I've wanted to write this post for a very long time now. While it may seem insignificant to some, and pulling the "race card" to others, I believe that it is actually very important for the cultural awareness, and safety of future travelers. My experience in Europe was surprisingly pleasant and I am happy for this opportunity to share it with you.
When planning my trip, I had many apprehensions as a woman and especially as a woman of color. It is to my understanding that, women, especially single women, are always more vulnerable than men and even more so when travelling. With racial tensions on the rise, travelling as a woman of color, who might stick out and therefore be a target, can be daunting.
My Experience As a Woman
Some tips that I read included purchasing a cheap ring and wearing it on your ring finger so that others will assume you have a male spouse with you for protection. Another tip for a particular tourist destination recommended not walking alone as a woman because men will assume you are a streetwalker.
Upon arrival in Nice, I was with my male boss and co-workers so I felt safe and did not worry until they left and it was just Zeidy,my best friend, and I. So in short - we played it super safe.
WE DID NOT:
Stay out extremely late:
- By 10-11 PM we were usually on our way home and only resided in the larger cities (Rome and Paris) which were similar to New York in the sense that they never sleep. The places we had to travel (usually the metro and our AirBnB streets) were well populated and we HUSTLED. No dawdling at that time of night.
Go to nightclubs:
- It was our first time in Europe, with no local friends who knew the area. It just didn't seem like a smart move
Run around trying to meet guys:
- You have seen Taken right??
- Don't go out looking like a floozy and don't wear a swimsuit in Venice just because there are a lot of canals...
- Europeans in general are more formal than Americans so try to look the part a bit... blend in so that you don't call unwanted attention to yourself
- Thoroughly check reviews of the neighborhood and AirBnb host before booking
- Text and call our relatives back in the states daily to let them know our daily plans (Le Louvre, the Vatican, etc.)
- Use apps like Google Maps and City Mapper to navigate through the city, only asking instructions when we were absolutely lost (*cough*, Paris metro, I'm talking about you)
My Experience as a Woman of Color
As a black woman I am always a little worried about how I will be received, not in huge diverse metropolises like Paris or Rome, but in smaller villages with little to no diversity. I once read a blog post by a black woman and she described how when visiting Russia people would ask to take photos with her, and children would rub her skin and look at their hands to see if the color came off. While these actions are not threatening to safety, it is still sensible to be prepared if the situation would arise.
Well, I discovered that they loooove the brown skin honey!
They really do! I received so many compliments from men (and women!) about how they loved my skin. I had a sew-in, but I feel that if I would have had twists or natural hair I would have received even more positive responses. I also think that since my French is about intermediate, and I speak fluent Spanish, that helped their perception of me. Europeans never seem to have an amazing opinion of Americans so it feels that when they meet: 1) a Black American 2) who is actually Dominican and Haitian but, born in the states 3) who speaks multiple languages - they are impressed at most and welcoming at least.
Honestly, being black did not make an impact on my trip. Other than the compliments, I received no dirty looks, no suspicious glances, and absolutely no hostile behavior. It was such an amazingly positive experience I would not hesitate to go back. It felt like...
SURPRISE! My color didn't matter! So freeing.. I wish it was like that here at home.
Anyway, I hope I made sense... and if not or if you have any specific questions please let me know!