Lately, due to the pandemic, racism towards people of East Asian descent has been seriously on the rise.
That’s why I thought I’d share my personal everyday experiences with racism in Vienna, so that those that haven’t ever experienced it before can get a glance into what it’s like.
Disclaimer: This article does not intend to generalise the “East Asian” experience in Vienna in any way, shape or form, nor does it depict everyone’s experience. These are simply personal experiences from the author.
The “Which Asian are you?” Guessing Game
I don’t know why people like guessing other people’s ethnicities and heritage, but please stop.
I’ve been asked countless times if I am Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Filipino. It turns out it’s none of them.
None of us look the same and it’s just plain insensitive to imply that we all do by asking this question.
My identity is not just some guessing game, yet rather it’s something to be taken seriously.
How to be less insensitive: Where do you come from? – it’s that simple (*imagine me winking like in 90s home shopping channels*)
The ‘Schlitzaugen’ and ‘Broad Nose’ stereotype
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one that has experienced this growing up, but people mimicking the shape of our eyes, and making fun of our facial features, is an absolute classic example of how we experience casual everyday racism in Vienna.
Be it on the streets, in the subway, on the train, in buses, or any other public space – there is always that one person that can’t resist their racist urge.
How to be less insensitive: Just stop. Honestly, there is nothing more I can add to this advice…I just don’t get how overtly racist some people can be sometimes.
The ‘I caused the pandemic’ experience
One experience that is way too common, especially these days, happens in public transport and other public spaces and it’s when people behave like I’m a carrier, or I am the causer, of the Corona virus. People turn away when they see me, cross to the other side of the street, put their scarf over their mask (why ever this would be more effective in protecting them from the virus – God knows!), or they pull the oh-to-familiar stare of fear.
Whenever I go into a public place lately, people stare at me as if I’m an alien. Nowadays, more frequently than ever.
Before Corona, I would have people mistaking me for some Chinese tourist, and today they treat me as if I’m responsible for the lockdown, the masks and for unleashing Corona itself onto the world. If only I would have such powers.
Oh, and not to mention that I get spit on quite frequently (which is absurdly ironic, considering that Corona is spread by saliva droplets)
How to be less insensitive: educate yourself about Corona, stop being racist and stop enforcing stereotypes.
No, we’re not one big family
One thing I get asked a lot is – ‘I know this guy that has the exact same name as you – are you related?’ or ‘I have this other Asian friend, do you know them?’
And to get straight to the point: No, even though we share the same last name, we are not related, nor do we know each other. Check out a map – Asia is a big place.
I don’t know why people assume that if you’re part of a culture that you must know everybody else that’s part of the same culture.
I don’t go around asking if you know that other Müller, or Bauer.
How to be less insensitive: if there is a 0% chance that the person might be related to one of your friends, don’t ask if it’s not evident (seriously people, hasn’t the pandemic at least taught you how to cyber stalk others?)
Everything in East-Asia is the same
Another thing that I experience quite frequently is the belittling and generalisation of East Asian culture.
No, East Asian culture doesn’t only consist of Anime and K-Pop; there is so much more to it and every single country has its own unique cultural offerings.
There are people that seriously say when they hear that I’m Vietnamese that they like K-Pop, as if it’s got something to do with Vietnam.
I only have one question: Why?!!
How to be less insensitive: don’t assume that East Asia is made up by one culture.
These are just a few of the many different things that I have experienced – and am still experiencing – everyday in Vienna.