Experiencing Racism in Italy as an Asian Traveler

Last Updated on by Kendrick

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Italy is famous for its historical sites and culture. But one thing they would tell you about Italy is how rampant racism is, especially towards Asians.

During my travels in the country, I experienced a lot of it.

It All Began on the Train Ride In

Italy

It all started when I switched from a Swiss train to an Italian train when I crossed the border to Italy. Upon switching trains, I encountered a woman who was giving me a dirty look while I was trying to find a place to sit.

Before long, she started shouting “NI HA NI HA” to me in a condescending tone. She’s trying to say “Ni Hao” which is hello in Mandarin but she instead butchers it and uses it as a tool to mock me for being an Asian.

Harassment in the Museums

Italy

The second racist encounter I experienced was while I was visiting the Vatican museum. While admiring the ceiling painting, a boy began to mock every Asian he saw in the room.

He would purposely walk up to each Asian individual, and did a sort of bow to purposely mock them. He tried to do the same to me, but I told him off before he continued his racist ways.

But, all this doesn’t compare to the worst encounter of all.

More Racism on the Trains

Hands down, one of the worst racist encounters I’ve had since starting my one year around the world journey is while taking the metro in Rome. Upon entering the metro on my way back home after seeing the Colosseum and Vatican city, a man stares at me and gives me a dirty look.

As soon as the metro stopped, he stood up and purposely stomped on my foot and walked out of the metro. He then looks through the window and started doing “crotch chops” to further insult me.

I was furious after this happened, and wanted to punch him in the face.

I couldn’t believe that so many Italians were so racist towards Asians!

Italy

Perhaps the Italians are afraid that a large number of Asian tourists are desecrating their homeland, hence the anger?

But Italy relies heavily on tourism, wouldn’t this type of behaviour drive tourists away?

Because of the racism I experienced while travelling in Italy, I can honestly say, this was the worst country for me to visit in my entire time in Europe. Despite how much I enjoyed seeing the Colosseum, Vatican City, and eating gelato, I’m not sure you can convince me to return to this country anytime soon.

One friendly Italian man I met at one of the hostels I stayed at gave me very good advice. He told me “Come visit my country and take pictures. Afterwards, get out as fast as you can because the people are not nice.”

I think his advice couldn’t be more accurate.

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14 thoughts on “Experiencing Racism in Italy as an Asian Traveler”

  1. Same here. We were mocked everyday of our trip. Some teens pushed my friend and surrounded her to mock her. Another guy purposely blocked us in the train and then ignored us when we asked him to move. The whole experience sucked from day 1. Unfortunately i will not return there.

  2. I’m so sorry for your experience! I am an Asian woman traveling in Italy and I was just stopped for “random check” for driving in Italy too… they asked to see all my documentations so I have them my international papers, license, and paper and they asked for my passport and claimed I didn’t have the signed paper for my rented car…. I gave them ALL my documents and they still wouldn’t let me go and looked through my passport claiming they couldn’t find my entry stamp into the country. (Because I have a lot of stamps)… they finally let me go When my Italian brother-in-law came to help. I do NOT ever want to come back. (Unfortunately we have a wedding here next year but after that will never will. I also had another person similar to yours in Rome who kept screaming NI HA ina very mocking way to me. (I’m japanese but I know it was mocking mandarin) I was left in tears after my police incident. It makes me even more sad to think about situations like African americans getting stopped and shot in the US and I hope we can all band together and stand together against racism.

  3. I’m here in rome now and because I was sensing something wrong after a few days had to google it and at least got solace from others experiencing the same. I’ve been to Paris, Niece, Madrid, Barcelona and never experienced what I have here so far. Will never return. I love to travel and meet locals from around the world but to experience blatant racism here nah good luck.

  4. Growing up in Canada, the two kids in their 20’s back in 1986 were Italian who harassed me in College (I am South Asian), and I put both of them in the hospital to make a man out of them.

    O.k. that was 1986, visited Italy in 2012, 2015, and 2017 and each time encountered racism pretty much in most major cities in Italy. From racists Waiters/Waitress to rude hotel check in people and list goes on.

    I will never ever visit Italy again ever. The most friendly country in Europe is Spain and love those people.

    It makes me laugh what makes Italian so arrogant and such bigots, doesn’t matter in their home country or in US or Canada?

    Besides Olive tress and some crappy wine their entire e-economy is based on Tourism. I think if we all boycott Italian tourism just for 1 year that will bring such idiots down to their knees in a heart beat perhaps they will learn some manners.

    I do have some Italian close friends and even these Italian friends of mine admits openly that Italians are plain racists and are all Gumbaas.

  5. As an Italian guy who is in love with Chinese and other Asian cultures I completely agree. I have many Chinese friends and I am the first to notice a lot of racism towards Asians and other populations inside Italy. I live in Milan and luckily, here people seem to be more Integrated, but it’s not 100%: Milan is still a cosmopolitan city, but it represents a very small part of Italy, and we have racists also here. Many italians are not only racists, but they also spread fake news (like saying Chinese people eat dogs, which is not true).
    I have also made a video on my YouTube channel against these stereotypes, but there is much to do in Italy than just spreading the correct information.
    There are still also many people who love Asian cultures and especially Milan is home to a very integrated area, so I don’t want to discourage people at all. But for example, my opinion on cities like Rome is very different (for example, Filipinos in Rome usually tend to make small group, evidently because it is hard to make friends with Italians). Then there is me, who has 90% of Asian friends and who is simply happy of this. I had much more true friendships among them than among my connationals. With this I don’t want to discourage you: Italy is beautiful and also full of open mind people: you have to find them, and most of all, you have to never care about bad people, which unluckily are everywhere in the world.
    Cheers from Milan
    Alessio

  6. I’ve had many instances of racism and openly rude comments towards me. I speak broken Italian (with an English accent because I grew up in England). It’s really sad and I hate it.. And like you it’s worse because I’m half Italian (other half Asian) but they just see me as Asian and “different” and discriminate against that, the racism is very direct..

  7. My wife and I are Asians, and our first time in Rome. Yes, I couldn’t agree more with this post. We are still here (only been here a few days), and noticed it immediately. This is why I googled it and found this post… The country is beautiful but probably half the locals we have encountered with are certainly racist (and that’s a lot). You can sense it when they speak to you, and notice their eye movements checking you from toes upwards. It’s a horrible feeling, and such a waste. What’s wrong here, and why are they so uneducated!… I feel sorry for them because I will be sharing my experience with my international friends, and am not so motivated to come back. For crying out loud the Vatican city is here! God please help these people wake up!!
    On a positive note, I feel it’s important to mention that the other half were very nice people. Just a shame that I had to google this…

    • My mom and I traveled the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. I totally agree. I will never come to Italy. And actually the country is worse than I expected. They openly hate Asians. Arrogant and rude. If you want to see the beauty of the Amalfi coast. Go to Greece. If you want to feel the ambience of Renaissance and its art, go to France. I am from Korea and I feel that Italy is even less developed than Korea. They are nothing without tourism industry.

  8. so accurate! im asian and i study in milan, now writing my thesis. italians are really closed minded and closed only between them and also hates eachother and acts ignorant towards eachother plus dun have flexible mind, if they think that pasta is right, pasta should be right.. there couldnt be more options lol.
    they ll give u fake smile with those buongiorno grazie prego salve etc, but u could feel their hatred or dislikedness from their inside. i tried to have friends in my first two years and it was afwul experience, they only know racist jokes even when u go out with them in clubs etc.
    so its better to take distance from italians and just finish ur study, business or work as soon as possible and go out asap.

  9. My experience was the same. I was exhausted, narrowed, and scared after taking a wrong bus and entered a cafe in Parma to charge My phone. I bought a coffee so that I at least become their customer. But the woman was super rude to me and she almost threw my phone. Except my beautiful hosts, most of Italians I met were anti tourists and super rude bunch.

  10. When I went to Italy, I absolutely hated it. I had multiple instances of racism/discrimination, because I didn’t speak their language. They absolutely hate tourists. The thing that really pisses me off is that I am half Italian.

    • I totally understand your comment. I’ve had many instances of racism and openly rude comments towards me. I speak broken Italian (with an English accent because I grew up in England). It’s really sad and I hate it.. And like you it’s worse because I’m half Italian (other half Asian) but they just see me as Asian and “different” and discriminate against that, the racism is very direct..

  11. Yup. In Italy now and being denied entry to restaurants due to being Asian — “No space! Full.” and moments later a larger group of white people are tables without issue. Beautiful country, horrible people.

  12. I am very sorry for your experience! I am south american, I lived in Italy many years so I really know what you mean. Unfortunately, in my experience I have to say, Italians aren’t racists only against asian people but racists in generall against all other races. The problem with Italy isn’t only racism, it is also misogyny and pure ignorance.

    I live now in Germany and I thank God everyday I don’t live in Italy anymore, every single day. And although my culture is of course different to German culture, I feel here save and at home. I wish you the best!

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