Cultural differences show both the unique values and traditions of the country. They exist in any part of the world and can be more apparent throughout the stay in the host country, especially when experiencing the first-handed nuances and intricacies of daily interactions. These differences are not only an essential part of appreciating certain cultures but also for further fostering global harmony and mutual respect and understanding.
Engaging myself in a new country with cultural differences I have grown to appreciate the States more than the experiences in Barcelona, Spain. Though Barcelona’s traditions and culture are much richer than the States, with delicious cuisines and affluent architecture, the stereotypes and the racist comments I have received have changed my opinion on the idea of Europe being more advanced than the United States.
As a Korean-American female, I have been conditioned to a level of racism, but I never would have expected to hear these remarks in Spain. I even mentioned to my friend that I would much rather be cat-called than be called these Asian slurs, which shows how vicious and disgusting racism can be in Barcelona. Comments that I’ve never heard in the nineteen years of living in the States, I have heard multiple times in the two-month span of my stay in Barcelona. Questions like where I’m originally from, and comments like “arigato, ni-hao, ching-chong, and konichiwa.” I think the worst of all was when someone commented in Spanish, “Ew, I just made eye contact with a [insert Asian slur].” Despite my basic Spanish-speaking skills, confronting these racist individuals is an important act of empowerment. By standing firm and asserting ourselves shows our contribution to a more inclusive society. Speaking up to defend ourselves can be nerve-wracking for fear of retaliation and requires courage. But by breaking the cycle of silence, it paves the way for a future where such demeaning encounters are relegated to the past. Where individuals can feel safe without the fear of discrimination or humiliation.
Although these encounters are undoubtedly frustrating, addressing these misconceptions head-on is the most important to me. Staying silent and avoiding confrontational situations simply deepens the resentment and leaves lasting scars. The fact that racism still exists in the 21st century and is more apparent in European countries is astounding. I walk around the city now, with the anxiety that someone is going to say another racist remark. Though it differs amongst countries and individuals, I believe it takes one person to ruin the experience.
Despite all this, I find comfort in the fact that I’m not the only Asian-American student in the program. The assurance strengthens me, reminding me that I don’t have to navigate these situations alone. Instead, I have the support of a companion who understands my discomfort and stands resolute with me in these confrontations. My friends are what have been encouraging me and providing a pleasurable experience. Without them, I wouldn’t have enjoyed my stay in Barcelona as much. With two weeks left in my program, I’m ready to go back but I will definitely miss the cuisine and the days where I would meet up with my friends to go out for dinner or drinks.