I recently had a conversation with a fellow Australian who has also moved to London in the past few months. We were talking about how bad our commutes are (more on the tube to come) and how it means we get home rather late. My Brisbane commute was a 10-minute drive to the front door of my office. Now I battle a 60-plus-minute nightmare including at least 3 vehicles and more stranger-touching than can possibly be healthy. See? I can turn any topic into a rant about the tube!
The conversation then flowed on to how busy we are and how that means overtime at work. They then dropped this piece of ignorance: I refuse to stay late at work because there are too many turbans on my commute home. No joking tone (not that that makes it okay), no thinly veiled attempt to conceal their racism with an “I’m not racist, but…” and not even an acknowledgement that what they were insinuating was not only a terrible stereotype but completely offensive.
There are a myriad of reasons as to why I immediately felt lost for words and unable to manage anything other than a trailing “yeeeeah…”.
- This person, like me, has just moved to a country where they weren’t born and further, aren’t even a permanent resident or legal citizen. The people being targeted are not only locals but may have lived here for generations.
- Multi-faceted cultural hubs permeate London and are what makes this city so special. Instead of a boring homogeneous mass, we are lucky to have an endless supply of food choices, entertainment options and colourful streets to experience. In a short walk from my house I could get takeaway pizza, visit an Afghani restaurant or buy groceries from a Polish supermarket.
- London is filled with people from a huge array of ethnicities, countries and religions, from those whose family have been here for generations to those who may have moved here yesterday. I live in an area with a large population of those who identify as Muslim or Hindu as well as a good mix of other religions and ethnicities. In my short time here I have felt extremely comfortable walking along the local high street and further, have never experienced anything other than harmony between all residents.
- I have moved to London not only to experience life in this amazing city, but to travel across Europe and soak up as many cultures and different experiences as possible. To do anything less than embrace the cultures around us would be sad and defeat the very purpose of moving here.
Ironically, by having this narrow-minded and outdated opinion, this person is perpetuating the embarrassing stereotype of Australians being uneducated and, dare I say it, bogan. I hope for our sake that the very people this person is criticising are not as ignorant about stereotypes and their lack of substance.