i think i can say that i don’t easily get offended by comments from other people that has to do with how i look (= Asian, among Caucasians). since i’m not yet familiar with the Finnish slang words, i doubt i would even understand it if anyone were to offend me with any racist words. 😀 it’s useful to be deaf sometimes.
but i must admit that there are times when the “hidden” meanings annoy me even more than plain racist comments. and here are some that i’ve encountered more than once, and not just towards me here in Finland, but also towards my husband in Indonesia (again, as a reminder, prejudice/racism/discrimination does not only happen in the western world; it happens everywhere).
–“you must like working here!” said some stranger to me while i was at work. at first i didn’t think much of it, and just said something like, “sure, it’s a nice place to work at.” but then she went on to say how it’s great that “somebody like me” can have a job, because she was sure that i would not have the same opportunity in my home country. this was said before she even asked where i came from, and we were talking in the same language. i wondered then if my Finnish was just so bad that i immediately seem ‘foreign’ to her, but then i quickly remembered that i talk the same way to other strangers and they never react the same way as this person. so, i figured, the problem was not with my Finnish, it’s with this particular stranger i was talking with.
and then, as usual, the conversation would went on to this other person asking me if i live here with my family, which would usually mean my parents, my siblings, etc. to which of course i said, no. first of all, it’s really none of anyone’s business who i live with. second of all, upon seeing someone with different skin colour and different eye shapes, of course she would automatically think that i came here with my whole family for a better living. bring the whole neighbourhood to this rich country, steal the native people’s workplace & live happily ever after!
because–and this is an even worse thought–if i had married a Finn, i can’t possibly be working, right? i must be just a stay-at-home mum or shopping-all-the-time wife. the fact that i “like working here” when i wouldn’t otherwise have a job in my home country surely indicates that my whole Asian family is here and i have to work hard to make money for them.
this is just one example, though, and it incidentally happened here in Finland. but rest assured that i’ve seen and heard it many times as well in Indonesia, the ‘locals’ or ‘natives’ being defensive towards ‘foreigners’, thinking that they only want to steal their jobs, steal their land (still traumatized by colonial times, maybe?), etc. and in both countries, people can make these thoughts or beliefs hidden in seemingly polite words.
–a stranger starts talking to you in the assumed ‘native’ language. some (Caucasian) people have tried talking to me in: Thai, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Indian, Chinese. if they were genuinely thinking that i came from one of those countries and wanted to make some kind of conversation to me, i can still laugh about it… though for the life of me, i can’t understand why they did it before asking where i come from. i mean, what if i was born in Finland and have grown up only knowing Finnish language?
anyway, what annoys me is when somebody just say, “ni hao!” or “konnichiwa!” or whatever else just as a way to ‘greet’ me when we pass by each other on the street.
also, making a stereotypical-rhetorical comment/question towards somebody who looks like he/she might come from a specific country falls into the same category. i once sat down next to a guy i didn’t know at the cafetaria of my language course. he wasn’t originally Finnish, and was also a student, just like me. i was being polite and asked if i could sit there since there was nowhere else to sit, and he said yes. and then the next thing he said, before anything else (asking my name or where i was from), upon seeing my lunch for the day (rice), was, “why do Chinese like to eat rice?”
and it wasn’t meant to be a joke, either. i think i only replied, “i don’t know, why don’t you ask a Chinese if you want to know?” with as cold of a tone as possible and ate my lunch as quickly as possible to get the hell away from him.
–“i’m not a racist, because i work with people from all around the world, of all kinds of skin colour, etc.” making a point of saying it to somebody who looks like a ‘foreigner’ does NOT make it sound genuine. i mean, honestly, why bring up the subject in the first place if you really are NOT a racist?
believe it or not, this came out from the same stranger as the one i mentioned at point #1. 😀 i felt like laughing inside when she suddenly said that. of course, when you spell it out like that, it must be really true.
rather than saying it, it would be much more believable if you would act it. talk to me without seeing my skin colour or my eye shape. 90% of the other strangers i meet everyday can do this, so why can’t you?
and to be honest, if you are just curious, i would feel a lot better if you just plainly ask. i never get hurt if someone asks me where i’m originally from, how long i’ve been here, and sometimes even why i came here. straight-forward questions like those are much better than prejudiced statements.