Dear Culturally Offensive Friend

Culture-Sensitivity

My Dear Culturally Offensive Friend
For those people who are studying overseas, at one point or another you have encountered people that have no cultural etiquette whatsoever. It may be out of sheer ignorance, condescension or just for kicks, either way, it always rubs you the wrong way no matter what. In this post I am going to list the culturally offensive, ignorant, altogether stupid things that have been said to me and my mental responses to them. 

Now, I have a friend whom I will call Lee, and after the things I have listed you might be wondering why Lee is even my friend. Don’t worry, I ask myself that every time he speaks. I would not say it is a complicated situation but deep down I know Lee does not mean to insult anyone and he is a good friend in spite of his poor cultural etiquette. Some of the statements are from other friends but mostly from Lee. Here goes:

1) So…Barbados is near Africa right?
Response: Please keep in mind Lee has asked me this question about 4 times already and after the third time I gave up on giving him a geography lesson. My dear culturally offensive friend, deep breath, Barbados is part of the Caribbean islands, NOT AFRICA!!! Our ancestors were from Africa but that does not automatically join us to Africa in geographical matrimony. We are two very separate and very far nations. Next time Google Barbados before I injure you.

2) “I remember a time I lived in this apartment building in Jersey that was infested with Indians.”
Response: Jaw drops I literally have no words to describe how disgustingly offensive this was. Word choice gone terribly wrong

3) Does the West Indies mean that you all are Asian?
Response: I was explaining to my friend that where I live is a primarily West Indian neighbourhood. Just because you are Asian and the word “Indies” is shortened to mean Indian and India is part of Asia, it does not automatically mean we are Asian. Am I the only person who cares about geography around here?

4) Hey S-J its black Friday! Isn’t that your day?
Response: BLEEEEEEEEEEEP you! I think that one sentence says it all.

5) This last occurrence was one that happened to me a while ago when I was still in school and applying to colleges. Although this is an old one I still think it holds some relevance to my post. I applied to this university and the application process was going well until I noticed on my status that I had to take the TOEFL exam which is like an English proficiency exam for those whose English is a second language. I had to email the university not once but THREE times, to notify them that I speak English and ONLY English and I there is no reason why I should have to take such an exam. Three times people, three times! I definitely was not going there after that experience. I have to wonder if the word Barbadian sounds so foreignly incomprehensible that one automatically assumes we don’t speak English. If you aren’t sure, please do a little read up on Google. It will help you save face in the future.

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