On being accepted in asia

2024-06-18 06:00:00 +07:00 by Mark Smith

When I arrived in asia, I guess it's somewhere close to 10 years ago now (how time flies), many fellow non-asians that I met on my travels said to me that you'll never really be accepted in asia. You might end up living here etc, but you will never really be integrated. You will always be a foreigner. At the time I didn't think much of it.

The thing is, now that I've been here for a long time, I totally see what they were saying. These were folks that had been here for years, and I heard it from people in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and maybe more places. There really is underneath it all an us and them vibe that permeates everything. It varies from place to place, it's pretty bad here in Vietnam IMO, a bit less so in Thailand for instance, but still pretty bad.

I've been thinking about back home the past few days, because of the EU and UK elections. It occurred to me earlier how utterly alien this whole idea, that you will never really be accepted by a place, was to me. The entire time I grew up in the EU, it was the complete opposite. There really was a sense that you could eventually fit in, feel at home and integrated. My impression was that both the people arriving and the natives actually wanted this, and it was almost a matter of pride that it was something that was possible, something to strive for.

That's not how it is here at all. There are likely a lot of reasons for this, like the fact that many places in asia are such huge tourist destinations, and it's totally possible that I was simply not exposed to some of the darker aspects of immigration back home. I saw some racism and hostile behaviour here and there back home, but it's on a completely different scale and level here. You don't see it until you stay for longer. They are of course very nice to all the tourists, and to a certain extent the expats too, but many wear two faces, it's almost ridiculous and certainly shocking at times. And once again it's not everyone, but generally speaking it is the norm. It sort of feels like it's a group thing, that doesn't manifest so much on a 1 to 1 basis, like it is in some way structural, it's possible many are not aware of it.

Maybe things will change, I hope so, it can be a great place, but it's definitely not plain sailing most of the time.

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