How Travel Prevents Xenophobia (The Fear Of Foreigners)
Xenophobia is a widespread phenomenon triggered by media and other institutions. But where is the start and end of it? And why should you overthink such prejudices?
Why does it concern you?
When it starts right here, I don’t want to put myself in someone else’s shoes. Whether you are Caucasian, African, Asian or from another ethnicity, in the end we are all people. Our genetic roots are all the same. The greatest diversity of individuals is around us no matter where we go. Most countries have never been populated with as many various cultures as now and I find nothing more beautiful than that. Yet, there are people who trample on it. In fact, they not only trample on our diversity, but on our human rights.
I have a German passport, I am white, I come from a middle-class family, I am well educated and able to go to university. One could say I am spoiled and to be honest I couldn’t even deny it. In my decent life I never thought xenophobia would reach me anywhere I go. At least not in our so called, developed western world.
- How to spot xenophobia.
I don’t mean to say that people always intend to be xenophobic. Sometimes, they just don’t think about what they are saying. I know that can happen to anyone. Everybody says something sometimes that wasn’t meant in the way others received it. Especially, when all you see on media is terror and violence. However, living abroad made me better understand what xenophobia actually means and where it starts – that what you see on media is only half the story.
Just take an everyday situation. For instance, talking to people in a club, on the streets, or in school. When you are not living in an English-speaking country or your home country, you might need to ask people to switch to English. Some people are curious, but some might just look at you weirdly. I personally had to explain myself a couple of times. “Why don’t you speak our language?” was the question. It’s okay to ask, but most of the times it comes with a tone of disgrace.
But what about integration?
Yes, integration is very important and I definitely share that value. How often have we heard people raging about others coming to their country and not even learning the national language? But then, why judge a person you’ve just met? You don’t know how long the person has lived in the country, you don’t know if the person can afford language classes and you don’t know how often and how hard that person has tried to learn the language – has tried to integrate.
This might seem trivial, but when this attitude starts to spread – where does it end? There are people who have to fight much harder against xenophobia. People, who get physically and verbally attacked, because they come from somewhere else. They are judged based on a part of their life they cannot influence at all: their birth place, their family and the conditions they were born in. So, we should all look at who’s talking. A different origin might not make someone a different person. Those people are worth as much as you are.
Embrace your status as a globetrotting revolutionist!
Living abroad really helps fighting against xenophobia. It helps fighting against prejudice. Getting to know other cultures – experiencing them and embracing their diversity – is what makes living abroad so great. It gives you confidence and skills that will serve you well for the rest of your life. Programs such as exchange are the first steps towards a more respecting world, away from xenophobia. In the end, it is all up to you. Be welcoming when people come to your country. Learn to respect other cultures when you go to a foreign country – not only when you want to live there, but for holidays too!
People are not equal, but we are all human and we have the right to be treated gracefully. We have feelings and these can be hurt. When you learn that and respect it, you will be able to make friends for life internationally.