Attenzione: Euro Summer Can Actually Fucking Suck When You Are A Person Of Colour

It feels like every other Instagram post or TikTok I scroll through involves someone on a yacht in Greece. Or relaxing on a beach in Spain. Or eating a glorious, carb-filled diet in Italy.

‘Euro summer’ has plagued every facet of social media and left the rest of us enjoying our taste of Australian winter, cold and with a serious case of FOMO.

And while most of the people on our TikTok are having a swell time somewhere in Greece, not everyone is enjoying their time travelling Europe.

While TikTok is chockers full of people enjoying a few weeks off work, it’s also full of people of colour travelling who have experienced racism or micro-aggressions during their time overseas.

And it’s a shitty reality for a lot of people of colour travelling abroad.

Bangladeshi/Palestinian TikToker Sairaj Ahmed (@thegymfoodie) is a video creator currently travelling Europe.

While in Lisbon, Portugal, they were approached by locals attempting to sell them a tour package. When they declined, they were told to “fuck off” out of Lisbon and to go back to their own country.

While this isn’t a total reflection on travelling to Portugal or Europe, it is an example of just some of the prejudice people of colour have to face when travelling somewhere foreign.

Melbourne-based writer Simran Pasricha spent time as a 17-year-old living in Italy on exchange.

She told me she can still vividly remember some of the things people yelled at her on the streets.

“Whenever I walked home from school or from the Piazza I would always get a racist-coded cat call,” she told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“Men would call out random words like ‘Bollywood’, ‘India’ and ‘Priyanka’, which I honestly didn’t know how to take.

“Some were more on the nose, calling out ‘slumdog’, ‘dirty Indian’ and ‘curry face’.”

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that it feels incredibly shitty to be cat-called, especially in a foreign country. But also it sucks massively when the cat-calling comes from a racial place that stereotypes and ‘exoticises’ you.

If you don’t think it can get any worse, you are unfortunately wrong.  

While some people like Simran might experience outright racism, others will experience micro-aggressions. 

Racism is easier to detect, it’s in your face and you know it when you see it. Whereas micro-aggressions are more subtle. Sometimes they appear to be a surface-level compliment or a joke.

And if you’re a person of colour in Australia, it’s probably something you’ve experienced on a semi-regular basis, but I digress. 

Micro-aggressions aren’t obvious and sometimes they are unintentional and it makes navigating them even harder.

US-based content creator Iris Mai has been travelling Europe for the summer.

In a TikTok, she detailed how she’s had people greeting her with “konnichiwa” or “ni hao”.

Iris is Taiwanese, not Chinese or Japanese and often has to explain this to people who make these types of comments.

“Even though it doesn’t seem like a big deal, all the ‘China’, ‘ni hao’ or ‘konnichiwa’ is just not a good feeling,” she told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“And they’re not doing this to other races, like they wouldn’t just say ‘bonjour’ or ‘Canada’ just based on their appearance, while they’re doing it to us.”

Iris explained that she tries to just ignore it for the most part, but sometimes she will stop them and tell them she is not Chinese or Japanese.

While these people might not be intentionally referring to Iris and other travellers as a wrong race, it is exhausting having to explain yourself.

As a mixed woman of colour, I am often caught trying to find the balance between explaining to others what race I actually am and firmly reiterating that they are being rude.

It’s a double-edged sword: if I don’t explain my ethnicity I’ve missed out on a chance to educate someone, but if I’m too firm in my response then I’m a bitch.

And that’s just in Australia.

Trying to explain who you are to someone who speaks another language is even more overwhelming.

Simran told me that while she doesn’t take any possible racism or micro-aggressions into consideration when booking travel, it is something she is wary of.

“It’s more like I’m always conscious of it, always on guard,” she said.

The travel zeitgeist post-COVID has been about sunny getaways, making memories with your friends and re-discovering one’s life purpose.

My Instagram feed is plagued with (mostly white) influencers taunting me with their PR trip on a boat in Croatia telling me to “live my best life”.

And while this can be true, I think it completely misses that point that not all people experience travel that easily.

The reality is: for people of colour, our Euro summer might not be as fun.

Emma Ruben is a Malaysian-born freelance journalist and writer living on Whadjuk Boodjar with her labradoodle. You can find her on Instagram.