Racism in France?

Old Aug 15th, 2001, 08:17 PM
Jake Lee
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Racism in France?

Firstly, I'ld like to state that I'm not the paranoid type and I never play the race card. My wife and I are both 30-something-Asian-Americans, and we're planning a vacation to Paris this fall. Friends of mine who are also Asian-American said that they were constantly subjected to racial discrimination (above and beyond the simple French rudeness) during thir trip to Paris. People yelled racial epithets, confirmed reservations were lost once they showed-up, waiters ignored them for over an hour while attending white tourists...etc. Has any Asians/minorities out there had any similar experiences?
Old Aug 15th, 2001, 08:24 PM
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As a caucasian, my experience on my own trips to Paris and other parts isn't relevant, but, my closest friend is Chinese-American, and she and her fiance were there about 2 months ago (he's white). I've spoken with both of them extensively about their trip and neither one of them mentioned any such problems - they seemed to have a wonderful trip. (My girlfriend is defintely one to tell me when such things do happen). Hopefully others here will be able to offer more insight than i can.
Old Aug 15th, 2001, 09:40 PM
asian in paris
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My husband and I are both Asian American, went to Paris in '99...don't recall any blatant racism. We were mistaken for being Japanese from japan constantly and they couldn't understand why we spoke English. I didn't notice being treated worse (or better) than the other tourists but wasn't really paying attention. However, I would have recalled racial epithets. I didn't recall much warmth or kindness among the people though (don't think due to race).
We've been to Italy, Austria and Germany as well, didn't experience any racial epithets (how awful!) anywhere. Just thought we were Japanese.
There are tons of tourists in Paris, , we certainly weren't the only asians there. Please post after your trip and let us know how it goes. I'm curious to know if it's gotten bad in the past few years.
We are 28 and 31 and look fairly young (often mistaken for college students--probably due to dress too), and I noticed older tourists getting better treatment in the hotel and restaurants (they were caucasian americans) but I never tied it to race, just thought it was due to respecting 'adults' more than 'backpacking college kids'.
Old Aug 15th, 2001, 10:34 PM
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I am a 30-something asian american, and like the previous poster I often get mistaken for a Japanese tourist and the French get thrown off when they hear me speak English. I have been to Paris four times--last time was last year--and I feel like I usually get the same treatment or better than white tourists. Old ladies dote on me, people let me cut in line at the store, hoteliers slide me free bread, crepe stands have given me 50% off on my order, and men help me carry my bags in the train station. I don't think it's because I am asian that I get treated that way....maybe it's because I'm a woman. I'm only average looking, too, so it's not like it's an attraction thing. I think it's simple friendliness...? Not sure. Anyway, I've never endured any bad racial prejudice in Europe. In fact, my first racial run-in happened to me in LA!
Old Aug 15th, 2001, 11:55 PM
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Jake, I don't believe your friend's story (but I won't call them liars, I wasn't there). Asian in Paris are well liked, if only because they are a hard working, no trouble community (there are a lot of Vietnamese and Chinese living and working in Paris). Asian tourists are reputed for being clean, courteous, and for spending a lot. President Chirac is well known for his love or Asia and particularly Japan, there are countless Japanese cultural centers, bookstores, etc. I'm going to Paris once a month in average (I live in Geneva), and I'm in constant contact with Asians there, who would have told me long ago if they had encountered any problem.

By the way, I'm half Parisian, half African, and I've very seldom encountered any racist attitude in Paris (rude yes, racist hardly ever). There is some racism, mostly towards "Arabs" (read North-Africans, like Algerians) and to some extend black Africans, but it's much more related to socio-economic status than race.

As other posters wrote, be ready to be mistaken for Japanese tourists (who are notorious for their usual unability to speak English or French, so you will surprise people at first), but nothing more.

You should have a good time, and I sincerely wish you one.
Old Aug 16th, 2001, 12:19 AM
Jake Lee
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Thanks for the input. It helped to ease my fears.
Old Aug 16th, 2001, 03:21 AM
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HOLD IT!!! asian in paris --
What do you mean at 28 and 30 you look fairly young? You are fairly young.
Should I take this as discrimination against us older ones? If 'look fairly young' for you age I presume what if we are 20-25 years older?
Actually the only references I've heard regarding Asians is how many seem to travel to Europe. I also assume these comments are intended for those who live East rather than from N.A.
P.S. not Asian.
Old Aug 16th, 2001, 04:16 AM
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I am Japaneese who lives in Paris for the last three years and never expeperienced what you described. I am certain that your "friends" made up a whole story. Same like what you stated as the simple french rudness. Please reexamine your statement.
Are all French rude? No, some are just like some British, Americans, German, Japaneese or Italians, for instance. Please don't spread this hearsay news.
Old Aug 16th, 2001, 05:12 AM
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Just remember, if you encounter one antagonistic shop-keeper or restaurant manager who has a personal bigotry, you may hear something appalling that you'd never hear anywhere else in a city.

And if you have an altercation with someone who is crude -- e.g., you've refuse to pay for a meal that was moldy or uncooked and the manager is incensed -- that person may pull out a racial epithet, just to be truly ugly. And it doesn't take much for a misunderstanding to happen with differences in language. If someone's being nasty to you, it could be because you're American, or Asian-American, or young, or rich, or his wife left him, or he was just mugged by a punk.

On short stays in other countries, it is easy to have one or even two bad events magnified in your mind, and you'll never feel good about that place again.

I would not be surprised to know someone had a bad experience with Parisians behaving rudely or condescendingly. I would not even be surprised if some one uncouth, ignorant and impatient jerk decided that he didn't like Japanese tourists on the basis of limited experience with maybe one busload of non-French-speaking tourists. And I wouldn't be surprised to hear that a Parisian had some bigoted things to say about Tunisians, Algerians, Turks, etc. It's a city, it has a broad diversity of population, it has a history as a colonial power, and it's not without its own kinds of socio-cultural problems, despite its wealth and sophistication.

But I would be surprised if you experienced anything unpleasant in Paris, Jake -- assuming normal visitor interaction -- directed specifically at you that had anything to do with your race. Go in peace. Enjoy a beautiful city, and if you want to get to know the French people, consider going outside the city to the countryside.
Old Aug 16th, 2001, 06:12 AM
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I can't speak directly to the experience of Asian-Americans, but I have travelled extensively with an African-American man who is - by any definition - conspicuous. Six foot four, 300+ pounds, shaved head, multiple earrings etc. And we have NEVER EVER in any country encountered any abuse or harassment. I'm sure that eventually we will run into a person who will use his race/appearance as something to use to insult him, but that would have to be the exception. Bottom line, Jake, don't worry! You will have a great trip.
Old Aug 16th, 2001, 11:23 AM
asian in paris
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For Myer,
All I'm saying is that we are mistaken for high school and college kids constantly--no offense to anyone of any age. I was even asked once where my mother was? In the USA, we never drink in a bar w/o being carded. So for a late 20's/early 30's, we look younger than our age.
I just think adults (if they perceive you as an adult) get treated better than teens or students (since that's how we are perceived).
Old Aug 16th, 2001, 04:33 PM
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Just to reiterate what previous poster have said, I spent a week in Paris last year with my Chinese-American boyfriend (I'm caucasian) and no one gave us a second look. I can guarantee you'll be taken for Japanese at least a few times, though; be ready for some "arigatos," especially from people trying to sell you something.

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