Bonjour a tous! (Hello to all!)
I noticed that this forum looked a little anemic so I thought I'd add my experiences for those looking for travel insight from minority travelers.
I am an African-American woman (64), and have had the pleasure of traveling to Europe over the past 4 years. Before that, there were a lot of cruises in my life, trip to Jamaica, other islands in the Caribbean, Mexico and Costa Rica...and, of course, Canada. However, I really, really, really wanted to go to Paris so I joined a group recommended by a friend (there were 22 of us) and off we went in March 2012. At the time I didn't know much about #teamcarryon (I'm a staunch member now!) so I just checked my bags along with everyone else's, caught up on my high school French (practiced to and from work, Pimsleur CDs) and booked train travel from Paris >Reims and Paris >London & tours in those cities. More practice at Gare du Nord information, taxi drivers and assorted Parisians...no negative experiences. In fact, as I walked through the town of Reims, I was stopped by someone who asked a question (I guess I looked like I belonged there??), I didn't quite understand her but I knew how to say that I was sorry and that I didn't understand. Whew! :-D The entire trip was a success and enjoyable. Fast forward two years later and I'm back in Paris with 2 friends. I tried to help them prepare by giving them French phrase books BUT they had other plans....to let me handle all of the 'heavy' French. HA! I stepped up...had a very pleasant conversation with a Parisian taxi driver, who knew no English but he complimented me on the little that I knew...he said that my French was just fine. HA! Success AGAIN! The same thing happened throughout the trip, which annoyed me on the one hand, but (making lemonade out of lemons) I was grateful for the practice. I taught myself how to send a parcel home via La Poste (I had to talk with the postal clerk AND read the forms...French/English), I also wanted to pop into a boulangerie and order a pain au chocolat...did that, too. No negative experiences. I was so proud of myself. :-D Later in the year one of my adult daughters and I traveled to Italy...Milan, Florence, Rome. Had a BLAST! She took the lead since she had spent a summer abroad in Florence before graduating college. Again, I found a Mailboxes, Etc (owned by 3 Italian woman..they all spoke English) to ship stuff home. We also booked a dinner with a local in Rome through EatWith.com which was absolutely delightful! We walked all over, took the tram, visited local restaurants, cafes, grocery stores (we rented an Airbnb apartment), etc. Had a TON of fun!
And, this past October, a friend and I visited Paris for a few days. This time I was unexpectedly on my own because our schedules were very different (she slept most of the day & was up most of the night). SOoooo....I was up and at 'em in the morning and did my own thing. Again, armed with my conversation French and an understanding of the culture, it was no problem...I had the best time doing things on my own. Once I was stopped by a guy who was clearly turned around and he asked me to point out the direction of a particular street. I decided to pretend I was French. LOL! Me: "Oui, monsieur. Les Champs-Elysées est la-bas." Him: "Thank you!" Me: "De rien." :-D My friend and I had a fav restaurant in the neighborhood and after a couple of days, they treated us like family...the waiters were showing us pics of the family, other customers were chatting us up on our points of view about gun control and other topics in America, and on and on. Again...had a great experience.
For me, it seemed that it was all in how I approached everything, the fact that I tried to speak the language (French and Italian), I wasn't a 'loud' American and I kinda blended in with the way I dressed and carried myself. My next challenge: RS Best of Europe...gotta learn some German. :-D