Black Travel Europe Keepin' It Real

PRAGUE: My Least Favorite City in Europe

Estimated Reading Time: 15 minutes


I never thought I’d ever make a post about a city I hated, because quite frankly, I’m an easy pleaser that’s what she said, and it really doesn’t take much to make me happy (take note, future hubby!). But I’ve been asked this question before, and I never truly had an answer until now.

I’ve had my qualms with British and French authority, but for the most part, it takes a lot for me to flat out say, “I HATE THIS CITY”.

And maybe, this is partially my fault, as one of the Cardinal Rules of traveling is to try not to set your expectations of a place too high based on other people’s experiences. That way you’re always pleasantly surprised. But the stream of comments about how Prague was everyone’s favorite city flooded my notifications, and resist, I could not. The anticipation was real.

Now first off, Prague is BEAUTIFUL. It’s warm, charming, and absolutely breath-taking in some squares. Some streets don’t even look real because they’re so picturesque. This is what I expected, and my aesthetic needs were graciously met.

But here’s where things took a turn.

I did my usual wandering, in my usual aimless manner. When traveling in general, I make an effort to blend in when I can, but usually adhere to my typical boho attire – blouse, scarf, fedora, and bracelets.

Nothing about what I was wearing or how I looked should’ve drawn the attention that I got. The attention I’m referring to is something every Black American abroad has experienced in some manner, somewhere.

The lack of multiculturalism caused me to be a walking exhibit straight out of a museum.

And here’s what I mean.

As a black person, there are four types of stares I’ve come to terms with while traveling. And before you say that “you don’t see color” please for one second realize that I’m not talking about you. These people, locals, who some may have never seen a black person before in their life, indeed SEE color. This is not an opinion, this is a fact. And my year of living in Spain corroborated that by the amount of times I was catcalled with the ever-so-endearing words of “hey, black girl!” in Spanish. Here are the four variations of stares you get as a Black American abroad.

1. THE LOOK OF CURIOSITY
This face is quite harmless, because there’s a very good chance that they may have never seen a black person up close and in person before. So you being their first encounter has sparked all kinds of questions and innermost thoughts translating into their current gaze of wonder. They might genuinely ask if you’re related to the Obamas, and once they mentally convince themselves otherwise, you kindly tell them you’re only second cousins with the President and that it’s been a couple years since you’ve last been able to meet at a family reunion.

2. THE LOOK OF APPROVAL
This face is the most inviting of them all. They clearly look at you and take a few seconds to glance over your black features (wide nose, big lips, hair texture) and coming to the acknowledgement that you’re exactly how they imagined “your kind” to be, they give a big smile, they ask you intruding questions, and they overall show their pleasure to welcome you to their city. For the record, there was not a single look of approval I received in Prague. These stares I’ve however gotten in different parts of Spain, France, Greece, Ireland, Scotland, and Italy.

3. THE LOOK OF DISGUST
This face hurts. Not so much the action of them making the face, but moreso the lack of concern to try and hide or disguise this face to begin with. It’s like they’re saying they’re not okay with my presence, but instead of keeping that pleasant thought to themselves, they want to make sure I’m aware of it too. These stares were plentiful in Prague. It was disheartening, because I had such high hopes.

In all honesty, this almost always comes from the older generations. People who were kids when the Wright Brothers made it possible to sit in a chair in the sky and teleport yourself to foreign territory. So the concept of multiculturalism and leisure travel is something their generation was never engulfed in like this one.

4. THE LOOK OF OBJECTIFICATION/SEXUALIZATION
This face is one I know female travelers experience everywhere and I’m not comparing our struggle in this department, but I know that black women specifically get objectifying stares in certain regions much more than anyone else. This is due to the increasing amount of African migrant women who turn to prostitution when it’s the only work they can find outside of their native country. The local culture then accepts this as the norm and they associate anyone resembling a woman of African descent to follow suit.

And before anyone tries to tell me to “appreciate the stares while they’re still coming” let me kindly tell you “NO.” Here’s why.

There’s this thing called mutual respect, and as long as you don’t give me a reason to treat you like the chauvinistic masochist that you come off as, then you will get the kind and chipper Glo.

Staring is not a compliment. It’s rude. Whether it’s a look of fascination or disgust, the act is so uncomfortable for the person on the receiving end, and even while making it very apparent that I, too, have these thing called eyes that allow me to stare back, they continue in their glare.

The worst part of all of this was walking on the sidewalk and having car after car, slow down, honk, or the strangest, put a hand up and point towards the end of the street, either signaling to meet them at the corner, or God knows what else. I felt so out of my element. I couldn’t be my normal, happy-go-lucky self.

To top my day off,  I was at a stoplight with a girl who would be considered gorgeous by today’s societal standards: brunette, long hair, toned legs, and wearing a mini dress.

Now, I don’t go around sticking prostitute labels on pretty people like some locals do when they see foreigners, but between the two of us, if one of us were more dressed for the job, 1,2,3 — NOT IT!

Regardless, guess who got the harassment as a car with two men in the front pulled up to the crosswalk. She was invisible. They looked right at me, muttered some words, smirked, and I felt them practically undressing me with their eyes. It was disgusting and I felt so violated.


I’m fully aware there will be creeps, jerks, and losers in every city or country regardless of where you are. But to feel like I got a taste of each collectively in just the two days I was in Prague didn’t sit well with me.

I’m not defeated enough to never visit again, I just know that I will do my best whenever I travel to use every experience, both good and bad, to humble myself. They don’t see my degree. They don’t see my self-made business. They don’t see the world of knowledge I have to offer on the surface.

Leaving town, the last person that stared at me (in disgust), I made sure I smiled back. Because whatever preconceived notions western media and culture had convinced them into thinking I’m not deserving of any reciprocation of the smiles and kindness I give first, then I’ll make sure that if I’m the only black person they ever encounter, that their experience is a pleasant one.

And maybe if they stopped gaping at me like I escaped a museum and used their words to engage in the cultural exchanges I’ve grown to love about traveling, we could slowly chip away at the stereotypes we hold of cultures we’ve never met in person. This is why I travel. And this is why you should too.

  • Nnedi Ugo

    Glad that you shared your experience with us! it is nice to know not only the positives, but the negatives when it comes to traveling.

    • Absolutely! I think people trust me more when I’m transparent about the entire aspect of what life abroad entails. Which is both the good and the bad. I also think it’s important to embrace the negative, because it humbles you and really makes you appreciate the privilege of living or being from a city with multicultural roots.

  • Ericka S. Williams

    wow that totally sucks. I am sorry for your experience. Well after looking up flights to paris and checking out easy jet… it looks like i might be crossing off Prague. I know eastern Europe is suppose to be easier on the budget…but I don’t have time for honking (or running around flipping people the bird…). I think American Tv has alot to do with peoples beliefs, but hey at least you tried to visit.

    • American TV indeed. Western media is killing our image globally :/

      Eastern Europe I have to admit, is doing the pockets well. I had a buffet-style dinner in Cesky Krumlow, Czech Republic last night. Equivalent to $3.50. Beer included. I was STUFFED. Still gorgeous and worth a visit! Just don’t expect a Welcome Parade 😉

  • Diana Mwango Ratemo

    It’s really annoying when such things happen right at the moment when you are happy and exploring new places and things with an open heart. This always happens to me but now I just either ignore it or simply smile and walk away.

    http://dianaratemo.com/

    • Smile and walk away is the approach I’m working on! Smile and flip them off is the approach they deserve, haha.

      P.S. Lovely site! Your pictures in Russia got me drooling! WOW. That country just bumped up a couple spots on my list! XO

  • Maryann Odusanya

    I went to Prague in 2011 and had the exact same experience. Sad to hear that things haven’t changed over there!

    • Shame. It might take generations. Who knows. The city felt so closed off to anybody who didn’t resemble them.

  • JBusiness

    Scratch Prague off the list.

    • These were my initial thoughts too, and while I don’t have plans to visit again any time soon, I’m still willing to give it another shot. Maybe my gradual recurring presence, OUR recurring presence, is exactly what that city needs to realize we’re much more alike than different at the end of the day.

      • Kit Kimberly

        You need to find the actual Bohemian heart of the centre– the “underground”, the Prague that still lives by Vaclav Havel’s values.

        “Czech” out Tonya Graves, an African American woman who came here when Prague (and all of Central [NOT Eastern] Europe) was still really incredibly xenophobic– she’s made it HER city.

        https://www.facebook.com/tonyagravesfanpage/?fref=ts

        I’m so sorry you had that experience b/c many Czechs are amazing. It IS Bohemia, after all.

  • …See, with me, it’s a little different: If people state at me (which some probably do), I rarely notice–I’m too focused on where I’m going to give fools notice (bye, Felicia!!)…However, coming up beside/behind me and trying to holla at me like a creeper–that’s different!!…

    • Good point, Betty! I think they were much easier to ignore in Spain. If I felt eyes on me, my idea was that if I didn’t catch them staring or stare back, then I wouldn’t see it, therefore it didn’t happen. Yeah, that logic didn’t pair well when they shouted, “Hola, Morena!!!”

      Dios mio.

  • Thanks for sharing your experience in Prague. Sadly I’ve experienced the same in Italy, but everything was different when I went back with a man. I love traveling alone, but there are some places I will not go without a man (doesn’t have to be a boyfriend, just a man). Your last comment about smiling in the face of disgust is the best because I think that response might make them at least question why you reacted that way and get them out of their judgment.

    • Thanks so much for reading, Elaine! And yes, while I can’t control other people’s ignorance, I can always control my response to it. I was on my way out (so I had something to be happy about, lol), but smiling back I hope made THEM feel like an idiot. 🙂

  • Regina S. Cox-Gadallah

    I am so sorry that you had experienced such ignorance! I received stares in Bangkok, Thailand and Greece…I stared back and asked had they ever before seen a black person? They stopped staring!

    • Hahahahaha! I’ll never forget some of the things they shouted at me in Greece. “Beyonce!” “Barack Obama!” *insert any black celebrity from TV* thinking it will get me to turn around or give them attention. They got a few chuckles and mental middle fingers, but yeah, staring is just so UGH.

      • Ha! In Morocco I got Nina Simone! and Janet Jackson! yelled at me a lot >_<

  • jacklyn.

    This really makes me want to cross Prague off my list for my travels in the fall. 🙁 I’m sorry you were forced to feel uncomfortable, no one should be subjected to feelings like that.

    • I’d actually encourage you to experience it for yourself and see where you can compare and contrast. Again, I still think the city is gorgeous and charming! The castles and canal views are unreal! But just go there prepared that you might not be/feel welcomed in most parts of the city 🙁

  • Tracy Askew

    I completely understand. I’m used to the stares and don’t usually pay too much attention. I have had the same thing happen to me in Gran Canaria, which had nothing but a lot of German tourists at the time. The German women looked at me with such hate and contempt and their husbands secretly and behind their backs smiles and even winked. It was the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced abroad.

    • GIRLFRIEND. I feel this on a spiritual level! To be hated by women who already know their husband will be sneaking glances at you if you’re seated in the same room or as you pass by. I can’t do anything about other people’s insecurities. Keep being fab, Tracy! XO

  • Reading this post brought me back to my time in Budapest — more for looks in the No. 3 category. It was hard for me because everyone was raving (and still raves) about how it’s such an awesome city, but I couldn’t have that experience because I was constantly aware of that feeling of non-acceptance. It was strange for me because up until that point, I had been to over 20 countries and never felt that before. It sucks. But it makes me appreciate other cities more. Maybe one day I will go back and have a different experience? But life is also short and there are so many places I’ve been already that I loved. (I did enjoy Prague but I was never alone while I was there; with a group of other girls — mixed races.)

    • Oh, wow! Budapest is a city I might cross through in a couple weeks so this is interesting to hear! I definitely hear you on that point – why visit a city you hated when you can revisit a city you loved. The world is massive. And luckily, the positive experiences will always far outweigh the negative ones.

  • Lauren Haas

    Ugh. I can only imagine how unpleasant all this must be. I got the only taste of it a blonde white woman could get, traveling in Arab countries where I often encountered all four of the reactions above from people who’ve only seen someone like me in internet porn clips, or generally thinks of me as “the enemy.” I was fascinated by those cultures, and went there with an open mind, but my experience was ruined by it.

    I’m currently in a village in Indonesia where there are few outsiders, and I get stared at like a zoo animal, but the people here are so open and friendly it’s just cute. That’s very different.

    I’m not comparing my experience to yours — just traveling through the US with Black and Hispanic friends I’ve seen how different it is — but just trying to relate and validate what you’re saying. Racism takes different forms in different places, but it’s palpable in some places. When the air is thick with it, I think you’re right to call it out.

    • Thanks so much for sharing, Lauren! I have plans to be in that region later this fall. Would love to chat more about this over drinks! Sounds therapeutic 😉

      • Lauren Haas

        I’d love that. I’ll be around SE Asia until the end of the year, hit me up!

  • I certainly empathise with your experience – I’ve been there in all types of countries. It seems like you handled the issue with grace and that’s what matters!

    Also, just wanted to say that I’m not sure it’s an issue with black Americans (not trying to undermine your experience, because it was clearly shit, just want to give a little context) per se. When I was going to CZ with my partner (who is half Czech) to visit family I voiced my concerns about being black in the countryside. He pointed out that they have a problematic history with Romany people (gypsies, travellers) and they are very dark skinned, so if anyone stared at me it wouldn’t be because of their conception of blackness based on mainstream media or experience with African migrants but because they thought I was Romany. Of course, this doesn’t excuse the contemptuous and lascivious looks, just throwing it out there!

  • wow, this is a really interesting article. I am Czech, and though I don’t live in Prague, I frequently visit it. I have to admit, many Czechs (especially the older generation) are xenophobes. However, I feel that lately, Prague has been flooded with foreigners more than ever. If I go to any souvernir shop in the center, it’s not run by Czech people. That’s a shame and actually, people from Prague are probably fed up with foreigners although many times they are source of their income.
    Czech people are very curious and yes, they do stare. I also sometimes look curiously (but discretely) at people that look interesting or wear nice clothes, but not in a bad way. I feel sorry that you had this awful experience but it seems really strange to me. I have been to Prague in the beginning of July and I walkedd through the centre with my Peruvian friend and two Black Americans (a girl and a boy) and I haven’t noticed them getting such an attention. So I hope this was really only a bad couple of days and next time if you come to Prague, the situation is much better. Anyway, if you come, I will be happy to be your guide and also tell those disgusting people to go away in Czech 😀

    • Also, having lived in Spain for over a year in total, and two months in Peru as a really white person, I really know the experience of being called things. I think my worst experiences were in Spain going around the bars where elderly man were hanging out and so they were shouting at us, foreign girls. It was disgusting. But I kinda learned to be immune to that although it’s not always pleasant. In Peru I spent the first days paranoic because everybody would be always staring at me and I thought they wanted to rob me or something. In the end, I learned to embrace it but still, my days would be happier without it. I wish we could travel the world without any prejudices…

  • Getting Close to

    So sorry to hear Gloria. I am just worried Prague is not going to be an exception? so many places are surprisingly still not used to seeing a variety of people. But I hope you will continue because as you say, these places need your “gradual recurring presence”! Hope you get a warm welcome at your next destinations!

  • Sorry you had such a bad experience in Prague! I went there years ago, and even though I didn’t run into rude people, I can’t say it’s a city that I have any desire to return too. I don’t wear my glasses when I need to, so usually I am also pretty oblivious to people staring unless they actually physically grab me. I probably had the worst experience with people being racist towards asians in Middle Eastern countries. When you just don’t have the exposure, there are just so many that are ignorant.

  • Lorena

    Great post. I went to Prague back in January. I had a pleasant experience, but maybe because I am mixed race I wasn’t as much of a ‘shock’ to them. I was also travelling in a group so I guess I was always busy talking to people and not paying attention.

    It’s a shame that you had a bad experience. I just hope that one day people things will change. keep travelling!

  • Tryphena Wade

    This…sucks! I’ve not yet been to Prague and I’ve only ever heard how beautiful it is. It really sucks that this was your experience. I’ve certainly experienced being a novelty in certain parts of the world. I’ve been stared at, had people crowd around me to take pics and discovered people blatantly taking pictures OF ME (i’ve blogged about both those experiences). I tend to laugh it off and i’m thankful that people have never been outright nasty to me. And it’s the reason why i’ve committed myself to traveling to places where “we” are not often seen AND sharing my experiences to encourage more of us to be seen. The world is a big place and as crazy as our country can be, we’re exposed to a lot of diversity (depending on where you grow up). Sometimes folks are just ignorant…and that’s totally on them. Keep smiling girl. One thing they can’t do is take your joy!

  • Oh man, I’m sorry to hear about this experience. Finding out a city doesn’t meet expectations is hard anyway but waaaay worse when all that other demeaning nonsense comes into play. As someone who lived in the VERY white/non-open culture of Russia for many years, it broke my heart to see my city dismissed by POC because of how they were treated.

    That being said, I agree with what you said in an earlier comment: the only way to change things is by being that change and creating a new normal, even if that’s an incredibly unfair expectation.

  • jabuka66

    Great post. First and foremost, objectification SUCKS. It is a major barrier to true human interaction. Secondly, I am Czech and well, it bothers me a bit that people are behaving in this manner. And thirdly, I think you mentioned that you are passing through Croatia soon? I am a little curious, because I have had great experiences with the people there, but some of the men need a little bit of education about American women, especially the ones that are educated, self-employed, and well-travelled. I find that if you hang out with them , they can be quite respectful (and even awed) For otthers, you have to have a good set of comebacks. Sigh. That expectation thing. It can be devastating to be yourself and find that you are nothing but an object or stereotype. Say it ain’t so, Glo..

    I am also reading through these posts and notice that many of the women here seem beautiful and intelligent (and exotic when traveling in certain places) and my respect and admiration goes out to you all. May you find men who see it and women who are not threatened by it!

  • Too bad you had such a bad experience in Prague – I’m one of those people who absolutely loved the city. But people are always going to be incredibly ignorant… Hope you still got to admire the beautiful architecture xx

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  • Arielle T

    THANK YOU FOR THIS POST. Solo travelling Asian female here who so often experiences unwanted gawking and is sick of people saying I’m “too sensitive” when I complain – usually coming from people who won’t have to experience it. First two kinds of stares I can deal with even though it does get exhausting after awhile, and the last two are the worst when sometimes it seems the only exposure some people have had to Asian females is in the fetish section of YouPorn…you keep travelling and killing it girl. I see your degree! High five.

  • Number 4 described the majority of my week in UAE. So eloquently said, and your spirit is amazing! So happy I found this blog.

  • Oh no. I’m so sorry to hear this. Especially in this day and age. I really am. I used to live there in the 90’s and you got the odd stare which I wasn’t surprised at, as Eastern Europe was terribly behind in Western matters in those days, but to still have it going on is a gross disappointment for all.
    I am ashamed to have a fellow person of colour and a wonderful lady to boot, be so treated. And I am sure most Czechs would be horrified as it has come to note that the reputation of local coldness is spreading. I was just there a few weeks ago. In the suburbs and looking for a street that we couldn’t find. And a local woman came running saying “Please can I help you?” On conversing with her she told me that the locals were upset that they were beginning to get a reputation of unfriendly manners and a cold stance towards visitors.

    I have a different stance and a different experience but It’s right that you write this piece and make a stand loud and clear that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated.

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  • Ugh, I HATED Prague too! I just cant put my finger on the exact reason, but man it was a brutal visit. I have decided to give it a chance, and try visiting just once more to see if I can change my mind.

    Sorry to hear you also had a rather uncomfortable Prague experience. Oh well, there’s so many other cities to see in the world.

    Paige
    http://www.pagebypaige.ca

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  • EG Green

    I can definitely relate to where you are coming from on a number of levels. Living in Japan during the pre-Obama years I was always “Will Smith-u,” and I can recall an instance when, not long after Obama was first elected, I walked into a restaurant to the cheers of grown men saying “Obama, Obama.” Admittedly, I felt a bit uncomfortable but not offended because I knew they only did so out of ignorance and not necessarily disrespect (and they ushered me in for a free meal, so that didn’t hurt matters either). Ultimately, I mention this story because regardless of those instances I still very much loved my time in Japan and a vast majority of the people I came in contact with during my time there, so I just want to offer my opinion of Prague…not only as a beautiful city but a place where, in my two trips there I felt welcomed and enjoyed my stay.

  • Ashamed to say, but I was afraid of traveling for a long time because I wanted to avoid these exact situations. Then I realized, hellooooo I’m black in America…I’m pretty sure I’m mentally prepared. I can’t believe I let thefear of ignorance hold me back so long. Now I can’t wait to disgust/shock/frighten xenophobes all over the world 🙂

  • Prague was on my to-go list last year but didn’t make it..had problems finding an Airbnb place to stay..but I will be headed there this February, and I hope I will survive. Your experience reminds me of the treatment recieved in Croatia; particularly Dubrovnik..it was such a relief and surprise to get to Bosnia afterwards and meet tremendously hospitable locals..

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  • Helča Budilová

    Oh, I just stumbled into this article somehow and I´m really sorry for how you feel about my hometown. It is very surprising to hear this, because from what I know, many of my friends, who are of different race (Africans, Asians or Latin Americans) somehow didn´t have such a problem, especially not in Prague…they did however have this problem in other cities of Czech republic or other countries in Europe, but not really in Prague…I think that the problem is actually media and how they show black people…when somebody of different race makes some crime, it is always highlighted in our media for many days, weeks, sometimes even months and media are very biased about these things, showing black men how people who only know how to kill, rape white women and steal, same about women – black women are presented as sexual objects, i know it is such a shame and I feel so bad for my nation just because of this, anyway, I fully understand you, I have boyfriend from Kenya, so he is also black and I have to say that I also had some fear of telling my friends about our relationship because I simply know how Czech people look at these relationships, many friends were telling me that he just wants me for sex and nothing else, they had big problems with meeting him, but I think that it is just because Czech people are simply “affected” by our horrible media, but I think that this is not only problem of black people, but even in other parts of world. I visited Kenya last summer and I had very similar experience, boys smiling at me, winking at me, calling me out and staring at me all the time, offering me to give me a lift and some men were also taking photos of me! But I loved Kenya anyway, not only because of my boyfriend but I found great people there and made new friendships, I loved nature, kids and I´m actually coming back this year… 🙂 In Turkey I also had similar experience being catwalked and much more but I also can´t wait to get back and explore it more, because just I just don´t let some people and uncomfortable looks ruin my holidays 🙂 I´m sorry for my Czech country and its nation, but would totally give it another try, because I think it is totally worth a visit… 🙂 Hope you understand and I´m sorry again.. 🙂

  • Sy

    I am so sorry you had this experience. My sister and I, both undeniably black, went to Prague in July 2014. This was not our experience at all. On that trip, we visited four countries (Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Prague). Prague was my absolute favorite European city. The city itself is absolutely gorgeous. I loved the food and for my sister and I, the people were extremely kind. Our first night, we stopped at the hotel and left our belongings. The hotel receptionist told us we were within walking distance of an area with restaurants. We got lost and an old man who could not speak English went out of his way to get us to the restaurant. We communicated via Google Translate. He was so old, he walked with a cane and could barely do that much. Our experiences with other people in Prague and Most (another city we went to in the Czech Republic) was amazing. Again, I apologize because traveling should be fun and pleasant. If you do return to Prague, I hope you have an experience much like what my sister and I had.

    • Mimi Pungu

      Hi! I’m a black girl and I have planned a trip to Prague next week. I want to know which places you visited. As you had a good experience there, maybe if I go to the same places, my exprience of Prague would be as good as yours.
      Kisses from Belgium!

  • Cortni

    I have to tell you how happy (yet sad) I am to read this post. I just returned from Prague yesterday after being there for eleven days on holiday with my caucasian boyfriend. My boyfriend is a journalist and we have both traveled extensively and currently reside in Israel. I have visited several countries both alone and with others and I must say that what I felt while in Prague was something I’d never experienced.

    First of all, we were there for eleven days during the Christmas holidays. The place was packed with tourists, however, I can say that other than the African men begging people to take rides on the boats (and dressed like sailors), I saw only three black people. The weather was cold and rough and the people even colder. I was not only stared at by those on the streets, but the bitchy little hotel girls in our posh ( and every expensive) hotel spoke only to my boyfriend and gave me looks of utter disgust.

    On one of our last nights, we visited a tripadvisor.com recommended spot Lokale or Locale (can’t remember) and we were enjoying a very nice meal and great beer when in walks three people I can only assume were dressed like the three kings. The first two passed in costume and then the third… a woman dressed in black face. Did you hear me BLACK FACE!!!!!!! At this point, it seemed that all eyes turned on me to see my reaction. Some laughed, some sneered and whispered, I could not swallow. We left.

    I cannot explain the discomfort I felt -it was an all-encompasing discomfort. My boyfriend loved the place and obviously, as a white American man with money to spend, the place loved him, but as for me, I was out of place. We had been looking forward to a getaway for a while and I was sooooo excited to be going. All of my friends (now that I think about it, all of my white friends), talked about the beauty of Prague and how I just HAD to go. I can honestly say that I hated Prague and never want to return. I have never visited a country where I was so ready to leave. I have never experienced a vacation that I was sooo ready to end. I will not be going back. This experience has truly but a damper on my world traveling and made me skeptical to go many places. Prague is a nightmare for black people.

    • Pavel

      Why do you find the lady with black face offensive?

      • ageofirony

        If you took the time to create that handle just to focus on one small aspect of this essay, then you can surely find the answer to that question. In 2016 you know better. Here’s some help with that: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/08/boglarka-balogh-blackface-offensive

        • Pavel

          You should understand that there is no cultural connection between painting a face with black color and mocking people of different race in this part of world. There is a tradition of three kings, according to the legend one of them was black. Now how do you dress as a black person in a country with no black people? Well you use some make-up. It’s as simple as that. Never have I heard that this could be offensive – until now.

          I understand, after reading the article, that doing this might be offensive in the coutries where such thing used to be done in the past to make fun of black people. But it can hardly be offensive in a country where this didn’t happen and if noone understands why – and you have to explain by a quite a long news article. So I’m sorry if you felt offended but you just misunderstood the local habbits.

          You can even see photos on some church web pages – it’s simply absolutly normal to do this here. The second link is actually the official Three Kings money collection.

          http://www.vikariatjilemnice.cz/fotogalerie/89/My_tri_kralove_jdeme_k_Vam
          http://www.trikralovasbirka.cz/galerie/trikralove-koledovani-2013-v-dolni-lukavici/#!prettyPhoto

          • ageofirony

            You read that entire article, and the only thing you got out of it was a burning need to defend blackface? That’s amusing to me, but keep digging yourself deeper in that hole. Doesn’t erase the reality that what this woman experienced was racism from someone like you who sits around looking for excuses to defend racist practices. I’ll spend my money elsewhere–far from people like you.

          • Pavel

            ageofirony, if you want to see racism when there isn’t one, be my guest. I tried to explain what this habbit means and that it’s not there to make fun of anyone and that it’s not connected to what was described in the article.

            If there is anything like racism in Czech Republic (and I’m not saying there isn’t) it would be people avoiding other races (like Romas) out of fear – for their own safety. But it’s never to make fun of anyone! Because that truly is stupid.

            By your logic, isn’t it racist by buddhism or hinduism to use svastikas? When in other part of the world they were a nazi symbol?

            So, once again. This habbit is not intended to humiliate anyone. It’s a long tradition and it’s purpose is to symbolise the three kings.

            And of course I took just this part of article. I understand that some people might feel that Czcechs are “cold” or not welcoming. We are like that. But this part was something I couldn’t understand, that’s why I commented on it.

          • ageofirony

            If you want to ignore or whitesplain racism, be my guest. Enjoy hopping around the web-sphere making excuses for your country’s backward, hateful social customs. It’s utter bs to try to claim blackface as “tradition,” given its widespread practice all over Europe and given the fact that the only people who seem so hell-bent on holding onto it are the same people who seem to think that glorifying whiteness through blackface isn’t racist, that the other practices of hate and intolerance occurring in these countries aren’t signified through the persistence of blackface. Even without your favorite activity, your country is racist to the bone, something the author pointed out–but you’ll never admit it, because that would mean you are not just enveloped in that environment, but also responsible as a citizen to do something about it. Spend a bit less time making excuses, and a bit more time unpacking your xenophobia.

          • Pavel

            Ok, thanks for explaining to me that I am apparently a terrible rasistic person. I probably also steal kids candy and eat small puppies for breakfast. For your information, until two days ago I had no clue that something as silly as a little bit of make-up might make anyone uncomfortable and now suddenly I am second Hitler.

            There are white actors playing asians or native americans, men playing women, women playing men, old actors playing young, young actors playing old (for example Cloud Atlas, Lone Ranger, other movies). And all of this is apparently okay? So the only unacceptable form is when white person dresses as black?

            “hateful social customs” – so you think we do this because we hate afroamericans? For God’s sake, most people out of Prague never even saw one in their life. And even in Prague it’s rare to see them.

            “glorifying whiteness through blackface” – what? again. Three kings. One is black. Kids use make-up. Period. Would you prefer if the story was twisted and all three kings were portrayed white? Wouldn’t that be racism, denying his race?

            “your country is racist to the bone” thanks for letting me know. It must be hell to live here then. All the attacks, abuse, murders, demonstrations… wait, nothing like that happens here. Someone was rude to you and you think that’s racist? Do you know how often there’s someone rude at me? or at anyone else?

            And one more thing. When I google “blackface” images. That IS what I would consider racist, because that’s clearly a caricature to make fun of black people. There I would agree with you. For your information, we never had this kind of “entertainment” here because why? Because this is central Europe where black people didn’t live! That’s why I and none of my friends ever heard about this “blackface”.

            But – and that’s the big difference that you might not see here – what happens at 3 kings is not caricaturing. It’s simply a make-up – for the reason repeated by me million times. And I still don’t see what should be wrong about that, sorry. If all of this is not enough for you then there isn’t more to say. This nation would be racist in your eyes – even though we’ll never understand why.

            Last thing. For your information. If a tourist needs my help – with directions, translation, anything – and I’m not in too much of a hurry, I’ll always be glad to help. No matter if that person is european, asian, afroamerican or pink with green stripes. You might not believe it but I don’t feel any predjudice towards black people. But at the same time I don’t like it when someone starts judging our innocent traditions and starts looking for negative racist context in them.

            And you haven’t heard about our easter traditions yet. That’s when the medieval backwardness will start, you wouldn’t beleive it 🙂

          • ageofirony

            Silly makeup? You’ve spent about a month attempting to justify using “silly makeup,” which leads me to wonder if it’s a fetish of sorts for you. If it gets you excited, by all means go put on some makeup and do that blackface/brownface routine. Probably won’t get you laid, but I don’t get the impression you get outside too much anyway. In fact, you probably embarrass your neighbors with your backwards thinking about people of color. As for your concerns about my impression of you as a deviant, trust me when I say you’ve left quite an impression, one that might have me wondering if you need some medication for those antisocial perceptions of yourself. Good luck with that.

  • Chandra Wilson

    Just discovering your blog and I think it’s awesome. I think you describe most of Eastern Europe and former Communist countries in general. A lot of bitter old people. My husband is Czech by birth but is from Australia. We’ve gone to the Czech Republic a few times to visit his extended family members. I find it’s, as you said, mostly coming from the older generations who don’t know any better. The more people travel and experience other cultures, the less ignorance there is. I did study abroad in Madrid and constantly got shouted at with “Morena!” I just took it as a compliment and kept moving. I’ve heard worse things walking around NYC. That being said, headphones and sunglasses are a must LOL! Keep doing what you’re doing girl! Don’t let anyone or anything stop you.

  • WAYNE SMITH

    I am Australian and I have lived in Prague for 9 years. I am white. I have probably given each of those looks you describe, not to black people, but to Americans. The look of disgust goes to those Americans, it seems to me the majority, who cannot put three words together without using the work LIKE as one of them. No one ever SAYS anything in America speak, they GO – ”so he like goes like and I go like”. Speak like that and you’re going to get my disgust face. Then there are the Americans who take over every single space they invade. The whole tram carriage or metro space is dominated by just two American voices who want the world to know their opinion on everything. They’re going to get my disgust face. Curiosity face? That is often reserved for the absolutely massive Americans who invade my city. It invokes a sort of ”how the hell did they get that fat?” response in most Czechs. My biggest disgust face is reserved for the British hen and stag party morons who walk around Prague cross dressed, permanently pissed, men dressed in nappies etc. As for objectification – I’d take money that people slowing down at crossroads and cat calling you are probably NOT Czechs. It’s just not something they normally do. I strongly suspect that the stares you have received are as much to do with your behaviour as you blackness. I took a group of my teenage students to visit a poor school in East London in the UK. Many students commented that it was the first time they’d ever had a conversation with a black person. I am sure they probably stared at each other. The Brit kids certainly stared at our totally beautiful Czech girls. Much as I love London and Australia, I am happier to live in a city that is NOT multicultural, and hasn’t had it’s culture become too diluted. Unfortunately, the biggest cultural imperialism we face is from American culture. Finally, the stark reality is that a massive percentage of all petty crime in the Czech Republic is perpetrated by gipsies. You are probably not doing yourself any favours dressing like a gypsy as you say you normally do.

  • Woody Esil

    I strongly believe that the emphasis shouldnt be put on Black Americans, but on Black people in general. I m here right now on Erasmus. I m African and European and yes I totally agree with this post even though for boys I wont say we get the objectification stare but the criminal one. So tired of this people and the ones “at home” too…

  • Sigmunda

    Sorry to say it but you are clearly sensitive to public attention, or at least getting weary of it. I don’t know why that is, but you mentioned how you tried to blend in. You seem convinced that staring is rude. You even have this whole four-way list of characterizing every look someone throws at you. There is one thing you should understand.

    Being as well travelled as you are, you should know that being stared at is not necessarily rude. In parts of Europe, it is actually considered rude to not look at a person’s whole figure if they are approaching you or talking to you. There is nothing rude about checking out the figure and that goes for Sicily as well as Stockholm. Eye contact in absence of dialogue is a little less common, but still within the norm in most of the continent. People do it all the time regardless of race or status. I hope this will make you feel better next time you travel.

    Black people will obviously get far more attention in Europe than in the States but so do white people. I don’t know which of those get more attention and I’m not sure if drawing a comparison is even relevant. Czechs are prone to somber expressions and they certainly do not smile without a reason, but that has endogenous causes.

    Your one “Cardinal Rule” should not be managing your own expectations, but managing the expectations of others. You can’t expect to dress in your “typical gypsy attire” and walk down the street unnoticed. Believe me, that revealing skirt on well toned legs looks far more classy to an European than your presumably shabby chique choice. Europeans don’t automatically think “street worker” just because they see more skin. Women commonly wear miniskirts to work, just like they wear slightly transparent blouses with a contrasting bra. Europeans are very judgmental, which gives you the opportunity to control their thinking. You can hide as much as you wish but leave the casual clothes in the closet and up the ante on elegance.

    If you want to see admiration or respect in other people’s faces, then you need to do more than complain. Dress up, make yourself look confident and try to enjoy the looks of others. They are a perfectly normal part of human interaction in Europe. Czechs lack tact so brush those gaping mouths off and enjoy the looks from people whom you like to spot yourself.

    One last thing. You used this very American phrase about people who allegedly do not “see colour”. That is a very American thing to focus on. I love the phrase, but Europeans are not that ambitious. They don’t pretend to be colourblind. And neither do most Asians or Africans. We all owe each other respect irrespective of race, but not happiness. You alone are responsible for your own happiness.

    • Jennifer Kopf

      What’s the term for mansplaining, but across racial boundaries?

  • Hello Gloria,
    I traveled around the world when I was younger and also lived in other countries than Czech Republic . The worst treatment I ever got is from this country where everyday I’m reminded that I’m Asian and do not belong. Living in other cities than Prague is out of question due to racism being a serious problem.
    I can relate. I moved to Prague 10 years ago and every single day I’m target of racism and discrimination. What is even worse is the fact that Czech people freely talk among themselves about people of color. They do not say anything good and many would just want everyone to be deported. I wonder what the people would say if they would know that I speak Czech. On the other hand they glare and point and they do not care if I can see that.
    It is quite strange though because Prague is very touristic city. I see foreigners everywhere and many people in the city depend on them. Czech people even charge foreigners more for example because they simply expect they can just pay that without a problem. I get often angry because of this because normally I’d pay 100CZK for a meal but then I have to pay 250CZK.
    If you come here again try to ignore those people. I know that sometimes it is difficult because the people themselves try to make you feel miserable but in general that’s what people do here. They ignore others, do only what is good for them and do not help in general. They hate and complain. But there are also good people. Just scarce and hidden.

  • travelingfool

    I don’t buy this at all. Never had a problem here are any other European country. Could be because I’m male, but this sound like a typical day in any major US city or even less. These countries have been exposed to us for decades now and have no reason to hate us. They could have thought you were One of refugees that are coming over from Africa or the Middle East. It doesn’t sound like it was because you were black. The harassment is horrific and don’t discount that, but again it’s worse, much worse for blacks in the US than any European country.

  • I imagine the Gypsy look isn’t exactly endearing in much of Europe, they are the “trash” of most the nations there.

  • Drwawifi

    That’s an unfortunate experience.You’re welcome to visit Africa too.

  • Miscellaneous Miscellaneous

    Gurrrrl! I gotta tell ya, you must be one sensitive daisy. Being a Czech guy, tall 1,90m (6’2″), blond hair, blue eyes, angelic face with no facial hair, very pale white skin, gym toned body, straight dressed and straight acting in my late 20’s on holiday in Egypt I had gotten harassed by local (gay, I assume) men in the very center of their capital city while walking to the Cairo Museum of archeology. Whistling at me, suggestive hand and pelvis movements, admiring stare downs all from local swarthy men aged between 20 and 50 who were just hanging on the streets. I cannot say I HATE Cairo or Egypt, though! LOL! But it was an experience. And a local guy working in a housekeeping in the hotel resort we stayed at in Sharm El Sheikh was apparently in love with me because he would stop working every time I walked out of my room in the morning and theatrically “died” when passing by him in the hallway without letting his eyes off me in devoted awe! LOL!
    Just man up and next time and don’t let external circumstances get to you and ruin your stay, no matter where you are.
    Besides, Prague is so close to Eastern Europe, I mean the REAL Eastern Europe, like former Soviet Republics (now Russia), and Balkans (Bulgaria, Romania, former Yugoslavia, etc), and many of those criminal structures operate here in Prague due to Schengen, so I assume most of this harassing wasn’t from Czech men or Czech people per se. I think it was either tourists from countries where they don’t see black people at all and they wouldn’t expect them in the Prague streets as well, and from those mafia types from the “Wild East”, because due to tourism Czech people and especially Praguers are very well accustomed to seeing all different types of people of colour. Don’t hate Prague, please. Czech people are cool and friendly. 🙂 Peace.

    • Ha! But that’s Egypt. EVERYONE gets harassed in Egypt – tall, short, pretty, ugly, lol. So not a valid comparison. I have many black traveling friends who share this sentiment about Prague.

      Czech people aren’t the most welcoming and that’s not against the entire country. They have their preconceived notions about black people and it is what it is. It won’t change overnight.

      Being spit at while walking, snarky faces, or harassed wasn’t something I was prepared for, especially when other European countries knew how to act. Don’t excuse their behavior by blaming the victim. Your misogyny is showing.

      • Vojtěch Jaroě

        Also funny thing. I have some very racist friends and I know them since elementary school and one of them was complaining to his friend about asian people (the friend is czech- because he was born there, but his both parents are from Vietnam).

        He didn’t look at his skin at all. Just complained about Asians with his friend(the Czech/Asian guy). He’s not the sharpest guy, so he didn’t even realize it, until I mentioned it later.

        If you don’ find this funny, then you won’t like interaction with locals, but people like me absolutely love this behavior. e.g. my girlfriends grandparents are chinese and very traditional and they sincerely think black people are black, because they have never taken shower before, I bursted into laughter once my gf translated it back to me. I love this type of innocent racism 😀

  • Nyawira Ochola

    I don’t know how you do it, frankly. Born and bred in Africa, I have been completely unaware of racism up close. Now, when I travel outside Africa, it takes me 2 days to realize that an encounter was actually racist and I am bewildered and I feel so sad and I want to cry.

  • Silke Bradford

    #Samesies I am a dual citizen (half black American/half German) so I am accustomed to different (less effusive) cultures/communication styles. Prague is the only city in Europe where I felt unwelcome by locals (foreigners that lived there were kind/acted normal). The stares of disgust are so real! There seems to be a black cloud/energy hanging over that city, so much so that I left a day early and hightailed it back to Berlin! You are much more forgiving/open than I am, as I will never go back. I visit Europe 4-5 weeks per year and there are too many other places to enjoy to ever return. Plus a small basket of berries was 12Euros, while in berlin they are on 2-3 Euros #NeedMyBfastBerries lol

  • You unpleasant experience in Prague, concerning your non-European appearance certainly echoes, situations I have to deal with almost daily, since I moved here in the mid 90s.
    But Prague, is certainly not the place you visit for ethnic diversity- because there is non, but more of Pragues beauty is visible in the historical architecture

    In the historical center of Prague you can walk past the Municipal House, the Art Nouveau jewel of Prague, that is covered in floral motives, gilded wroth iron curved around beautifully shaded stain glass.

    And continue through the Gothic and neo-Gothic styled powder tower going to the Celetna street , covered with Baroque palaces with Gothic interiors and Renaissance courts yards. On the way you encounter the unique Cubist house at the Black Madonna with its straight angular lines, then continues on to the medieval Ungelt compound with its Renaissance palace , past the heavily Baroque St, James Church and into the Old town Square with its legendary Astronomical clock. Which is followed by the Art Nouveau Jewish Quarters with its ancient synagogues.

    • Emily Bitz

      I can’t even imagine. I lived in Germany for a year and they definitely know how to stare.
      I thought I fit in as a blonde hair blue eyed girl, but I’d find myself the subject of stares on the train, in the street, wherever. Luckily this is something I only experienced in Germany, so I applaud you for handling it well.