HOW TO HANDLE ‘THE STARES’ WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD
I was in the gym working out this morning in Chiang Mai, when I caught a Thai guy staring at me very intensely while working out. I smiled, gave him a head nod, after which he gave me a nod and a smile right back. Thinking he was done gazing, I then proceeded to do my set, but he was still looking. When I finished my set, I noticed him peeping again, and then his head turn quickly from my direction, to the opposite direction lol. I chuckled inside, and finished my workout.
Now here I am, this 6 foot 4 inch standing man. My skin tone is darker than most, I have a big sexy beard, the colors of my workout clothes don’t match (it’s a Haitian ting), I’m working out very intensely, and he chooses to stare at me…And I forgot to mention I’m the only black person in the gym, not like I stand out from the Thai crowd lol.
Most people would get very offended when getting stared at so intensely by other people in other countries. There are times when I feel uncomfortable being stared at and I feel like saying “Yo, what are you looking at?” (I get stares every single day, so I’m uncomfortable daily)
People stare uncomfortably at me:
* in the gym
* in restaurants
* driving on the roads
* walking down the street
* walking around the city
* exploring the temples
* anytime they can visibly see me in real life
But you see, I embrace the stares while abroad. I embrace them because the people here are staring out of curiosity in most cases, and not animosity like in the U.S. So, how should one handle being stared at when traveling?
Here are a few remedies I’d recommend, and that I actually practice to alleviate the stares.
1. Smile, Nod, & Wave
– This is one of the most simple ways to acknowledge other people’s presence, and the fact that you are looking back at them. Most people will respect this gesture enough to stop staring so intensely.
2. Strike A Pose
This is where you throw up a peace sign, or put your hands in a picture posing position. I’ve used this one so many times, and it’s so funny how it throws off the random people staring at you.
3. Staring Contest
Photo courtesy of: Michael Baptist
Haha this is a funny one because if you stare long enough it will create tension and the uncomfortableness will settle in the mind of the person staring. Once that happens they will break eye contact, and you’ll win. I tried this out s a few times it’s fun, but be selective on who you have random eyeball staring games with – you might find yourself gazing into the eyes of a medusa… not really, but I tried to make a funny there – I don’t think my corniness worked, anyway moving right along lol.
4. Embrace The Stares & Take Advantage
This is my most often go-to-move when getting stared at abroad. I use this tactic because it allows me to break the ice since they are staring by telling them hello (In their native language). This has allowed me to make new friends, and it challenges the negative stereotypes of African Americans by me being so friendly, open, and having positive energy. I take advantage by making new friends, new allies, and being a positive representative for my culture. #fortheculture
Editors Note: It’s a sign of respect, to greet someone in their local language.
3 phrases we suggest you know everywhere you travel: Hello, Please and Thank You
Remember you are entering their homeland, so courtesy is always best.
5. Ignore The Stares & Pretend You’re Invisible
This is the option most people lean towards when they don’t know what to do, or are not very confrontational. You can put on your superhero shades and try to pretend like you are invisible as well. I don’t know how well that would work, but hey life is about trying things and seeing what works. Lol I’m kidding, no one will think you’re invisible – but it will surely freak them out if you act surprised about them being able to see you underneath your invisible cloak.
Those are some tips, and things I use to overcome that uncomfortable feeling of being stared at while black and abroad. I am an ambassador for other African Americans who have yet to set foot on this soil…
Understanding this, I make sure everywhere I go that I smile, exchange good energy, and that I coexist with the people here. If they keep staring I strike a pose or I let them know that I’m watching them as they are watching me. I do not stress it. Sometimes I just give them a nod and carry on about my business. Either way I thought this would be something interesting to share, and hope it gives you some insight on how to deal with people staring at you while you travel.
Do you get stared at much when you travel? What are some strategies you use to handle these uncomfortable situations?
— Michael is currently getting stared at from the far East