Traveling itself is overwhelming. It connotes a lot of positive things. It is adventures, exploration of the world, people, and its different vibrant cultures. Typically when you read blogs, they are tips, budget traveling, things, and experiences they positively learned. This time, I want to share with you something a little different on why I find it hard to be a traveling Asian in Asia.
I left the Philippines in July 2017 to go on a solo backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. I consider this my ultimate gift to myself for my 28th birthday. A lot has happened that a much-needed break from everything is what I need. I have been traveling alone for the past two years in and outside the Philippines, but still, I feel like I am not used to it. Probably because this is the most extended travel that I will be away for long consecutive months all on my own, it is scary but liberating, to be honest. I traveled around the Philippines’ neighboring countries – Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. Unlike my first time traveling solo abroad, I am kind of calm and chill this time, thinking I am in Asia where the majority of people look like me anyway, the same ethnicity, so why worry? Brown skin, black hair, brown eyes, I do not look any different at all. I can blend in; that’s what on my mind, but as I went on my journey, I realized blending in with my co-Asians could be hard, sadly! Let me tell you why.
OF STEREOTYPES, GENERALIZATION, AND DISCRIMINATION
Usually, I start my day walking around the area upon arrival. I just walk and walk, merely see what’s out there and eventually make some friends. I was relaxingly sitting on the beach in Patong, Phuket, Thailand, while suddenly an old guy sits beside me. At first, I ignore him when, eventually, he tried to communicate. “I am from Russia; my English not good.” Then he begins to draw weird things on the sand, such as money sign. And putting to action the words he is trying to tell. What I get from it is he is asking me to sleep with him while he points to the money sign he draws on the sand. My face instantly changed unpleasantly. I am offended and pissed off. I said, “Excuse me?!” The local people that are working by the beach whom I get to talk to prior saw me being uncomfortable, so they came over to the rescue and said to the Russian guy, “No. No. Not her.” The guy left, I thought it ends there. I decided to walk to the other parts of the beach area right after a few minutes of confirming the guy is out of my sight. A moment passed by, and then there he is again following me! I decided to go back to my hostel, but I took a different long route to be sure he will not know where I stay. This experience is totally annoying and offending for me. The fact is, there are tons of other females around, but he chose an Asian. Why is that?
Another instance is while I was walking peacefully, a foreign guy saw me as I pass by, I did see him too and continue walking. The guy ran after me and said, “You are cute, do you work here? You know. I’m interested”, I looked at him with an earnest face and said… “I am a tourist. Please, leave me alone”, then walk away. I am wearing a long enough dress, no make-up or anything, just the usual simple me. Obviously, I don’t look rich, but is it enough reason to stereotype an Asian woman as a sex worker? I wonder what they think? How they classify people?
I’ve seen foreign guys asking the same thing to other Asian females, assuming they are working girls (euphemistic) who, in fact, not. I am not talking down to girls whose source of income comes from it. I do not judge you. We all have different situations in life that we are sometimes in the middle of hard times. We get desperate, and some of us sort to what they think will solve their problem. It is your life, your choice. But the generalization isn’t fun at all for us who are being discriminated against for other’s deeds. Some nationalities deem us as people who are hungry for money. We cannot deny the fact that there are some indeed who take advantage, and the primary purpose is to get money for their motives, which are not good. Why can’t everyone be decent in all aspects?
There was also this occurrence, and I was with my new friends that I met in a hostel in Hanoi, Vietnam. We all decided to go out and eat. When we return all my new friends (they are all white/caucasian) get into the hostel smoothly no checking, no questions asked but, me? The security guard immediately blocked me. He won’t let me in even if I am staying in that hostel, and I believe he saw me going out earlier. He said in limited English, “outsiders no allow!” then I replied, “Excuse me? I am staying here,” showed my keycard to his face. I mean, come on? How do you know if someone is an outsider? If he/she is Asian and not white?
Even when you are out to buy souvenirs, you will encounter unpleasant treatment. Some vendors will only talk to white/black foreigners and convince them to buy their items. They will skip you the offer if you look like a local. I was with my backpacker friends shopping in Bangkok street stalls. The vendors cornered them and tried to persuade them to buy items, me? I was completely ignored. The fact is I will be the one leaving the following day to travel to my next destination, and I am going to buy some souvenirs. What I did is go to the next stall with a friendly lady vendor in the corner. I bought my souvenirs there. My friends didn’t get anything as they just want to look around and tag along with me. When the vendors saw that I actually shop, that is the time they get nice to me, and offer me things. I mean, it is okay if for them I look I do not have money to shop, I do not mind at all. I find it funny, actually. But can you see the problem we got here? People stereotype again. The definition of rich or those people who can afford things here in Asia means having branded nice clothes, branded bags, wearing pieces of jewelry, or having fair white skin.
The stereotype of females from Asia choosing to be with white guys from Europe, USA, Australia, etc. is a pain in the ass as well. It is visible that some Asian women marry old foreigners because of money, citizenship, or whatever the reason they have. I can’t change that, but some people postulate that thought, which leaves some of us in difficulties.
Nowadays, it is awkward to even walk with a foreign guy friend when people are staring at both of you as if you did a crime. I’ve been in a relationship with an American guy for years, and all that staring we get every time we are together outside is seriously very uncomfortable. My boyfriend is not even old. All those statements like, “Your boyfriend is a foreigner, you are lucky! Your life will be good,” seriously? Being in a relationship with a foreign guy isn’t a ticket to a good life. First off, just like us, they work their ass off to earn money and live a comfortable life. It just so happens that their money values better in Asia and could go a long way.
On the other hand, their cost of living in their country is high, so they have to work hard as well same with any other people in the world. Second, I never receive money from him. I make sure to give my fair share to all our expenses every time we are together, whether he insists on offering to pay for everything. That is just how things work for me. I am with him because of him, not for money, not for a more comfortable life, nor citizenship when we settle down.
WE ALL NEED TO CHANGE THE WAY WE THINK
Fuck stereotype. Ditch discrimination and generalization. We all need to change the way we think and act accordingly.
Not every girl who is with a foreign guy is up for money, citizenship or whatever you believe their purpose is. Same with these foreigners, we work our ass off to have a good life. Give our fair share for everything. Ticket to a successful life is by our own means, our hard work and dedication. Stop thinking otherwise.
Not all that has nice branded clothes and bags, wearing jewelry, has fairly white skin are rich. Not all that is simple looking, jewelry free, wearing comfortable clothing or even torn clothes are poor.
It is easy to say to do not listen to what other people think and say, but if you are in this shoe, it is tough just to shrug it off. All the crazy stares, the names, and statements, whether you like it or not, it will affect you. We cannot change what others did wrong, and it is not our fault either to be generalized. It is 2018, guys. Grow up. It is time for a chang,e and let’s all be kind and sensitive to one another.