One of the hardest things about coming home is the racist comments from people around me. I grew up in a small town in the Danish countryside where the main population is pale Danish citizens. It’s not like everyone is against foreigners and mostly they relate to Middle Eastern refugees who hate Denmark and our open talk about their religion (The Danish journalists did make a lot of trouble a few times when teasing religious groups but that’s another story) when they talk about foreigners at all. I try to not listen too much but our town just received a bunch of depressed and scared Syrian refugees and many of the people I work with just don’t understand why they have to come here and “take” our stuff. I feel like I have to defend these people, probably mostly because I have been abroad and seen difficult lives of others.
Once at work, I told two colleagues that I was in love with China. One of them thought I said “in love with the Chinese”, and she made a weird face and “oh okay China, not Chinese. I get that. They’re so ugly.” And I was like, okay what? I was speechless for a moment but smart enough to not comment on such a stupid thing to say. How can she say that about 1,2 billion people? Why? It’s just weird.
Another time, I talked to another colleague. She said she needed the sun and I told her to come visit me in Malaysia soon. She looked horrified and told me she didn’t like dark-skinned people. I said quietly that I would’ve liked to throw my hand in her face while my blood was boiling inside. I was furious about her stupid comment and I told myself I would walk away and not look back.
Even a family member of mine stated that she didn’t like foreigners too. I curiously asked her why, and she told me about the young boys with dark brown skin who once teased her at the bus station. There was also the time, when they came to the local clothing store when she was working and they tried to steal something. This was her reason for hating all foreigners. She told me that we could have different opinions, right?
Then I had to ask her if she knew the difference between refugees, immigrants, second-generation and exchange students. She didn’t. I tried to explain it to her but she kept relying on the fact that everyone was allowed to have his or her own opinion.
Her annoyance with the dark-skinned teenage boys makes her hate the English exchange student, the Polish Carpenter, the Chinese engineer, the adopted Kenyan baby etc.
I’m sad about this narrow-minded way of thinking in my small local community. It’s understandable because not many here have been abroad which means they can’t really understand these different cultures but because of all the international news and all the knowledge we can find online, I just hoped that these people would be more open. They’ve seen the horrible photos in TV, heard about the explosions in the radio. Why don’t they have a bigger understanding of these people’s situation? I’m afraid the thousands of evenings when the news reporter is repeatedly talking about terrorists, Muslims and foreigners in one context, it’s really difficult for people in the traditional countryside to separate and understand that not everyone as a Muslim or dark-skinned are the same and evil.
I’m still not used to the foreign stereotypes, and I feel like I have to stand up for these people who can’t say anything themselves when three Danish middle-aged women are discussing how they dislike, let’s say, the foreign man down in the local supermarket.
Obviously, these are the negative experiences from my month back in my hometown. I do meet many open and curious Danish people as well and it makes my heart jump, when they want to hear my stories from abroad. These people make my day and make me forget about the previous bad experiences.
Anyway, now, I’m looking forward to go back to Asia for another adventure!