I enjoy reading blogs by solo female travelers and as much as I can relate with their experiences and some of their stories, the one thing I can never relate to is when they share their experiences from the viewpoint of a non-Asian female. Like the cat calls from men when they are in Asia, China nationals wanting to take pictures with them, sexual harassment from men, being called “Jennifer Lopez” etc when they walk down the streets.
Except for that one time in Venice, I never really had to deal with any form of sexual harassment.
So what is it like traveling as solo female of Chinese descent in Asia, Europe, US and the Middle East? Basically, you are ignored. In Asia, especially South-East Asia, they know you are a tourist but you are not worth any cat calls from men, you’re only good for the touts. However, I should add that dressing does play a part too. I dress modestly enough to not warrant any glances from people – at least I don’t feel any stares enough to be uncomfortable.
In Europe, I’m seen as a tourist from China. The “nai haos” (hellos) are peppered all around me with an occasional “piao liang” (pretty) but those are all from touts. We Asians have an amazing ability, me thinks, we can tell who is from where by just their looks or a word from them. Most non-Asian think we all look alike (complete with slity eye jokes) but I’ve come across quite a number of times where I was with non-Asian friends and they would make a statement like, “Oh, there’s another Chinese” only for me to take a quick look and go, “Nah, she’s Korean.” Ensue gasps of amazement from the friends. Hey, we can even tell if someone is from Malaysia or Indonesia by their accents – even if they have been living in Singapore for half their lives.
In the Middle East, mainly Jordan, I garnered attention from both men and women alike – because I was different. Most Chinese looking folks they see are in tour groups, so what was this lone ‘young’ girl wandering around by herself? In Israel, although I was the only Asian on a bus full of Israelis, everyone ignored me…actually, everyone ignored everyone. Immigration checks into Israel? Breezed through it.
Before I went to the US some people told me that I might face discrimination, however small. But I never felt a tinge of it as I was traveling around. Perhaps I’m more oblivious to these type of things? I was expecting to have a tough time at the immigration when I arrived but to my surprise, other than some friendly questions of what I would be doing in the US, I breezed through it with smiles.
Basically, I think I have it a little easier by not being a ‘novelty’ in most countries. In Asia, you are just one of them and in other countries, you are from China. The only ‘problem’ I face sometimes is disgusted stares from people and vendors who assume that I’m from China and would stereotype you as rich, noisy, difficult and dirty so they give you a less than helpful attitude until they realize that I’m not from China. It’s a bit sad but true but that is what I just deal with a pinch of salt.