First, let me apologize for the prolonged absence. The busyness at uni got crazy and the university presidency took a life of its own.  Now I’m back despite the burnout and the zombie-like status of my sleep regime. Despite all these recent (chronic) hurdles, I actually got some inspiration to write today.

Why? The reason is this:

Today, I took my normal routine to the university – take the Yellow Metro line from Opera (the center of town) to Deak Ferenc Ter (the connection of all transport in Budapest). It was a normal day, but it didn’t turn out to be that. A Hungarian women in her mid-40s started speaking to me in a not-so-friendly tone. I usually just ignore it or smile, but the reaction of the gentleman’s face next to me made me realize that it was probably a bit serious.

I asked him what she was saying. He deciphered, “You are the reason for the problems in my country. Go back to China to the rice fields where you came from.” At first I laughed and then proceeded to tell her (through the Hungarian man) that she should go back to the 15th century where she came from. And that I wasn’t Chinese actually. I’m American, albeit from Vietnam.

You may think this is some rarity in Europe. I have news for all of you reading this. This is not the first time this has happened to me. In fact, this is the 6th time since September. And it’s from all ages, big and small, men and women, rich and poor. It really broke my heart because this is Europe. One would think that this line of ridiculous thinking didn’t occur here, but it does.

What is the huge puzzle is that it only happens to be IN EUROPE! It’s never happened to me in North America, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, or Sub-Saharan Africa. NEVER. And I can’t seem to understand why. Thinking it was just me, I asked my other non-white colleagues. They have all experienced the same thing in Budapest. This is the EU. This is Europe.

But after backpedaling, I realized that it’s also happened to me in other countries – East, West, North and South (and some of it led to altercations and spiting, all those nasty things associated with blind hatred).

The fact is that identity, ethnicity and nationalism is still raw here. Sadly, this is not simply a one generational thing. It’s going to take much more work – much more than simple tolerance, but rather, the political and social will to truly bring people into the community – whether by forums, public discussions or at least saying hello at the minimum.

Have you experienced racism or acts of discrimination abroad?