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Why More Black (Americans) Need to Travel To Europe

Flexin’ for the ‘gram after beasting a climb up a mountain in Kotor, Montenegro

[publisher’s note: This post—which is intentionally satirical/comedic—is the writer’s take on her personal experience and intended for a specifically Black American audience, written by a self-identified Black American woman. While this was republished from her own blog, we amended the original title to reflect that as to not ignore the millions of Black people living in Europe, which are heavily represented on Parlour. We publish, and republish all sorts of personal stories, anecdotes and articles on and by Black women and travel from the US, Africa, EU and beyond – hit us up to see your point of view #onhere.]
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If you’re already reading this with a defensive edge because of the title, understand that this article isn’t only for black people, but rather about black people, so that anyone who reads this can gain perspective as to how more of us traveling abroad could enhance the experience for others in the future.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: There are two completely different experiences you have traveling abroad as an American and traveling abroad as an African-American (or a person of color). And you can read about some of the unfortunate downsides of that here for context.

But there are enough articles floating around about some of the negative aspects of being black abroad (racism, discrimination, prostitute labels, etc). And while it’s important to be prepared and aware of that very raw reality, here are the reasons why more Blacks should be gracing the European continent with our presence, spirit, and energy:

1. It will normalize our existence to Europeans who’ve never traveled outside of their country.
Yes, it’s true. There are actual living people who don’t believe black people exist outside of Africa. How do I know this? Because I got into an unfortunate argument with a man who insisted I was born in Africa, and any other explanation was impossible.

And for the people that are aware of Black Americans, they’d never met or seen one up close, so they’re sometimes incapable of adulting controlling their gaze of wonder and curiosity. That gaze can sometimes (but not always) be accompanied with touching and uncomfortable kisses on the hand. I know, stay with me here. It gets worse better.

You will regularly take selfies with strangers. Many of them. So prepare. These boys from the Czech Republic asked nicely :)

You will regularly take selfies with strangers. Many of them. So prepare. These boys from the Czech Republic asked nicely 🙂

If black people weren’t so rare in some regions of Europe, it’ll normalize the fact that we coexist on this planet. You won’t find yourself stopping traffic as you, the walking exhibit, make your way down a street of unexpected gazers who are trying to figure out the who, what, where, when, and why of this situation.

2. You’ll find you get preferential treatment in most scenarios.
This might apply more to just women, but I can really only speak from my experiences and the ones shared with me by other Black American friends. But since black women are hardly seen in some European cities or ever at all, getting free drinks will start to become a regular occurrence.

Unlimited drinks at bars, free rides on yachts, handmade bracelets, and home-cooked meals are just some of the hospitality I’ve experienced for being the first black person someone has met. And yes, they are so excited to share with me that I’m their first.

Invited into this private beach lounge and thirst quenched with free cocktails upon entrance. Please, someone save me from my misery!

Invited into this private beach lounge and thirst quenched with free cocktails upon entrance. Please, someone save me from my misery!

While this also comes with its fair share of hand-kissing, skin rubbing, and dumbfounded gazes, more often than not, people are just simply fascinated by the black skin color and want to let you know how soft and beautiful it looks to them. And however creepy their deliverance of said statement can be, just smile and run carry on, because they mean well.

They’ve seen us in movies, they know we exist, but just like a dinosaur, if one appeared in front of your face unexpectedly, you too, would stare and want to know more about this figment of your imagination coming to life. So yes, sometimes you are a dinosaur. So be a f*cking Tyrannosaurus Rex and wave those tiny stub arms in all your black glory.

Not to mention, if you just slightly resemble a world-famous tennis athlete, there’s a chance you’ll find yourself on Facebook with this brilliant caption:

No big deal, just posing for the camera and signing tennis balls in between Wimbledons and Grand Slams. I could get used to this.

No big deal, just posing for the camera and signing tennis balls in between Wimbledons and Grand Slams. I could get used to this.

3. You will experience the strangest encounters that will make for great stories when you return home.
From the 6-year-old boy who found it necessary to rub dirt on my wrist and inform me that they’re basically the same color, to the Greek man who insisted on grabbing my arm and exclaiming the discovery of the contrast of our skin colors. However offensive or disturbing, there is always an opportunity for at least one person to come away from the experience more enlightened. Spoiler Alert: It usually won’t be you.

Just minding my own business until I looked up and saw cameras snapping ferociously at me.

Just minding my own business until I looked up and saw cameras snapping ferociously at me.

hen out of the blue comes another. Ma’am, are you a ninja? Where did you come from?!

hen out of the blue comes another. Ma’am, are you a ninja? Where did you come from?!

Here’s my awkward grin after they decide it might be slightly uncomfortable to be the subject of a photo taken without permission. So they finally ask to take one WITH me. Only took 30 minutes and 3,000 photos for them to be satisfied. Next time I’m bringing my tip jar. #HustlersMentality

Here’s my awkward grin after they decide it might be slightly uncomfortable to be the subject of a photo taken without permission. So they finally ask to take one WITH me. Only took 30 minutes and 3,000 photos for them to be satisfied. Next time I’m bringing my tip jar. #HustlersMentality

We’re an enigmatic and multi-faceted group of people who can learn a great deal from the other side of the world just as much as they can learn from us. Not referring to the time the Russian woman at the club grabbed my ass and said I wasn’t shaking it nearly as hard as I’m capable of. Oh, stereotypes. I must not be pressured to live up to thee!

Nevertheless, the European culture is so dynamic and eclectic, and so are black people. But how else will they know unless we visit the very countries deprived of our soulful flavor?

If we gradually started increasing our presence around Europe in a variety of roles like teachers, managers, receptionists, nurses, and everyday tourists, think of how much their perspective of us will change. We are educated. We are talented. And all of Europe needs to know it.

Being sophisticated in Vienna, Austria. #rare

Being sophisticated in Vienna, Austria. #rare

The best hospitality I’ve ever experienced came from Romania, Croatia, Montenegro, Belgium, and Scotland. So I invite my fellow Black Americans to give these countries a try first!

– Gloria Atanmo

Originally published on Gloria’s hilariously delightful travel blog The Blog Abroad. Check it!

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  • Guest

    This is a ridiculous article on many levels. Black people do exist in Europe (UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Italy to name but a few…) AND contrary to what this writer would like to believe, they face the same issues of discrimination and racism as you do in the States. How you can find being compared to Serena Williams or a child rubbing dirt on his arm flattering is beyond me. This makes a mockery of the lived experience of many Black Europeans. Sorry, but this article hasn’t been thought through. That or just plain ignorance, I’m not too sure.

  • shocked and confused

    Why does the writer assume black people are living their lives to be accepted by white people? Why is the onus on black people to have violent experiences coz what the writer is describing are acts of violence just to be palatable to white people? I’d rather not travel then thanks. There are so many levels to this

  • rob this england

    50-60million of us black and brown people in the European Union.
    But yes, what we need is more self-righteous whitewashed “African Americans” traveling here and pretending to be Serena Williams.

  • Glitter AF

    Fantastic article if your aim was to erase the black people already living in Europd & their countless stories on racism & discrimination. African Americans are not the only black people.

  • tay.

    I live in the UK and I travel around Europe and just as sometimes in your home country you can be the first Black person someone knows, if your in bumfuck Montenegro why would that be any different? BTW they know you are not Serena Williams, it’s their way of letting you know you are different. And people taking a million photos of you is not flattering, it’s demeaning to be treated like a exhibition, ever hear of Sarah Baartman?

  • truthmanisback

    Yes the writer is a idiot

  • A Black

    I was really hoping this was satire.