying racism doesn't exist in other countries; so far it has not been something I've encountered. Even if I did, I would never allow such an experience to keep me from exploring this world.
Tampa, FL USA Thu 06/09/2011
I've been to Switzerland 3x but that was back in 99, 00, and 01. I've not returned yet, but I never had any problems there. On the whole, the Swiss aren't as friendly - my opinion - than are the Germans (yes, the Germans), Austrians, or even the Dutch and French, they are very reserved. I don't know if my experiences are because I am light skinned or not, but I have never had issues anywhere in Europe that I have traveled - so far, at least!
Charlotte, NC USA Thu 05/05/2011
Just chill out for a minute.
I really have to laugh at some of these comments.....
People, remember this: Just like there are psychos, rapists, robbers, and terrorists all over the world just waiting to do something bad there is also racism waiting to rear its ugly head.
I've been to Europe three times with my fellow AFA friends and I can only recall one time where we received obvious racism. Other than that, it was a great time.
Also, you have to remember this: You're not in America!! So there will be a lot of places in Europe where the people will go, "huh?", because they are not use to seeing someone different from them.
With that being said, do to the fact that there has been an explosion of immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia (India/Pakistan/Bangledash) in Western Europe for the past few decades it has cause some problems. So when they see you, they do not see an American, (Sorry, when they think American, they still think White.) but they will see what they believe to be an immigrant/foreigner from either Africa, the Middle East, or South Asia. So there will be some resentment.
But all in all, don't let it stop you. Unless an particular area has a horrible reputation, go out and have fun guys!
I know I have and look forward to telling my nephews some stories when they get just a little bit older. :D
P.S.-It's the same in America almost. Larger and more diverse towns/cities will be more receptive then a homogenous small town with a percentage of 80%-99% of the same race/ethnic of people. Also, to my fellow AFA's, stop thinking everybody hates us! There are a lot of folks who enjoy us and want to learn/experience about us just as much we want to learn/experience about them.
Have a great and blessed day and happy travels!!!
New York, NY USA Fri 04/01/2011
In response to the question about racists in Switzerland, I had one of the worst racist experiences during my travels as an Asian American. We were walking through a rather large commercial street in Zurich and while looking for a place to eat, a drunk guy in front of a bar started screaming at us not to come into that bar and for us to go eat at Chopsticks, a Chinese restaurant a few blocks away. Like I said, the guy was drunk but there were people around and no one bothered to shut the guy up. So yeah, that was a bad experience but to tell you the truth, that wasn't enough to deter me from enjoying the rest of Zurich, and the beauty of Switzerland is too great for me to stay away.
New York, NY USA Sat 03/12/2011
Racism in Switzerland
For anyone who has been to Switzerland. What was your experience Are Swiss people racist and are they more racist than British?
Britain Fri 02/25/2011
RE: Italy is the most racist country ever!
I've been traveling to Europe for over 30 years, since I was 18-19. Over the years I found Spain to be the most racist, and now see Italy has gone that way in the last 8-10 years. While France and Germany have moved in the other direction, and are less racist than they used to be.
Has there been some great individual experiences in Italy or Spain, yes, but they are the exceptions (outside the main tourist areas) . One thing I've noticed that most of us Americans handle these fairly well, and go on enjoying ourselves.
I'm a great fan of Rick Steves, but when he talks about mixing and traveling like locals in Europe, he certainly is not talking about the non-white travellers.
Having said that, please don't let these incidents stop you from traveling, you will still see lots of great sites, wonderful art, and even in these overtly racist countries, meet some nice people.
We have lately started traveling more to Central and South America and find people there to be very hospitable and friendly overall not to mention the great sites and sounds.
Atlanta, Ga USA Thu 02/24/2011
Italy is the most racist country ever!
I travelled to Europe with three of my female friends back in August 2010. We are all Asian-American. We spent only 3 days in Rome, Italy. Before visiting Italy, we never heard anything about racism, prejudice, or discrimination against minorities in Italy. We had absolutely no idea that we were in for a culture shock. We weren't even looking for trouble or racism. Racism came to us in several isolated incidents. #1) My friends and I finished visiting the Trevi fountain, and we just wanted to go shopping just couple blocks away from the fountain. We found a leather/shoe shop. We entered the store to look at the items. A middle-aged blond woman who owned the store saw us and told my friend, "No prego!" which translates to "You're not welcome!" The woman showed us the door, and we all had to leave immediately. #2) Two of my friends wanted to purchase a necklace from a street vendor at Piazza Navona. They bargained with the street vendor to bring the price down to 7 Euros. He made a necklace for my two friends at 7 Euros each. A couple of local Italians came by, and he offered to sell each necklace for only 5 Euros to them. He ripped my friends off! #3) We took the train from Rome to go visit the Roman ruins of Ostia Antica. We were purchasing tickets at the ticket window for Ostia Antica. We noticed that they offered a discount to those who are 25 years of age and under. My two friends were able to get the discount at Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, France with their U.S. driver's license. They thought they could do the same in Italy. The ticket woman asked us what nationality we were. We answered, "American." She said, "No!" We all paid full-price for each of our tickets. We entered the gate for Ostia Antica, and no one checked for our tickets. We noticed that all the local Italians entered the gate for free! On our train ride back, a group of Italian men were starring at us. They were cracking jokes about us throughout the entire train ride. #4) My friends and I decided to go eat at a Chinese restaurant that was across the street from our hotel. They sat us in the back of the restaurant. A local Italian couple entered the restaurant. As soon as they saw us sitting in the back of the restaurant, they wanted to be seated outside the restaurant away from us Asians. #5) My friends and I wanted to try some ice cream at the gelato shop across the street from our hotel. There was only one woman who was working there. Two of us got our ice cream. Right when it was about my third friend's turned to buy ice cream, two local Italians showed up. The woman completely ignored my friend and served the two local Italians first. She gave free ice cream to the local Italian girl, and she served ice cream to the local Italian man. My friend was so pissed off for being brushed away like that, but she went ahead and bought the ice cream anyways. The ice cream wasn't even all that great.
If you ever plan to visit Rome, Italy, just stay in the touristy areas such as the Vatican or the Roman Coliseum. Do not explore elsewhere! After what we've experienced, my friends and I never want to set our foot in Italy ever again. We all warned our family and friends not to go there. Italy is not worth the racism.
San Marino, CA USA Tue 02/22/2011
Racism in Switzerland?
Hello I was wanting to know whether Swiss people are racist and whether they are more racist than Britain. I would appreciatre any replies?
UK, USA Sat 02/19/2011
Response to posts on racism
I am an AA from South America and I have traveled to all continents of the world and to Europe on many occasions. As a matter of fact, I travel to Europe every year. I do think there is too much senstivity to overt racism. In reading some of the posts it appears as though some of us are waiting for something negative to transpire so we can report it as racism. In my opinion, we experience much more racism stateside than in foreign countries. Besides, some of these countries have very serious problems with some of their population of color. So what you epxerience at times may be a reflection of this dynamic. Countries, like the Czech Republic, are getting used to tourism and a multicultural population visitation. As a matter of fact, there is a large African population in this country.
Does it make racism okay? Certainly not, but do keep an upper lip in these situations. Take things in context and enjoy the ride.
Oxford, PA USA Thu 02/10/2011
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Salvador, Bahia Brazil Mon 01/31/2011
A Woman of Color in Europe - again!
I spent nearly the entire month of September 2010 in Amsterdam, Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Vienna, Grunau im Almtal, Salzburg, Paris and Brugge. I'm a woman of color and I've read where Rick doesn't think any of US can afford a trip to Europe. (Though why would many non-whites want to go to the ancestral lands of those who helped to enslave them, you may ask?) Well, Mr. Steves, this was my FOURTH trip and I actually went back to back from 1999 - 2001; how many Americans of European descent can boast THAT? Anyhow, I had a great time and may return but not until 2012 because this year, I've got a feature film to produce. Ciao & happy travels! Hey, you might even be treated better overseas than here in the country of your birth - as I have been many times.
Winston Salem, NC, NC USA Mon 01/31/2011
UK (And the rest of the world)
I have read these postings with great interest and I am sorry but I had to laugh at some of the comments. As a 41 year old well travelled Black Briton whose family came to the UK in 1951 I think I can add my piece. 'Ethnic Minorities' AAs or any other groups visiting the UK will be travelling a well worn path which has been done by generations before them. AA soldiers were stationed all over Europe during WW2, and since the end of WW2 waves of black 'immigrants' have made the UK and the rest of Europe their home. Britain is home to many ex empire/commonwealth citizens who have already left their unique marks thank you very much. Someone wrote that UK towns such as Portsmouth, Plymouth etc were racist towards black people, so do not travel there what ridiculous nonsense I have had no problems in the years I have been to those places.
London, UK Thu 01/13/2011