Feeling a little ethnic

I spent my Christmas/New Year’s holiday in central/southern Italy (Florence, Siena, Sorrento) and Malta. Other than one cold, damp, rainy day in Malta, it was a great trip. However, it also reminded me of one thing that I dislike about living in Europe because I think it comes up more frequently here than it does in the U.S. (or at least the parts of the U.S. I mostly move around in): People are much likely to make certain comments or act on certain assumptions because I’m Asian.

Maybe this is because loads of Asian tour groups descend on Europe in a way that they don’t quite do in the U.S. Or maybe they’re just more spaced out in the U.S. – I don’t know. I will say that it doesn’t seem to happen as much in the UK, Germany (offensive posters at Cannstatter aside), or France, where perhaps there are more Asian immigrants living integrated with the more indigenous population. I’ve already written about the open stares I get in Bulgaria, but on this last trip, I had a creepy church guard at St. John’s in Valletta stalk me around the cathedral and harass me with, “Zhong guo ren, zhong guo ren! Ni hao ma? Konichiwa!” repeatedly while listening to music on his cell phone/iPod and trying to angle it in a way so that I could see his spiffy touch screen (he was basically the worst church employee ever), and then in our hotel breakfast room, a pensioner from the UK touched my arm to warn me about a supposedly nonfunctional toaster, but when I turned around she was clearly flummoxed by my appearance and didn’t think I would understand her language, so instead she pointed at the offending toaster and shook her head very slowly at me.

But it was still a good trip.

PS. Re: creepy church guard – who actually uses that as a pickup line? [It translates into: “Chinese person, Chinese person! How are you?” in Mandarin and then “Hello!” in Japanese] What am I supposed to respond to that?