Before I get into what it’s like being a black person traveling in Russia, I should let you know that this post is actually part of a longer post on my blog called Being a Black Traveler in Eastern Europe and Slavic Europe by Country.
That is why this summary of my experience as a black traveler in Russia is not so long. So check out the whole Eastern Europe post when you are done.
Disclaimer 1: I am a tall, thin, American girl who wears a lot of make-up and cute dresses. I am sure that being an “exotic” girl in the Slavic world contributes to my mostly positive experience, and a lot of my black female friends have had similar experiences. Although, being an “exotic” girl can often be exhausting and uncomfortable around immature people with little diverse life experiences, but for the most part, it is positive. So as you read my experiences, keep in mind that my gender and my nationality, I am sure, can sometimes play a part in how I am treated.
Disclaimer 2: Let me also say immediately, I have seen no racism in Eastern Europe towards myself or other black people I am friends with or simply know of–whether they’re light skinned, dark skinned, African expats or tourists, or black expats or tourists from Western countries.
Racism particularly is a learned behavior passed down from generations of families in western countries where there are generations of black citizens to practice racism, discrimination and segregation on. Eastern Europeans haven’t had centuries to develop these institutionalized and social habits. So while of course, yes, you may hear the odd story or two of one bad apple being racially inappropriate…. Compared to the thousands and thousands of horrendous incidences, crimes, police brutalities, corruption and horror stories coming from USA and Britain–Eastern Europe is as harmless as a fly. Please remember that.
Okay, so what is it like being a black girl traveling in Russia?
I had heard an occasional story or two from friends living in Russia about black people, black men in particular, being profiled by police in major cities. But I had no such experience in Russia and I enjoyed it so much in the brief time I was in Moscow. I do think being a girl and dressing the way I dress made me a non-threat to any potential profiling behavior.
Russian people do not smile so much in public, so you might think they are intimidating or cold. But the second you ask them for directions or help, they are so nice and will crack a bashful smile. Try to speak some words in Russian and you will for sure get surprised laughs and smiles.
In many Eastern European countries, I get stared at A LOT. But I did not get as many stares in Russia. I think it’s because Russia has a slim African immigrant population, while most Eastern European and Slavic countries do not, so it was not as shocking for them to see a black person. I saw six or seven black people in the short time I was in Moscow. That’s more than I see in a month in most Slavic countries!
Click here to go back to my series on being a black traveler in Eastern Europe and slavic countries.
Are you a black woman interested in living in an Eastern European country, or any foreign country really, but worried about logistics such as getting your hair done, finding your favorite make-up products, culturally awkward dating, etc.? Check out my Black Girl Traveler Survival Guide
if you are interested to know how I work around living in a country that doesn’t have all the comforts of home for black women.