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Mexican-American's experience spending 1 month in France and Italy

Solo traveler here, this post is to help people like me prepare for their first visit to Europe. I was worried about racism and even colorism. A little about myself, I'm a proud Texan, it sucks that I have to even preface this post with this but there is colorism not just in Hispanic community, but I think worldwide?, So I fall smack dab in the middle of the spectrum, think JLO. My ancestry is half Native American and half Spanish.
Paris/Nice Zero issues, everyone was kind, never felt my race was an issue. I did attempt the language and sneaked in that I spoke Spanish AND English.
Cinque Terre/Rome/Venice Zero issues, my Spanish helped me more here than in France, the Italians understood my Spanish but I struggled to understand their Italian, weird I know. Same issue with Portuguese.
Sorrento was 95% great but there was one crazy lady at WC, she was annoyed I used restroom again I don't know if this was racism or just crabby old bitterness? I asked if she was ok when I entered, granted I did give her attitude but that was bc she was visibly annoyed I was paying to use restroom.
Naples this was only town I felt either people were rude and/or racist, again its hard to say. about 75% of town was kind and like other Italian places I visited, but there was this famous pizza place that was just AWFUL, worst experience of trip. The man wouldn't give recommendation and said just pick what I want and ordered me to wait outside seconds after processing my payment. Again, rude or racist? I will never know. An elderly woman also spoke to me in Italian but I couldn't understand her, I told her in Spanish I speak Spanish then she said in Spanish she didn't care, which I understood unless it means something different in Italian. Again crazy or racist? I don't know. I know Italy and Greece along with eastern europe are most racist places in Europe based on polling , which makes sense their economies aren't great so they have to scapegoat someone. I'm 30 but I look younger than my age so I was worried I'd come across anti migrant,refugee,islam etc attitudes. This only popped in my mind in southern Italy, Naples especially, once in Sorrento (see above)

Posted by
229 posts

I’m sorry that happened

I totally understand the comment about them understanding your Spanish but struggling to understand their Italian. Same thing happened to me after two years of studying Italian I was able to make my self understood but when they answered back I was like“Oh dear this is a problem”

I hope the good outweighed the bad. Thank you for letting us know

Posted by
4843 posts

Isn't the sweeping generalisations of entire countries and their inhabitants a bit ironic considering the nature of the post?

Seems like you encountered a few less than pleasant people which we all have and didn't experience anything that was evidently racist. Hopefully you'll enjoy more travels like this.

Posted by
14161 posts

A1) Pretty fair report, with "it could have been this or that or something else" attitude.
A2) I face some of the same issues and so far have been lucky enough that it was so rare as to be able to blame it on rude or crabby, like you did; you will never know.

A3) If you enjoyed the trip on the whole, and it sounds like you did, it was successful and I glad for you.

Posted by
11925 posts

A tip I have learned from years of travel......if you don't know the local language, try English. English is the most widely spoken second language in the world. Most who work with tourists will speak some English.

We have all dealt with rude people in Europe and at home. All types of people from around the world visit Europe. Some look like you, some don't. More than likely the rude people were just rude.

Posted by
5957 posts

I’m glad you had a good trip. I will say I wondered if asking you to wait outside was more Covid related than anything else, but you were the person that was there.

Posted by
6265 posts

Quick comment/question on the lady in Sorrento...that is one place they seem to guard their restrooms a bit more closely (customers only!) or even just no restroom for public use. compared to other parts of Italy, getting scolded for using the restroom there "happens". Also, is it possible the lady was a restroom attendant/cleaner looking for you to drop 50 euro cents in the dish to use the restroom?

there was this famous pizza place that was just AWFUL, worst experience of trip. The man wouldn't give recommendation and said just pick what I want and ordered me to wait outside seconds after processing my payment

I can visualize this, having been there ( L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele). The line is crazy long to eat indoors, you can order to go, process is you stand in a separate line, then order, then go outside to wait, they prefer the crowd on the street, especially since covid. He probably was confused by your request for a recommendation, they only serve two kinds of pizzas You were treated like every other tourist.

Posted by
1373 posts

I agree with Carol now retired. OP, thank you for sharing your experience.

Posted by
5957 posts

@JC. I’m not saying that you can’t experience racism or be a victim of it. I’m only saying it is different when it is a day to day reality in a person’s life. I am white, but my daughter and her family are not. I have had 35 years of observation to see some of the differences in experience.

This is a difficult and troubling topic. My main point is that each of us has had a different experience and we ought to respect the experiences of others, especially since we are different.

Posted by
1374 posts

Hi Rafa- Mexican American here too and I traveled to most of the places you did. I think I may know the Pizza place you are referring to in Naples, the one I am thinking of has two things on their menu, to ask for a recommendation, he may have thought you were a jokester. I actually watched a you-tube video to prepare, knowing I needed to walk up to the door, get a number and wait in the street for our number to be called. Lot's of people (obvious tourist) just walked up thinking they were in some kind of line, when in fact they needed a number. My husband asked the waiter for a beer then the waiter just turned and walked away leaving my husband kinda dumbfounded, but he returned with a beer, they only had one kind so that is what he went to go get, my husband is white. In Sorrento I got the rudest treatment in a restaurant at a Burger place, but never once did I think racism, I thought she just did not like her job and I left a bad review on yelp stating that the food was delicious but the service was horrible, blatant rudeness and attitude, so evident as the locals got a smile and a sweet voice. That being said, we are dying to go back to Sorrento and still talk about that burger.

Posted by
13351 posts

Since you speak Spanish and she replied to you in the same language saying she did not care, you could have snapped at her in Spanish. She would have understood you.

Posted by
1429 posts

Sometimes visitors to Europe take the "Front Of The Line" approach, and it can wear down the locals ... and I'll leave it at that!

Posted by
8820 posts

And it’s by no means only Americans treating it as a playground.

Here’s the thing, Europeans know that Americans come in all sizes, shapes and colors. They hear our funny accents and hear our direct way of speaking. To most people, we’re viewed as Americans first and foremost no matter our skin tone. My daughter-in-law is Hispanic with Native Caribbean and Black thrown in. If anything, she looks a bit North African, a group that has its own history in Europe. But everyone figured out pretty quickly that she was a Spanish speaker from the US. Her mishaps were language and cultural that our French-speaking son mediated, were not the same as what she faces in the US. For example, she argued with a waiter that she should be able to sit at the outdoor café table to rest without buying anything. Our son had to come running to get that cleared up. It’s funny in retrospect, but she was lucky to have a native-speaking husband who could erase all suspicions that she was facing discrimination. I wish everybody could travel with assurance and comfort. But our perceptions of discrimination are based on our past experiences, which unfortunately, are all too real.

Posted by
14161 posts

B1) To reflect on the purpose, or value of the forum (in part): To express your travel observations seeking concurrence or correction of perception of your travel experience (or in planning your travel).
B2) If you agree with that assumption, then the OP's post was balanced and appropriate.
B3) In response the OP received some input of similar experiences held by those not of color that will most likely leave the OP with a better feeling for his events; if he receives a number of confirming responses, this is also of value to him and the forum.
B4) I would have been proud if one of my children (Jose, Roberto or Cristina) had written the same.
B5) All in all a successful post for the OP and the rest of us.
B6) JC, you made the point of the travel being a way to increase ones understanding of the world; my son Jose who is stationed in a Western European country and has used the opportunity to do a lot of travel in Europe has commented on how to a large extent he is being "identified" by his race in Europe vs home in Texas.

Posted by
482 posts

Rick Steves has a separate thread for the very reason that RafaFan posted. I'm also glad to see that it is posted in the general area, as well. It is unfortunate that threads like these have to exist just as ones about LGBTQ, sexual assault/harassment of single women/women traveling without men, Orthodox Jews, Hasidic Jews, women who wear hijabs/burqas, etc. have to exist: individuals need to feel safe while traveling and be informed by others before venturing out. Some issues of safety cannot simply be chalked up to poor work ethic, ugly Americans, etc.
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/minority
https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/trip-planning/tips-for-solo-women-travelers
And myriad posts about traveling as a member of the LGBTQ community

Posted by
1163 posts

@RafaFan,
Thank you for your post. I also think that it was appropriately stated.

Posted by
146 posts

I remember buying tickets for a bus trip to Assisi where I said in Italian "due biglietti per favore", The ticket agent looked at me and said you perfect English, "Are you from Argentina?" Hilarious. After studying Italian in California for this trip with a few South American women I discovered that Italian teachers think that students responding to them in Spanish is the bane of their profession.